Author Topic: Don't look now, it's happening again  (Read 17381 times)

TheDrake

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Don't look now, it's happening again
« on: May 17, 2016, 04:56:46 PM »
Hey rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!

If you're thinking about giving someone weapons - don't. Just don't. You're not any good at it, and you're embarrassing yourself.

2016 - U.S. and allies open to Libyan government's weapons request

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The United States and other allied nations say they will work to provide Libya's internationally recognized government with weapons officials there say are needed to battle ISIS and other militant groups gaining strength.

The Libyan Government of National Accord said it would submit requests to be exempted from UN arms embargoes currently in place to acquire lethal arms and material in order to counter UN-designated terrorist groups like ISIS.

2012 - U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands

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The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.

No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.

Wayward Son

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2016, 05:18:55 PM »
A legitimate concern, TheDrake, but what is the alternative?

Everything I can think of is worse. :(

Fenring

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2016, 05:26:58 PM »
A legitimate concern, TheDrake, but what is the alternative?

The alternative to what? For what?

Wayward Son

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2016, 05:52:50 PM »
The alternative to giving someone weapons (such as the Libyan government, to defend themselves against ISIS).

TheDrake seems to imply that its a bad idea.  But it seems like a pretty good idea compared to the alternatives (like not giving them weapons, or sending our own troops into the area). :(

TheDrake

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2016, 06:14:13 PM »
I propose doing nothing, see my previous thread

In fact, I believe that if we could experience an alternative universe where we didn't provide weapons, didn't back dictators, and didn't intervene militarily since 1945, we'd actually be safer. At some point we have to stop setting firebreaks to try and stop the fires that we set in the first place, IMO.


AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2016, 08:06:56 AM »
But you can't (and didn't) argue that doing nothing is always better.  When there is chaos it's likely that the full spectrum of possible actions and inactions, military, diplomatic, commercial or humanitarian, can and almost certainly will have unintended consequences.  It's argued now that the secret deal after WWI that created many of the Mideast countries now in conflagrations is the root cause of these current problems.  Maybe so, even probably so, but was that arrangement a "perfectly bad" solution at the time?  What would have been better then and how would things be different (and better) now?

TheDrake

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2016, 11:12:31 AM »
It is true, doing nothing is not always better. It is about your chance of success and how you define success, and more importantly how it reflects your values.

As a libertarian, one of my core values is to leave people the hell alone, unless they initiate force against you, and even then it might be a good idea to leave the hell alone.

In the case of your example, self-determination would have been a pretty good idea. The UK shouldn't have even had a say in how territory in that area got decided. Nor should the UN Security Council exist in its current warped form - even though it is clearly possible to argue that some decisions it made were "good" in the sense that those actions probably saved or improved lives in various circumstances, especially in the short term. It sits to breed resentment against anyone not privileged enough to be a world power during the 1940s. Could the Security Council exist without those concessions? Nope. No way the US allows it to make binding resolutions without a veto. Nor China, nor Russia, and probably the others.

A unified communist Korea might well not have bred the kind of insanity that currently exists there. Or it might have led to a larger more powerful nuclear rogue. But either way, staying out of it would definitely have saved $341 billion in today's dollars (just for the US side) and over a million lives (military and civilian). And that's a relatively clear-cut response to invasion and one of the stronger cases for intervention.

Central in all of this is the Trumpian notion of "America First", where the outcome of international action is largely judged by whether Americans are better off in security, trade, et al. Without regard or with much lesser regard for anybody else's security, trade, et al.

scifibum

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2016, 11:30:09 AM »
Our track record is bad enough that staying home and staying out of things should be assumed to be no riskier than intervention, absent radically different approaches that don't enrich the same people or types of people and don't kill thousands of innocents.

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2016, 05:11:31 PM »
Our track record is bad enough that staying home and staying out of things should be assumed to be no riskier than intervention, absent radically different approaches that don't enrich the same people or types of people and don't kill thousands of innocents.
That's generally my view, as well.  Coincidentally, I'm packing up this week to move out of my house and am going through old boxes.  In among all sorts of things I can't remember why I held on to (unused napkins?  a single shoelace? ticket stubs that don't even say what show they were for?), I found several issues I'd saved of our local paper from 2003-2005 where they published letters of mine objecting to the Iraq war.  Not to say I told you so, but I *censored*ing told you so and still am saying it.  The next time we pick up a rifle to solve a cultural problem in a faraway country we don't speak the language or understand the customs, I'll probably write another few letters.

Seriati

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2016, 10:08:12 PM »
It is true, doing nothing is not always better. It is about your chance of success and how you define success, and more importantly how it reflects your values.

As a libertarian, one of my core values is to leave people the hell alone, unless they initiate force against you, and even then it might be a good idea to leave the hell alone.
Is that really true though?  Do you "leave people alone" if they are beating someone else on the street?  What if they're beating a child?  Do you say nothing if a man is being abused by his spouse?  I get that it's difficult knowing when to intervene and when to stay out of a situation, but I can't agree that the better or right solution is to stay out of a situation that you believe will have a horrible result if left to its own devices.

scifibum

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2016, 02:03:31 AM »
We keep noticing that the face we finished punching is ugly and bleeding and deciding we better punch it some more and see if that helps, because we have an obligation to help.

Fenring

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2016, 02:07:11 AM »
We keep noticing that the face we finished punching is ugly and bleeding and deciding we better punch it some more and see if that helps, because we have an obligation to help.

I would be much more sympathetic towards "helping" if that was actually the motive most of the time. I notice there are a lot of oil-bereft countries that avoid receiving help.

Seriati

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2016, 05:37:01 PM »
When you're trying to get a nation of 350 million people moving in the same direction, you're going to have at least 350 million principal reasons for why its the right or wrong direction.  That doesn't mean that we can't have an honorable intention be the primary reason for acting.  So maybe yes, where there's oil, you have an extra block of self interested voters willing to sign on, but even where there is not oil you still have an even bigger group who'd be willing to act simply because its the right thing to do.

And Scifibum, people have bruised faces regardless of whether we intervene.  There's an enormous amount of examples where we've never intervened and atrocities have occurred.  Same way there's crime that occurs where the police are not present.  The fact that sometimes the police are abusive or commit crimes, doesn't mean that on balance their intervention is a bad thing or even commonly a negative.

I think it's a truism of the left that intervention leads to bad results.  I think it's generally false.  However, there's no way to measure it objectively, as every example has an N=1 and we can't know if the opposite decision would have been better or worse with certainty, all we can really do is infer that having the US intervene in a situation should have a better end result than leaving a situation to the whims of a murderous dictator. 

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2016, 07:28:59 PM »
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I think it's a truism of the left that intervention leads to bad results.  I think it's generally false.  However, there's no way to measure it objectively, as every example has an N=1 and we can't know if the opposite decision would have been better or worse with certainty, all we can really do is infer that having the US intervene in a situation should have a better end result than leaving a situation to the whims of a murderous dictator.
How does that "truism" hold for Iraq?  Count up all the gains and balance them against the losses; was the war a good move?

