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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

June 08, 2005
10 Questions - 1

I have no idea what Progressives think, but I naturally have my own opinions about these questions.

For the record, I avoided reading the comments at the site until I'd written my own answers. After I read them, I was embarrassed. They're all so reasonable. So thoughtful. So intelligent.

Mine were so...so ranty. So, I'm not sharing my responses over there with the intellectual crowd.

Also, my total response was 4,000 words long, which is, quite frankly, ridiculous for a blog post, so I'm breaking it into multiple posts.

_______________________


1. The Middle East: Isnít it the case that had a progressive been in the White House, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, with the Middle East as stagnant as ever? Do you now admit that the only way to get the region moving was to dislodge a major dictator and launch at least one important country on the route to transformation? How else would you have gotten change afoot?

Not necessarily, not necessarily, no, and 'not by killing thousands and thousands of people.'

If a Liberal administration had been in power, they would not have ignored the Clinton Administration's attempts to warm them about the Taliban. Instead of being obsessed with Hussein, we might have gone after bin Laden's group and prevented 9/11.

Even had we not, we could still be paying serious attention to Afghanistan, a country that welcomed us and wants our assistance.

If we had, well, without 9/11, we wouldn't have been suffering from PTSD for the past four years and we wouldn't be in this mess. We wouldn't be openly vilified around the world for torture, prisoner abuse, killing thousands of civilians, and having illegally invaded another country while pretending we weren't after their oil supply.

We wouldn't now be sitting on the horns of an ugly dilemma as our "allies" in "fighting terror" massacre their own citizens, would we? Uzbekistan. Ethiopia.

Maybe by now, some positive progress would have been seen without all the bloodshed. (I've heard more arguments saying that the "pro-democratization" movements in the Middle East are a matter of pressure and the culmination of years of tentative movements coming to maturity, than arguments that it's All About Bush.)

The tens of billions of dollars we've spent on killing Iraqis could have been spent on aid programs, education, and forming international alliances to put real pressure on totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, not just those out of favor with whatever Administration currently resided in the White House.

Such actions might have resulted, who knows, in even more progress toward freedom and openness in the Middle East and elsewhere. (I don't say "democracy" because it's not up to us to shove democracy down other country's throats. If the people are free to choose their system of government and reasonably free to live in safety and security under that government, even if they dissent from it, then the form said government takes is none of our business.)

We could have spent a few billion dollars giving Afghanistan some hope for economic prosperity not tied to the drug trade. The possibility of a future.... Maybe the nihilism of the Islamic extremists wouldn't be so attractive if there were viable, attractive alternatives for these people's lives?

We could have saved...how many lives in Darfur? We could have fed and housed tens of thousands of people, offering them healthcare, education, and a chance to build a future for themselves and their country.

We could have made our "foreign policy" about something other than a complicated exchange of weapons for bases and armed might for token support in an illegal invasion of a non-aggressive country.

With the hundreds of billions of dollars we've spent on Iraq, we could have made significant moves toward being the country I used to think we already were.

I'm ranting already...and this is only the first question.

Let me finish by pointing out that if we wanted to do some reforming in the Middle East, Iraq isn't the obvious place we should have started. I've already mentioned Afghanistan. Or how about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? (What's the matter, George? Afraid to tackle the one that's defeated all of your predecessors?)

Iran...well, we helped bring down the Shah and gave them the extremist Khomeni, so I think they've had all of the "democratization" they really want from us, don't you? And, to be honest, the whole Saudi Arabia thing is jut too complicated for my brain.


Posted by AnneZook at 07:42 PM


Comments

If a Liberal administration had been in power, they would not have ignored the Clinton Administration's attempts to warm them about the Taliban. Instead of being obsessed with Hussein, we might have gone after bin Laden's group and prevented 9/11.

Okay, Anne - if you want to live in a fantasy word, go ahead. But, there is no hypothetical liberal administration - it would have been Al Gore with Joe Lieberman as the VP, Dick Holbrooke at State, and Leon Fuerth as the head of the NSC.

Given the long standing inability of the CIA and FBI to share information was not corrected in the Clinton-Gore years, there is little evidence to suggest a Gore administration would have done any better in preventing 9/11.

