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October 02, 2006

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dean v. wermer

Definitionally, what's a "humanitarian war"? The American Civil War? WWII?

Frederick Hamilton

Professor Posner,
You have put your finger on a real problem with trying to do good. Your final end point is a sobering one and if true a painful one for people who genuinely want to do the right thing for their fellow humankind to accept.

It means of course that absent an attack on a nation or a clear national security crisis (Iran comes to mind) then to sit back and watch a Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Rawanda, et al have carte blanch (excepting for "sanctions") will be the rule and the norm. Hard to accept for those wanting and presumbably capable of helping.

Hypothetical to be sure, but if their were genocide ala Hitler and absent a war would it be OK to just sit back and watch 6 million Jews for instance be sacrificed? And not intervene militarily?

Your post paints both a possibly real picture and a painful one at the same time.

Kimball Corson

Excellent Post.

Our grounds for the war in Iraq – free the Iraqis from despositism, get the weapons of mass destruction, gain puppeteer control of Iraqi oil to compromise OPEC, bring democracy to the Iraqis and the Middle East and to reduce or slow terrorism -- have devolved down to support of a disastrous, murdering Iraqi government, an increase in terrorism and assumption of Saddam's job of avoiding civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. What we now have is really none of our goals met and instead large numbers of Americans and Iraqis killed, with the prospect of escalation in deaths. Reminds me of the domino theory for the war in Vietnam – to save the Philippines from communism. It seems U.S. wars are not good for much any more except getting people killed.

Kimball Corson

Now Hitler in WWII was a real threat, not an ideological excuse for expanded foreign ambitions or influence in the name of humanitarianism. In fact, he was clearly headed our way. My father, after he retired as a senior officer of Standard Oil in 1939 and before I was born, became a spy in Mexico, reporting to the late Senator Eldon Rudd who was then a senior FBI officer (we had no viable OSS or any CIA in those days). It seems the Germans, starting early on, were pressing the Mexican government hard to allow them to establish large troop bases along our southern boarder. After vacillating and toying with the idea, political leaders in Mexico finally said no, but did let Germany keep subs and warships off the Mexican coast in Mexican waters.

golddog

Professor Posner:

You are conflating two separate ideas. There is a difference between a humanitarian intervention to stop a genocide that is occurring and a full scale war whose goal is to dispose a regime and establish a liberal democracy in its place.

You write, "one of the main justifications for the war was humanitarian: to rescue suffering Iraqis from a tyrant." While you do acknowledge that there were (false) security concerns that also led to this war, your statement is misleading. The humanitarian concerns were not among the primary reasons for going to war, as you seem to imply, but rather distant secondary or even tertiary reasons. The only reason that the humanitarian goal was brought to the forefront was because the Bush administration realized that it no longer had a tenable justification on national security grounds. This has been further demonstrated when it was recently revealed in the recently declassified National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism that the war in Iraq was actually making Americans less safe and has created a breeding ground and haven for terrorists.

We should be modest about what our government can do in the world. Of course many of us in the United States are sympathetic to the idea of "spreading democracy," but we now understand that this cannot be done by the force of arms. While that goal may be noble, it is not practical. We need to be more restrained in our goals and simply aim to stop genocide whenever and wherever it is occurring. This is a much less grandiose goal than establishing a new regime and can be accomplished with American military might as demonstrated by President Clinton's halting of the ethnic killings in Kosovo. It is also a clear military goal whose success can easily be measured. A well defined objective is far superior to the ambiguous objective of establishing a democracy.

Your comments offer us a false dichotomy, either continue the Bush administration's bungled and badly thought out policies or become total isolationists. There are other options where the United States can still halt the genocides of the world without the entanglements of another Iraq. The United States will still retain its moral standing in the world and future genocides will be discouraged. We should not sacrifice our humanity and natural inclination to prevent genocide because of this administration's incompetence in the realm of foreign policy.