Fenring

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2016, 07:46:21 PM »
So maybe yes, where there's oil, you have an extra block of self interested voters willing to sign on, but even where there is not oil you still have an even bigger group who'd be willing to act simply because its the right thing to do.

As Al suggests, let's take Iraq 2.0 as an example. What "self interested voters" supporting invading because it had oil? Do you recollect a significant amount of Americans whose reasoning was that sans oil Iraq wouldn't be worth invading?

On the contrary, those who criticized that the war was being planned on the basis of oil were met with harsh resistance to that notion. It was certainly never admitted by anyone, and was denied at all times. So how could a significant portion of self-interested voters be swayed by an argument that was never made and that was systematically denied?

Gaoics79

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2016, 10:51:51 PM »
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How does that "truism" hold for Iraq?  Count up all the gains and balance them against the losses; was the war a good move?

What do you think?

I'm genuinely curious as to your position on Iraq War 2.0, because I've noticed you defending Hillary lately.

I'm not just talking about the fact that she supported Iraq War 2.0, although there is that, but also the fact that she's presided as Secretary of State over the USA making the same mistake (albeit on a smaller scale) over and over and over again. Policy wise, she has far more in common with Bush / Cheney than Sanders.

Food for thought: Trump's clownish pronouncements, assuming you believe they are sincere in the first place, are basically impossible promises and only bamboozle people who confuse a President with a king. Yet the mistakes Hillary and those like her have made time and again, are well within the purview of a modern president. Indeed, it seems the ability to get the USA tangled in foreign wars is one of the few areas where U.S. Presidents hold significant personal power.

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #16 on: May 21, 2016, 07:36:35 AM »
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What do you think?
See above.

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'm not just talking about the fact that she supported Iraq War 2.0, although there is that, but also the fact that she's presided as Secretary of State over the USA making the same mistake (albeit on a smaller scale) over and over and over again. Policy wise, she has far more in common with Bush / Cheney than Sanders.
I hope her policies will continue the trend that Obama started toward looking for less militaristic approaches.  I hope she will be informed, as I think Obama was, by the US military history over the past 70 years during which military interventions almost always created more problems and uncertainty than they resolved, and the bigger the military effort the more expensive and more problematic the outcome.  Our military diplomacy has armed more dictators and funded more actual and proxy wars than any other country in the history of civilization, which means we have contributed to and caused more deaths by war than any other country in history.

There's no question that there is evil in the world, but we are blinded by the light of our own superiority to somehow believe that when *we* fight evil we aren't ourselves acting in evil ways.  Coincidentally, every other country that we think acts in evil ways thinks the same good things about themselves as we do about ourselves, and more and more of them see the US as the ultimate source of evil in the world.  All we've really done is raised the ante by increasing the size and potency of our military and forced those who "oppose us" to find new ways to undermine our policies and objectives.  The real "arms race" is the desperate efforts others make to find new ways to achieve their goals in the face of our overwhelming military capabilities.  We are the reason Al Qaeda grew, we are the reason for the global pandemic of terrorism, we are the reason for the growth of ISIS.

What all that means to me is that having the strongest military in the world is beside the point, almost an oxymoron that our confidence in the supremacy of our power is our weakness.  In other words, the only way we can succeed in making the world a more peaceful place with our military is to kill everybody else. 

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Food for thought: Trump's clownish pronouncements, assuming you believe they are sincere in the first place, are basically impossible promises and only bamboozle people who confuse a President with a king. Yet the mistakes Hillary and those like her have made time and again, are well within the purview of a modern president. Indeed, it seems the ability to get the USA tangled in foreign wars is one of the few areas where U.S. Presidents hold significant personal power.
I think Trump is sincere, but beneath his clownish exterior is a clown.  His shifting positions are all acts as far as I can tell, and his sincerity rests in his naked appeals to his audience to laugh at him and by doing so love him.  I can't fathom why his psychological state hasn't been analyzed to look for the root causes of his peculiar and dangerously pathological narcissism.  His campaign slogan seems to be "If you liked that, just wait for my next trick!"  That makes him especially scary, because we have no idea how he will think or what he will do when he sits in the Oval Office all by himself with nobody to entertain and nobody to egg him on but his sycophants.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 07:39:47 AM by AI Wessex »

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2016, 07:51:29 AM »
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See above<linky>.
Sorry, the link was bad.  To quote myself....

Our track record is bad enough that staying home and staying out of things should be assumed to be no riskier than intervention, absent radically different approaches that don't enrich the same people or types of people and don't kill thousands of innocents.
That's generally my view, as well.  Coincidentally, I'm packing up this week to move out of my house and am going through old boxes.  In among all sorts of things I can't remember why I held on to (unused napkins?  a single shoelace? ticket stubs that don't even say what show they were for?), I found several issues I'd saved of our local paper from 2003-2005 where they published letters of mine objecting to the Iraq war.  Not to say I told you so, but I *censored*ing told you so and still am saying it.  The next time we pick up a rifle to solve a cultural problem in a faraway country we don't speak the language or understand the customs, I'll probably write another few letters.

TheDeamon

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2016, 02:11:50 PM »
And Scifibum, people have bruised faces regardless of whether we intervene.  There's an enormous amount of examples where we've never intervened and atrocities have occurred.  Same way there's crime that occurs where the police are not present.  The fact that sometimes the police are abusive or commit crimes, doesn't mean that on balance their intervention is a bad thing or even commonly a negative.

I think it's a truism of the left that intervention leads to bad results.  I think it's generally false.  However, there's no way to measure it objectively, as every example has an N=1 and we can't know if the opposite decision would have been better or worse with certainty, all we can really do is infer that having the US intervene in a situation should have a better end result than leaving a situation to the whims of a murderous dictator.

Or an example that predates the American Superpower: Britain and France acting in response to aggressive German actions in the 1930's. Certain parties were alarmed by what the Germans were doing and were practically jumping up and down screaming for (what became) the Allied Powers to start arming for war, stopping short of asking for an intervention. They were brushed aside for numerous reasons, among them being "that could be viewed as a hostile act." (Never mind the other guys were doing so)

That policy worked out particularly well for France, Britain certainly came out ahead of that deal by being "nonthreatening."  ::)

I would (now) generally agree that interventions should be few and far between.

I did think the OIF was a good call in general, but I'm a little more heartless in that regard I guess. I knew it was going to be a bloodbath going in, in particular for the locals once it moved to being an occupation, as nobody in the region wanted the US effort to succeed, not even our allies in the region(aside from possibly Israel), as an actual clear-cut success would have been highly destabilizing for just about all of them(it ultimately destabilized the region all the same anyhow). Anybody who thought otherwise was deluding themselves. What it did create was somewhere for the extremists "to make their displeasure known" by going after the garrison forces we had there(and hopefully getting killed or captured) rather than their coming over here and causing chaos.

