The Realpolitik of War
Sometimes the important stuff goes down via e-mail. Greg Stene and I have been having a pretty good back forth over the pending war, and what you have below is one of the e-mail exchanges. I apologize that things are picking up in medias res, but you can sort of infer what has been said by who and when.
Sam: Apologies, in advance, for the forthcoming rant. No offense intended, despite the strident issues I take with your argument.
I think you are dead right about the value of force as a tool of diplomacy. But I think, as I have noted, that this case [Iraq] simply doesn’t meet the criteria. It doesn’t address the stated issues at all, period.
Greg: Here’s where I think what I’m saying is not coming across clearly. More further down. The “stated issues” have little to do with things. Those are merely red herrings laid out to distract from the real issue … the real point to be made.
Sam: And make no mistake, we cannot lead the world only by force – we don’t have the military might to compel all nations to follow. We can only lead by consent, and consent requires credibility.
Greg: Credible force, is what I’m talking about. The morality of many nations is a matter of the greater force, and the ability to impose will. It is not a matter of a religiously based, or humanist morality, but one of having the force/power to instill and maintain peace. The credibility of that morality lies in occasionally having to use the force behind it.
Greg (earlier message): If you do not extend your power through force, you are perceived as weak. And the vultures will come to pick at your eyes and comment on whether you’re too salty to the taste.
Sam: What if you exert force independent of morality and reason, and do so in the face of stout opposition from your own allies? What would Sun Tzu say about that?
Greg: Sun Tzu, would, I believe, say that morality lies in the reasonable application of force to bring about peace. We’re not playing by any western morality here, where love, or the idea of sheer righteousness found in some ambiguous “morality” rules. We will bring peace, through the use of force.
Sam: But Greg, WHO EXACTLY ARE THESE COUNTRIES WHO ARE PRO-TERRORISM? Or failing to be anti-terrorism? Who are we talking about?
Greg: Let’s avoid the problems of Iran and N. Korea. Special considerations must be paid to them. But a couple more … Syria and Lebanon, to name a couple. A few of the ‘stans, Indonesia (a supporter through its failure to pro-actively rip out the cancer), what used to be Burma (I can’t spell Myanmar) and so on. To varying degrees. Others. Perhaps a narco-country in S. America?
Sam: Sure, there are terrorist nations out there – why exactly aren’t we attacking the guilty instead of singling out a nation that is patently innocent on this count?
Greg: Because they would not be as easy as Iraq. Very simple. And this is not cynical. If you get caught up in a morality play about your power, you have to administer that power in a coup de main. A sudden overwhelming force.
If you spend your time in the jungles of Indonesia, you get Vietnam all over again and you appear weak. But seriously, as long as Syria and the Lebanon, and the ‘stans provide comfort, there will be trouble.
Greg (earlier): Iraq is nothing more than an object lesson. And it must be done because until we do, we will be perceived as being weak. This has nothing to do with old-fashioned democracy and the rightful use of force. The “new normal” of a new democracy is what’s operative here, and that normal has no place for a weak-kneed relationship to the world. Order, our fucking order, is what matters.
Sam: If Iraq is a satisfactory object lesson, given your criteria and the realities surrounding them, what nation ISN’T a potential object lesson? Seriously, why Iraq? I can take your reasoning and the evidence in this case and justify attacking 3/4 of the Arab world, a number of nations in New Europe, most of Central and South America, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cuba, you name it.
Greg: Again, Iraq is doable as a short war. A great demonstration of power. And note that we are now “embedding” reporters from around the world in our forces so they can report with the correct amount of awe. What comes later in the occupation is something not terribly well-considered or communicated to our public, I’m afraid.
Sam: Dammit, I am waiting for someone, ANYONE, to put two and two together for me. I FULLY understand and appreciate the principles you’re advancing. FULLY. I have ranted in the past that we weren’t aggressive ENOUGH in pursuing them. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that we act consistently and coherently.
If this is about 9/11 and deterring terrorism, there are NO TIES to Iraq, while there are at least five nations who, based on the evidence we have, clearly merit a good whacking, starting with our dear friends, the Saudis.
Greg: Here’s where the problem starts. The Iraq-thang has nothing to do with the terror connection that may or may not be there. That was an argument stupidly put forth by the government in a time of panicked “how can we justify this?” and they’ve been backing off it ever since. They’re now saying, “It doesn’t matter if there is or is not a current connection, we cannot let one develop.”
Seriously, as long as you look for that terrorist-Iraq connection, you’ll be disappointed. The Feebs really are back-peddling that one. Now, it’s just “disarmament … complete, total, and immediate … those three things,” per Ari Fleischer this morning. I have yet to understand what the difference is between complete and total.
Anyway, forget terror connections. Iraq is purely about a demonstration of power, and the upturning of a society of terror so that we can have greater influence in that part of the world as time passes. It will give us an opp to wean ourselves off the Saudi oil tit (we cannot attack them, the center for the Hadj is in Mecca and we would deserve the wrath of any Muslim), and/or apply political pressure to make them more compliant.
A number of realpolitik benefits derive from the overthrow of the Iraqi regime. Please, again, forget about the terror connection as justification. We are carrying on the Iraq-thing as a warning, and as a power-play in the region. This thing, I’m sure, has been scripted out for the next 20 years. Think in those long-range terms, and I believe things will make more sense. You still may not agree with them, but they do make sense at that long-range level.
Sam: If it’s SOLELY about showing the world how bad we are, then hell, why not save ourselvesthe expense of arraying against nations on the other side of the world when we could quite cheaply and efficiently make an example of Winnipeg?
Greg: No one knows where it is.
Sam: Connections. That’s what I need. And nobody – not Bush, not Rumsfeld, not Cheney, not Connddoolleezza Rice, not John McCain, and so far not even you, who are smarter by half than any of these people – nobody has connected the “terrorism” dot to the “Iraq” dot. THERE IS NO CAUSE AND EFFECT.
Greg: Right. So let it go. It does not exist. Think in broader terms of regional control. Not just oil. But political influence.
Sam: And if we don’t do that, then the lesson we’re teaching the world is that when terrorists strike us, some innocent motherfucker that we don’t like for completely unrelated reasons is gonna his ass kicked.
Greg: Your use of the word “innocent” is something I’d quibble with. I don’t believe there is a single innocent among the nations I mentioned above.
Sam: That sends a message to the world, all right, but not the one I think we want to send.
Greg: It’s all a gamble. Ain’t it?