“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Remora


Michael Kelly's column on Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister, profiles his new left career, from street protests against Vietnam to street protests against the supposed suicide of Ulrike Meinhof. The tone is set by the use of Stern magazine via an article by Paul Berman for the accusation that Fischer beat a policeman -- because, of course, there is no judicial accusation of this act. The tirade was unleashed by Joschka Fischer's reply to Donald Rumsfeld. Here's the beginning graf:

"Excuse me. I am not convinced."
-- German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, lecturing to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Munich last week, after Rumsfeld's argument for war against Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld may have convinced the leaders of 18 European nations, but not you, Mr. Fischer. It's personal. This seems to me the right way to look at it. The question of failing to convince must be seen in the context of whom we have failed to convince."

We, in turn, have a question: who is the "we" to whom Kelly is referring? To determine this, let's ask, on a personal level, about Mr. Rumsfeld, who may have convinced the prime minister of Spain, but not 70% of the population; who may have convinced the prime minister of the Netherlands, but not 72% of the population; who may have convinced Tony Blair, but not the 52% that see him as George Bush's poodle ; who may have convinced Berlusconi, but not 72.7% of Italians.

Mr. Kelly's column then references pictures published by Stern that purportedly show Mr. Fischer in various criminal acts:

Sometimes "who" explains "why."Mr. Fischer, who are you?

You are the foreign minister of Germany. You have been that since 1998, when Germany's left-wing Greens party, of which you are a leader, won enough in the polls to force the Social Democratic Party into the so-called Red-Greens coalition government.

But for the formative years of your political life, you were no man in a blue government suit. You were a man in a black motorcycle helmet. That is what you were wearing on that day in April 1973 when you were photographed, to quote the New Left historian Paul Berman, "as a young bully in a street battle in Frankfurt."In 2001, Stern magazine published five photographs of you in action that day. What these pictures depicted was described by Berman in a deeply informed 25,000-word article, "The Passion of Joschka Fischer" (The New Republic, Sept. 3, 2001). The photos showed you, Mr. Fischer, inflicting a "gruesome beating" on a young policeman named Rainer Marx: "Fischer and other people on the attack, the white-helmeted cop going into a crouch; Fischer's black-gloved fist raised as if to punch the crouching cop on the back; Fischer's comrades crowding around; the cop huddled on the ground, Fischer and his comrades appearing to kick him . . ."

Thus, according to Kelly, Mr. Fischer. Well, on the principle that who's lead to why's, perhaps we should find out who Mr. Rumsfeld is, the man who was appointed to be Secretary of Defense after the Supreme Court forced the nation to ignore the popular vote totals in favor of the dubious balloting practices of Florida and elevated George Bush to the Presidency. Let's start with a picture, too. How about this one, of Mr. Rumsfeld as Reagan's "personal envoy" shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983? No black gloved fists are involved. Rather, we see only the oiliest cordiality all the way around. The pic was published by CNN, who interviewed Rumsfeld. 1 Here's how that went:

McIntyre [CNN reporter]: Well, let me take you back to about 20 years ago. The date, I believe, was December 20, 1983. You were meeting with Saddam Hussein, I think we have some video of that meeting. Tell me what was going on during this meeting?

Rumsfeld: Where did you get this video, from the Iraqi television?

McIntyre: This is from the Iraqi television.

Rumsfeld: When did they give it to you, recently or back then?

McIntyre: We dug this out of the CNN library.

Rumsfeld: I see. Isn't that interesting. There I am.

McIntyre: So what was going on here, what were you thinking at the time?

Rumsfeld: Well, Iraq was in a battle, a war, with Iran."

To explain about the who, the Rumsfeld who was being browbeaten, Mr. Kelly has it, by the bullying Mr. Fischer, scum that arose from the very streets, here's a little background from the Washington Post:

"Among the people instrumental in tilting U.S. policy toward Baghdad during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was Donald H. Rumsfeld, now defense secretary, whose December 1983 meeting with Hussein as a special presidential envoy paved the way for normalization of U.S.-Iraqi relations. Declassified documents show that Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an "almost daily" basis in defiance of international conventions."