I also think it was highly mismanaged from the get go, and poorly understood by the powers that be, and the withdrawal under Obama made it ultimately a blunder for the record books. Not because the invasion was (inherently) flawed, but because the follow-through was hopelessly botched. A "success" in Iraq would have had the U.S. and U.N. intimately involved in Iraqi governance and military operations probably into the 2030's at the least. Afghanistan is getting ready to go the same way, it really should maintain a strong international military presence for the better part of a generation or two before withdrawing completely.

There is an expression among engineers that applies here: Good, Fast, and Cheap. Choose two, you cannot have all three.

They went for fast, and as cheap as the (rampant) corruption on both sides allowed, which means "good" is not on the table for either one.

With that experience now under my belt, I do know I'm going to be very highly wary of any further interventions in other nations that are in highly comparable situations. Best case scenario is they might get 8 years of decent support from the United States, with a better chance of it being 4 years or less. If "the mission" whatever it may be, cannot be achieved in that time frame, it needs to either be scrapped, or significantly reworked. (Using the "Good, Fast, Cheap" axim, the United States now defaults to Fast & Cheap for foreign policy; particularly since it likely cannot afford Good & Fast in most cases, plan accordingly)

I shudder to think about what the aftermath of WW2 would have been if Bush and Obama's people were the clowns who were around to manage it. We'd probably still be dealing with an Imperialistic Japan, and who knows what the Germans would have gotten up to, which isn't even bringing Stalin and the USSR into the mix.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 02:18:09 PM by TheDeamon »

Wayward Son

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2016, 02:20:20 PM »
The problem with doing nothing is that you could end up with another Cambodia (which, admittedly, was the product of us not "doing nothing," but the atrocities that happened there were also a result of us "doing nothing.") :(

Not arming Libya could result in ISIS overrunning the country, slaughtering thousands, and creating a solid base to launch other incursions into other countries, repeating the process.  Is that worth doing nothing, less we make a mistake?

There are no easy answers, and no guarantees.  But the easy answers are almost always guaranteed to be bad answers. :(

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2016, 03:01:04 PM »
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I also think it was highly mismanaged from the get go, and poorly understood by the powers that be, and the withdrawal under Obama made it ultimately a blunder for the record books. Not because the invasion was (inherently) flawed, but because the follow-through was hopelessly botched. A "success" in Iraq would have had the U.S. and U.N. intimately involved in Iraqi governance and military operations probably into the 2030's at the least. Afghanistan is getting ready to go the same way, it really should maintain a strong international military presence for the better part of a generation or two before withdrawing completely.
The fact that it was woefully mismanaged only serves to obscure the fact that a successful aftermath would, as you say, have required us to stay in the region for a very, very long time.  Even if it weren't mismanaged, if we had left after declaring "victory", the country and entire region would have devolved no matter what.  Basically, we would have had to become a colonial power over an entire region of the world to suppress the freedoms the people over there want for themselves, all for the sole reason of protecting our access to oil.  We're not Rome and we're not supposed to be building an empire to rule the world.

DJQuag

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2016, 09:27:11 PM »
Just want to point out that technically, the US never decided to leave Iraq. The democratically elected government that we had put in place politely asked them to leave, and so the military left.

Something that the Iraqis have probably come to regret these last couple of years.

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2016, 06:03:23 AM »
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I did think the OIF was a good call in general, but I'm a little more heartless in that regard I guess. I knew it was going to be a bloodbath going in, in particular for the locals once it moved to being an occupation, as nobody in the region wanted the US effort to succeed, not even our allies in the region(aside from possibly Israel), as an actual clear-cut success would have been highly destabilizing for just about all of them(it ultimately destabilized the region all the same anyhow).
Hardly a rallying cry or call for 18 year old men to enlist... :(.

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Something that the Iraqis have probably come to regret these last couple of years.
Which Iraqi's?  I wonder how many people in Mosul or Fallujah think back fondly on our last invasion.

TheDrake

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2016, 08:46:48 AM »
I think it is interesting to see the notion floated equating other nations with helpless children. It is pretty easy to see that some beating a child is in the wrong. What if you saw two grown men fighting in the street? Would you be as quick to jump in?

Somehow, Sweden doesn't seem compelled to intervene. Does that make them bad people? They certainly owe a lot less money per capita.

And yet, it is only force where we're willing to spend that amount of treasure to intervene. Not when water is poisonous, for instance. That's why I see our interventions not as an altruistic act in any way shape or form. We are not intervening because someone else is getting punched in the face. We are intervening for fear that we might get punched in the face by the same guy - or we might have to take the long way home instead of walking on his block.

We are giving $3 billion dollars to Israel in military assistance each year. Despite the fact that Israel is a nuclear nation, and hardly helpless like a child. Of course most of this aid comes back to US defense companies - because it has to in every case but Israel. Hardly a purely altruistic motive.

I prefer this analogy. After some kid gets punched in the face, do you go to the school and arm all the second graders and set them loose on the neighborhood?

WRT Isis, I would abhor having them take over Syria or Iraq. But that doesn't necessarily mean that I think it is a good idea to start arming Assad's forces to fight them, because we armed the rebels to fight him, and because we invaded Iraq. We're like the old lady who swallowed the cat to catch the bird to catch the spider to catch the fly.

I don't know why we swallow the fly. Over and over again, trying to fix our mistake by making it bigger.

What might happen if we just unilaterally decided to ignore ISIS? Might it be a lot like Vietnam today? Yes, there are human rights issues and political freedom issues, but by and large the average Vietnamese are probably a lot better off than when we were intervening...


Gaoics79

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2016, 11:16:00 AM »
Al, do you think Hillary Clinton is for U.S. military intervention in far away lands or against it? And to be clear, how are you defining "less militaristic" approach?

If the USA, instead of invading Iraq, had instead funded rebels, funneled weapons into Iraq and overthrown Saddam through proxies instead of through direct means is that something you would have been in favour of?

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2016, 12:18:57 PM »
Al, do you think Hillary Clinton is for U.S. military intervention in far away lands or against it? And to be clear, how are you defining "less militaristic" approach?

If the USA, instead of invading Iraq, had instead funded rebels, funneled weapons into Iraq and overthrown Saddam through proxies instead of through direct means is that something you would have been in favour of?
That's not a yes-no question.  Remember that Bush was adamantly opposed to nation building during the 2000 election. What changed?  As for alternatives to the second Iraq war, I would have not fought the first one.  But since we did, perhaps we'd be in a better place now if Gore had prevailed in the post-election mess. 

FWIW, one definition of "loyalty" is once bought staying bought.  I can't think why any tribal, ethnic, religious, racial or otherwise indigenous population of another country embroiled in its own internal conflict would remain loyal to the US.  I remember when the Pakistan ambassador (to the UN?) was asked if Pakistan is really a friend of the US.  He replied that countries don't have friends, only interests.

