Saturday, April 30, 2005

Every year the State department puts out a series of human rights reports, assessing the state of human rights in countries around the world. Here, for example, is the most recent one. It seems to me this has become a largely pointless exercise.

The premise, I suppose, is that because the United States performs more or less OK according to reasonable human rights metrics, it has the moral rights to admonish countries that do not. Recent news, however, have revealed that in fact that United States "renditions" program sends people to countries that freely torture prisoners in order to extract useful information - most famously Syria and other middle eastern countries. The latest news, in todays Times, tells us that the U.S. has been sending people to Uzbekistan where
...the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask." Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers.
Given that the U.S. sends people to the worst human rights offenders, in what sense is the U.S. any better, from a moral standpoint, than the worst human rights offenders? And why should anyone view the State Department's human rights reports any differently than if they were produced by Iran, North Korea, or Zimbabwe?

Update: Henry Farell writes a post that tackles this question.

28 Comments:

At 3:35 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

How are France and Canada, for that matter, any different from the worst human rights offenders? I mean, French and Canadian officials (among many others) are waist-deep in blood money that helped keep Saddam Hussein in palaces at the expense of the sick, starving, dying children of Iraq. And how about the entire U.N.? Leaving aside U.N. peacekeepers'record of human rights abuses (in Congo, for instance), what about the fact that Sudan and Libya sit on the human rights commission there (while the U.N. turns a blind eye to their horrific records on human rights)? Doesn't that put the U.N. on the same level, morally, as the worst human rights offenders?

Once upon a time, the U.S. teamed up with Stalin. Would you argue that the U.S. was for that reason morally indistinguishable from Stalin's regime? Or from any of the despicable regimes we supported during the Cold War on realpolitick grounds? . . . What country, by your standards, has hands clean enough to write a human rights report?

 
At 1:15 PM, Blogger alex said...

Some good points, Kate Marie.

"French and Canadian officials (among many others) are waist-deep in blood money that helped keep Saddam Hussein in palaces at the expense of the sick, starving, dying children of Iraq."

Now, now, you are making reference to facts here that are not widely accepted (or at least not widely accepted by most liberals). Documentation?

As for the U.N. and Stalin, well, the issues you cite are thorny. Surely you'll accept that there are different levels of responsibility?

1.Can we hold the U.N. responsible for not doing anything about Libya's or the Sudan's human rights records?

2.Can we hold the U.S. responsible for the crisis in Rwanda because it did nothing while it happened?

3.Can we hold the U.S. responsible for Saddam's massacres of the Kurds in Iraq, because it continued to supply him weapons in the late 80's, as he was doing it, while at the same time knowing about massacres?

4.Can we hold the U.S. responsible for sending people to Uzbekistan so that they will be tortured there?

5.Can we hold Uzbekistan responsible for committing massive human rights violations against its own people?


Clearly, the answer to question 5 is "yes." Now I am interested whether there is any difference between questions 4 and 5. Your point seems to be that if you accept that the last two questions are equivalent, you must accept that all these questions are equivalent ( I'm inferring this because you are taking my question one step further and asking questions of the same type as ques. 1-3). Do you seriously mean to suggest this? If so, I'd like to hear the logic behind this statement.

Alternatively, if the point you made was to convey is that no country is generally innocent, then I agree. I am asking though if there is any moral difference at all between the human rights abuser and the country that sends people to the human rights abuser so that they will be tortured.



By the way, my gut feeling is that the answer is "no" on the first two, "yes" on the last two, and "maybe but it was done with good intentions" on the third one.

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Liberals don't accept the facts of the existence of the oil-for-food scandal? Or the sexual abuse by U.N. workers in Congo? Are you saying you're aware of it, but you just don't accept that there was corruption? I'll provide tons of links, if you like, but do I really need to?

Of course there are different levels of responsibility, but that's my point. Why can the U.S. remain morally distinguishable from the USSR under Stalin, why can France remain morally distinguishable from Iraq under Saddam Hussein, etc.,? Why does the U.S. policy of sending terror suspects to their home countries (where human rights abuses are well documented) for investigation render them morally *indistinguishable* from places like Iran and North Korea?


Even if the answer to number 4 is yes (although the "so that" formulation is arguable), it does not follow that the U.S. is morally indistinguishable from Uzbekistan, Iran, and North Korea on human rights. I'm not suggesting that the first three questions are exactly equivalent -- just that I think you need to make more of an argument as to why the levels of responsibility are different, such that the U.N. is morally distinguihable from the Sudan, but the U.S. is not.

I suggest a modification for question 1: Can the U.N. be held responsible for allowing Libya and Sudan to head its Human Rights Commission?

 
At 5:06 PM, Blogger alex said...

"Liberals don't accept the facts of the existence of the oil-for-food scandal? Or the sexual abuse by U.N. workers in Congo? Are you saying you're aware of it, but you just don't accept that there was corruption?"

I don't accept that the governments of France or Canada were implicated in the oil for food scandal. Recall that my question had to do with the actions of the American government; therefore, I took your counterquestion to refer to actions by the French and Canadian governments (it would clearly be incoherent for you to refer in response to actions by Canadian individuals or French companies - we are talking about the culpability of states here). As far as I am aware, the only thing France (along with other members of the security council, including the United States) can be blamed for is not catching most of the corruption. This, however, raises the threshold of culpability to a new low. To use a law enforcement analogy, I accuse someone of hiring a man to kill; you respond by accusing somone else of being a bad cop.

"...just that I think you need to make more of an argument as to why the levels of responsibility are different, such that the U.N. is morally distinguihable from the Sudan, but the U.S. is not."

Certainly. Here it is.

Now my post is very vague in some places. For example, it contains no definition of what I mean by a "moral perspective." Judaic? Christian? Utilitarian? There are many different notions of morality.

I would like to appeal to the notions of morality that (almost) all of us share. In other words, I'm not appealing to a coherent moral doctrine, but rather a set of beliefs that I think every reader will share with me.

I believe every reader of my post will broadly agree, with some qualifications (I'm inserting this clause to avoid Schiavo/abortion based responses), that killing someone is bad. I believe they will also agree that hiring someone to kill is as bad as killing in person; but that it is not wrong to buy ice cream from a criminal, nor is it wrong for you not to volunteer for law-enforcement while there is still crime; but selling weapons to a criminal you know is about to go on a spree is at least morally questionable. These are beliefs I assume we all share.