Interesting, as Rummy might say. So, shall we add up atrocities so far? On the one hand, we have Mr. Fischer supposedly beating up a policeman and attending a rally in which someone was killed. On the other hand, we have our Defense secretary being wined and dined by Saddam Hussein, whose case he later represented to his boss, President Reagan, while, what was it? 300, 000? 500,000 Iraqi and Iranian casualties were, even at that time, piling up. Interesting.

Ah, and it gets more interesting, doesn't it? Return with us to March 24, 1984. On that day the UN released a report on the Iraqi use of chemical weapons. Does Mr. Kelly find those kind of weapons shocking? Does he find them cause, now, to invade Iraq? Well, on March 24, 1984, Mr. Rumsfeld didn't. No, Mr. Rumsfeld was returning ot Baghdad on that day to resume meetings with Iraqi ministers.

Interesting. And did that meeting have consequences? Oh, yes it did. Here is the chronology from the cooperative research site:

November 26, 1984. The United States Government re-established full diplomatic ties with Baghdad [Gwertzman 11-27-1984] even though it was fully aware that Iraq was using chemical weapons in its war against Iran.


1985. U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz successfully convinced Rep. Howard Berman to drop a House bill that put Iraq back on the State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism. Shultz argued that the United States was actively engaged in "diplomatic dialogue on this and other sensitive issues," and asserted that "Iraq has effectively distanced itself from international terrorism." The Secretary of State further claimed that if the U.S. discovered any evidence implicating Iraq in the support of terrorist groups, the U.S. Government "would promptly return Iraq to the list." [Jentleson 1994 p. 54]


Here's how Kelly's column ends:

"So, that's who you are, Mr. Fischer, the man we haven't convinced. You are the man for whom Munich wasn't enough, the man who needed Entebbe to convince him that murdering Jews was wrong. You ask to be excused. You have been excused."

And here's how we will end this post: "So that's who you are, Mr. Rumsfeld, the man who wants to convince us now to go to war, but who once found nothing inexcusable in a relationship with a country who was daily using chemical weapons to fight an aggressive war in 1983; the man who, in 1984, acting as a go-between, was instrumental in sealing a "special relationship" between Iraq and the United States which, by happy coincidence, preceded the use of scud missiles against Iran to the extent that perhaps 300 rained down upon Teheran in 1988; the man whose boss, President Bush, was clearly using the jingoistic side of the potential war to defeat the wan opposition in November, 2002; the man who now tells us that war is so urgent that it should be fought in a matter of days, but who once was so careless of the Iraqi use of the weapons of mass destruction that he made it an opportunity for profit on the part of American military contractos. You tell us that the European opposition isn't inexcusable. Well, no, Mr. Rumsfeld, it isn't inexcusable. Your hypocrisy, though, is."

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Dope


A few days ago we mentioned McClellan and Grant as the two poles of the American attitude towards war. The more we've mulled over this point, the more we think there is a tasty essay here. The point is simple. Empires persist because of a willingness of the citizens of the empire to endure a certain constant level of casualties in the course of maintening the empire. If we take the British empire, for instance, its expansion through numerous small wars in the nineteenth century was made possible, at home, because of a willingness to sanction an annual tribute of British lives to the ideal of maintaining and expanding the empire in India, Central Asia, and Africa. From the Sepoy Mutiny to the Boer War, this willingness was often tested, and rarely provoked the kind of backlash that would rein in the imperial ambitions of the British Government.

In contrast, the United States did not seek that kind of empire. Briefly, the U.S. embarked on an expansion at the turn of the century, but in comparison to the French, the British, and even the Germans, the American effort was relatively minor. A recent book by a Wall Street Journal writer, Max Boot, documents the many small wars that America has engaged in to shore up the idea that Empire is, indeed, in the American grain. However, more significant is the rarity of any long-term occupation resulting from those wars. Occupation means more than soldiers being stationed in a place -- it means the gradual transfer of a whole administrative apparatus. This was the backbone of the British empire, but only the Phillipines, and, briefly, Cuba, tempted the Americans to do likewise. There's a reason for that: while Americans have traditionally shyed away from situations that involve attrition over the long term. It is that reflex which dooms the imperial project.