Roach

A good and sobering post. I'm skeptical of the whole concept of humanitarian war; while a regime may in some cases be said to be at war with its own people--the Soviet Union comes to mind--that does not necessarily mean a war will help those people. The Ukrainians found this out in short order after initial excitement of liberation from the Soviet oppression and genocide, only to suffer again under Nazi Germany's Plan Ost.

One problem with humanitarian wars is that Americans and the West seem to have forgotten that wars are not primarily what one does to benefit others so much as it is something that one does to benefit himself and his countrymen. In other words, if a war leaves the Iraqis or whoever in worse shape after the war, that doesn't make it unjust or indefensible. Thus, humanitarian wars set us up for exacting and hard-to-achieve standards where the usual stuff of war becomes classified as a failure, i.e., disempowering the enemy through destroying infrastructure.

I do find the formulation above interesting: "for people who genuinely want to do the right thing for their fellow humankind to accept." Really? Have you volunteered to fight any of these humanitarian wars? I doubt it. . . few of us do. I don't mean this to disqualify you from discussion. But it's important to illustrate the broader point: the military is a public trust made up of volunteers who have a very small role in the decisionmaking that sends them to war.

The "we" of "we need to do something" is usually a shorthand for "them," that small number of motivated and patriotic Americans who take an oath to defend the Constitution. There seems an implicit contract in play when we have a volunteer military: you will go where you are told, but the civilian leadership will only send you as a last resort, when American interests are at stake, and well supported by arms, materiel, and public opinion. None of the recent humanitarian interventions met those criteria, and most failed even to achieve their humanitarian goals.

Further, when there is no national interest at stake, we are likely to embrace a misleadingly exact notion of the good guys and the bad guys, often empowering extremist factions emboldened by their sense of righteous victimhood. Consider Iraq as a case in point; the poor downtrodden Shias were oppressed and then put into power by US democracy. Now the Shiite police force regularly engages in "death squad" killings of various Sunnis in different parts of Baghdad and surrounding regions. So, did we do a good thing in allowing one group of former victims to become brutal victimizers?

At least a non-humanitarian war lacks pretensions; it's us versus them. And if it hurts foreigners, then such wars' chief source of legitimacy in furthering our own security renders them supportable nonetheless.

War is a blunt instrument, and the notion of victimhood justifying such an extreme step is rare. The case where we can even accurately say that a massive and one-sided victimization is taking place that permis us to stop that victim's enemies is rare.

Consider the case of Rwanda. The Tutsi victims of the Hutu formed the major constituent of a violent rebel group in 1994 Rwanda and had previously constituted the dominant ruling class. The extremist Hutu leadership sold their violence as a necessary measure to protect themselves from the repetition of Tutsi overlordship. There are parallels to the Nazi claim that it was the "Job of history" avenging the "stab in the back" at Versailles, or the Bolshevik notion that it was leading the proletariat in throwing off the yoke of capitalist oppression. In other words, the same pervasive victimology that is used to justify humanitarian interventions also can form the ideological basis of mass violence. We should be wary of treading into complicated conflicts where neither side is blameless in the name of humanitarianism, whether in the Balkans, Palestine, Lebanon, or elsewhere.

bcowan

Two things seem very wrong with Eric Posner's piece:

First, it is just weird to portray the Iraq aggression as an instance of "humanitarian warfare."

The Bush administrations's cynical use of the humanitarian ideal to squeeze outnumbered liberal legislators into supporting (or not obstructing) the scheme is prima facie different in many ways from the other examples Posner lightly invokes. Many could see that the Iraq adventure was much more deeply imperial than humanitarian, but the politics went strongly the other way, in part whipped up by the illegitimate blurring of 9/11's awfulness with Saddam Hussein's awfulness.

Maybe such sloppy analysis is enough to condemn the piece as the sheer sophistry it seems to be.

