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11.29.05

Iraq, News Articles, Outside Analysis

“The Believer”: In-depth look at Paul Wolfowitz “defending his war”


This piece from the New Yorker is about a year old, and in that respect it offers some usefulness as a way to gauge Paul wolfowitz’s claims and expectations against the reality a year later. (The very last line of the article being the most poignant of those.) But less so than one might think, for an article subtitled “Paul Wolfowitz defends his war”. This article is more of a look into the man himself– how he came to where he is in his views, and how he operates “in the field” in present day. (Well, present day a year ago.) In this case, the reporter accompanied Wolfowitz on a multi-stop tour in Europe.

It’s long, and informative, and not hostile or incendiary– though it doesn’t give Wolfowitz a free pass, either. Just an in-depth look at neocon Paul Wolfowitz, in development, and in action.


THE BELIEVER

Paul Wolfowitz defends his war.

by PETER J. BOYER
Issue of 2004-11-01
Posted 2004-10-25

On the night of October 5th, a group of Polish students, professors, military officers, and state officials crowded into a small auditorium at Warsaw University to hear Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, give a talk on the subject of the war in Iraq. It was an unusually warm evening for October, and every seat was filled; the room seemed nearly airless. Wolfowitz began by joking that his father, a noted mathematician, would have been proud to see him in this academic setting, even as he was saddened that the younger Wolfowitz had pursued the political, rather than the “real,� sciences. After a few minutes, Wolfowitz’s voice, which normally has a soft tremble, grew even more faint, and his aspect became wan. For an instant, he seemed actually to wobble.

It had been a tiring day, preceded by an overnight flight from Washington. This was to have been a routine official trip for Wolfowitz—a visit with soldiers in Germany and some bucking up of Iraq-war allies in Warsaw and London. The bucking up, however, was made a bit more complicated by developments within the Administration. The previous afternoon, as Wolfowitz was preparing to board his plane at Andrews Air Force Base, an aide had handed him a report containing some vexing news. Wolfowitz’s boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had just delivered a speech in New York and, in a question-and-answer exchange afterward, had declared that he had not seen any “strong, hard evidence� linking Al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein’s regime. Rumsfeld’s unexpected remark—undercutting one of the Administration’s principal arguments for going to war—had already prompted press inquiries at the Pentagon, suggesting a bad news cycle ahead. Meanwhile, the Washington Post was preparing to report that L. Paul Bremer, the former administrator of the American-led occupation of Iraq, had faulted the U.S. postwar plan for lacking sufficient troops to provide security—affirming a principal contention of the Administration’s critics. In addition, the government’s Iraq Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer, was about to release a final report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; already the report’s substance was being summed up in headlines as “report discounts iraqi arms threat.� And the Times had learned of a new C.I.A. assessment casting doubt on links between the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Saddam’s regime—undermining yet another of the Administration’s rationales for the war.

Wolfowitz has been a major architect of President Bush’s Iraq policy and, within the Administration, its most passionate and compelling advocate. His long career as a diplomat, strategist, and policymaker will be measured by this policy, and, more immediately, the President he serves may not be returned to office because of it. The Administration had been divided over Iraq from the start, and new fissures seemed to be appearing. The Poles sitting in the Warsaw audience, “new� Europeans who had cast their lot with America, might understandably have been concerned. The government in Poland, where public opinion has shifted against the war, faces elections next year, and will probably reduce its forces in Iraq in the coming months.

After his faltering start, Wolfowitz, nearing the midpoint of his speech, began to find his voice. He recounted the events of Poland’s darkest days, and the civilized world’s acquiescence to Hitler’s ambitions which preceded them. When Hitler began to rearm Germany, Wolfowitz said, “the world’s hollow warnings formed weak defenses.� When Hitler annexed Austria, “the world sat by.� When German troops marched into Czechoslovakia before the war, “the world sat still once again.� When Britain and France warned Hitler to stay out of Poland, the Führer had little reason to pay heed.

