March 18, 2004

Goddam Appeasers

Those of us who opposed the war (some, admittedly, only after it started) have to admit to a certain sense of Schadenfreude when watching the indignities suffered by the leaders who took us into it, and I mostly mean Aznar here. But polls show that Iraqis tend to feel better off now than under Saddam. Surely we have to admit the war was a Good Thing, similar to the liberation of Western Europe in WW2, the war every US person I see on telly seems to think is the Ur-War, the model for every damn thing their country does -- conveniently forgetting Vietnam and other amusing farragoes. Iraqi civilians getting killed makes me angry, but the soldiers getting killed is very bad, too. Sure, theyíre volunteers and should realise thereís a pretty catastrophic downside risk to being a soldier, but theyíre still being killed, which is very sad.

So we have to all pull together and make the occupation work. The Spanish pulling out of Iraq, should it happen, is a dangerous and foolhardy thing to do: ìAppeasersî is what they are, oh yes.

Forget that 90% of Spaniards never wanted to be part of the coalition and a pullout of troops was in the Socialistsí manifesto since for ever, that 11 million people went out on the street the day after the bombing to tell Al Quaida to sod off, and that the self-serving fingering of ETA by Aznarís lot left a very very bad taste. Appeasers, all. Still havenít learnt from WW2. Dennis Hastert and Thomas Friedman think so. Jame thinks so, I think. Stefan too, as he told me on IM. No one really knows what Andrew thinks, except he likes Law-thingies. No-one really knows what Mike thinks yet. No one really knows what Felix thinks because no one makes it to the second paragraph of any of his posts, and he tends to contradict himself unless heís asking for a favour. I donít really know what Charles thinks anymore; it used to be whatever Trotskyite orthodoxy told him to, but since he discovered money and the USSR collapsed heís been a lot less predictable.

But then hang on: what if everything goes swimmingly in Iraq? The doctrine of pre-emption is vindicated. The huge schlong of US power, unsheathed from the condom of international law and backed by a creeping activist militarism, flops and sprays about where it wants to. National governments live in fear of the disapproval of (to mix my metaphors) the biggest, most disturbed and most violent kid in the playground. Theyíll have a binary choice between being christened an ìevil-doerî like Syria, Germany and France, or cringingly obsequious a la Libya, Pakistan, Britain. Resentment builds, international institutions are bypassed, unsavoury alliances are formed (e.g. between secular Baath (very clean) fascists and Wasabi (very hot) religious fanatics, and did anyone note the Chinese and French are doing joint naval exercises?), and terrorist attacks multiply as political aspirations deemed unfriendly to the Imperial Power are suppressed, in turn causing yet more atavistic responses from the dogmatic ideologues who make George Bushís mouth work, in turn causing more terrorism. You get the picture, I think; you see it in Palestine.

So don't worry too much if Iraq goes pear shaped, and let the Spaniards go home without sniffing. Arguably a world like Iíve just described is a lot worse, with potentially a lot more death, than one where the poor Iraqis have an even more miserable time. So Iím not being heartless, and accusations that Iím prepared to cut off my nose to spite my enemies doesnít wash either, so donít write in and try it. I see it as a terrible tragedy that Iraqi welfare seems to be aligned with that of a particularly unfortunate form of US superiority-ism. Iím trying to think of some way to separate them, to help Iraqis without helping out the neo-cons, and I think it involves an embarrassing climbdown, the electoral defeat of Dubya, possibly abandoning the federal solution currently in vogue, and UN control of the whole sorry mess. Any other ideas?

Posted by Eurof at 04:27 PM GMT

Wow, Eurof, quite a post! Buried in your torturous prose are some excellent points -- and you can definitely consider me one of the people who think that the Spaniards' actions on election day and since in no way constitute appeasement.

Nevertheless, I do think that it's worth trying to untangle the consequences of the Iraq war from the consequences of living in a US imperium. While the former does serve to exacerbate the latter, the latter would, we have to remember, exist anyway, and you can't blame all of its bad consequences on that one decision.