But I think there is a deeper flaw, related to the narrow epistemology that informs much of Posner's work. Whether his epistemological commitments are prior or secondary to his thralldom to the Olin Foundation, it seems to me that their hallmark is a resolute refusal to think effectively about the multiplicity of levels of social organization, extensively connected to each other, but in respect to which different types of social order prevail.

These can be quite seriously at odds with each other, weakening the efficacy of social expression (and the validity of judgments about those expressions), or can sometimes cohere in a more or less balanced way. But the solution to immanent social incoherence is not, I think, to ignore differences and how they arise and to critique the policies that ensue solely from the viewpoint of a narrow orthodoxy.

I do not doubt that the humanitarian ideal has informed acts of international aggression of different types and aims, ranging from legitimate (at least in intent at some relevant level) to grotesque. I also do not doubt that the savagery and destructiveness of actual warfare rarely fail to raise ex post questions about the legitimacy of the initial humanitarian appeal.

But I think that to do at least some analysis before putting the straw man into the one-size-fits-all suit is important. For example, to whom or to what aggregation of persons is the humanitarian appeal directed? How is it expressed? How is it made institutionally effective - by legislation or by naked appeal to public opinion (another multiplex abstraction)or by blackmail or terror or a cabal of delusional wackos? For whom was the invoking of the ideal, in Sunstein's term, "salient" and what institutional agency is involved in making the appeal effective?

I would have thought there were important disctinctions to be made between instances of different types before proceeding to a critique of all of them as if in the most important respect they were all the same (e.g., "false", "manipulative," "criminal.")
I have heard that type of argumentation before from peace activists but I do not think Eric Posner is one of them.

This exercise in judging the "better" from the "worse" based on inadequate (in this case cartoonishly so) selection of data is half-baked, even for the blogosphere.

Kimball Corson

And let us not forget, as a reason for going to war in Iraq, Saddam tried to assassinate Papa Bush, and good Texans, like good Arabs always seek revenge for family members. Victimology, as Roach suggests, can play a role in deciding to go to war, even down to a family or personal level and even when, as in Iraq, we have almost no clue of what we are getting ourselves into. Too often we are very poorly versed in the historical complications of the area we decide to invade and that only makes things worse as our ignorance rears up to bite us.

I cannot imagine us going to war solely for humanitarian concerns. Maybe a quick in-and-out, with minimal troops, to seek a negotiated cease fire and stop some genocide, but really not more. Even this is hard for us. As Roach suggests, we often do a really poor job of picking out who the good guys are or even in understanding the historical complications in the area. (Two key examples here are (1) few know, for example, that we – yes, the United States -- gave Saddam know-how, equipment and materials to make weapons of mass destruction (biological). It appears such materials and equipment were stolen during the fall of Baghdad when so much looting was going on. [Such irony.] (2) We did not understand very well that a major role Saddam played was to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each other’s throats.) Also, as we learned decades ago, our troops are not good policemen, nor are they trained as peacekeepers. They are trained to shoot. The truth is we fight wars for other reasons and then try to dress them up in humanitarian clothing in order to make them more saleable.

Accepting all this, what is left? Invasions and real wars like that in Iraq where our goals are not really humanitarian but more realistically something else. Any humanitarian element is just window dressing to get God and the American people on our side. I share Roach’s real pessimism here. “Onward Christian soldiers” and fighting for God,” just don’t cut it any more. Too, it is hard for political leaders to really be candid about non-humanitarian goals for going to war. It often makes them look bad, not only in the eyes of history but also to the people whose support is needed. For us to be more modest about what war and our troops can do, as golddog suggests, requires that we be more open and candid about what we are up to and, as I point out, that is hard. Too, golddog’s suggestion that not going to war is to somehow embrace isolationism simply is not true. There are the worlds of dialog and diplomacy, which do not require bullets and armor.