“Poles understand perhaps better than anyone the consequences of making toothless warnings to brutal tyrants and terrorist regimes,� Wolfowitz said. “And, yes, I do include Saddam Hussein.� He then laid out the case against Saddam, reciting once again the dictator’s numberless crimes against his own people. He spoke of severed hands and videotaped torture sessions. He told of the time, on a trip to Iraq, he’d been shown a “torture tree,� the bark of which had been worn away by ropes used to bind Saddam’s victims, both men and women. He said that field commanders recently told him that workers had come across a new mass grave, and had stopped excavation when they encountered the remains of several dozen women and children, “some still with little dresses and toys.�

Wolfowitz observed that some people—meaning the “realists� in the foreignpolicy community, including Secretary of State Colin Powell—believed that the Cold War balance of power had brought a measure of stability to the Persian Gulf. But, Wolfowitz continued, “Poland had a phrase that correctly characterized that as ‘the stability of the graveyard.’ The so-called stability that Saddam Hussein provided was something even worse.�

Finally, Wolfowitz thanked the Poles for joining in a war that much of Europe had repudiated, and continues to oppose. His message was clear: history, especially Europe’s in the last century, has proved that it is smarter to side with the U.S. than against it. “We will not forget Poland’s commitment,� he promised. “Just as you have stood with us, we will stand with you.�

Wolfowitz, who is sixty, has served in the Administrations of six Presidents, yet he is still regarded by many in Washington with a considerable measure of puzzlement. Read the rest of this entry »

11.29.05

Iraq, Outside Analysis, Outside Commentary

Getting Out of Iraq: Our Strategic Interest


This article on why it’s in the U.S.’s best interest to leave Iraq speaks for itself, so I have little to add as an intro. I’ll simply precede it with some biographical information about the article’s author, Charles V. Peña– and I’ll note that while the article is published at TomPaine.com (“The best progressive insight and action. All day.”), Mr. Peña’s insight’s are “progressive” (as in liberal) only by coincidence. He himself is a libertarian– director of defense policies at the Cato Institute.

And he doesn’t come without qualifications, to put it lightly:

From Cato:

Cato’s director of defense policy studies Charles V. Peña is the author of studies on the war on terrorism, the Iraq war, homeland security, bioterrorism, missile defense, and national security. He is an analyst for MSNBC, and has worked for several defense contractors with a variety of government clients, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Peña has analyzed and managed programs and studies on missile defense, strategic nuclear weapons, targeting policy and strategy, arms control, precision guided munitions, the future of air power, long-range military planning, Navy force structure and costing, joint military exercises, and emergency preparedness and response. He has been cited in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. He has appeared on The McLaughlin Group, The O’Reilly Factor, Hardball, Lester Holt Live, Market Watch, and the NBC Nightly News. Peña holds an M.A. in security policy studies from the George Washington University.

From TomPaine.com:

Charles V. Peña is an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project, senior fellow with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, and analyst for MSNBC. He is a co-author of Exiting Iraq: Why the United States Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda (Cato Institute, 2004) and author of the forthcoming Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism (Potomac Books, Inc.).


Getting Out: Our Strategic Interest
November 22, 2005

by Charles V. Peña

Rep. John Murtha is right when he says, “The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home.� Yet the administration persists. At the American Enterprise Institute, Vice President Dick Cheney responded to Murtha, saying, “A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations, and a terrible blow to the future security of the United States of America.�

And so the official White House policy remains what it was on Veterans Day when President Bush did his best to evoke Winston Churchill: “We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory.�

Even if victory could somehow be achieved, it would be Pyrrhic given the costs and consequences. Moreover, it would only be a tactical victory at the expense of losing strategic position in the war on terrorism. What the Bush administration refuses to understand is that the U.S. military occupation in Iraq is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Therefore, the strategic imperative is to exit Iraq rather than stay. And although it is counterintuitive, exiting Iraq may be a prerequisite for victory.
Read the rest of this entry »

11.27.05

Iran

Iranian president calls for war crimes charges on US


Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is ratcheting it up another notch in Iran’s tactical war of rhetoric against pressure from the U.S. and the international community. He is further underlining the strong stance his country has laid out concerning their “right” to pursue nuclear activities which they say are for peaceful, energy-producing purposes.

In this reported speech, he takes things a step further, and accuses the U.S. of war crimes for its use of depleted uranium (DU) weaponry in Iraq. He also makes a case that the U.S. is hypocritical to pressure Iran on its nuclear activities when we are “developing and testing (nuclear weapons) every day”, and using depleted nuclear materials in our shells in Iraq.