Posted by: Felix on March 18, 2004 05:01 PM

I think exacerbators are worse than appeasers - though I agree with you about the Spanish.
By exacerbators I mean the French who just when a united front against Al Qaeda is required have decided to launch joint naval operations with the Chinese in the vicinity of Taiwan and its upcoming elections.
Its one thing to bully people into supporting your point of view and ignore international law, but it ain't no better than ruthlessly exploiting terrorism to improve your geopolitical position.

Posted by: Jez on March 18, 2004 05:38 PM

great comments, wish i knew what you both are talking about.

Felix, bad consequences of living under an imperium can be allayed by everyone pretending there isn't actually an imperium: arguably pax americana and all that is a good thing. being polite, asking nicely, pretending other people have power too, supporting the UN, would make a lot of the bad things go away while letting the US run the show. josh marshall explained about that in the New Yorker. does that help?

jez. you just hate the french. how exactly are joint Sino-Frog exercises exploiting terrorism?

Posted by: eurof on March 18, 2004 06:16 PM

Check your passport.

Posted by: non sequitur on March 18, 2004 09:14 PM

So, in essence, you fear the consequences of The Iraq Experiment working more than you fear the consequences of it failing? Is that right? (This isn't sarcasm; I am genuinely curious.) If so, explain more.

Posted by: Matthew on March 18, 2004 10:28 PM

only very sort of; more exactly, i fear the consequence of your neo-con lot thinking they were proved right. if they feel themselves vindicated, they're liable to do something equally barmy, like invade syria, and they'll make the world a far far more dangerous place than they've already made it; probably more dangerous than it would be if they prove unable to cope in iraq.

if they are unable to cope, then they'll probably have to go cap in hand to the UN to sort their mess out, at which point wholeheartedly supporting The Iraq Experiment, as you call it, will become possible again.

Posted by: eurof on March 18, 2004 11:59 PM

The French are sending a message to Bush that the Old Europeans would back China on a return of Taiwan spat - no I do not hate the French.
But you sure seem to hate the US.
Don't you think that schlong slinging is more likely the result of insecurity than over-confidence - wedded to a feeling of being under attack from all sides: former allies included.

Posted by: Jez on March 19, 2004 10:11 AM

Always thought of my (somewhat past) self more of a Bukharinite (sp?) than a Trotskyite. But willing to be persuaded.

Posted by: charles on March 19, 2004 03:24 PM

The Septics combine a strange mixture of fear and superiority, don't they. They love a good British accent because they know that they can never attain our level of . . . well just class, i guess, but think that we envy and hate them too because they're God's chosen ones and we're not.

So they feel insecure, while having the most powerful military in the world; it's probably also because they know they behave badly. As it is, I love the Americans I know, think America has so far done much more good than bad in the world, and may seem so down on it because i have such high expectations.

charles, if you were trying to confuse me it worked. what, pray tell, is the difference?.

Posted by: eurof on March 19, 2004 05:50 PM

As far as I remember from Niall F.'s discussion before he got waylaid by the financing crises of the Weimar Republic, Trotsky was an early ally of Stalin, in favor of being nasty to peasants so they understood the revolution better and would produce enough of a surplus so that the global revolution could continue apace, while Bukharin wanted to be nice to the peasants, so that they would produce enough of a surplus so that the global revolution could continue apace. I like being nice to peasants (see how kindly I treat Jame), so I see/saw myself as more in the Bukharin school.

Posted by: Charles on March 19, 2004 06:07 PM

Charles I thought it was love, but it turns out I'm nothing more than a political construct to you. O my broken heart.

Posted by: Jame on March 22, 2004 03:53 AM

Can you not love a political construct? --I always rather fancied France's symbol of liberte, or was it egalite (but not fraternite, I don't think) --anyway, the demi-bare-breasted one that appears in all of those paintings. Not love, yet, but that's only because she hasn't returned my calls.

Posted by: Charles on March 22, 2004 12:55 PM