It is difficult to see why states ought to be given treatment any different than individuals. Much like people can enter into a "social contract," every member of the UN has signed a treaty that requires certain obligations; I see no reason to apply a different code of conduct with respect to these obligations.

Conversely, if you take any argument that the levels of responsibility I mentioned in my previous post are the same, you can easily modify it to apply to people instead of states. Then it ought to yield the conclusion that the cop that feels to catch a criminal (France) is as bad as the man who hires a criminal (the US); which I take to be a plainly ridiculous proposition.

"although the "so that" formulation is arguable)"

I don't think there is anything arguable about it. There is no other conceivable purpose to running a "prisonder exchange" program for terrorism suspects.

P.S. Of course, the UN ought to be held responsible for abuses of its peacekeepers in the Congo in the same way the United States ought to be held responsible for Abu Ghraib. I see no difference between the two.

Of course, there is a huge difference between the actions in Abu Ghraib and the Congo, which were done by soldiers independently of orders from high up, to Uzbekistan or Sudan where the violence is perpetrated based on orders from the government.

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger alex said...

In my last comment, "feels" should be "fails."

I should note Orin Kerr made the same law enforcent analogy I am making in comments to the Farell post.

 
At 5:59 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Is Benon Savan, the waist-deep-in-blood-money U.N. official in charge of the whole oil for food operation, enough to make the U.N. responsible for more than just failing to root out corruption? Or how about Paul Desmarais, with his connections to Canadian politicians, past and present?

As for the analogy to a cop failing to catch a criminal (France) -- again, a more apt analogy might be a cop on the take (from a mass murderer) preventing another cop from pursuing said mass murderer.

Orin Kerr clearly implies there is a moral differnce between the U.S. and Uzbekistan; he makes a mens rea argument. He doesn't appear, like you, to suggest that there's no difference between the U.S. and North Korea because of the rendition program.

I am not defending the rendition program. I don't like it. But I don't think it makes the U.S. the moral equivalent of North Korea. Do you really think that?

As for the U.N. and Rwanda, since the U.N. was designed partly to prevent precisely the kind of atrocity that happened there, I think you can make the same analogy between their failure in that instance and "depraved heart" murder that someone on Farrell's comments made about the U.S.

I'm commenting on the fly -- don't have time to systematize my points. Sorry.

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger angela said...

I would like to appeal to the notions of morality that (almost) all of us share. In other words, I'm not appealing to a coherent moral doctrine, but rather a set of beliefs that I think every reader will share with me.

normative argument? hmm?

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger alex said...

Kate Marie,

I feel that your post repeatedly conflates the actions of a government with the actions of private citizens. Perhaps it would be helpful if we got back to the basics of this.

The United States of America cannot be blamed for the actions of Timothy McVeigh, or for the actions of the Unabomber. This is so even though both are unquestionably American.

Similarly, you cannot blame Canada for the actions of Paul Desmarais, no matter how many politicians he schmoozes with. Nor can you blame France for the actions of French-owned banks.

"As for the analogy to a cop failing to catch a criminal (France) -- again, a more apt analogy might be a cop on the take (from a mass murderer) preventing another cop from pursuing said mass murderer."

Now you are just making baseless allegations. There is no evidence whatsoever that the French government took bribes. Or, alternatively, you are being sloppy with the attributions, conflating the actions of the country with the actions of a private citizen.

"Orin Kerr clearly implies there is a moral differnce between the U.S. and Uzbekistan; he makes a mens rea argument. He doesn't appear, like you, to suggest..."

I have never said Orin Kerr makes the same argument as I do; I said he made the same legal analogy.

"As for the U.N. and Rwanda, since the U.N. was designed partly to prevent precisely the kind of atrocity that happened there, I think you can make the same analogy between their failure in that instance and "depraved heart" murder that someone on Farrell's comments made about the U.S...."

The UN does not have a magic wand it can wave to stop genocides. It operates under the restrictions imposed by member countries. If you want to blame someone for the Rwandan genocide, how about the member countries of the Security Council who refused to send additional troops to Rwanda to give the UN the capability to stop the genocide?

The rest of your comment continues along the same line as before. You argue that at some level, every country and every institution is guilty of something. I agree. Some are guilty of having failed to stop corruption; some are guilty of standing by while massacres go on all over the world; still other countries are guilty of actually massacring their people.

The subject of this post are countries that either illegally torture or contract others to do the illegal torturing for them. Why the lack of success of other countries to police their banks has any relevance to this discussion I haven't the slightest idea.

"I am not defending the rendition program. I don't like it. But I don't think it makes the U.S. the moral equivalent of North Korea. Do you really think that?"

On a matter of principle it does. Certainly, North Korea tortures more people in a day than the US does in a decade; but as far as principles go, both countries seem to have embraced the idea that conviction, imprisonment, and torture without any trial, without due process of law, are morally justifiable (and apparently necessary).

 
At 10:38 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"The subject of this post are countries that either illegally torture or contract others to do the illegal torturing for them. Why the lack of success of other countries to police their banks has any relevance to this discussion I haven't the slightest idea."

-- It's not just a matter of policing banks, Alex. I don't know what you think Jacques Chirac's reasons for blocking U.N. intervention in Iraq were, but if you think he took a stand on moral principle, you seem to be selectively naive. Chirac, acting as an official of the French government, was interested in protecting French financial interests and therefore he defended a corrupt and morally untenable status quo which had already resulted in much greater human misery than the 100-150 people who have been part of the U.S.'s rendition program. Are Chirac and France somehow morally superior because Chirac's action was more indirect (i.e. Machiavellian)?

So is someone who hires a hit man to kill someone else in principle the moral equivalent of Hitler? Is a child who lies about eating all the cookies in principle the moral equivalent of one who testifies falsely against the accused in a murder case? Is the state-sanctioned torture-for-hire of one person in principle the moral equivalent of the Holocaust? If I grant for the sake of argument that the answer to all of these questions is yes, will you explain to me the purpose of this logical exercise? It's effect, in my opinion, is to obliterate distinctions such that horrors like the Holocaust/the current atrocities in North Korea become obscenely trivialized.