Let's look at Fuerth. Here's a snippet from an article from the pre 2000 election (author was a freelance journalist who covered both potential foreign policy teams)

Over the years, Fuerth has consistently encouraged Gore in taking aggressive stands on foreign policy. Fuerth's toughest positions have been with Iraq, Iran and North Korea, places he has privately described as "giant zits on various parts of the body." Fuerth remains firmly unmoved by Iran's attempts at reform, for example. He lobbied fervently for a controversial and expensive plan to transport Caspian Sea oil and gas via a route that will avoid Russia and Iran. In 1998, Fuerth fought unsuccessfully to convince President Clinton to impose sanctions against three foreign companies that were big investors in Iran's energy sector, arguing that to block investment in Iran was worth offending the European Union.

During Gore's run for the nomination in 1988, Fuerth helped him formulate a strongly pro-Israel line. At that time, Gore criticized the Reagan administration for attempting to push Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir into withdrawing from land it occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace with its Arab neighbors. In 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Fuerth produced a three-inch-thick binder explaining why Gore should break with other Senate Democrats and vote in favor of going to war. Senator Gore was one of six Democrats to support the war. Fuerth was also a strong advocate for early military strikes against Serbian forces.

Fuerth's outlook on Iraq differs little from that of Bush's advisers. In a recent interview billed as a "gentlemanly discussion," Fuerth clashed on Iraq with Bush adviser Robert Zoellick, former assistant Secretary of State. Their real disagreement, however, was not over whether to use force, but over whose fault -- President Clinton's or President Bush's -- it was that Saddam Hussein was not already dead. The route of diplomacy was not discussed, nor was the option of rigorous military sanctions and enhanced border inspections. Nor did either man mention lifting the economic sanctions that by UNICEF estimates are killing 250 Iraqi civilians a day. Whereas Zoellick has joined his fellow Vulcans in advocating the seizure of Iraqi territory using US air and/or ground forces, Fuerth remains more coy. "Ultimately Saddam Hussein is going to make a mistake that plays into our handsÖ[T]hat mistake will confer on us the legitimate right to deal with him," remarked Fuerth, adding that such a US response may or may not be coordinated with the Iraqi opposition.

Hey, remember, the Clinton-Gore WH had the Pentagon drawing up war plans for Iraq as well..(from personal experience)..

And with Lieberman as VP --- He is one of the largest recipients of AIPAC money and has harshly criticized the Clinton-Gore Middle East policy for being too easy on the Palestinians. In 1997, he wrote Clinton: "Our government's Mideast policy of evenhandedness, in contradiction with reality, continues. It is wrong. Evenhandedness has not been earned." The letter stressed that "no more concessions" be made to Yasir Arafat, "the villain who is unwilling to stop the terror." A Gore-Lieberman administration would likely be an even less honest broker in the Oslo "peace process" than the compromised Clinton administration has been.

and Holbrooke..upon leaving the UN, he stated

Saddam Hussein's activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world," Holbrooke continued, "not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime.

"His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times," he said.

The Bush administration "will have to deal with this problem, which we inherited from our predecessors and they now inherit from us," Holbrooke said.

But if you want to dream, Anne, go ahead.

The reality is, after 9/11, even a Gore administration, perhaps because of the criticism/blame a Republican led Congress would have heaped on Gore, would have likely taken a similar, perhaps even bolder, actions in the Middle East. I'll grant you a Sam Nunn as SecDef and a micromanaging Al Gore might have done better in managing post conflict ops, but I think you're in fantasy land to believe a Gore administration would have produced vastly different results than Bush.

Posted by: Col Steve at June 8, 2005 11:53 PM

Col. Steve,

If you're right, doesn't that undercut the premise of the question entirely?

For the record, it's entirely possible that you're both right. Just don't ask me how.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at June 9, 2005 02:52 AM

Col Steve - I know there's no Liberal Administration, but I answered the question as it was framed.*

If I'd been asked how things would have turned out if Gore had been in office, I assure you my answer would have been different.

(* Actually, the question was framed around a "progressive" administration, but I answered from my liberal perspective.)