DJQuag

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2016, 12:52:29 PM »
I suspect the Iraqis getting genocided by ISIS look back on the US occupation with fondness. Mosul and Fallujah were bad, but they weren't as bad as what goes on in ISIS occupied territory.

Greg Davidson

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2016, 04:44:11 PM »
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I suspect the Iraqis getting genocided by ISIS look back on the US occupation with fondness. Mosul and Fallujah were bad, but they weren't as bad as what goes on in ISIS occupied territory.

DJQuag, I think that your perception may be more a product of American media coverage as compared to the level of hardship actually experienced by Iraqi civilians.

In terms of civilian deaths, the US invasion and immediate aftermath was 5-50 times worse than ISIS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War).  Definitely more than 112,000 and less than a million deaths in Iraq.  In contrast, it is about 20,000 civilians killed by ISIS http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/19/middleeast/iraq-civilian-death-toll/

Greg Davidson

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2016, 04:49:05 PM »
I also read an interesting article in the New York Review of Books that noted two critical flaws with the government imposed by the US occupational authority in Iraq after the war.

(1) The Bush Administration placed a great deal of trust in people like Chalabi and Maliki whose experience was mostly in terms of being persuasive to decision-makers but who actually had no experience being in charge of things.

(2) In keeping with Republican beliefs based on their philosophy of government in the United States, the Iraqi government was established with weak federal powers to leave more power in the Iraqi equivalent of state and local government.

TheDeamon

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #29 on: May 22, 2016, 04:59:22 PM »
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I did think the OIF was a good call in general, but I'm a little more heartless in that regard I guess. I knew it was going to be a bloodbath going in, in particular for the locals once it moved to being an occupation, as nobody in the region wanted the US effort to succeed, not even our allies in the region(aside from possibly Israel), as an actual clear-cut success would have been highly destabilizing for just about all of them(it ultimately destabilized the region all the same anyhow).
Hardly a rallying cry or call for 18 year old men to enlist... :(.

I was enlisted at the time. Of course, I was in the Navy.  8)

TheDeamon

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #30 on: May 22, 2016, 05:35:56 PM »
I think it is interesting to see the notion floated equating other nations with helpless children. It is pretty easy to see that some beating a child is in the wrong. What if you saw two grown men fighting in the street? Would you be as quick to jump in?

Uh, you do realize that if you want to go with the really big strokes. If France hadn't decided to intervene in a colonial insurrection involving Britain during the 18th Century, there wouldn't be a United States of America.

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And yet, it is only force where we're willing to spend that amount of treasure to intervene. Not when water is poisonous, for instance. That's why I see our interventions not as an altruistic act in any way shape or form. We are not intervening because someone else is getting punched in the face. We are intervening for fear that we might get punched in the face by the same guy - or we might have to take the long way home instead of walking on his block.

Going to come back to this.

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I prefer this analogy. After some kid gets punched in the face, do you go to the school and arm all the second graders and set them loose on the neighborhood?

No, but the standard response these days is for someone to intervene, in the form of teachers and/or administrators and associated support staff.

That being said, while just giving them a gun, or a set of Brass Knuckles with little to no instruction is asking for trouble. I'm not so sure that possible enrolling the entire class in some form of martial arts instruction program(and teaching them to use their body and mind as a weapon) would necessarily be a bad thing.

The bigger issue in the modern world is "You cannot, and likely will not, be moved to do something about things you don't KNOW about. Doubly so when getting there to do something in a timely manner is not viable. Sweden going neutral centuries ago had the wonderful situation of very slow communications, and slow transportation systems that weren't particularly efficient either. 

By the time they heard something about(knowing) it and then received confirmation("Knowing"), it was usually too late to do much. Even if they might have been able to contribute anything meaningful, slow communications makes marshaling those response forces take time, and expensive. Time which is even further distorted by poor transportation infrastructure and inefficient means of moving troops. Basically things moved much more slowly.

Move forward to the present day, and the time lag between a significant event happening practically anywhere on earth and the world being able to know about it is practically minutes, with detailed psuedo-analysis being done within hours of the event happening. Compared to weeks or even months for word to get back from some parts of the world, even just a few decades ago.

Also add in industrial mass scale transportation and air travel, and the ability "to get boots on the ground" in particular if you're the United States practically anywhere on Earth, from home base no less, within 24 to 48 hours does exist. We can have entire combat divisions practically anywhere and ready to go within weeks.

The issue today is that we actually do have ability to "do something," and do it in a somewhat timely manner, which is something that governments in eras long since past never could hope to achieve. Which is where we keep sticking our noses into things we'd probably be best off staying out of.

Not helping things also is the changed nature of global and national economies. Even 50 years losing all trade with certain or even most countries, while annoying, wasn't necessarily a show stopper. These days, due to the commercial sector using comparable abilities that the US Military does, even somewhat minor disruptions in rather strange and obscure corners of the world can ripple through the global fabric of the global economy like nobodies business. Which is how everybody's business has basically become the business of the US Government.

Not saying it's right, or that it justifies it. It just is. It is a morality/ethics issue that is somewhat new and unique to our Era, and the United States + (post-colonial) Great Britain are the ones largely trying to figure out what to put in the manual as they work their way though uncharted territory.

That the US initially started by using a variant on the British Empire's Colonial handbook doesn't help. How that same Empire drew the borders on their former colonies also presents a legion of other issues as well.

TheDeamon

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #31 on: May 22, 2016, 05:49:19 PM »
FWIW, one definition of "loyalty" is once bought staying bought.  I can't think why any tribal, ethnic, religious, racial or otherwise indigenous population of another country embroiled in its own internal conflict would remain loyal to the US.  I remember when the Pakistan ambassador (to the UN?) was asked if Pakistan is really a friend of the US.  He replied that countries don't have friends, only interests.

Well, the other form of loyalty is earned, which means follow-through matters, if you promise you're going to protect someone and look out for their interests. You do that. The U.S. failed that test in many areas of Iraq and Afghanistan alike on many fronts.

As to the Pakistani ambassador's response. That is an honest response, if you caught most ambassador's in a moment of honesty, that would be the answer for practically every nation they have "a relationship with." The United States is the same way with its allies, even NATO. France in the past has also been very upfront about it approaching all foreign relations in that same manner(and I remember the US using one such press interview with a prior President of France to demonstrate exactly that point when I received a NATO Security Briefing way back in the day).

Which is how you have things like the Snowden leaks and his disclosure that the US is monitoring its own Allies, where the outrage from most of the governments involved was rather muted. It wasn't so much that the US was doing it, they expected as much(as they try to do the same when the chance presents itself), it was that we got caught out in a very public way.

Greg Davidson

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #32 on: May 22, 2016, 06:22:15 PM »
Another comment or two regarding foreign interventions

The killing rate in the former Yugoslavia was fundamentally transformed for the better by US intervention, andhas stayed that way for two decades.