Let's not forget that there is a wider context to this whole issue. For reasons that were shaped, in part, by the Cold War, western Europe (among lots of other states and regions) has developed a habit of paying relatively little for its own defense. That situation has remained as a vestige of the Cold War (and, in my opinion, it needs to change -- a militarily stronger Europe is in the U.S's and Europe's best interests, I think), and thus Western Europe and other countries continue to "outsource" their defense (and the dirty hands that go with it) to the U.S. Such outsourcing is arguably "at one remove" from the U.S.'s rendition program.

In any event, rhetoric which compares the U.S. to North Korea (whether or not it is logically defensible) seems to partake of a simplistic anti-Americanism that ignores history, context, and gradations of evil in order to score points against the Great Satan. Perhaps that's not what you were trying to do in your post, Alex, but if you meant simply to protest the rendition program and its injustices, couldn't it have been -- to borrow one of John Kerry's favorite terms -- more nuanced?

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger alex said...

"It's not just a matter of policing banks, Alex. I don't know what you think Jacques Chirac's reasons for blocking U.N. intervention in Iraq were, but if you think he took a stand on moral principle, you seem to be selectively naive. Chirac, acting as an official of the French government, was interested in protecting French financial interests and therefore he defended a corrupt and morally untenable status quo which had already resulted in much greater human misery than the 100-150 people who have been part of the U.S.'s rendition program. Are Chirac and France somehow morally superior because Chirac's action was more indirect (i.e. Machiavellian)?"

Let's note that US intervention has resulted in 100,000 (best estimate) more deaths than Saddam would have killed if left alone, so it is questionable whether Chirac's opposition to it was morally unjustified.

Secondly, lets note that the US presented blatantly false evidence to France (and to the UN Security Council) about Saddam's WMD. Moreover, the primary selling point of the invasion were precisely Saddam's WMDs. Subsequent events have shown that France's position was correct; that Saddam did not possess WMDs; and that their insistence on stronger evidence before invasion was correct.

Finally, your case consists in attributing a hideous motivation to Chirac and arguing against it. Indeed, I agree that if the French government put the profits of French companies above Iraqi lives, it engaged in a morally despicable action. But there is no concrete evidence that this is the case - all that is ever cited to support this assertion is "common sense". Indeed, the Iraq war was opposed by publics all around the world, inlcuding France. The main reason for this opposition is, and always has been, distrust of American motives.

"So is someone who hires a hit man to kill someone else in principle the moral equivalent of Hitler? Is a child who lies about eating all the cookies in principle the moral equivalent of one who testifies falsely against the accused in a murder case? Is the state-sanctioned torture-for-hire of one person in principle the moral equivalent of the Holocaust?"

No, no, and no.

Someone who hires someone to kill is the moral equivalent of the killer, not Hitler.

Now the child and the perjurer are not morally equivalent because the outcomes are different; I think we all accept that a lie about stealing cookies and a lie that puts a man in jail are on different levels. By contrast, the things that I am comparing ("torture by North Korea," "torture by Uzbekistan after a request by the US") are pretty similar in outcomes.

"Is the state-sanctioned torture-for-hire of one person in principle the moral equivalent of the Holocaust?""

Holocaust? Hey, I didn't say Nazi Germany, did I? I compared it to the Iran, Uzbekistan, and North Korea, neither of which, as far as I know, are guilty of genocide.

"Let's not forget that there is a wider context to this whole issue. For reasons that were shaped, in part, by the Cold War, western Europe (among lots of other states and regions) has developed a habit of paying relatively little for its own defense. That situation has remained as a vestige of the Cold War (and, in my opinion, it needs to change -- a militarily stronger Europe is in the U.S's and Europe's best interests, I think), and thus Western Europe and other countries continue to "outsource" their defense (and the dirty hands that go with it) to the U.S. Such outsourcing is arguably "at one remove" from the U.S.'s rendition program."

Has Europe ever, you know, asked for US protection in the post-Cold War era?

It seems to me that Europe does not spend much on defense for the simple reason that there aren't many countries that are planning to invade Europe. The threats that Europe faces are not the kinds of threats that require large expenditures of money on standing armies. If the US looked objectively at its security needs, it just might come to the same conclusion.

Is there any evidence, besides low military spending=outsourcing, for this proposition?

"In any event, rhetoric which compares the U.S. to North Korea (whether or not it is logically defensible) seems to partake of a simplistic anti-Americanism that ignores history, context, and gradations of evil in order to score points against the Great Satan."

Here is where I disagree. Certainly there are gradations of evil. To say the US and North Korea are similar in one respect does not mean they are similar in every respect. North Korea is a lot worse than the US in many respects - its economic mismanagement has caused famines and has killed many people - we do not even know how many. If you like, I will hereby profess that North Korea is super-evil, unlike the US, which is basically good, but a little confused.

However, the original point of my post stands: borth North Korea and the United States are countries that have no business lecturing others on human rights.

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

If you want to trust Chirac's pure motives with the Iraq intervention, I'm willing to believe that the U.S. is completely sincere when it tells Uzbekistan not to torture people, and I'm willing to believe that the U.S. believes Uzbekistan will honor its agreement.

A large part of the world opposed the Iraq intervention . . . which proves what, exactly?

"Let's note that US intervention has resulted in 100,000 (best estimate) more deaths than Saddam would have killed if left alone, so it is questionable whether Chirac's opposition to it was morally unjustified. "

-- I'd like to see the documentation there. The highest number I've seen (which is actually much disputed) is 100,000 deaths resulting from the invasion -- NOT 100,000 more than would have died under Saddam.

If you want to leave genocide out of it, can we compare it (murder for hire) in principle to the gulag and Stalin's decimation of the kulaks?

"Has Europe ever, you know, asked for US protection in the post-Cold War era?"

-- Oh, there was that little trouble in Kosovo/Bosnia (which the U.N. wasn't so eager to help out with, more's the pity for all those people in Srebenica). Would they ask if they needed help again? You don't think so? And do you think it's not in Europe's interests to have pushed Iraq out of Kuwait? They signed on to that one, didn't they? But who paid for the bulk of it, in blood and treasure?