Regardless of how defenders of America might counter those points, what really matters in this speech is how opposers of America might feel about those points. For Ahmadinejad to play his strategic position for all its worth (assuming Iran is trying to lure the U.S. into conflict) he is going to want to rally the leaders and people of countries in the world who will sympathize with Iran’s position– and who see the U.S. as the hypocritcal, war-criminal, “lords of the world”, to use his phrase. And he’ll also want to help his own people strengthen their will to stand up against whatever pressures may come.

And, of course, he’s also getting tougher with the U.S. (as Iran has been doing more and more lately), by calling for war crimes charges.

If Iran isn’t trying to trap the U.S. into a war it might not be able to handle, then at the very least, they are saying, “If you want a showdown, we will be more than happy to give you one.”

And regardless of whether America wants a showdown or not, our long-established position on and suspicion of Iran essentially dictates that we press forward, insisting that Iran comply, or else.

The number of scenarios where this turns out well seems to be going down rapidly.


Iranian president calls for war crimes charges on US

26/11/2005 – 13:57:23

Iran’s hard-line president called for the Bush administration to be tried on war crimes charges related to Iraq and denounced the West for its stance on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, state-run television reported today.

“You, who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordnance in Iraq should be tried as war criminals in courts,� Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an apparent reference to the US.
Read the rest of this entry »

11.23.05

News Articles, North Korea, PNAC.info Commentary

U.S. and partners scrap North Korea Reactor Project


Now there isn’t even an illusion to cling to, in terms of thinking that North Korea and the U.S. might be able to make some sort of peace deal involving light-water nuclear reactors in exchange for nuclear disarmament by North Korea. The project overseeing the building of the actual reactors for that deal has been shut down. While it does make for a symbolic defeat, it’s really just a reflection of a deal-killing stalemate anyway. Both the U.S. and North Korea are knowingly making demands and requests that the other side cannot accept. North Korea is not going to unilaterally disarm, and give up its #1 (and possibly only) bargaining chip, without exacting excruciating (and probably unfullfillable) demands first. And the U.S. keeps moving closer toward a stance of not giving North Korea a single thing unless they do just what it demands, and no less, and does it first.

It’s easy to see why each country is staking such tough ground to stand on– after all, these nations still have not officially ended the war between them from more than 50 years ago. And it’s hard to see a positive place they might go from here. It’s just more “demand, and resist”.

It’s worth considering that there are two most common situations which end in stalemates: the bank robbery/hostage-type of stalemate between police and criminal, and the business stalemate between two negotiating parties. Consider that those two types of stalemates have very different ways of resolving themselves. In the “we’ve got you surrounded” scenario, it ends with surrender, or death. The business negotiation, or peer-to-peer stalemate, can end by the two parties just agreeing not to work together–and often, with no hard feelings.

The kneejerk reaction to that might be “but they have nukes, or are making them! We can’t allow that. North Korea is a dangerous country.” Well, for 50 years or so, the U.S.S.R was a dangerous country, with quite a lot of nukes, and a large empire to boot. And they never used them against anyone else, because to use nukes against another country basically means you will be annihilated in retaliation, or so the thinking goes. If North Korea was looking to get annihilated by the U.S., it has had plenty of time and opportunity to actively provoke such a thing. Just a quick dip into South Korea by the thousands of troops North Korea has at the border would suffice to trigger a response from the U.S. And yet in all these years of prickly and uncomfortable isolation, North Korea has not done so.

That’s worth thinking about, in the context of what sort of stalemate (and stalemate resolution) the United States chooses to be involved in.

(By the way, the fact that North Korea could sell nukes to terrorists doesn’t change the formula much. The terrorist would use the nuke, it would get tied back to North Korea, and they would get punished as though they had used the nuke themselves. It’s just as suicidal as the scenario where they are the nukers, and therefore as counterindicated as that scenario as well.)

U.S., partners end N. Korea nuke project

By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — The United States and its partners in an energy consortium have terminated a project to build two light-water atomic reactors for North Korea as an incentive to convince Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, officials said.