Barry’s suggestion that there are myriad reasons for going to war is undoubtedly true, but I do think the taxonomy of humanitarian reasons (non-self interested) vs. self-interested reasons is useful and good enough. In my view, we really do not have any wars per se motivated only by humanitarian concerns. As I said, we have self-interested wars dressed up with humanitarian expressions of interest in order to garner public and allied support. The issue, as I see it, is not whether these views are cynical, but whether they are historically true in the modern era.

Jepetto

Many people have been quoting estimates of 40,000-plus Iraqi civilians killed, but since the US government's rationalizations for the war proved to be false, the Iraqi soldiers killed during the invasion should also be considered innocent casualties. They were protecting their country from an illegal invasion that had not been endorsed by the international community, just as American troops protected Kuwait from an illegal invasion in the first Iraq war. How many TOTAL Iraqis have been killed during this debacle? I haven't seen a serious effort to establish a reliable count.

Dave

It's always been considered humanitarian to install a democratic government regardless of the many casualties. This used to be called "the white man's burden," but it's always looked like imperialism to me. America is Pact Romana II.

bcowan

Kim,

I was trying to suggest a more adequate process for figuring out why the "humanitarian" justification for war, not its ultimate validity, is perennially deemed sufficiently efficacious that it almost never fails to be invoked.

Like Eric Posner, I find that the range of problems that are supposedly solved by invoking the ideal is not very easy to understand.

Unlike him, and, apparently in this respect, unlike you, I think it is very important to look seriously at how the ideal functions in the efforts of a country's leaders to persuade the population to go to war. I think it is dangerous to gather all instances of its use under the heading of "myth" partly because of the unexplained differences in meaning that word can have.

Does Posner mean "myth" the vernacular sense of "false story" or in the sense of "fundamental organizing metaphor representing reality as intuitively grasped but inexplicable due to the inadequacies of language?"

Plainly, the humanitarian ideal has some force, some salience, in this connection. That is what interests me, not whether it is, by itself, an inadequate basis for explaining or justifying actual war.

I agree that the usual cast of characters invoking it are probably scoundrels. But that, although true, just isn't very interesting to me. It merely moves the inquiry to a different dark region of felt but only intuitively grasped unknowns.

I actually think the answer to why the "myth" is effective is related to the immanence in social groups of salient feelings for the efficacy of imposing group discipline on delinquent individual behavior. These feelings are rational through and through, because most people have actually experienced the discipline of a larger nexus being imposed on recalcitrant or heedless individuals - what else, after all, is grade school (or law school) about? Accordingly, the feelings invoked with the humanitarian ideal often have real roots in actual experiences of inflicting pain for the greater good, not only of the sufferer, but of the whole group.

I think, accordingly, that to dismiss the humanitarian ideal from having any relevance whatsoever to the decision to go to war is too glib and virtually assures, unless we get to understand it better, that scoundrels will never have to forgo the use of it, because it will always be effective for some.

LAK

When did "liberal" get stuck with the suffix "elites" and when did monied conservative republicans lose it? If educated upper middle class liberals are elites, what should I call mega wealthy old money republicans? Conservative ruling classers?

josh

I have to second LAK's comment. "Liberal elites" was an unfortunate turn of phrase for what is normally a thoughtful blog. I guess the original print was in the WaPo, but it still serves as useless (and incorrect) rhetoric.

Raj

When we look at the grand sweep of history, one is astonished that, inspite of the stumblings and the glaringly egregious
abuses (i.e glaring because they're not the norm by AMERICAN standards, but laughably mild by the standards of all other polities/civilizations - abuses such as Abu Ghraib, My Lai etc), there has been NO greater pro-active force for good in all of human history than America. Perhaps more immigrants (I'm one) than natives subscribe to this "naive" empirical notion of American Exceptionalism. This aspect is only magnified when we contrast the sheer preponderance of comprehensive power -military,economic,cultural- that America wields over rest of the world combined, with the proportions of past empires and dominant cultures.