Even in Libya, the Obama Administration's support for the French/British intervention was based on an explicit threat of Khadafi to commit genocide on the 600,000 civilians in Benghazi. There's a chance he was sincere, and if so, that intervention may well have prevented hundreds of thosands of murders - not a neglibilbe accomplishment even if the current status quo is still resulting in thousands of annual deaths

Fenring

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #33 on: May 23, 2016, 01:47:54 AM »
TheDaemon, my general issue with how you're dressing this topic isn't with your basic position but rather with your use of referring to American policy as "we" or "America", as if it was a single person making a decision. America isn't a person, nor is it a "we"; it's a population whose voice has little impact on policy, with several factions in power who vie for different things, and out of that some actions occur and others don't. There is no "policy" that is followed routinely and uniformly, nor is there a "belief" that governs any foreign relations or actions. It's individuals with influence sometimes having their way and sometimes not. The more specific one gets into who is making them, who won and who lost in order for an action to take place - that is when you begin to decipher what "we" is and whose action it really is. Without these details trying to describe what "America" does ends up not really touching the issues, I think. I'll give you a case in point just below.

Even in Libya, the Obama Administration's support for the French/British intervention was based on an explicit threat of Khadafi to commit genocide on the 600,000 civilians in Benghazi. There's a chance he was sincere{...}

Here's an example of referring to an action as coming from "an administration", as if that is a person with a unified vision. In the case of the Obama administration I know there is disunity, and that furthermore there is disunity between Obama and others who have important voices high up. This isn't a problem, but when a decision ends up being made, even if it's Obama final say-so that will make it a go, it's not clear what it means to say "the administration" decided to do it. It was either Obama, unilaterally, or his advisors and he oked their plan, or others and he went along with it; and then there is the "whom" of it beneath that.

In the Libya intervention, for example, it's become somewhat common knowledge that it was Hillary's project and that she pushed Obama hard into it, which he wasn't at all sure of. Sure, the buck stops with him, but it's also bad from a leadership standpoint to veto everything your trusted team brings to you since it undermines their sense of your trust in them. Obama must have ultimately oked the final plan, but that doesn't mean it was his idea or that he even liked it (not that you implied he did). But implying that Obama's 'sincerity' directly pertains to what was necessary in Libya implies that his beliefs were behind it, which I know for certain was not the case. It wasn't his operation and in its actual process I suspect he didn't even have that much to do with it. It was Hillary's baby from start to finish, down to how she was almost micromanaging the events as they transpired.

This doesn't undermine your general point that intervention may have been better than allowing a genocide, but that implies that there was an actual genocide about to happen (significant evidence says there was not). But in any case, finding out exactly whose plan an action was is important. Generalities allow us to be obscured by a cloud behind which we just surmise that 'stuff happened.'

TheDrake

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #34 on: May 23, 2016, 02:05:53 AM »
Another comment or two regarding foreign interventions

The killing rate in the former Yugoslavia was fundamentally transformed for the better by US intervention, andhas stayed that way for two decades.


I'll grant you that this one turned out pretty well by almost all standards. I'm not familiar enough with regional history to be certain of this, however. What was our policy in the late 80s? Generally, destabilization of all Eastern Bloc countries and the collapse of Communist governments, like the one that wasn't ethnically cleansing anyone.

Then there's the waffling about the KLA, which I'm only reading a little bit about now. The group was called a terrorist organization by US officials from 92-98, according to John Pilger. In 2000, a BBC article stated that KLA was trained by the UK. US officials were more than a little unclear.

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Early in 1998, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard referred to the KLA as terrorists.[100] Responding to criticism, he later clarified to the House Committee on International Relations that "while it has committed 'terrorist acts,' it has 'not been classified legally by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization.'

This is after the earlier intervention that was deemed successful, but it just goes to show how muddled things can get when you're trying to play people off, and help the "good guys" out but not so much that they go too far and become the "bad guys" all while trying not to place any of our own people in harm's way. It is a pretty delicate microsurgery that gets away from us more often than not, especially compounded by the "loss of face" in admitting we had no idea what we were doing.

And of course in recent world complexion, we find that Bosnia is a recruiting ground for terrorism as well. I wonder if any of them have training from the West?

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #35 on: May 23, 2016, 07:13:24 AM »
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In the case of the Obama administration I know there is disunity, and that furthermore there is disunity between Obama and others who have important voices high up. This isn't a problem, but when a decision ends up being made, even if it's Obama final say-so that will make it a go, it's not clear what it means to say "the administration" decided to do it. It was either Obama, unilaterally, or his advisors and he oked their plan, or others and he went along with it; and then there is the "whom" of it beneath that.
I don't get this attempt to deconstruct Obama's Administration into seeming factions.  Every President puts strong people at the top of his bureaucracies so they can lead (aka command, direct, control) organizations of between 50,000 and 1,000,000 people, but it is under his top level authorization and even direction.  Even in Bush's woefully misguided Administration Cheney, Rumsfeld and others often fought and had to spend a lot of time reconstructing what would look to the public like a unified face.

Eventually, the President decides and all those department heads act.  Ever it was, ever it shall be.

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #36 on: May 23, 2016, 07:27:27 AM »
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(2) In keeping with Republican beliefs based on their philosophy of government in the United States, the Iraqi government was established with weak federal powers to leave more power in the Iraqi equivalent of state and local government.
I'd say it was more likely so that the US and its major corporate powers could more easily isolate and control the oil production infrastructure with less interference.  I've always been a little confused that we didn't encourage balkanization of the country, though.  That would have made the path to control much easier.  My only explanation for not doing that is that it would have allowed Iran a cakewalk to take over the southern region and from there threaten the mid-section.  I can't wait to see the Administration's planning documents opened up to public view (in another 20 or so years).

Seriati

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #37 on: May 23, 2016, 10:23:06 AM »
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I think it's a truism of the left that intervention leads to bad results.  I think it's generally false.  However, there's no way to measure it objectively, as every example has an N=1 and we can't know if the opposite decision would have been better or worse with certainty, all we can really do is infer that having the US intervene in a situation should have a better end result than leaving a situation to the whims of a murderous dictator.
How does that "truism" hold for Iraq?  Count up all the gains and balance them against the losses; was the war a good move?
Honestly, you seem incapable of understanding my point by even asking the question, since the only rationale basis for comparison is an unknown circumstance in which we did not intervene.

But what the hey, I'm game.  The war was a good move, with a good result.  The peace was an utter failure because the US is functionally incapable of carrying through on long term goals where a long term commitment is required and the potential to embarrass the other party by causing a long term failure is available.  President Obama has a choice between doing the right thing (in which case ISIS likely never gets off the ground, and Iraq is a far more stable place today), or choosing the "twofer" of winning points with his voters as a "peace" candidate by pulling out our imperialistic forces and simultaneously sticking his Republican opponents with any resulting failures as a "result of their ill-considered war," rather than his reversal of US policy that destabilized the entire situation.  And of course, it works, because here you are trying to hammer that point home by acting as if the consequences are nothing but a result of the first decision.

