hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Saturday, November 13, 2004
comment on winds of change:

a couple of points:

1) You're right. At this time in history, with this military at his command, any determined American political leader will prevail militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq, and lots of other places, no matter how. . .suboptimal their leadership may be. But the main danger in Iraq is not that we will lose militarily, it is that we will lose the Iraqi people. Or a much larger chunk of the Iraqi people than is necessary. There are three types of young Iraqi men fighting us right now: Sunni supremacists (Baathists), terrorists, and anti-Occupation Nationalists. Or in other words, evildoers and fools. In concert with our Iraqi allies, we must defeat the evildoers, but good Iraqi and American leadership must also try to reduce the number of young Iraqi fools throwing their lives away by fighting against this temporary Occupation. I want leadership that understands these nuances, and is willing make these moral distinctions even among our enemies.

That we have liberated the Iraqi people is not yet a fact. It will depend on what happens these next few years. I want leadership that understands that. And I want a leader who understands the psychological truth that many Iraqis, irrationally and counter-productively, do not want to give the US credit for liberating their country, and who will therefore try his damndest to put an Iraqi face on this liberation. I want a leader who will try his damndest to engage directly with the Iraqi people, and make them understand our motives and our actions, and try to win them over to our side.

2) There are all sorts of problems with the UN: a)Any venture with blue helmets is a disaster waiting to happen, because no soldier is willing to fight and die for the UN b) Except for violations of sovereignty, UN types treat all parties to a dispute or issue as equally legitimate and worthy of respect, no matter how evil or in the wrong they are, and get huffy if you demand that they take a stand and stop coddling the bad guys c) the UN is filled with and led by smug, pompous lawyers d) these lawyers tend to be very credulous and putty in the hands of swindlers and thugs, leading to lots of corruption e) the Russians and especially the Chinese are not our friends, and obstruct us at almost every opportunity.

However, there are lots of problems where we are not willing to do something, but we want something to be done (e.g. we are not willing to send peace-keeping troops to Sudan, but we want troops to be sent). That means working with some multilateral organization, UN or not. When the UN lends its legitimacy to some venture, like Gulf War I & the unanimous inspector resolution, it is useful. I interpret Kerry's stance as a common sense one: you use the UN to the maximum extent it proves useful, and to the extent it proves obstructionist or ineffectual, you ditch it and get the job done in some other way.

To those who say that the UN/multilateral oranizations is a genuinely malign force, actively on the side of evil, actively determined to thwart American power, I say this: Look at the process by which Hamid Karzai was chosen as the post-Taliban leader of a new Afghanistan. Look at the process by which Chalabi, the IGC and now Allawi were chosen as the post-Saddam leaders of a new Iraq. Compare the results. And then tell me that the UN is an irredeemably corrupt, useless, good-for-nothing organization. . .

Andrew J. Lazarus:

Only this evening did I Google for Soviet casualties in their Afghan War. They were of about the same order of magnitude as ours are in Iraq. Their force was a little smaller, and while they took fewer casualties in the conventional military phase, they did suffer more—maybe double, not more—than we are in the Occupation/Liberation phase.

The next time someone wants to comment on how well we're doing in Iraq, pretend it's Moscow 1980, and explain to me why my pessimism is wrong, and Marxist-Leninism is on its inexorable march. . .

Because the Soviet Union wanted to keep Afghanistan forever, and we don't:) IMO, Probably the most accurate historical parallel to Iraq is the turn of the century war in the Phillipines, and also our early 20-century attempted intervention in Mexico. But even that is imperfect, because our motives in Iraq are more noble than our motives were in the Philipines. IMO, the underlying motivation for the Iraq war was Glory, not Conquest.

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