From a layman's perspective, the biggest mistakes that were made in this war were 1. Ignoring Gen.Shinseki's advice (more troops on the ground- he had suggested around 300K+ )
2.Dismantling an existing military/police structure completely and precipitously.

All this, set in the midst of a tribal culture that respects only brute strength; one that very likely misconstrues any restraint on the part of the victors as weakness.

Surely (being an exceptionalist again ;)), incessant, noisy debates on the merits of this so-called American "imperialism" would mitigate the unpleasant and uncharacterstic transgressions of the "American way", thus contributing to greater, healthy civic discourse.

David

Raj--

Good comment. I agree. Many people in this country have no idea of what life is like in other parts of the world today, or what life has been like generally throughout human history.

Erasmussimo

I heartily commend golddog's comments, especially his observation that Mr. Posner's identification of the Iraq war as a humanitarian war is a gross imposture. The invasion of Iraq was undertaken for reasons having nothing whatever to do with humanitarian goals; the humanitarian label was applied only after the original justifications had been discredited. And certainly American behavior in Iraq completely demolishes any claim of humanitarian intent.

But more importantly, I'd like to challenge the assumption that humanitarian goals have no place in warmaking. Get back to the basics: "War is the extension of policy to other means". If you have a policy supporting chocolate candy bars, then war is an appropriate extension of that policy. Yes, you can have silly or stupid policy objectives, but once you have decided upon a political objective, there is no reason why you shouldn't use war to achieve that objective -- assuming of course that war actually would achieve that objective.

So what's the difference between establishing a policy to prevent the starvation of a million people and establishing a policy to prevent the murder of a million people? Yes, it might be easier to achieve one policy objective rather than the other, but there is in principle no inherant inferiority in either objective.

Moreover, there are indeed reasonable policy reasons to prevent the slaughter of millions of people. Establishing higher standards of international behavior supports other American policies against terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation. Enforcing universally recognized values enhances America's moral stature. Our utter impotence in stopping nuclear weapons work in the two remaining members of the Axis of Evil clearly demonstrates just how important moral stature can be. Nobody pays attention to us now.

Andy D

Since Posner's post aims to bring 'experience' to bear on the merits of humanitarian intervention, I'd like to question whether the evidence presented supports what seems to be his main conclusion: that "humanitarian war is an oxymoron".

The Somalia case suggests that it can be difficult to muster and sustain the political will for a humanitarian war. True enough, but this doesn't say a thing about the benefits or harm our continued military involvement would've brought to Somalis. Similarly, the Kosovo experience suggests that reliance on airborne assaults takes a huge toll on the populations it aims to help.

If we refuse to tolerate any American casualties, obviously our prospects as a humanitarian force will be dim. But this is talking past serious proponents of humanitarian intervention, who reject the absolute priority of American lives.

I don't want to attempt to summarize the Iraq experience, or debate whether it can be considered a 'humanitarian war', but I want to point out that it was not a UN affair. The United States and a piecemeal coalition invaded Iraq in defiance of the UN. Thus, Posner's suggestion that the UN is hungry for many more Iraqs is deceptive at best. The UN places a strong emphasis on national sovereignty and its provisions for humanitarian intervention are limited even in principle, let alone in implementation.

Since the UN is far from an effective force for humanitarian ideals, humanitarians in the US are naturally inclined to contemplate unilateral actions. Yet even supposing we could undertake these with pure intentions, our extensive history of secret and open wars against legitimate governments and people's movements and in support of narrowly defined economic interests (in which the 'abuses' named by Raj are hardly atypical) gives our would-be beneficiaries ample reason to doubt us.

This is to say that the experience in Iraq cannot be read simply as the inevitable outcome of misguided humanitarian action (even supposing it was humanitarian in conception). Although Sunni-Shiite tensions preexisted the invasion and posed threats that we failed adequately to consider, Iraqi fighters have drawn considerable force and numbers from the perceived illegitimacy and imperial character of the occupiers.

