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December 18, 2007



When you start at the bottom, it's pretty tough to go anywhere but up.


"Now security is being established; not perfect security, to be sure, but enough for the Iraqi government to be convincingly sovereign."

There needs to be movement from Iraqi politicians soon. I'm worried that the current lull has bolstered their ill-founded faith in the US' ability to restore order if things get out of hand. They're behaving like an investor taking on more and more risk for their faction (being aggressive in their demands) under the idea that if there's a serious reversal (anarchic violence) that the government (us) will bail them out. We need to make it clear that we're not going to wait for one side or another to gain ascendancy before leaving them to sleep in their own bed.

We owe Iraq a lot for our past mistakes, but in this case there's nothing else to do but to take a tough-love stance.

Of course, if the goal is to establish a permanent presence there I suppose everything is fine.


While the analogy with Germany and Japan has some merit, I think it is rather much to say that we have added a new instrument of policy to our repertoire. The reason is that there is a pre-condition for our use of this "instrument"--an attack on the American homeland that involves massive loss of life and that totally transforms the public mood so that the foreign action has public support (at least for a time). To be sure, neither Germany or Iraq themselves attacked us, but it was their perceived aliances with the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor and 911 that made these massive efforts to overthrow their governments possible. And a better test of the limits of this instrument than Iraq is Afghanistan. It is quite possible that our nation building effort could succeed in more modern, more secular Iraq but fail in the less developed Afghanistan. If that happened, it would set a boundary condition for the emerging historical law that American conquest leads more or less inexorably to liberal democracy. The Philipeans is another plasible example, as perhaps, is South Korea, though in each case, there are differences in the occasion and nature of the occupation. But if Afghanistan becomes another land locked Switzerland, count me a believer in the new law. Still even if that happens, this will be a purely reactive and, therefore, not very useful policy option-- unless the 911 truthers are correct;^)

Nathan Smith

re: Afghanistan.

If Afghanistan fails to make the transition to democracy, that would NOT "set a boundary condition for the emerging historical law that American conquest leads more or less inexorably to liberal democracy." Because the war in Afghanistan was not simply an American conquest; we relied heavily on local proxies. And that makes us beholden to them in different ways. There have been a lot of cases where America has overturned regimes with the help of proxies, and they have not had a strong tendency to lead to democracy. There seems to be something special about cases where effective control of the country is really, for a time, in the hands of Americans.

re: "there is a pre-condition for our use of this 'instrument'"

Well, two points. First, Iraq didn't attack us, so it is sort of a counter-example to the claim that we have to be attacked before we'll engage in regime change. But of course there does seem to be some obscure connection between 9/11 and Iraq, whether it's that much of the public *thought* Saddam attacked us, or that we were afraid Saddam might sponsor terrorism, or whatever. Second, even if we grant for the sake of argument that the instrument has only been used as a response to attacks on the US homeland, it doesn't follow that it can only be used that way in the future. The method demonstrated in Iraq for national security reasons could be applied for humanitarian reasons elsewhere.

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