Posted by: Anne at June 9, 2005 08:17 AM

Jonathan-
Yes. I believe, assuming 9/11 occurred under a Gore administration, we'd have taken out both the Taliban and Hussein. I'd even go one step additional and say we'd have taken a different (harder) stand with respect to Palestine and possibly Wahabbism/extremism in Saudi Arabia.

I may be dreaming here as well, but I'd like to think we'd have taken a harder stand on domestic extremist groups..on both sides (from right wing hate groups to left wing environmental terrorists).

But you're right (see my criticism of Hugo), the "facts" (statements/writings/actions of the potential players) don't speak for themselves. We give them meaning by how we interpret them..but doing so shapes how we understand the facts. And of course, we don't have the equivalent of the "scientific method" to prove or reject most of these speculated alternatives.

So, you're correct - we both could be right. In this case, what might have been, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Col Steve at June 9, 2005 08:46 AM

I dunno, Col Steve, Hussein was pretty neutered by the time the Clinton administration wrapped up. I think Gore might have taken out bin Laden and perhaps someone who isn't even on the table with the present way of thinking - Mussharaf, maybe? Some country which would be seen as more obviously a greater threat to Israel. I do think Gore and particularly Lieberman would be rather more obsessed with being seen as a friend to Israel than with establishing military bases or stealing oil.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at June 10, 2005 07:01 PM

Hi Elayne:
In hindsight, we know Hussein's WMD program was more fiction than fantasy. But leaders of both parties in both the Clinton and Bush 43 years are on the record about how dangerous Hussein was (obviously both parties were getting the same (flawed) intelligence).

I don't think you're right for the following reasons:

1) Pakistan has nuclear capabilities, but no ability to project it as far as Israel. However, we have great concern about Pakistan-India conflict in Kashmir going nuclear. Additionally, we need Pakistan's support, however inconsistent, to conduct operations against AQ in Afghanistan.

2) We need Pakistan and India to view China as the greater threat to the region and be buffers to Chinese influence

3) The greater threat to Israel is arguably Iran. They're developing the capability (and the will?) to launch nuclear weapons against Israel. However, Iran is not a good candidate for several reasons - (1) There are indications of a reform/moderate movement; (2) The terrain makes military operations far more difficult than Iraq; (3) The notion of having regional balance between Shia dominated nations and Sunni, especially if one believes the more extreme elements (Wahabbi) come from the Sunni sect.

4) A major concern though is Iran launching regional missiles into NE Saudi Arabia (where the oil is) and then trying to invade in the pretext of protecting the minority Shia (who are in the NE SA/SW Iraq region. Having a moderate, Shia majority government in Iraq reduces the threat of that scenario.

5) Taking out the Hussein's Sunni dominated thug regime in Iraq sends a signal to Syria/Palestine/SA. An elected Shia majority government in Iraq would be the first in an Arab (Iran/Bahrain are not Arab states) nation in over 1,000 years. That occurrence would have a powerful effect on the rest of the Arab countries in the Middle East where Shia is the minority religion.

I don't know why many folks are obsessed with the notion we invaded for oil and bases. As the oil for food scandal shows, Bush could have simply follow the example of several of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic, and cut a deal with Saddam Hussein to secure access to more oil. Had the US done so, we would even have been acting multilaterally, for as the inquiry into the oil for food program demonstrates, certain figures within the United Nations and among our European allies had already made such arrangements.

Additionally, long term bases in Iraq are neither politically tenable nor strategically useful. Our experience in SA shows that. In addition, we have bases in more friendly areas (Qatar; Bahrain; Kuwait). Our interests post-Iraq center more on the "stans" - and Iraq is not the best location to project power. Better areas are in Eastern Europe which is why you read in the media about posturing to reduce bases in Germany and look for austere (because these bases will be for rotational forces on 6 month deployments with no families) bases in Poland/Romania.

Are we improving bases in Iraq? Heck, yea. Just like we did in Bosnia/Kosovo (remember the 1 year pledge - it was apparent to those of us deployed there we were going to be there longer). The US military is now accustomed, especially when "major" combat operations cease (I used the quotes because when anyone might shoot at me even in stability/peace operations, it's major to me), to making bases more secure (force protection) and comfortable (morale).

Sorry for the length. I just believe either administration would have ended up coming to same conclusion to get rid of Hussein.

Posted by: Col Steve at June 10, 2005 09:59 PM