It is hard to be an effective humanitarian force when you're widely despised--this is a lesson that might be drawn from Iraq, but as with Somalia and Kosovo, what follows from it is less than what Posner claims. Posner has not discredited the idea of humanitarian war per se.

This is not at all to say that war should should be blithely undertaken; for instance, I am far from being confident that a UN-led Iraq war would've turned out to be much less of a quagmire. Experience is costly, especially in war, but it is also costly to draw facile and predetermined 'lessons' that would categorically exclude whole realms of possibility. Yet the present article hints that a Darfur intervention is another Iraq waiting to happen, without offering one piece of case-specific analysis or comparison. Is this style of writing really persuasive, or desirable?

Larry

There are many problems with Posner's argument, but I think the most obvious is we don't know what would have happened if we hadn't invaded. It's certainly possible (likely, I'd say) that doing nothing would have led to more problems and deaths, not less.

Imagine if American and England had attacked Hitler in 1937. Millions would have died and Churchill and FDR would now be considered two of the worst war criminals in history, but they may have saved tens of millions of lives.

Erasmussimo

Larry, there is a simple way to answer your question as to how many would have died had we not invaded Iraq: extrapolate past experience. Yes, there were lots of people dying in Iraq before the invasion. The shortage of medicines led to many deaths. I don't have the numbers but I doubt that they would support your claim that the invasion has reduced the overall death rate in Iraq. Let's get some numbers here. (Sorry that I'm not putting my time where my mouth is -- I'm short on time just this moment.)

Seth Weinberger

Posner's argument is too simplistic. As has been demonstrated fairly convincingly by Peter Feaver and Chris Gelpi, political scientists at Duke University [full disclosure: both Feaver and Gelpi were on my dissertation committee, and I TAed a course for Feaver as well], the problem that Posner identifies is less grounded in the US public as he intimates ("Policymakers drew the lesson that the American public will not tolerate casualties in a humanitarian war that has no clear national security justification. This lesson guided President Bill Clinton's refusal to authorize military intervention during the Rwandan genocide and his decision to limit U.S. military intervention in Kosovo in 1999 to high-altitude bombing...") and more in the political decisionmakers themselves. This argument can be seen in many places: Their book or a Washington Post op-ed from November 7, 1999 (rr).

The reason that so many military interventions for humanitarian purposes devolve into disaster is an unwillingness of the political elites to convince their domestic audiences of the worthiness of the cause. In Somalia, Clinton was unwilling to spend any political capital to do so, just as he was in Rwanda and Kosovo. Bush, on the contrary, was willing to do so, even if he may not have chosen the "right" intervention: Few external analysts, even the most optimistic, believed that Iraq would be a simple and short affair, while Posner's other worst case, Kosovo, is hardly a drop in the bucket compared to Iraq nor would any potential operation in Darfur involve anything approaching the costs of Iraq.

Ideas are important, even in foreign policy, despite the desire of neo-realists to wish them away. Americans will not bear sacrifices for conflicts that they do not perceive to be in the country's interest. But leaders have a lot to say in how the American public perceives its interest. The mantra of humanitarianism and democracy has gone a long way to maintaining public support for a war in Iraq that seems to be going badly with few prospects for success. Posner is certainly right that any such interventions will be fraught with danger and risk. But that, in and of itself, does not mean that the danger and risk are not worth bearing.

Kimball Corson

Barry,

I think I am looking at the wars ex post and so my crude taxonomy is sufficient, whereas you are looking at them ex ante and wondering how the situations develop and what particular mix of humanitarian claims is needed to garner public and allied support. Adopting your frame of reference for consideration but still looking back by way of an example, it seems each war usually has some sort of catalytic event in the foreground and some longer term developed animosity for one or another reason lurking in the background. Sometimes a fear, a loathing or both. The underlying condition, I think, governs what package of humanitarian window dressing is deemed most appropriate to weld the public to the cause, but also to distract them in many cases from the real or more controlling reasons for going to war, very often because such reasons are so poor. The trigger event is usually just the launch signal and sometimes little more, although not for our Iraqi invasion.