The decision was a sharp rebuff to the North’s demand that it be given light-water reactors before it would open its nuclear program up to international inspection. Read the rest of this entry »

11.23.05

PNAC.info Media Appearances

PNAC.info radio appearance today at 3 PM PDT


I will be a guest on the radio show “Danuta Time” on KOPT 1600 (“Oregon’s Progressive Talk”), today, Wednesday the 23rd, starting at 3:00 PM Pacific time. They are planning to do a full hour on the subject of the PNAC; I don’t know if I will be part of that whole hour or not.

It’s a local radio station, but they have a live audio stream on their site. It apparently kicks in at 3:00 PM, so check their Listen Online page at that time : http://kopt.com/audio.php

Hear the voice behind these posts, and hear some of the ideas that are coming together in PNAC.info’s new mission to change the mind of America and the future of our foreign policy.

That’s today at 3:00 PM Pacific time. Tune in!

11.22.05

Research Materials

Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection from Cornell


Cornell University’s Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection includes a directory of hundreds of links to resources about all aspects, time periods, and areas of the Middle East. Some of the pages are about the physical collection of documents and resources at Cornell’s library, but most simply feature dozens of links to online documents and resources, arranged by category.

I can’t do a collection like that justice in a short introduction. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking to research the Middle East and/or Islamic culture, you could do a lot worse than to start here:

Middle East & Islamic Studies Collection

11.22.05

Iran, News Articles, The U.N.

Iran Raises Stakes on U.N. Inspections


Demand, and resist. Demand, and resist. Demand, and resist. That’s the U.S. vs. Syria, that’s the U.S. vs. North Korea, and that’s the U.S. vs. Iran (below, resisting.)

We demand, and they resist. It’s the most natural thing in the world, really. People resist change the most when its being forced upon them. And a nation which is in a “superior nation” posture, like the U.S., is likely to engage “inferior” or “misbehaving” nations as a parent might engage a child: with commands and demands, not requests or persuasion.

I’ll resist the temptation to continue that analogy further (for now), but with this story, consider how very predictable this brewing stand-off with Iran is and will be, if the U.S. maintains its current level of pressure and demand. While the U.S. may be “superior” to Iran according to some geopolitical formulas, that does not automatically add up to Iran having to follow its orders. The same goes for the U.N. Security Council, really. Certainly, those nations together have more geopolitical might than Iran does, by many measures– but do they have any more power than the U.S. does to actually make Iran change its ways, if Iran decides to get ultra-stubborn?


Iran Raises Stakes on U.N. Inspections

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Raising the stakes before a key vote by the U.N. nuclear agency, lawmakers approved a bill Sunday requiring the government to block inspections of atomic facilities if the agency refers Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions.

The bill was favored by 183 of the 197 lawmakers present. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio four days before the International Atomic Energy Agency board considers referring Tehran to the Security Council for violating a nuclear arms control treaty. The council could impose sanctions.

When the bill becomes law, as expected, it likely will strengthen the government’s hand in resisting international pressure to permanently abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for either nuclear reactors or atomic bombs.

The United States accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its program is for generating electricity.

The bill now will go to the Guardian Council, a hard-line constitutional watchdog, for ratification. The council is expected to approve the measure.

“If Iran’s nuclear file is referred or reported to the U.N. Security Council, the government will be required to cancel all voluntary measures it has taken and implement all scientific, research and executive programs to enable the rights of the nation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” lawmaker Kazem Jalali quoted the bill as saying.

Canceling voluntary measures means Iran would stop allowing in-depth IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities and would resume uranium enrichment. Iran has been allowing short-notice inspections of those facilities. Read the rest of this entry »

11.22.05

Iran, Outside Analysis

An Iran Trap?


This analysis piece from the libertarian Cato Institute discusses how Iran’s apparently rising defiance and belligerence may be part of a deliberate strategy to draw the U.S. into a greater war in the Middle East. One “benefit” to Iran in doing so would include the possibility of eliminating Israel during the conflict, and should the Arab states prevail in such a war (which would be a very long and burdensome one, if recent history is any indicator), Iran might end up being the triumphant lead-nation in a rejuvenated Pan-Arab alliance against the West.

At least that’s what they might be thinking.

Our next entry will feature one of the most recent moves Iran has made which seems to bolster this theory.