You seem to suggest that the end of the Cold War has left the world a peaceful place. I think that's patently false.

"It seems to me that Europe does not spend much on defense for the simple reason that there aren't many countries that are planning to invade Europe. The threats that Europe faces are not the kinds of threats that require large expenditures of money on standing armies."

-- So what was Europe's excuse during the Cold War? Or do you think the Soviets stayed out of Western Europe because they were just misunderstood teddy bears (and it's not just standing armies that Europe doesn't spend money on).

"However, the original point of my post stands: borth North Korea and the United States are countries that have no business lecturing others on human rights."

-- And what country does, in your opinion? France? Remind me of that one the next time I see a picture of Jacques Chirac gladhanding with Robert Mugabe, will you?

 
At 8:22 PM, Blogger alex said...

"A large part of the world opposed the Iraq intervention . . . which proves what, exactly?"

...which shows that you don't need any conspiracy theories to explain Chirac's position. I'm appealing to Occam's razor here.

A large majority of the people of the world opposed Iraq's war, largely because they did not trust the United States. This is not a speculation; this is a fact supported by opinion polls. Even in those nations that did become part of the coalition, the majority of the populations either opposed the war all along (spain, italy) or was split close to 50-50 and turned negative shortly after the beginning of the war (england, poland).

If you are trying to explain why a certain nation (say France) did not go to war, there is no need for conspiracy theories. The explanation is simple: the public was against it. If you are trying to explain why the public was against it, again there is no need for theories: its part of a strong global trend.

Now if you want to argue something stronger - that the democratic leader of a nation whose electorate was opposed to the war was guided by other reasons - then you need actual evidence. Your suspicions aren't enough: they say more about you than about Chirac.

"If you want to trust Chirac's pure motives with the Iraq intervention, I'm willing to believe that the U.S. is completely sincere when it tells Uzbekistan not to torture people"

This is not a game of "you take my favorite leaders at face value and I'll take yours." Quite simply, there is no conceivable purpose to the U.S. rendition program other than illegal torture. If you have a plausible theory about why the U.S. has started to send prisoners to countries with horrible human rights records, I'd love to hear it.

By contrast, there are many plausible reasons for why Chirac refused to go to war, most of sound more plausible than the conspiracy-minded perspective you offer. Is it that difficult to believe that a President will cater to the will of the electorate? Is it strange to you that he would distrust the United States? If you want me to believe it was all about the oil, I'll say to you the same thing I say to people who tell me the U.S. went into Iraq to control its oil: I'd like concrete evidence, please.

In summary, it is not logical to believe that we must either take both Bush and Chirac at face value, or neither. Different circumstances demand different treatments.

"'d like to see the documentation there. The highest number I've seen (which is actually much disputed) is 100,000 deaths resulting from the invasion -- NOT 100,000 more than would have died under Saddam."

You are wrong. But its not your fault! The result of the Lancet paper is routinely misunderstood by newspapers. The result is 100,000 (8,000 - 200,000 is the 95% confidence interval) more deaths than would have occured had Saddam been left in power. See the paper here.

"Oh, there was that little trouble in Kosovo/Bosnia (which the U.N. wasn't so eager to help out with, more's the pity for all those people in Srebenica). Would they ask if they needed help again? You don't think so? And do you think it's not in Europe's interests to have pushed Iraq out of Kuwait? They signed on to that one, didn't they? But who paid for the bulk of it, in blood and treasure?"

Now you are redefining the question. You originally claimed that: "western Europe (among lots of other states and regions) has developed a habit of paying relatively little for its own defense." Now you are talking about peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. Sure, Western Europe would love to have the United States around if something like that came up again; but it isn't defense, its humanitarian intervention.

And it is unquestionably true that Europeans supported getting Iraq out of Kuwait. Whether this qualifies as defense is, again, questionable.

Europe does not need a large army for the simple reason that it is unlikely to invade any countries in the Middle East, and it is unlikely to intervene militarily for humanitarian reasons on its own. It is also very unlikely that it would be invaded by another another state.

This does not mean that Europe can't have preferences about such things as whether Iraq occupies Kuwait. But it does not see fit to intervene based on these preferences.

Again, I'd like to see concrete evidence here. What are your grounds for thinking Europe outsources its own defense? The fact that it has preferences in so far as Iraq and Kuwait? The fact that it has engaged in humanitarian interventions alongside the US?

"You seem to suggest that the end of the Cold War has left the world a peaceful place. I think that's patently false. "

Nah. But its dangerous in a distinctly different way than it used to be. The enemy we are fighting now is that the kind of enemy we fought before. You do not need a large and sophisticated army to fight bands of terrorists. The US, for example, spends money building and developing new kinds of submarines; new stealth fighters; and so on. See this insightful op-ed for details. The enemy that we are fighting does not require the current level of military spending.

While America's spending is higher than Europes, this is so only because America clearly sees a more ambitious role for itself in the world: see the two invasions of Iraq for example. Europe, on the other hand, plans on adopting a more neutral posture, and has no need for a high level of military spending to provide defense.

"So what was Europe's excuse during the Cold War? Or do you think the Soviets stayed out of Western Europe because they were just misunderstood teddy bears"

Nuclear weapons, and the threat by the US as well as Europe to use them in case of an invasion were the main reason. The Soviet Union always posessed a large superiority in manpower in Europe.


"And what country does, in your opinion? France? Remind me of that one the next time I see a picture of Jacques Chirac gladhanding with Robert Mugabe, will you?"

If the criterion is that a country can lecture others on human rights as long as it respects them itself - then I think France does. Thats not to say there aren't many legitemate criticisms of its position on human rights issues.

 
At 11:56 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"If you are trying to explain why a certain nation (say France) did not go to war, there is no need for conspiracy theories. The explanation is simple: the public was against it."

-- How do you explain England, Italy, Australia, Spain, then?

May I ask, Alex -- and I'm not trying to be snide, I'm really not -- whether you've read a lot about the oil-for-food scandal, about the highly advantageous oil contracts that French companies had with Iraq, or about past scandals involving Chirac and his buddies at TotalFinaElf?