It is not that Americans are averse to bloodshed. While the British were constructing their empire out of multitudinous border wars, Americans did endure, in the Civil War, violence of a much more concentrated and horrific kind. And in the twentieth century, the U.S. engagement in World War I and II also saw committment to wars which were comparable, in terms of casualties, to any of the participants. However, I think the pattern of American behavior is more normally represented by the Korean and Vietnam war. In both wars, the reality of high casualties and the expectation that optimal victory would exact more of the same had a determining effect on the American conduct of the war. General Westmoreland once said, famously, that more American lives were lost on the highways during the sixties than were lost in the Vietnam war. This was taken, and should be taken, to be a callous statement. Nevertheless, the callousness it reflects is necessary for any sustained imperial effort. There are no painless empires.

This American pattern is often ignored by American policy makers. The latest example is the kind of ambitious policy in the Middle East being promoted by the circle around Paul Wolfiwitz. According to this circle, America is, in reality, an empire. So using that imperial power, we can remake social and political situations that we don't like in our image. The language of empire now fills our foreign policy journals, as well as conservative weeklies. The opposition to the Bush administration's aggressive plans in the Middle East has concentrated mainly on the cost of war in the narrow sense -- the cost, that is, of invading and defeating Iraq. However, the real question is about the cost of the war in the larger sense -- the cost of exposing an occupying force to the constant attrition of a guerilla war, and to the unexpected violence of factional conflict. This is where the imperial model has failed in the recent past, from Saigon to Somalia. Empires require some legitimation that goes beyond the mere aggrandizement of power. Americans have never accepted any legitimation, over the long run, except national defense. Neither glory nor ideology have garnered American support for a war.

To explain the paradox of American power -- that combination of a high level of military spending with a low level of acceptable risk -- I believe this, it is useful to use McClellan and Grant to represent the two poles of the American dialectic. Both McClellan and Grant started from the same premise: the prerequisite to fighting a war was amassing a force disproportionately greater than the enemy's. However, while the strategic premise was the same, the tactics were much different. McClellan Civil War career has become infamous for the chances he refused to take. He was tender for the lives of his men. It was a this caution that doomed his Virginia campaign of 1862. As one private wrote, "We are at a loss to imagine whether this is strategy or defeat." (Gallagher)

Grant's tactics were very different. He used the advantage of a more numerous army to raise the level of casualties he would accept. This made it possible to continue inflicting casualties on the enemy in a more prolonged way than was ever seen before, in the campaign. The general stress broke the army of Northern Virginia. It is easy to forget that Grant's ultimate success was preceded by general shock at the the bloodletting he was prepared to countenance -- a shock that so shook the Union side that Lincoln, in the middle of the election campaign of 1864, thought he was going to lose. Grant's position was made plain in a telegram Sherman, with whom he was in perfect agreement, sent to Halleck, one of the incompetent Union commanders, after Vicksburg:

``War is upon us, none can deny it. It is not the choice of the Government of the United States, but of a faction; the Government was forced to accept the issue, or to submit to a degradation fatal and disgraceful to all the inhabitants. In accepting war, it should be `pure and simple' as applied to the belligerents. I would keep it so, till all traces of the war are effaced; till those who appealed to it are sick and tired of it, and come to the emblem of our nation, and sue for peace. I would not coax them, or even meet them half-way, but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it....

This is the kind of language spoken by legendary American commanders, like Sherman, Grant, Patton and Macarthur. The words are stirring. We shouldn't be deluded, however, into thinking that the feelings are typical. McClellan's caution has never been submerged by Grant's boldness in the mix of American foreign policy and military strategy. In fact, it is the McClellan pole that drives the fundamental US military strategy of the moment: replacing the manpower of battle with military technology. The goal is to achieve Grant's objective with McClellan's tenderness for American life. This works in the case of those military engagements that can be decided solely by weaponry. However, occupation is, by definition, not one of those strategies. In fact, by raising the optimistic vision of a bloodless (at least for our side) war, it prepares the guerillas advantage -- blows struck against the occupying forces will be illogically magnified because they are judged against the background of a military technical utopia.