One thread that we will be discussing in coming weeks, and which is apparent in all of the news and analysis surrounding Iran, Syria, and North Korea, is how easy the U.S.’s foreign policy stance makes it for these nations (and any that might follow) to draw us into a fighting posture. And ultimately, to draw us into a war.


An Iran Trap?

by Stanley Kober

Stanley Kober is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

The Middle East, never a region of the world known for calm, is now experiencing especially unusual turmoil. There is the ongoing struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, and the new conflict for control of Iraq. Syria is under UN investigation for alleged involvement in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. And Iran is the subject of international concern because of its nuclear program.

Now Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has thrown a match. His call for wiping Israel off the map has been denounced in the West, and there has even been some suggestion of military action. At a press conference, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pointedly warned, “If they carry on like this the question people will be asking is, ‘When are you going to do something about it?’” Underlining the threat, a “senior government sourceâ€? told Britain’s Daily Telegraph, “The prime minister didn’t use the ‘M’ word — but he is making clear that we have to think about these things very seriously indeed.â€?

To be sure, Tehran is also thinking seriously about these things. The possibility must be considered that Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory rhetoric is part of a campaign to provoke a Western country — the United States, Britain or Israel — into launching a military strike. What better way to precipitate the war that will ultimately result in wiping Israel off the map?

At first glance, this will appear astonishing, given common perceptions of the military balance. But it is precisely the difference in those perceptions that would be at the heart of such a strategy. What is in question is not the difference in the balance of power as such, but rather in the balance of what might be called usable military power.

The United States is a superpower because of its ability to destroy. But the United States does not want to destroy so much as it wants the threat of destruction to achieve its political purpose. That was the idea behind “shock and awe�: our enemies would be so stunned by the demonstration of our military power that they would be awed into submission.

Unfortunately, it has not turned out that way. We repeated the mistake we made during the Cold War. Because the Soviets typically retreated when we confronted them, we expected the Vietnamese would, too. Read the rest of this entry »

11.21.05

Iraq, Outside Commentary

Buchanan: “Vietnam Syndrome” is back


Pat Buchanan strikes an interesting tone in this article about the recurrence of “Vietnam Syndrome” in America. He’s been firmly against the war in Iraq from the start, but Buchanan is also a patriot and a nationalist, so he is hard-pressed to revel in the rise in anti-war sentiment, since it means the near-certain undoing of what, for better or worse, was a big project and goal of the U.S.: successful regime change in Iraq.

Part of what puts Buchanan in a strange position is the fact that he was a part of the Nixon administration during America’s last giant quagmire, and by necessity, he became invested in the idea of putting a positive spin on that war, and hoping for its success. When I have heard him speak on TV about Vietnam, he has conveyed the idea that it was lost due to a failure of will on the part of the American people. Which may in fact be the case, but only when considered in the context of just what it is that the American people were expected to have the will for– i.e., the loss of tens of thousands of American lives in order to change the leadership in a foreign land, with dubious prospects for long-term success.

Buchanan proposes that that “malady” is upon the American populace again, and he suggests that there’s generally only one way to cure it: an unsatisfying and potentially disastrous withdrawal from Iraq before it’s “done”.

He does raise the obvious point that is begged by all this– is it a lack of will from the public or a lack of leadership from the president that is at fault here?– but it comes up briefly and is dismissed as irrelevant in a practical sense. Which, at least as far as Iraq goes, it is. That dynamic is under way, and determining whoever is to “blame” won’t stop it.

However, to the extent that there is a “Vietnam Syndrome”– a distaste and impatience for foreign wars of dubious purpose — future U.S. leaders would do well to factor that into their war planning. I was only alive for about two years of Vietnam, but even I saw this Iraq strain of Vietnam Syndrome coming from a mile away. And if you plan to use U.S. forces and U.S. tax dollars to pursue a given mission, and your mission is going to be long and somewhat murky, the onus is on you, as the leader, to ensure that your citizens are willing to support that full, murky, potentially unsatisfying mission. All other matters aside– if a leader is going to expect support for a war that lasts years, costs thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, and provides long stretches of uncertainty, that leader must have a cause and a mission that will engender such support. And that’s not a small matter. The success of the mission depends on it.

And if Americans “don’t have the stomach” for all that it would take to remake Iraq (and let’s not forget Afghanistan), then what of a bigger plan to remake the Middle East? What of the neoconservative desire to exert similar control in other parts of the globe?