The Security Council resolution wasn't about France going to war with Iraq -- it was about Chirac obstructing the possibility of U.N. support for a potential invasion (and thus, the possibility of the U.N. enforcing its own resolutions). Even Russia, according to reports, wasn't going to stand in the way there. But your position is that brave Chirac put his finger to the wind and followed public opinion polls . . .

Regarding European public opinion, ever since the U.N. poll which found that Europeans think the most dangerous nation in the world is . . . surprise, surprise . . . Israel, I'm not too concerned about European public opinion.

Regarding the study you linked to, I'll look at it after I've finished this comment, but I defer to your expert opinion there. Is it credible? And does it take into account how long Saddam (and then his sons) were likely to have remained in power?

" Now you are talking about peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. Sure, Western Europe would love to have the United States around if something like that came up again; but it isn't defense, its humanitarian intervention."

-- Alex, the intervention in the Balkans was a peace-keeping, humanitarian operation that would likely not have been undertaken if it was not also a grave threat to the stability of the region and potentially to other parts of Europe. I contend that it was therefore not simply a "peacekeeping" mission, but also a defensive reaction against instability. If the U.S. and Europe were interested solely in humanity and peacekeeping, we wouldn't have three quarters of a million slaughtered in Rwanda and tens of thousands (and more) being "cleansed" in Sudan.

Why do I think Europe outsources its own defense? Because that is the geo-political situation bequeathed to us from the Cold War. Whether Europe is likely to be invaded seems to me a poor basis on which to argue that it doesn't need to provide more for its own defense. As things stand, almost ANY intervention or peacekeeping mission or defensive action that Europe needed to undertake would have to be supplemented/supported by the U.S. military. They are free riders on American military capability, because they trust that when military intervention/sophisticated weaponry is desperately needed (for whatever reason) the U.S. will provide it.

What is the neutral posture you see Europe adopting? Is it something like a "peace for our time" position? I don't trust it (and I have good historical reasons not to), and the thing is, Europeans know that if it doesn't work out, the U.S. will expend its own blood and treasure to help clean up the mess.

(That doesn't mean that the U.S. can't potentially make its own messes, but I don't envision the Europeans providing the same kind of assistance in response to our need.)

 
At 2:23 AM, Blogger angela said...

May I ask, Alex -- and I'm not trying to be snide, I'm really not -- whether you've read a lot about

our alex is quite a voracious reader.

-- How do you explain England, Italy, Australia, Spain, then?

representative democracy. policy networks can trump public opinion like that. had martin been in power in canada, things might have played out differently, at least in the sphere of right wing commentary.

what are your good historical reasons for mistrusting europe? do they involve the cfsp at all, or are you going to go through a list of wars?

They are free riders on American military capability, because they trust that when military intervention/sophisticated weaponry is desperately needed (for whatever reason) the U.S. will provide it.

if its in american interests, yes. nato also comes into play.

 
At 2:59 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Angela,

I'm sure Alex is a voracious reader. Thanks for the heads up, though.

Why do you attribute Spain, Italy, Australia, England, Hungary, Japan, Poland's responses to "policy networks" (how would you define "policy networks," by the way)and France's as a bow to public opinion? Perhaps France's decision was a result of "policy networks" also? If not, why not? And what is the mechanism whereby the leaders of some nations decide that policy networks should trump public opinion and the leaders of other nations decide that they shouldn't?

"what are your good historical reasons for mistrusting europe? do they involve the cfsp at all, or are you going to go through a list of wars?"

I'll take option B, although I don't think I have to compile a very long list. Don't you think WW2 suffices as a good historical reason not to trust the "peace for our time" policy?

"if its in american interests, yes."

-- Of course, Europe's security is in America's interests (the Europeans know that, and that's partly why they can remain free riders). But there's no reason that, post-Cold War, the U.S.-European convergence of interests will necessarily continue (at least not in every case).

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger alex said...

"How do you explain England, Italy, Australia, Spain, then?"

That is a good question to think about it. But we should start by noting that indeed it is precisely these examples that need thinking about.

It is very easy to explain why a politician will follow the will of the elctorate that will ultimately decide if he will stay in office. It is considerably more difficult to explain why a politician will go against the will of the electorate. Which is why it is not France thats puzzling; it is exactly Italy, Spain, and the UK.

The answer, it seems to me, is that there are tangible benefits from cooperating with the United States. Iraq reconstruction contracts only for countries who supported the war, trade deals, and so forth. Moreover, all of these leaders expected to pay a mild price at the polls. Blair because he correctly perceived that the tories, being pro-war themselves, cannot effectively capitalize on his stance; howard, berlusconi, and aznar most likely thought their relatively small troop commitments are unlikely to arouse too much ire.

In one case, the gamble worked (australia). In another, it failed (spain). It almost failed in the UK - at the beginning of the campaign the tories and labour were roughly equal; but after a campaign culminating in today's vote it'll be fair to say that blair's gambled will have succeded. What happens in Italy remains to be seen.

But again, these countries form the minority rather than the majority; they are the outlier that demands explanation. Most governments simply catered to the will of the electorate.

"May I ask, Alex -- and I'm not trying to be snide, I'm really not -- whether you've read a lot about the oil-for-food scandal, about the highly advantageous oil contracts that French companies had with Iraq, or about past scandals involving Chirac and his buddies at TotalFinaElf?"

Depends on what you mean by "a lot." Mostly my knowledge comes from recent newspaper reports.

"The Security Council resolution wasn't about France going to war with Iraq -- it was about Chirac obstructing the possibility of U.N. support for a potential invasion (and thus, the possibility of the U.N. enforcing its own resolutions). Even Russia, according to reports, wasn't going to stand in the way there."

There were conflicting reports about whether both France and Russia would use a veto (here is one for example). But anyway, since the US did not manage to get the requisite number of votes, it is a moot issue.

"But your position is that brave Chirac put his finger to the wind and followed public opinion polls . . "

Nothing brave about it. But it is the most immediate explanation for why Chirac opposed the war, and, absent any evidence to the contrary, we ought to take it as a good explanation by default.

I might as well tell you that Bush went to Iraq to control its oil, and when you will demand evidence, I will reply by accusing you of being naive. Such an argument would be the exact parallel of the one you offer. There were plenty of natural, immediate, and repeatedly professed reasons to go into Iraq besides oil, and until concrete evidence is provided that oil was the main reason US went into iraq, we have no grounds in believing the possibility. The same approach ought to be applied to France.