Seriati

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #38 on: May 23, 2016, 10:34:26 AM »
So maybe yes, where there's oil, you have an extra block of self interested voters willing to sign on, but even where there is not oil you still have an even bigger group who'd be willing to act simply because its the right thing to do.
As Al suggests, let's take Iraq 2.0 as an example. What "self interested voters" supporting invading because it had oil?

Not sure I follow why you're asking?   Are you disputing that some people had said that we should take Iraq's oil, even from the beginning, if for no other purposes to at least pay back the costs of the invasion/occupation? 

The point I was making, wasn't that this was THE reason, only that it's clearly a reason for some people.  If not, I suspect there wouldn't be much statistical significance to the idea that we intervene more often in countries where oil is present.  Of course, maybe there would, because its not JUST US who can see the value of oil, and its a fact that such countries are subject to a lot more interest and destabilizing forces than other countries, which increases the odds that there will be a need for intervention substantially.

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Do you recollect a significant amount of Americans whose reasoning was that sans oil Iraq wouldn't be worth invading?

Not significant amounts, no.  But absent the oil, would there have been a reason Iraq was so in need of saving?  Is it remotely arguable that the situation in Iraq was the worst humanitarian situation then extant?

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On the contrary, those who criticized that the war was being planned on the basis of oil were met with harsh resistance to that notion. It was certainly never admitted by anyone, and was denied at all times. So how could a significant portion of self-interested voters be swayed by an argument that was never made and that was systematically denied?

I'm not sure why that's confusing.  The argument was made, even if not by the official administration position, why else do you think it had to be denied and shouted down?  It was made person to person, and if you don't know anyone who said we should take their oil, I'd be shocked.  There were at least 350 million primary reasons for and/or against intervention, and billions more secondary reasons.  Granted there was a lot of overlap, and they weren't all unique, but it's impossible to conceive that the presence of oil didn't push anyone over the edge into supporting the Iraq war.

I agree, that it wasn't the most compelling reason, and we certainly didn't give into it in reality, which absolutely belies that it was a prime motivation.

Seriati

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #39 on: May 23, 2016, 11:01:17 AM »
I think it is interesting to see the notion floated equating other nations with helpless children. It is pretty easy to see that some beating a child is in the wrong. What if you saw two grown men fighting in the street? Would you be as quick to jump in?

Would you be quick to claim no one should?  I used the child reference because its easy to see the right and the wrong (and thus a fair test for those that oppose all intervention) and because it's a context that motivates people even where they may risk their own safety.

Could just as easily used a man beating his girlfriend in public, a situation where more often that you'd want to believe, no one will step in and help.  Or even your example.  Would you call the police if you saw that fight?  I have before, just because I personally can not safely intervene does not mean that I have to throw my hands up and ignore a situation because it "can't be made better." 

If when the police show up, one of the assailants is shot and killed, is that on me for calling the police in?  What if ignored it, and one of them kills the other and proceeds to kill four or five more people in making an escape, is that on me?  Fact is, there is a better result than letting two grown men try to kill each other, whether it can be achieved remains to be seen, but doing nothing pretty much guaranties it will not occur.

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Somehow, Sweden doesn't seem compelled to intervene. Does that make them bad people? They certainly owe a lot less money per capita.

It proves them to be a particularly insular people who don't see people in other places as the same as themselves.  Plenty of people put their heads down and do nothing when they hear their neighbor beating his wife, are they bad people?

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And yet, it is only force where we're willing to spend that amount of treasure to intervene. Not when water is poisonous, for instance. That's why I see our interventions not as an altruistic act in any way shape or form.

Except this is utterly false.  We spend such a ridiculous amount of money, both officially and privately, on exactly that kind of non-military intervention that I can't even comprehend how you'd make that claim in good faith.  Care to explain what you mean by that?

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We are not intervening because someone else is getting punched in the face. We are intervening for fear that we might get punched in the face by the same guy - or we might have to take the long way home instead of walking on his block.

Well honestly, we may be intervening for both reasons, but even if we're intervening to prevent a future harm to ourselves, so what, its still legitimate to do so.  And if we intervene early enough, our self interest may be soon enough to help that first person from getting punched in the face.

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We are giving $3 billion dollars to Israel in military assistance each year. Despite the fact that Israel is a nuclear nation, and hardly helpless like a child. Of course most of this aid comes back to US defense companies - because it has to in every case but Israel. Hardly a purely altruistic motive.

Our of curiosity, what exactly does Israel have to do with this?  Why choose that example out of all of them?

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I prefer this analogy. After some kid gets punched in the face, do you go to the school and arm all the second graders and set them loose on the neighborhood?

I think others have already addressed this, but we've absolutely changed how we respond to this event.  Historically we told the bullied child to toughen up and that everyone goes through it, and as a result we've had to deal with the consequences of abused children growing up into maladjusted adults and abusers growing up never learning that this conduct was reprehensible.  We've certainly flipped our thinking on that, and now such an event leads, if anything, to an overreaction in protection of the child.  Will this generation be "less tough" because of this change, very possibly, but they should also be better adjusted and less prone to aberrant behavior.

Was it wrong to start taking bullying seriously?   To intervene in a situation where one party could not protect themselves?

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WRT Isis, I would abhor having them take over Syria or Iraq. But that doesn't necessarily mean that I think it is a good idea to start arming Assad's forces to fight them, because we armed the rebels to fight him, and because we invaded Iraq. We're like the old lady who swallowed the cat to catch the bird to catch the spider to catch the fly.

I do agree, arming different factions is a crappy policy, with an enormous history of failure.  We should be using boots on the ground if we deem the situation one where intervention is required.

The policy of factional intervention, is like tapping the two fighting guys on the shoulder and handing them knives because then it will be in their self interest not to continue to fight because they may get stabbed.

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I don't know why we swallow the fly. Over and over again, trying to fix our mistake by making it bigger.

Well, like I said above, "we" do it because we have millions of reasons why "we" take an action, and depending on who is in control at any moment the primary goals shift, and the secondary goals rearrange.  Honestly, no other country should rely on us for anything.

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What might happen if we just unilaterally decided to ignore ISIS? Might it be a lot like Vietnam today? Yes, there are human rights issues and political freedom issues, but by and large the average Vietnamese are probably a lot better off than when we were intervening...

Well except for the sex slaves, and the people who get beheaded, everyone else will be better off, oh wait, not the children who are executed for playing during prayer time either, or you know the ummm... people who think they should be able to make their own choices about their religion, or lack thereof, or about which gender of people they want to love... and pretty much it sucks for everyone.

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #40 on: May 23, 2016, 12:26:34 PM »
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Honestly, you seem incapable of understanding my point by even asking the question, since the only rationale basis for comparison is an unknown circumstance in which we did not intervene.
You're full of baseless speculation when you want to be.  I figured this scenario had enough grounding given that we do know what the impact of the invasion and occupation was.