The best argument against the imperial design of the Wolfiwitzes is to appeal to the reality of this American pattern, in which the cost of an enterprise is judged rigidly against the benefit it brings. The benefit brought by regime change in Iraq is obvious -- but the benefit wrought by invading and occupying Iraq is not. The landscape, as it appears to D.C. foreign policy honchos, is one of overwhelming American power. But the landscape since 9/11 has changed. Guerillas may not possess nuclear missiles, but they can forge the weapons of mass destruction out of boxcutters and American airliners. in treating Iraq as though it were merely a problem amenable to a Grant-like solution, we are putting ourselves into a situation in which all alternatives are impalatable. Assuming that 9/11, and the suicide bombers in Israel, are omens of things to come, the occupying U.S. forces in Iraq will be subject to the constant low attrition of guerilla warfare, with its morale breaking concomitants: a desire to strike blows against a dispersed enemy driving general dispersed acts of mayhem against the native population, which in turn creates mutual distrust between American forces and the native population, which in turn creates a gap between the ostensible reasons for the American presence (that they somehow 'represent' the aspirations of the native people) and the reality of it. Bush is edging into a situation in which the choices will be an unacceptable withdrawal from Iraq, and an unacceptable occupation of Iraq.

This situation should look familiar. It is Vietnam.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Remora
Peace, he said tediously, again, and again, and again...



This is a heartening story. The antiwar demonstrations are supposed to be huge this weekend. Here's the Guardian forecasting the demo weather:

"Many countries will witness the largest demonstrations against war they have ever seen. The majority will be small but 500,000 people are expected in London and Barcelona, and more than 100,000 in Rome, Paris, Berlin and other European capitals. In the US, organisers were yesterday anticipating 200,000 marching in New York if permission is given. A further 100,000 are expected to march in 140 other American cities."

We wonder, though, why these vast masses seem to have no healthy effect on their leaders. Tony Blair might be threatened, but Berlusconi and Aznar, among others, seem to be doing just fine. There's a sense in which it seems that opinion, in Europe, is moving in suspended animation, while the leadership, elected by the good burgers to their offices every manjack, seem not to care.

And another anti-war story in the Observer, by Mary Riddell, deserves to be read -- if not for its argument, at least for its style. Here is the heart of the thing, beginning with the Colin Powell speech:


"All suspicion and no proof, Le Monde complained the next day. That is not quite fair. It is true that, in trying to hitch Iraq to the war on terror, Bush and Blair have offered the long-running impression of a Jane Austen matriarch attempting to betroth an ageing daughter to a regency buck. Once again, Secretary Powell offered no credible evidence that Saddam and al-Qaeda are an item. Otherwise, his case was plausible, if you discount the toytown security dossier compiled by the internet pirates of Downing Street. Saddam, as we knew, has chemical and biological weapons. He is a murderous tyrant bent on obfuscation. Powell's assertions of mobile laboratories and field officers whispering of nerve agents did not sound mad. The absence of even a smoking catapult may not matter. You can buy almost the entire Powell package, agree that victory might be swift and still reject the case for war.

It is late. We are past the five to mid night set by Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector. Saddam's attempts to turn back time are likely to be spurned by Bush. The 'Screaming Eagles', the 101st Airborne Division whose 36-hour deployment capacity makes it the harbinger of war, have landed. In this time of nemesis, doves are pitied, or reviled in the case of Tony Benn and his Listen with Saddam broadcast, suitable for credulous under-fives.

And still the case for peace is stronger than the argument for war. The imperative of smashing Saddam before he goes for us ignores three caveats. There is no sign he plans to do so. Pre-emption encourages the bellicose, from Washington to Pyongyang, to arm up and strike first. And we have been here before."

There are polemics and there are polemics. The only kind worth a shit, in the end, are the thick ones -- dense with cross-references, sublimated madness, indignation lighting up the flow charts of reason like search lamps illuminating a landing area for risky craft. Riddell writes like that

Here is the opposition. From the Telegraph, we have this incomparable bit of propaganda:

Next Saturday, more than half a million people are expected to march to Hyde Park Corner. They will be demonstrating against the attempts of George W Bush and Tony Blair to prevent a man who is a proven mass murderer from holding on to his weapons of mass destruction.

Here are some of the facts the half a million or so marchers do not recognise: Saddam Hussein has already demonstrated his willingness to use chemical weapons; he has started two wars with unprovoked attacks on neighbouring countries; he was the only Arab head of state who openly celebrated the suicide hi-jackers who killed nearly 3,000 people in the US on September 11, 2001; he was also the only one who made Osama bin Laden his "man of the year". And, for those who care about the UN, Saddam Hussein has blatantly violated UN Resolution 1441."