"Regarding the study you linked to, I'll look at it after I've finished this comment, but I defer to your expert opinion there. Is it credible?"

Absolutely. That's not to say that there aren't lots of criticisms of it out there on blogs, but none of them made much sense to me (my speciality area in my work is applied probability, so I feel as if I am qualified to judge the criticisms).

"And does it take into account how long Saddam (and then his sons) were likely to have remained in power?"

Not at all, for the simple reason that there is no scientific way to estimate this number. The study measured mortality rates in pre-war Iraq, post-war Iraq, and computed an estimate based on the difference. This estimate is for the 18 months after the invasion.

I am a little uneasy on presenting the number as 100,000 since the 95% confidence interval is so wide (approximately 8,000-200,000). The significance of this study, in my opinion, comes for one number that is not in the confidence interval: 0. It follows that we can basically rule out the possibility that Saddam would have killed more people had he been left in power.

Of course, as you point out, this does not necessarily damn the war effort. One could argue that the mortality rate in Iraq will fall in the future to below Saddam-era levels.

"...a grave threat to the stability of the region..."

You are engaging in an argument here that I find somewhat disturbing. Essentially, you redefine the idea of "defense;" countries no longer need to protect themselves, they need to protect the "stability of the region."

I do not see what threat there is to Europe from aggressive action by Milosevic against Kosovo. The threat, according to you, comes from the "instability."

This is a pretty strange threat. One might argue that instability in the middle east is threatening, since what would happen if the world's oil supply would be disrupted? But its difficult to see why Milosevic's actions are a threat, any more than "instability" in the Congo.

Incidentally, such an argument ignores the history of Europe in the 90s. Yugoslavia has been "unstable" since 1992, and the situation had not threatened western Europe one bit.

"What is the neutral posture you see Europe adopting? Is it something like a "peace for our time" position?"

Not at all. "Peace for our time" involved a peace deal with a continually arming adversary. Now, however, there is no adversary that can pose a threat to Europe, so there is hardly any need to keep arming.

"As things stand, almost ANY intervention or peacekeeping mission or defensive action that Europe needed to undertake would have to be supplemented/supported by the U.S. military."

This is not true. I can't imagine where you get this from. The EU is now doing the peacekeeping in the Balkans, for one thing. The EU has been running peacekeeping missions in Sierre Leone and the Congo for a while now.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"'As things stand, almost ANY intervention or peacekeeping mission or defensive action that Europe needed to undertake would have to be supplemented/supported by the U.S. military.'"

This is not true. I can't imagine where you get this from. The EU is now doing the peacekeeping in the Balkans, for one thing. The EU has been running peacekeeping missions in Sierre Leone and the Congo for a while now."

I guess I didn't make my point clear -- I am not questioning whether Europe can do peacekeeping after the fact of an intervention, I am questioning whether Europe can, on its own, intervene successfully such that peacekeeping can take place ten years down the road or so. Could Europe have intervened on its own in the first place?

"Now, however, there is no adversary that can pose a threat to Europe, so there is hardly any need to keep arming."

-- There is no adversary that can pose a threat to Europe? Even if I believed that were true, doesn't the European decision not to keep arming rely on a rather questionable "end of history" notion? That is, doesn't it rely on a static version of history in which no adversary now exists, and no adversary will present itself in the future? Doesn't it also rely on either a) the idea that the U.S. will continue to arm and thus to take care of any messy situations in the world that might require weapons or military intervention or b) the idea that, should the U.S. follow suit and decide not to keep arming itself, no new geo-political dynamic will eventually result from U.S. "withdrawal"? What, in your opinion, would be the result of a situation in which both Europe and the U.S. didn't continue arming themselves militarily?

A quibble about Spain -- it is likely that Aznar would have been reelected without the Al Qaeda bombing, so I don't know that one can say his gamble failed. Or rather, you might say his gamble failed but not solely because of his decision to support the U.S.

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger alex said...

"I am questioning whether Europe can, on its own, intervene successfully such that peacekeeping can take place ten years down the road or so. Could Europe have intervened on its own in the first place?"

No, it can't. But then it does not want to either.If you do not imagine an extensive role for yourself in world affairs, there is no need to build up a military structure to do anything more than defense & peacekeeping.

"There is no adversary that can pose a threat to Europe?"

Not currently. At least not one that has any desire to invade Europe.

"Even if I believed that were true, doesn't the European decision not to keep arming rely on a rather questionable "end of history" notion? That is, doesn't it rely on a static version of history in which no adversary now exists, and no adversary will present itself in the future?"

Not at all. A nation's military policy ought to be designed to fight against current and likely future threats; it should not be designed to protect against every possible future threat.

"...should the U.S. follow suit and decide not to keep arming itself, no new geo-political dynamic will eventually result from U.S. "withdrawal"?"

My observations of European politicians give the impression that they would love a "new geo-political dynamic."

"What, in your opinion, would be the result of a situation in which both Europe and the U.S. didn't continue arming themselves militarily?"

I don't think it would be pretty - and I don't recommend it. If you recall how we got on this track: I was disputing your statement that Europe relies on the US for protection. My point was the European military spending is necessarily low because European foreign policy leads them to fight fewer wars.

This does not mean that the US should adopt European policies. I feel, for example, that the US should continue to provide military backing to Taiwan. I do think, though, that recent US foreign policy (in particular the invasion of Iraq) is based on a misunderstanding of the threats to the U.S. If you are interested, I wrote about this back before the election here

"...rather, you might say his gamble failed but not solely because of his decision to support the U.S."

Sure - but of course this is a true of all the other examples as well. It is impossible to isolate the effect of one decision in any campaign.

