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Author Topic: Witnessing the Great War
Greg Davidson
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As OSC writes,
quote:
It's tragic that people keep learning all the wrong lessons from previous wars.
He then proceeds to learn all the wrong lessons from a previous war.

Over in the Ornery American Forum a while ago I provided numerous examples from a New York Review of Books article of times when the U.S. responded to foreign policy crises with an inappropriate focus on acting tough to maintain credibility, leading to multiple unnecessary wars

quote:
For example, when North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson was certain that America’s credibility was on the line. He believed that the United States’ allies in the West were in a state of “near-panic, as they watched to see whether the United States would act.” He was wrong. When one British cabinet secretary remarked to British Prime Minister Clement Attlee that Korea was “a rather distant obligation,” Attlee responded, “Distant -- yes, but nonetheless an obligation.” For their part, the French were indeed worried, but not because they doubted U.S. credibility. Instead, they feared that American resolve would lead to a major war over a strategically inconsequential piece of territory. Later, once the war was underway, Acheson feared that Chinese leaders thought the United States was “too feeble or hesitant to make a genuine stand,” as the CIA put it, and could therefore “be bullied or bluffed into backing down before Communist might.” In fact, Mao thought no such thing. He believed that the Americans intended to destroy his revolution, perhaps with nuclear weapons.

Similarly, Ted Hopf, a professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, has found that the Soviet Union did not think the United States was irresolute for abandoning Vietnam; instead, Soviet officials were surprised that Americans would sacrifice so much for something the Soviets viewed as tangential to U.S. interests. And, in his study of Cold War showdowns, Dartmouth College professor Daryl Press found reputation to have been unimportant. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets threatened to attack Berlin in response to any American use of force against Cuba; despite a long record of Soviet bluff and bluster over Berlin, policymakers in the United States took these threats seriously. As the record shows, reputations do not matter.

And as I just wrote earlier this month in the guest forum, I believe that many of the foreign policy mistakes of the past century have been made based on an inappropriate focus on reputation, and the domestic political benefits of talking tough. While World War II provides an example of where tougher action earlier would have been beneficial, World War I, Korea, Vietnam and the Second Iraq War provide contrary examples in which unnecessary wars were undertaken under a false premise that aggressive action was required to promote American credibility.

While we need to look realistically at great evil done by other regimes, we also must avoid faulty analyses that are based on personal dystopian fantasies unrelated to the actual potential adversaries that we are considering. You can see this kind of fear-mongering by authors who represent groups such as the world's 1.8 billion Muslims as all being fanatical "Islamofascists". You can see this when authors assert that Putin is like Hitler, just as Saddam was like Hitler, Ahmadinejad was like Hitler, Gaddafi was like Hitler, etc. Some of them even assert that Obama was like Hitler.

In many cases, aggressive American actions actually provide domestic political support to the most extreme elements in our foreign adversaries. Putin is dangerous, but there are other explanations beyond that he is Hitler. There are arguments that Russia actually has several substantial weaknesses at the moment, and this expansionism is less about Lebensraum and more about rallying the population around the flag. The atrocities in the Balkans after the collapse of Yugoslavia were in part because a second-rate political hack named Milosevic had a floundering economy and found that by promoting racist Serb propaganda he could dramatically improve his domestic political support.

The best foreign policy is one which makes thoughtful use of our resources and power, which takes advantages of the weaknesses and internal divisions of our potential adversaries, and within those constraints works for the freedom and economic well-being of the people of the United States, and as a second priority, those of other countries. The worst is a knee-jerk response that treats every adversary as Hitler, and insists on always taking an aggressive response out of an ideology-based fear that anything less will lead to perceived weakness, and "perceived weakness invites bullying or attack"

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Pete at Home
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quote:
You can see this kind of fear-mongering by authors who represent groups such as the world's 1.8 billion Muslims as all being fanatical "Islamofascists".
You have said the thing which is not.