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The war was a good move, with a good result.  The peace was an utter failure because the US is functionally incapable of carrying through on long term goals where a long term commitment is required and the potential to embarrass the other party by causing a long term failure is available...[blah, blah, blah]
Sure it was a good move.  The so-called peace is a fiction that makes right-wing hawks feel good about exercising our military might on a hapless country that we *still* couldn't control after spending $TT and losing over 4,000 enlisted lives.  That doesn't include the utter destruction of the country that we committed or allowed, the rampant corruption of the hopelessly one-sided government we put in power (in the name of democracy, of course), or the fact that AQ never went away, but only grew stronger and morphed into the more virulent and far more deadly forms that exist today.  But, hey, if you want to say all the good stuff came from Bush and all the bad stuff came from Obama, why not? 

Seriati

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #41 on: May 23, 2016, 12:53:44 PM »
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Honestly, you seem incapable of understanding my point by even asking the question, since the only rationale basis for comparison is an unknown circumstance in which we did not intervene.
You're full of baseless speculation when you want to be.  I figured this scenario had enough grounding given that we do know what the impact of the invasion and occupation was.

So, like I said you are incapable of understanding the point.

All you're doing is weighing the negatives of a course of action against the positives of the same action, that's no way comparable to weighing against the results of inaction.  Effectively, one could choose the least bad alternative and you'd condemn them for it.

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The war was a good move, with a good result.  The peace was an utter failure because the US is functionally incapable of carrying through on long term goals where a long term commitment is required and the potential to embarrass the other party by causing a long term failure is available...[blah, blah, blah]
Sure it was a good move.  The so-called peace is a fiction that makes right-wing hawks feel good about exercising our military might on a hapless country that we *still* couldn't control after spending $TT and losing over 4,000 enlisted lives.  That doesn't include the utter destruction of the country that we committed or allowed, the rampant corruption of the hopelessly one-sided government we put in power (in the name of democracy, of course), or the fact that AQ never went away, but only grew stronger and morphed into the more virulent and far more deadly forms that exist today.  But, hey, if you want to say all the good stuff came from Bush and all the bad stuff came from Obama, why not?

Lol.  Way to double down.  Are you going to make the actual argument that Iraq would be a better place with Saddam still in power?  Or did you have a different hypothetical outcome to spout off about?

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #42 on: May 23, 2016, 03:00:26 PM »
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Lol.
You're a jolly fellow these days.
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Way to double down.  Are you going to make the actual argument that Iraq would be a better place with Saddam still in power?  Or did you have a different hypothetical outcome to spout off about?
That's why I asked you to speculate.  I even tried to give you an assist by listing some of the costs.  For you to assert that the course we followed was the best one, you have to believe that the costs of any other course of action would have been worse.  I'm asking you to try to describe why and how that would have been the case.  Instead of doing that, you LOL and say that I can't prove that things wouldn't have been better.  Step up to the plate for a change, eh?

Seriati

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #43 on: May 23, 2016, 04:23:58 PM »
That's why I asked you to speculate.  I even tried to give you an assist by listing some of the costs.  For you to assert that the course we followed was the best one, you have to believe that the costs of any other course of action would have been worse.

First, you didn't ask about the best course, you asked if it was a good one.

Second, believing that something is the "best" is a nonsensical standard to apply any decision against.  No one can know what the best choice is.  I can affirmatively state that the choice we made was better than doing nothing.   That's my opinion.

Third, it is totally reasonable to place a premium value on making a decision to act, even if unpredictable consequences make that decision wrong in a specific circumstance, where on balance the decision to act generally results in more positive consequences.  This is exactly why calling the police to break up a fight is the right decision even if in a specific circumstance they screw it up and make matters worse.

Frankly, it's just silly to make the assertions your making about having to believe that the "best" course of action occurred in order for an action to be justifiable.  There will also be a possible alterative that was even better, but that's certainly true for the "do nothing" positions as well, or do you think the Hutu and the Tutsi's situation was optimally resolved by non-intervention?

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I'm asking you to try to describe why and how that would have been the case.  Instead of doing that, you LOL and say that I can't prove that things wouldn't have been better.  Step up to the plate for a change, eh?

I stepped up to the plate even though your challenge was specifically nonsensical in the context of my point, not sure how you can complain about it.

If you really insist it's a trivial challenge to dig up my posts on the old board related to what I thought was the best course of action for the Iraq situation.  Just to nut shell, if we deem intervention to be necessary, we should always do it ourselves rather than thru proxies and we should be prepared to both occupy the country in question and to establish and educate its children in how to operate a functional democracy for at least a generation.  That however, is not a result or course of action this country will agree to implement.  The "best" we can really hope for is a decisive action by one administration where the gains are so obvious that a later administration can not rationally undermine it.

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #44 on: May 23, 2016, 05:37:48 PM »
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First, you didn't ask about the best course, you asked if it was a good one.
Are you next going to ask me what the meaning of is is?

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Second, believing that something is the "best" is a nonsensical standard to apply any decision against.
Way to deflect!  How about gooder, gooder or gooderest?  Measure your response against any standard you want to choose, as long as you contrast something that might have been with what was.

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Third,...
My turn to LOL.  When you get to third you're scraping the bottom of the principled barrel.  There ain't no third.  That's a Hail Mary...

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Frankly,...
Really?  You resort to "Frankly" after thirdly?  If you really meant it, "Frankly" would have been firstly.

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I stepped up to the plate...
Like Eddie Gaedel hoping against Satchel Paige.  That don't work twicet.

TheDeamon

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #45 on: May 23, 2016, 06:20:53 PM »
TheDaemon, my general issue with how you're dressing this topic isn't with your basic position but rather with your use of referring to American policy as "we" or "America", as if it was a single person making a decision. America isn't a person, nor is it a "we"; it's a population whose voice has little impact on policy, with several factions in power who vie for different things, and out of that some actions occur and others don't. There is no "policy" that is followed routinely and uniformly, nor is there a "belief" that governs any foreign relations or actions. It's individuals with influence sometimes having their way and sometimes not. The more specific one gets into who is making them, who won and who lost in order for an action to take place - that is when you begin to decipher what "we" is and whose action it really is. Without these details trying to describe what "America" does ends up not really touching the issues, I think. I'll give you a case in point just below.

The United States is a Representative Republic that nominally functions as a Democracy. As such, the government, however dysfunctional as it may be, represents the collective will "of the people." So even if I utterly despise the decisions being made on the part of particular persons in power within the government of the United States, it still remains as being a decision that "We the People of the United States of America" have made. For good or for ill, "we" own it, regardless of whether or not you can point fingers at certain specific special interest groups or even specific persons, as being the driving force behind it.