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger angela said...

policy networks refer to that tangled mess of politicians, bureaucrats, party brass, lobbyists, interest groups ... basically, its a blanket term for all the stakeholders in any given piece of legislation.

why france caved to public opinion and the other countries did not has something to do with the nuances in their respective policy networks. sometimes public opinion can sway more stakeholders than other times. i think the reason we think public opinion is so bloody important is because the network news likes to throw polls out every night.

i dont think neville chamberlain's unfortunate proclamation and paper-waving is some big sign of europe's proclivity towards conflict. basically, the great war and wwii should be treated as one continental conflict that has concluded.

i credit steven spielberg for this quintesentially american obsession with world war two as this defining moment for european conflict. arguably, wwii is just the second half of the largely unresolved world war one, referred to in the rest of the english-speaking world as the great war. for american readers, world war one was the inevitable consequence of a continent marked by international conflict which was also caught up in an arms race and a rush to gain colonies. these problems were not resolved after wwi and the litany of treaties which followed. in fact, they were exacerbated - hitler gained popularity due to german rejection of the versailles treaties.

then we have the holocaust/pogrom aspect of wwii. this was not the first time the european continent had engaged in genocide or ethnic cleansing, but it was definitely one of the more ambitious attempts. well, stalin did put hitler to shame... but nobody made movies about that, eh?

around the time of the yalta/potsdam conference, france decided that all those consecutive invasions dating from the franco-prussian war meant that if she couldnt beat germany, she could join her. moreover, the spectre of communism was looming.

the cold war changed everything. with a steady stream of greenbacks, western europe now aligned herself in opposition to eastern europe.

europe then formalized an economic union. nato was created. europe moved towards political union. europe started investigating a defense union, a social union, and a monetary union. for a brief period, there were two trade arenas on the continent.

i think the key issue here is that germany and france were collaborating with italy, the benelux countries, the uk, etc. now they do have a full, supranational structure. even the jurisdiction of local councils is determined by the eu.

the cfsp is one of the last aspects of eu integreation to be completed, which is instinctively obvious given the fact armies are their respective nations' penises... er, and they also have nato.

european integration shouldnt be downplayed the way you do it, kate marie. living in a community of recent euro immigrants, it's obvious that the bullshit which led to all these stupid wars is being transcended. even the situation in the balkans, a region which was the catalyst for the great war, is under control.

moreover, i think europe is very conscious of its gun-happy past, something which is manifested in a committment to bilateral and eu-sanctioned foreign aid, as well as the eu regional/neighbourhood policy.

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger angela said...

Even if I believed that were true, doesn't the European decision not to keep arming rely on a rather questionable "end of history" notion?

yeah, that democratic peace/end of history crap is actually the kind of ahistorical nonsense your state department and academic institutions fund and churn out. hell, they even hired the dork who came up with it in the first place. european international relations literature (especially scholars close to government) has little to do with that sort of thing. europes position has more to do with the issues of identity and role of the state alex referenced - living in an anemic middle power myself, its kind of obvious. i mean, really, kant's been dead and relatively uninteresting for years - europe is so over universalizing crap like that.

seeing as they havent been picking wars with eachother for a good long time, europe's greatest threat is likely domestic-based terrorism, something that not even the biggest, baddest, best-funded army removing every single dictator in the world can prevent. throwing money at controlling these subversives does not necessarily work. see america for details.

curiously, europe is pursuing this problem through non-war channels. europe's neighbourhood policy aims at stabilizing the region surrounding europe, complementing its intra-european regional development policies which largely target the eu periphery.

being a conservative, you might enjoy one of your own explaining the new comprehensive nature of security policy - id recommend barry buzan. hes pretty effing smart.

regarding the discussion of kosovo, lets just make it clear this was an initiative that involved both nato and the un, something we cant say about iraq. america got involved through its treaty responsibilities, not because europeans are pussies and couldnt handle it on their own.

why does the fact the us has more military power make all the other treaty signatories free riders? there are big fish and little fish in every single set of relationships - big effing deal! arguably, we are free riders economically because of the 3rd worlds role in manufacturing.

(my speciality area in my work is applied probability, so I feel as if I am qualified to judge the criticisms).

alex... you know what statements like that do to me, dont you. girls dont want athletes, they want, er, mathletes. yes.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Angela,

"basically, the great war and wwii should be treated as one continental conflict that has concluded."

-- Fine by me (for what it's worth, I consider the Great War to be, in many respects, the defining war of the century), but does that mean I shouldn't let history inform my opinion of Europe, especially given the fact that Europe hasn't completely conquered its unfortunate tendency to anti-Semitism (which is reinforced, in virulent form, by the influx of immigrants to Europe)?

What does Steven Spielberg have to do with it (his WW2 movies came out in the 90's -- were we not obsessed, in typically American fashion, with WW2 before then)? And why on earth are you lecturing me about the history and causes of WW2? I cited WW2 as a good reason not to completely trust Europe's position of "neutrality" -- there's nothing in your lecture about WW2 that suggests otherwise. Despite the fact that I'm an American, I can read and write, Angela. I've even -- gasp!-- read history.

"well, stalin did put hitler to shame... but nobody made movies about that, eh?"

-- Since the dearth of films/dramas/novels about Stalin is one of my biggest complaints about popular culture's presentation of history (it's kind of a preoccupation of mine), I don't understand exactly what your point is . . . if you'd like me to add to my reasons for distrusting Europe's "neutrality" stance, I can cite the alarming number of Western European "intellectuals" who swallowed Stalin's lies, hook, line, and sinker, and portrayed the U.S. as the dangerous aggressor in the Cold War. [Yes, I'm aware that a good number of American intellectuals did the same thing, but Americans tend to be more wary of their public intellectuals.]

"european integration shouldnt be downplayed the way you do it, kate marie. living in a community of recent euro immigrants, it's obvious that the bullshit which led to all these stupid wars is being transcended. even the situation in the balkans, a region which was the catalyst for the great war, is under control."

-- How do I downplay European integration? I'm sorry to say it, but I'm also instinctively suspicious of sentiments which suggest that we've "finally transcended the bullshit." That kind of thought, that suggestion that our era -- unlike all others in human history -- has finally got it right is, in my opinion, often a prelude to disaster, especially once that idea hardens into a kind of orthodoxy that ignores real threats and sees the military as some kind of Freudian metaphor.

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger angela said...

Europe hasn't completely conquered its unfortunate tendency to anti-Semitism (which is reinforced, in virulent form, by the influx of immigrants to Europe)?

anti-semitism is a global problem, actually. what happened to jewish refugees attempting to flee europe prior to the holocaust? not everyone was welcoming emigres with open arms.