Those are some facts all right. We especially like the "man of the year" thingy. We thought Time Magazine was the only institution bold enough to make such choices -- but no! Saddam is encroaching on Time's turf! So we turned to google, and sure enough -- Saddam has a site, Mykindofmanoftheyearohdear.com. It goes back to 1971, when, of course, Charles Manson swept the field. As S.H. said, at the time, Fearfully cool, the way he whacked those weak American sonovabitch! It was a mother of a whacking, if I say so myself. Charlie, I like the Beatles too, which I listen to in my secular Ba'athist military headquarters before I go out bashing Kurd head -- but I can't compare my fanaticism to yours, brother!" Other men of the year have included Pol Pot, John Gacy, and -- a special twofer -- those Columbine cuties, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. As Saddam said at the time, 'these two remind me of myself in my youth, except of course I was sexually much more fertile, like unto the bull. Ah, like them, I lacked only one thing -- a nice bazooka! Dad wouldn't give it to me! Ay, he regretted his fiendish stinginess as soon as I became Supreme Commander of All I Survey! But again I say, do not blame this killing, may God Bless it, on Eric and Dylan's listening of the riotous sounds of Marilyn Manson! He has stolen too much, may he die and suffer in the fires of hell, from Kraut Rock, this so called Marilyn! Eric and Dylan would never be so fooledly foolish! As for Nine Inch Nails, what can I say? They were once as tough as a corps of Republican Guards, and now are as wimpy as, well, the Kuwaiti Army.
Notes

The Lion and the Lizard

My friend, H., who is traveling about the world, is not yet writing for the Iranian. This is a pity, since the Iranian is one of the most interesting sites on the web, and if H. ever comes across these words, we'd like to know why he hasn't contacted them yet. Why, H.?

There's a sad essay by Abbas Milani, a Persian (he insists on Persian) intellectual, who dilates on the varied glories of Persian culture -- glories which are reflected in a mirror we know, the mirror of Western writers. After tracing fragments of the Persian interlocutor in this history -- a figure that I must imagine from footprints and echoes, since I am ignorant of the very rudiments of Persian history -- he ends with this coda:

"Furthermore, as the West began to take its leap into modernity, we fell into a dread abyss of tyranny, religious fanaticism and irrationalism. We have yet to altogether free ourselves from these benighted conditions. Khayam could have been referring to our time, when he wrote, "They say the lion and the lizard Keep/the court where Jamshid gloried and drank deep."

Maybe on nights like these we are allowed to dwell on the glories of our past; we are, after all, gathered here to help support the education of a new generation of Persians, whose critical understanding of the accomplishments of our much abused nation will make them wise and gallant torch-bearers in the long, complicated, sometimes terrible, often glorious march of our history and heritage."

The lion and the lizard are at least respectably iconic beasts. What can we say of the ruinous Bush administration, except that the armadillo and the diamond back rattler seem to keep their swampy watch/where Lincoln once made his melancholy round.

And getting back to Italy...
When LI first started this site, we served up several juicy meditations about the intricacies of Italian politics. We were brought up short by Alan, who now runs the Gadflybuzz site. Alan advised us that Italian politics was probably repulsing more readers than it was drawing.

Alas, this was good advice. So we lowered ourselves to comment on, well, American current events. Not as exciting, not as exciting. Italian politics is so exciting that it eventually wears down the participant. This might be the reason that more isn't being made out of the latest scandal to exhibit the unhealthy roots of Berlusconi's fortune, and its prolongation in his government's evident plan to nurture corruption. Here's the latest, from the World Press:


"On Jan. 7, 2003, Antonino Giuffre�once a key aide to the fugitive Mafia kingpin Bernardo Provenzano, now an informer�confirmed that Mafia figures had been in contact with members of Berlusconi's Fininvest company to negotiate the terms of their political support for Berlusconi�s election campaign. He also clearly stated that several Mafiosi, including a Palermo boss named Stefano Bontade, had met the Italian premier at his villa outside Milan many years before Berlusconi entered politics in 1993. According to Giuffre�s testimony, Bontade used to go to Berlusconi�s villa to visit his friend (and Mafioso) Vittorio Mangano, who was employed as the stable manager at Berlusconi�s country estate, Villa D�Arcore.

Giuffre is testifying in the ongoing trial of Senator Marcello Dell�Utri, who stands accused of laundering mob money through Publitalia, the publishing company he formerly managed. Publitalia, which is Italy�s largest publishing house, is owned by Berlusconi�s company Fininvest. Prosecutors allege that the Sicilian-born Dell�Utri was very close to top mobsters and allowed the Mafia to use Fininvest accounts to launder dirty money."