Buchanan’s prediction, if Iraq fails, is this:

As for Bush, a retreat from Iraq and defeat there would mean a failed presidency. The Bush Doctrine of employing U.S. power to unhorse dictators and impose democracy will be dead.

America will adopt a new non-interventionist foreign policy, except where vital U.S. interests are imperiled. The tragedy is that we did not do, voluntarily, 15 years ago, what a foolish, failing neoconservative foreign policy may now force us to do in the not-too-distant future.


The malady recurs
WorldNetDaily
© 2005 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Posted: November 21, 2005

——————————————————————————–

Despite America’s triumph in Desert Storm and Tommy Frank’s brilliant run up to Baghdad, the Vietnam Syndrome is with us yet.

We never really purged it from our system.

That is the meaning of 40 Senate votes on a resolution demanding that President Bush give quarterly progress reports and a timetable for getting us out of Iraq. While 58 senators voted no on timetables, they bought into the rest of the resolution.

And what is the message? We are not going deeper into Iraq, as McCain urges. We are not going to stay the course, as Bush insists. America is coming home. It is but a matter of time.
Read the rest of this entry »

11.21.05

Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Outside Analysis, Outside Commentary

An Economist’s Case Against an Interventionist Foreign Policy


David Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an associate professor of economics in the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School. Henderson is neither liberal or conservative, though the natural inclination would be to align him more with the conservative camp, if for no other reason than that he is a free market economist who works for the Hoover Institute, a well-known conservative think tank.

I say this, because in reading David’s article below, a skeptic might be inclined to think he’s just another typical “anti-American” liberal (not me, but there are folks who feel that way). I can assure you — and David Henderson’s credentials can back me up — that this is not the case. If his Hoover Institute affiliation isn’t enough to make that point, a look at his book The Joy of Freedom would seal the deal. Here’s a link to reviews of that book — a glowing tribute to the free market and limited government.

Anyway, on to the piece, which highlights a handful of examples of how U.S. intervention in the affairs of other nations has had unfortunate unintended consequences– for the U.S. Meaning that often when we venture abroad to try and solve what appears to be a problem for the U.S., we set in motion an even bigger problem that we will have to deal with at some point.


An Economist’s Case Against an Interventionist Foreign Policy
David R. Henderson

Antiwar.com
November 14, 2005

I’ve been an economist over half my life. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve seen what a powerful insight economist Ludwig von Mises had over 60 years ago when he pointed out that virtually every government intervention leads to unintended consequences that then lead to further interventions. So, for example, Nixon’s 1973 price controls on gasoline caused us to waste hundreds of millions of dollars in time lining up for gas. That led the U.S. government to dictate the fuel economy of cars. The fuel economy laws caused auto companies to make lighter cars, causing a few extra thousand deaths a year. (For more on this, see Chapter 2 of my book The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey.) The gasoline lines also caused people to be more sympathetic to intervening in the Middle East.

In foreign policy also, when government intervenes, it creates problems that it tries to solve by intervening further. Take Iraq… please, as the late Henny Youngman would have said. How did we get to the point where the Bush government invaded Iraq? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

In 1963, the CIA helped a young Iraqi ally who, along with other plotters, overthrew General Adbul Qassim. You may have heard of this young Iraqi ally; he’s been in the news lately. His name is Saddam Hussein. Five years later, the CIA backed another coup that made Hussein deputy to the new military ruler. Then, in 1979, Hussein took his turn as dictator.

Hussein proceeded to wage a long and costly war on Iran. Although many people, correctly, point to this war as evidence of Hussein’s evil, they rarely mention one highly relevant fact: the Reagan administration supported this invasion with billions of dollars in export credits and with satellite intelligence. Saddam Hussein was evil for initiating and fighting that war. How, then, should we evaluate the U.S. government officials who actively supported him?

But my main purpose here is not to question the morality of war. Rather, it is to point out how one intervention leads to another. The U.S. government supported a man who eventually took over Iraq’s government and who later became, in the eyes of the U.S. government, the enemy. The U.S. government’s interventions of the 1960s led, indirectly but inexorably, to its current intervention.
Read the rest of this entry »

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