The distinction you're wanting to draw, I think, is a large part of the problem with US foreign policy. A President(lets say Clinton) makes a promise to some country, or group of countries, over a particular item. Congress and the various government agencies likewise make noises of reassurance that the commitment will be honored. Then the next guy(or the guy after that) comes along, decides that the commitment made by Clinton isn't to his interests, but despite knowing it will be directly harmful to other countries involved for the United States to back out... That President decides to do so. No big deal right? He didn't make that commitment, that was all Clinton's doing, if someone has a problem with that deal being broken, go take it up with Clinton it isn't the fault of the currently sitting President that the deal ceased being viable(in that President's world view).

That is a big part of the reason why my perspective on U.S. foreign policy has shifted towards the expectation that the United States is on the "Fast, and Cheap" solution track. "Slow" no longer works, as soon as the next administration comes along, that project will be dumped as soon as it becomes politically or financially inconvenient to them, and the previous Administration will get the blame for its failure.

"Hey, it's not our fault, honestly. It was like that when we got here." (particularly when the "we" in question isn't the United States, but the current administration specifically) Is a lousy and very sh--ty way to run a foreign policy, it's going to cost the United States in the long run, even if it doesn't cost the current President in office much political capital at the time. It might play well enough to the populous here in the States, but overseas, each and every time we do that, we just dig our proverbial hole deeper and deeper.

In some cases, "we" have being doing it on a large since the start of the Cold War(although honestly, we've been doing it since Thomas Jefferson), but "we" have become much worse about it since we've been crowned as the lone remaining super power. As "we" are not currently concerned about them running off to become clients of someone we seriously consider as a significant strategic threat.

Fenring

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #46 on: May 23, 2016, 10:25:32 PM »
This is exactly why calling the police to break up a fight is the right decision even if in a specific circumstance they screw it up and make matters worse.

Where this analogy breaks down is in the fact that you have to consider "calling the police" to actually imply this: that you call not the police, but some guy you know who's really tough, to break up a fight between strangers he has no authority over, and further, that your friend will invariably kill at least one of the people fighting. This is much closer to what "calling the police" implies in terms of foreign intervention in "a fight."

The criteria to consider are not merely whether the fight ought to be stopped, and whether helping people in general is a good policy, but also whether the guaranteed death that will result from your intervention is better than whatever possible outcome would have ensued otherwise. But now you have to consider that the neighbors observing this random dude coming in to kill one of the assailants will be afraid and resentful that their neighborhood is being taken over by a vigilante, and then you have another problem altogether when you realize this guy you've brought in to break up the fight has a contract going with the city works where he gets a kickback for every bloody body he leaves for them to clean up, and is also on the take for the cranky neighbor who likes to see roughians put in their place.

AI Wessex

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #47 on: May 24, 2016, 07:37:35 AM »
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That is a big part of the reason why my perspective on U.S. foreign policy has shifted towards the expectation that the United States is on the "Fast, and Cheap" solution track. "Slow" no longer works, as soon as the next administration comes along, that project will be dumped as soon as it becomes politically or financially inconvenient to them, and the previous Administration will get the blame for its failure.
Long-term planning is absent in almost all policy and program development activities in Congress.  Obama accelerated the wind-down of the Iraq occupation and tried to do the same in Afghanistan.  In the latter case, circumstances "keep pulling me back in" though I actually think he may have anticipated that would happen.  I am willing to admit that Obama has made mistakes in his Mideast and Asian policies, but I also think he has been playing a much subtler long-term strategy than most people give him credit for.  He's more the tortoise than the hare.  Trump would be a global disaster, as he is all hair and haircutting.

TheDrake

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #48 on: May 24, 2016, 11:18:58 AM »
I think it is interesting to see the notion floated equating other nations with helpless children. It is pretty easy to see that some beating a child is in the wrong. What if you saw two grown men fighting in the street? Would you be as quick to jump in?

Would you be quick to claim no one should?  I used the child reference because its easy to see the right and the wrong (and thus a fair test for those that oppose all intervention) and because it's a context that motivates people even where they may risk their own safety.

History is riddled with such "no brainers". Remember when the poor helpless Afghans were getting bullied by the evil Soviets? Of course we should train thousands of Afghans how to fight against a sophisticated military run by a powerful state. What's the worst that could happen? Oops.

Of course we should assist the helpless Cubans against the evil Castro. We'll just give some half-assed support to some guys in Florida and... Oops.

Of course we should help the Somalis. Warlords are stealing international assistance and killing people left and right. Someone should put a stop to it. Oops.

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Somehow, Sweden doesn't seem compelled to intervene. Does that make them bad people? They certainly owe a lot less money per capita.

It proves them to be a particularly insular people who don't see people in other places as the same as themselves.  Plenty of people put their heads down and do nothing when they hear their neighbor beating his wife, are they bad people?

This "insular" people actually spends more of its treasure on foreign development assistance than any other nation on earth. 1.4% of their GNP. A little under 10x more than the United States. Meanwhile, the US spends 3.5% of GNP on our military, compared to 1.1% for Sweden. I think 20x differential between development aid and military is sufficient to support my claim that we are not willing to spend anywhere near the same amount of money on non-military aid as military expenses. The ridiculous amount of money that you refer to is about $23 billion. Compared to nearly $700 billion in military expense.

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We are giving $3 billion dollars to Israel in military assistance each year. Despite the fact that Israel is a nuclear nation, and hardly helpless like a child. Of course most of this aid comes back to US defense companies - because it has to in every case but Israel. Hardly a purely altruistic motive.

Our of curiosity, what exactly does Israel have to do with this?  Why choose that example out of all of them?

Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid at $3.1B which is more than half of all military aid, and arguably the least necessary since they have progressed well beyond being able to defend themselves. That support also paints a large target on our backs as they fail to normalize the situation in the West Bank and ignore dozens of UNSC resolutions. In some sense, this could be viewed as coming across a kid getting beaten up and handing the aggressor a bludgeon.

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Well except for the sex slaves, and the people who get beheaded, everyone else will be better off, oh wait, not the children who are executed for playing during prayer time either, or you know the ummm... people who think they should be able to make their own choices about their religion, or lack thereof, or about which gender of people they want to love... and pretty much it sucks for everyone.

Yes, those are all Bad Things. I wonder if it is preferable to have bombs dropped on you daily. I wonder how we would enjoy having somebody start bombing us because of our state-sponsored executions. Or our aggression in other parts of the world.

Note that Afghanistan under the Taliban was very much like this, and you'll recall we set them up to run that country.

According to the Human Rights Risk Atlas from two years ago, the worst are Syria, Sudan, Congo, Pakistan...

Huh. What's Pakistan doing in there? Didn't we give them billions of dollars, even though they were allied with the Taliban and good indications that they harbored bin Laden? Oops.

I agree with your arguments in theory. It would be nice if there were a global adult to set things to right. As it stands, we're just the biggest kid with a mean streak.

TheDrake

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Re: Don't look now, it's happening again
« Reply #49 on: May 24, 2016, 11:32:56 AM »
BTW, in March the US just sold $700 million worth of F-16s to Pakistan, friend to the Taliban. Last year we sold them over 374 APCs rather than transport them back to the US. I guess we'll just buy some new ones.