Anybody who has followed Berlusconi's fine effort to instantiate Marx's dictum in the 18th Brumaire (Hegel says somewhere that all great events and personalities in world history reappear in one fashion or another. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce) will know that the man's fortune has been entangled with suspect mysteries and peripheral frauds from the beginning. That, in fact, the impetus to his political career might well have been simply to avoid trial. But the latest is truly fascinating. Here's another graf from the story:

On Nov. 27, Berlusconi himself was questioned during Dell�Utri�s trial. He exercised his �right to silence,� refusing to reveal the source of 99 billion lira (US$55.3 million) used to build his empire between 1978 and 1983. Prosecutors suspect that the money came from Mafia boss Bontade. According to Rome�s center-left La Repubblica (Nov. 28) �the Italian premier had the right to refuse to answer, but he also had the moral duty to clarify the issue since he is the prime minister of a democratic nation.�

On Dec. 3, La Repubblica revealed what Giuffre had told the police a month earlier: �The Mafia have chosen to support (and vote for) Forza Italia because the Mafia always choose the best horse. Boss Bernardo Provenzano managed to find three direct channels to the leader of Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi.�

Italy, though, is strangely quiet. As Berlusconi throws his unconditional support (although no Italian soldiers) behind Bush, as he refuses to divest himself of his media empire, as he pushes throught he worst kind of anti-labor legislation, Italy takes it. This is the politics of numbness, the anaesthetic that follows the revelation of systemic corruption. It is never counted on by the reformer, whose sense of shock is enlivened, rather than deadened, by the intensity of the injury. Freud's paper on War Trauma, written in 1915, certainly applies to the infamous system of corruption that has formed Belusconi as its clown-herald, and that is now debauching the rights of labor in Rome. Substitute, in the following quote, politics for war, and you will have the attitude towards corruption that emancipates it from the indignation it deserves:

"War carries off the levels of silt deposited by civilization and leaves in us only the primitive man. It puts us in the attitude of the hero who doesn't believe in the possibility of his own death; it shows us, in the stranger, the enemy, who will will either have to eliminate or at least wish to eliminate. It counsels us to guard our cold bloodedness in the face of the death of beloved persons. But war doesn't let itself be suppressed. There will be as many wars and there will be differences well enough dug between the conditions of existence of peoples and in as much as they feel towards one another a deep enough antipathy. The question posed in these conditions is the following: given that war is inevitable, wouldn't we do better to accept it, and even to adapt ourselves to it?"

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Remora

The NYT does a soft soap job on Jose Maria Aznar, who represents the dwindled ghost of Francisco Franco and is otherwise employed as the Prime Minister of Spain, in today's paper. As part of the comedy of human relations, we are told that the U.S. is shifting its strategic priorities to such as Aznar, and Burlesque-oni in Italy, and whoever in Poland. What this could possibly mean, in military or economic terms, is beyond LI. Are they planning on kicking the Daimler factory out of South Carolina and alluring in its place, uh, the Polish branch of Fiat? Beyond rhetorical support, we know that Aznar is not so incautious as to commit the Spanish army to the invasion of Iraq. Like his model, Franco, who wisely avoided involvement in that unpleasantness known as World War II in spite of his debt to two of the war's big players, Aznar realizes the exchange value of rhetoric, in this case, is way beyond its real value. Pen a letter, get your profile in the Times. The idea is, surely Bush can do something for the most syncophantic of his allies. However, that is one problem with the administration's unipolar policy. Allies are not rewarded on the Cold War scale anymore. Instead, promises slowly melt into cheap dribs and drabs of aid. Krugman has a column about Bush's followup today that sums it up.


To return to the Aznar soft soaping: in the last grafs of the piece, the picture changes, somewhat:

"This does not always play well at home, especially in an atmosphere of prewar tension heightened by popular opposition to a war in Iraq. Opinion polls show that more than 70 percent of Spaniards oppose intervention in Iraq.

Asked about anti-Americanism in Spain, Mr. Aznar said: "There might be people who believe that to ensure peace and security in the world, we must distance ourselves from the U.S., but I don't see it like that. I believe that rifts between the U.S. and Europe have signaled bad times for global peace."