How do I downplay European integration? I'm sorry to say it, but I'm also instinctively suspicious of sentiments which suggest that we've "finally transcended the bullshit." That kind of thought, that suggestion that our era -- unlike all others in human history -- has finally got it right is, in my opinion, often a prelude to disaster, especially once that idea hardens into a kind of orthodoxy that ignores real threats and sees the military as some kind of Freudian metaphor.

this isn't "our era" that got it right. i make no totalizing statements about human nature or the international system. what i do say is that the regional integration of europe in every sector of governance has had a peaceful effect.

after the north and south usa were integrated into a federal system, they stopped fighting. why is it so inconceivable to accept that europe is done with beating itself up along national boundaries that are increasingly becoming only cultural and not social, political, economic, or strategic?

this is not the end of history argument you keep referencing. i dont think the european integration process has ended all wars, but it has changed europe in a very fundamental way. without european integration, we likely would not see the projects of the cfsp, neighbourhood policy, and regional development initiative, which have altered the european approach to security.

if you want to act like the entire point of my comment was a penis joke, thats fine... but my point was that the structure of european governance has changed in many key ways.

i lectured you on history because you didnt really acknowledge that the wars of the 20th century have been resolved, mostly because you think that theres no difference between saying that european nations are no longer fighting among themselves and endorsing democratic peace dogma. saying europe is different now doesnt imply accepting some stupid kantian view.

the treaty of westphalia made some serious changes to the way we see the state, which is the fundamental unit of the study of international politics. the EU, nafta, bretton woods institutions and other supranational authorities represent another fundamental shift in the basic precepts of international relations. to ignore the EU based a picking-stuff-from-the-quarry-of-time approach isnt historical because it does not acknowledge history is a process... which is what i was trying to get at with my "you cant just name drop wwii and imply that europeans are psycho" lecture.

and i dont think americans are dumb, i just think americans dont know a lot of world history, something that is based on my personal experience at places like georgetown and the university of wisconsin-madison. similarly, my interaction with canadians reveals that we dont know a damn thing about american or other non-euro history due to a stupid uk-centric curriculum that only got ditched in the late 70s.

its obvious you can read, obvious youve read history, but there are so many versions out there, and you seem not to have read the version about globalization. moreover, you prefer to make proclamations on europe based on broad themes rather than addressing current EU policy.

 
At 11:35 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"anti-semitism is a global problem, actually. what happened to jewish refugees attempting to flee europe prior to the holocaust? not everyone was welcoming emigres with open arms."

-- That's undoubtedly true, but what does it have to do with what I said? My response referred explicitly to the present time (i.e. Europe hasn't completely conquered its tendency toward anti-Semitism, and it is being reinfornced by the influx of Muslim and Arab immigrants). Anti-semitism may be a "global problem," but some parts of the globe have more of a problem with it than others.

"after the north and south usa were integrated into a federal system, they stopped fighting. why is it so inconceivable to accept that europe is done with beating itself up along national boundaries that are increasingly becoming only cultural and not social, political, economic, or strategic?"

-- What exactly do you mean "after the North and South U.S.A. were integrated into a federal system they stopped fighting"? At first I thought you were talking about the Civil War, but then I thought, . . . huh? Could you clarify that statement please? As for whether the Europeans are done beating themselves up about national boundaries, that's probably true (although those pesky cultural boundaries that you refer to are going to make the integration process a bumpy one, as the French, of all people, may be poised to vote "no" on the EU constitution) -- but when I said I didn't entirely trust the "neutrality" stance, I didn't mean necessarily that the Europeans were going to make war against each other, but that they might ignore internal threats to their stability. Europe is facing, but perhaps not facing up to, some serious demographic problems. By 2020 or 2030 -- I forget the exact date -- the majority of Dutch citizens under 18 will be Muslim. Now, that doesn't necessarily pose a problem, but it sure as hell might if, in all the excitement about the integration of European states, the Europeans forget to pay some attention to the integration of their immigrant population. The Theo Van Gogh incident does not bode well in that regard.

"i lectured you on history because you didnt really acknowledge that the wars of the 20th century have been resolved, mostly because you think that theres no difference between saying that european nations are no longer fighting among themselves and endorsing democratic peace dogma. saying europe is different now doesnt imply accepting some stupid kantian view."

-- The wars of the twentieth century are over, but whether they have been resolved is, in historical terms, too early to tell. You yourself pointed out the way in which all of the unresolved problems of the Great War contributed to WW2. You are welcome to your optimism, but I think it's entirely reasonable to be wary of European quietism, given the cataclysms of the twentieth century (WW1 and WW2 are really rather recent history, you must admit). I certainly don't think that the recent hopeful signs of European integration have completely removed the stain of the past century, and my position arises not from an ignorance of history but from a healthy respect for it. If you think everything in Europre is hunky dory now, you're welcome to believe it, but the fact that I don't entirely BUY the "that was then and this is now" argument does not mean that I don't understand it.

Saying I didn't entirely trust Europe is not an implication that Europe is psycho, by the way.

"its obvious you can read, obvious youve read history, but there are so many versions out there, and you seem not to have read the version about globalization. moreover, you prefer to make proclamations on europe based on broad themes rather than addressing current EU policy. "

-- What do globalization and current EU policy (which I do understand) have to do with the discussion -- except that the fact of either doesn't entirely incline me to trust European "neutrality"?

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger alex said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger alex said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 6:53 PM, Blogger jon said...

university of central florida medical school surfing tonight I saw your blog. I liked it and wondered how you did that? Anyway, its a cool university of central florida medical school site...

Jon

 
At 1:26 AM, Blogger Julian Silvain said...

Hey, I was searching blogs, and came onto yours, and I like it. I kinda landed here on accident while searching for something esle, but nice blog.. I got you bookmarked.

If you got time , go visit my site, it´s about mens male enhancement reviews. It pretty much covers mens male enhancement reviews and other similar topics available.

 
At 3:49 AM, Blogger TS said...

Nice Blog!!!   I thought I'd tell you about a site that will let give you places where
you can make extra cash! I made over $800 last month. Not bad for not doing much. Just put in your
zip code and up will pop up a list of places that are available. I live in a small area and found quite
a few. MAKE MONEY NOW

 

Post a Comment

<< Home