The real reasons I believe for our second invasion of Iraq was to acquire puppeteer control over Iraqi oil with change to a friendly regime in order to moderate OPEC and rebuild Iraq according to the Wolfowitz plan, and to get Saddam for trying to assassinate Papa Bush. As an oil man and a Texan, these reasons square well with Bush Jr’s thinking. Plans to invade Iraq again were well advanced before 9/11. Regime change was deemed very important then, though we don’t hear much about it now. Underlying sentiments in the population toward the Arab world generally and the Iraqis more specifically, to the extent Americans could distinguish between the two, before 9/11 were the Arabs had become a jealous, backward people who treated no one, including themselves and their women, kindly, they opposed Israel, our friend, they were becoming confrontational for reasons Americans still do not well understand, they were somewhat neuvo riche but still dressed in rags (Bedouin clothing), they were of a lesser faith and we fought them big time long ago in the Crusades. Also, more fundamentally, arrogance played a role: why can’t they be more like us (wonderful as we are). (Much human behavior, as I see it, revolves around my view that we are monkeys
-- a “monkey theory” of us, if you will, a sort of a mythical organizing principle that works very well. You and I are probably bonobos, whereas Bush and Rumsfeld are clearly marauding chimps. Study the behavior of those species and you will have us down pretty pat.

The humanitarian window dressing applied did not need to be much, given 9/11 and the generally felt need to do something. To liberate and help the Iraqi people with regime change and a move toward democracy, to get Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, as well as to go after the perpetrators of 9/11, became the banners of the day. But the outcome has developed that the Wolfowitz plan substantially failed, the 9/11 attackers were not Iraqis, the war stalled with the insurgency and the humanitarian pretexts have become naively laughable as the country, without Saddam, slides toward civil war and chaos and as our puppet government founders in corruption, intrigue, disloyalty and individual opportunism. Decidedly a bad war for the American public which did not know what it was getting into, but trusted Bush, because of the leadership he showed with 9/11. However, Bush did get the man who tried to assassinate his Papa and Saddam is now on trial for everything but that. Such irony.

Publics, American and otherwise, need to wise up. It seems each generation gets its chance to screw up and takes it. Our parents had Vietnam. We have Iraq. Memories fade. Our sense of history is poor. We get excited and feel a need to act. There are opportunists always ready to lead us. Usually over a cliff. A key lesson to emerge from both here and in regard to Vietnam is we did not really have a good sensible and solid reasons to go to war. We just thought we did. It seems we should have a Hitler or something or one of that sort before we take up arms. But I think we still don’t get it, just as you suggest.

Kimball Corson

LAK,

The sociology of pecking order always accords higher education with more points than wealth. Anyone can grub for money, but a good higher education is harder to come by, is a proxy for intelligence, reflects a better developed capacity to understand and oftens is associated with greater sensitivity and better manners. Ergo, the elite. If you have money too, then you get to round the bases.

Kimball Corson

Raj,
If we are so exceptionally good, why don't we do good and act better? Why are there so many abuses at all levels in regard to virtually all of the good ideas and concepts we have and have developed? Much of the rest of the world thinks we are evil, not good as you suggest; tax breaks for the rich and a peanut or two for the African poor.

Kimball Corson

David,

As a point of information, life generally in many other countries is very good and in some, much better than in the United States. I know that as one who has lived abroad a great deal, as I currently am doing. We DO NOT have a monopoly on the good life or even know best how to live it. This is a myth of America's poorly traveled.

Kimball Corson

Eras writes, "[As a nation,] Nobody pays attention to us now." And I say, worse, we are viewed by many as "evil" for taking so many moral low roads and also as a threat to goodness and international order.

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