Mr. Aznar's arguments in support of force to disarm Mr. Hussein are dismissed by other Spanish political parties. Most scorn what they see as Mr. Aznar's willingness to fall into line with Washington.

The opposition Socialist leader, Jos� Luis Rodr�guez Zapatero, accused Mr. Aznar of seeking support for "whatever Mr. Bush says." Guillerme V�zquez of the Galician Nationalist Bloc told Mr. Aznar, "You are the voice of your master," while Gaspar Llamazares, leader of the United Left Party, called him "a vassal" of the United States. "

Vassal is a good one, but 'voice of your master" isn't. Aznar is, to say the least, not in the inner circle of his master; he's no where near the voice box. The article makes the obligatory reference to Bush's spanish speaking skills. It makes no reference to his last spanish language buddy, Mexican President Fox. If Aznar wants to find out what being close to the inner circle and then being discarded like a stray piece of toilet paper feels like, he might ask Fox.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Remora

First, let's note that the D.C. crowd that has told us, for months, that France wouldn't go eye to eye with the U.S. over Iraq seem to be wrong. And the LI, of course (our record is as perfect as the Wizard of Oz's) spotted this assumption for what it was: baseless confidence.

However, there is trepidation all over Europe about this. Tageszeitung, which is certainly a lefty paper, calls the way the German's casually told the press, first, about the Franco-German initiative Stuemperei -- bungling.


"And even the healthy suggestion that Washington with its power dynamic driving it to war should be braked by the massive strengthening of the inspection regime in Irak has been, almost certainly, condemned to fail through the manner in which the whole undertaking was pursued by Berlin."

The editorialist for Point could work for the Washington Post, so eager is he for this war, so repelled is he that Chirac would desert the American side for the confused pacificism of those Germans


"L'�tonnant, chez nous, est d'avoir paru �pouser d'aussi pr�s la contorsion �lectoraliste allemande d'un chancelier chancelant, encore �trill�, dimanche dernier, dans son propre fief de Basse-Saxe. Etonnant, encore, d'avoir n�glig� � ce point l'�cart des nations latines - Italie, Espagne, Portugal -, dont la solidarit� importe tant � la France dans les �quilibres europ�ens. Par quelle outrecuidance euphorique avons-nous pu ignorer la division europ�enne que nous allions ainsi fomenter ? Quant au l�galisme international invoqu� pour l'Irak, convenons que nous l'avions ailleurs, et par deux fois, �corn� : d'abord en d�cidant de recevoir � Paris le tyran zimbabw�en Mugabe ; ensuite en nous abstenant dans le vote bouffon qui allait porter la Libye � la pr�sidence de la Commission des droits de l'homme des Nations unies."

(Astonishingly, we appear to have nearly espoused the German electoral contorsions of a tottering chancellor, still injured by the results, last sunday, of the elections in his own fief, Lower Saxony. And even more astonishing, we have neglected to this point the latin nations: Italy, Spain and Portugal -- whose solidarity means so much to France in the european balance of power. By what overbroiled euphoria could we have ignored the european divisions that we are fomenting? As to the international legalism invoked for Iraq, lets agree that we have not been so tender two other times, recently: firstly, in deciding to receive Mugabe in Paris, and then in abstaining in the clownish vote that carried Libya to the post of presidency of the commisssionof the rights of man at the UN.)


Finally, the Independent columnist Donald Macintyre is most distressed at the French German proposal, too. He contrasts the U.N's finest hour (which turns out to be the Bush I coalition) with today's mess:

How different now. "It's the UN that's really on the line," says Professor Michael Mandelbaum, one of America's best foreign policy specialists.

"Transatlantic relations will be noisy and contentious. But they'll be like the workings of a democracy, where disputes ultimately are secondary to what bind the parties together.

"Iraq is now shaping up for the UN's credibility as the 1930s Manchurian crisis did for the League of Nations. The odd thing is that those who profess to love the UN the most (ie the French) are undermining it, while those that don't greatly like it (the US), are trying to give it teeth. If it fails, no one would lose more than the French."