Card did not refer to all Mulsims as Islamofascists. It's a reference to specific self-proclaimed Islamic movements. Out of 1.8 billion muslims, considerably less than a billion could be described as Islamofascist.

quote:
The term Islamofascism is a neologism based on clerical fascism which draws an analogy between the ideological characteristics of specific Islamist movements and a broad range of European fascist movements of the early 20th century, neofascist movements, or totalitarianism. In particular, this term relates the widely accepted pathogenicity of fascist belief systems to current radical Islamic belief systems.
Greg, when you take the term Islamofascist and then act as if it's an attack on all muslims rather than a description of a number of subsets, you are basically making AL Qaeda's argument that they represent all of Islam.

quote:
One common definition of fascism focuses on three concepts: the fascist negations of anti-liberalism, anti-communism and anti-conservatism; nationalist authoritarian goals of creating a regulated economic structure to transform social relations within a modern, self-determined culture; and a political aesthetic of romantic symbolism, mass mobilization, a positive view of violence, and promotion of masculinity, youth and charismatic leadership
Do you see the parallels between that definition of fascism, and movments such as Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?

Again:

quote:
regulated economic structure to transform social relations within a modern, self-determined culture; and a political aesthetic of romantic symbolism, mass mobilization, a positive view of violence, and promotion of masculinity, youth and charismatic leadership
That doesn't describe all of Islam but it does describe a number of movements that self-identify as Islamic.

Please read the wiki article I linked you to on Islamofascism.

More parallels between fascism and movements like the Taliban:
quote:
Christopher Hitchens made the following comparison:
“ The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. ("Death to the intellect! Long live death!" as Gen. Francisco Franco's sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual "deviance"—and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures

When you assert that an insult against the Taliban is an insult against all of Islam, you've effectively insulted the 1.8 billion Muslims by saying they are all like the Taliban.

quote:
American author and Richard Nixon speechwriter William Safire wrote that the term fulfills a need for a term to distinguish traditional Islam from terrorists:
The Guardian has an informative albeit sulky article
quote:
The term seems to have appeared first in the Washington Times in a reference to Islamist fundamentalists. Coined by Khalid Duran, a Muslim scholar seeking to explain Islam to Jews, the word was meant as a criticism of hyper-traditionalist clerics - who in turn denounced Duran as a traitor to the faith.
So the term Islamofascist was coined BY A MUSLIM to distinguish the teachings of Islamofascists such as the Wahabbi, from normal Islam, i.e. from his own Muslim views.

[ May 19, 2014, 07:35 AM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Acheson feared that Chinese leaders thought the United States was “too feeble or hesitant to make a genuine stand,” as the CIA put it, and could therefore “be bullied or bluffed into backing down before Communist might.” In fact, Mao thought no such thing. He believed that the Americans intended to destroy his revolution, perhaps with nuclear weapons.
What's your source here? I think you're wrong. There was an interview with Mao's doctor who overheard Mao speaking of MacArthur and Truman which paints a very different picture. Mao's devastating surprise attack on US troops in Northern Korea is irreconcilable with that description of Mao afraid of US using nukes on him.
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NobleHunter
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quote:
And America, despite promises to protect Ukraine if they gave up their nuclear weapons (which they did), has neither the will nor the ability to keep those promises. Obama does not regard promises made by his predecessors as binding -- he doesn't even regard his own promises as binding.
That's the big part that bugs me about this article. The US very explicitly didn't make a promise to protect the Ukraine. They made a promise to whine to the security council. Two very different things.

And it wrecks what could have been an argument that Europe needs to see to its own affairs. It would be more productive to castigate Brussels, London and Berlin's inactivity than Washington's. The EU has direct interests in the region, the US does not. There seems to be this a priori belief that the US should oppose Russia without any regard to American interests.

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AI Wessex
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I agree. Depending on your (political) point of view, everything the President says may be exaggerated to an absolute. The US offered its very powerful voice to make sure that Ukrainian sovereignty would be defended with NATO and the UN. Nowhere and at no time did Obama swear to invade Ukraine in order to defend its sovereign integrity.
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Greg Davidson
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I totally agree that OSC did not in any way refer to Islamofascists in the article, nor did he compare Saddam, Ahmadinejad or Gaddafi to Hitler - those were simply examples of what I assert is faulty analysis "based on personal dystopian fantasies unrelated to the actual potential adversaries that we are considering". The reference to "1.8 billion Islamofascists" did not come from OSC, but that formulation has been used, and when it is, it similarly describes what I believe is flawed thinking - just as seeing Putin as Hitler would be.
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Greg Davidson
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Source is an article in Foreign Affairs

link

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