The latter is something we doubt. It is clearly the intent of the US, under the present regime, to go it alone if it feels like it. Columnists have decided to loftily eliminate popular sentiment from the equation. But is it true that, say, in Spain, where 70% of the population opposes any war, France is losing respect? I think not. Bush is urging a course upon the nations of Europe which is directly opposed to the popular sentiment, and has been for the past year. We've already seen Schroeder get re-elected on the strength of that sentiment -- in spite of his economic record. Of course, the Spanish and the Italians prime ministers, signing love letters to the US via the Wall Street Journal, is one thing -- paying for invading Iraq is quite another thing. For that, America wants to turn to Old Europe. But Old Europe doesn't want to spring for this party.
Dope

We've been preparting to review Neill Ferguson's Empire for a certain paper. So we have been drifting through The Cash Nexus, Ferguson's hefty volume about money and power in the world system since 1700. We found the chapter on state deficits quite helpful in getting our bearings about the coming red inkiness that will be the legacy of the Bush era.

Ferguson points out that governments in the early modern period were quite cavalier about owing money. The French defaulted on their debts almost every decade, until Louis XVI fatally called a halt to the practice. It was the refusal of France's creditor's to lend more money that prompted the court to call the Estates General into session, and we know that heads literally rolled after that. So never say that a national debt has no effect on our real lives. although that is the current smoke drifting out of D.C. Interesting, too, is the US history of debt. After the Civil War, the debt level was around 50% of GNP -- which was extraordinarily low for a state the size of the U.S. We suspect that this figure is not quite accurate -- does it include Confederate debts that were repudiated, as well as the distributed debts of the states? The federal system has a way of spreading out the true indebtedness of the government, just as it spreads out the tax burden. Interestingly, for a Tory, Ferguson is pretty calm himself about governmental borrowing -- not for him the nostrums of the balanced budget. Which already puts him ahead of the IMF crowd, at least.

However, looking over his dense stats, the one thing that stands out is that debt and the military are indissolubly linked, the price of the latter being paid for by the former, and the former then driving the policies that inevitably resulting in the use of the latter. The cash nexus, here, is an arms nexus. From the money spent by the British establishment to destroy Napoleon to the money spent by LBJ to destroy Ho Chi Minh, it is obvious that "defense" -- or, to give it another, more appropriate name, "offense" -- has driven government economics. A level can be reached at which the commonwealth is ruined to the extent that it can no longer re-arm -- but this simply means that others will arm in its place, and often on its soil. Germany has been the most pacific of nations during the last fifty years, but it has also been the place with the largest concentration of tactical nuclear missiles, as well as a vast staging area for US and, until 1989, Russian troops.

Pacifists often act as though war is simply a matter of directed violence; what they ignore is that violence is a functioning part of a larger culture: that it creates an order; that that order creates dependents on the order; and that those dependents have a tradition to draw on that is quite attractive to the leaders of a state, who are often (as in the case of Cheney, et al) one and the same people. The unimaginableness of an economy from which violence had been eliminated acts on states to create seemingly irrational situations. Whatever else we say about Saddam Hussein, we have to say that his resistance to exploring weapons research for weapons he cannot effectively use -- since he has been in no position to use them for the past ten years -- shows that he is, even fatally, addicted to the cash-arms nexus.

Peacetime economics has not actually happened, at least in the modern era. We wonder what it would look like.

Samuel Brittan has an interesting review of Ferguson's book that seems, now, to be pretty prescient. Here's a graf that we especially liked:

"In conclusion Ferguson moves onto more interesting ground in his theory of "under-stretch". He looks at a world full of rogue states and genocidal regimes. In deliberate contrast to Kennedy, he considers that this world can only be made safe if the US and its allies are prepared to restore defence budgets which have shrunk so much since the end of the Cold War. I wonder. In the Kosovo conflict which the West only won - if it did win - by luck and bluff, it was not the lack of military spending but the refusal to risk a single American casualty which handicapped the campaign."

Unexpectedly, the American aversion to risk has so far magnified casualties of those who oppose American forces, by upping the amount of firepower thrown upon them, as well as stimulating technologies that will massively decimate them. This is solidly in the American military tradition. It takes Grant's inelegant, but efficient, military strategy of overwhelming might and tries to eliminate its glaring vice, to American eyes: the high casualties. You might say it is Grant's strategy combined with McClellan's timidity. The failure of this strategy in Vietnam stemmed from the fact that a rate of small casualty losses, strung out over an extended period, has an effect on the morale equal to large casualties suffered over a short period. We think this hypothesis is about to be tested.