Woodrow Wilson Redux?

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Novelist and military historian Caleb Carr, who has been known to take some pretty stupid dystopian flights of fancy, has an interesting piece in The New York Observer regarding the possible return of Wilsonian foreign policy and why that would be a bad thing:

"I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men!" Woodrow Wilson once railed; and although [Paul] Wolfowitz?s statements about Iraq and the Middle East are more soft-spoken and rambling, they often have the same sense of high moral purpose?and the same low estimation of the aspirations and abilities of the local populace. Like Latin Americans in Wilson?s day, the people of the Middle East are generally people who have lived under post-imperial petty autocracies for so long that they have almost forgotten that any other type of government exists. And, again like those Latin Americans of a century ago, they look primarily to religion to ease the burdens of repressive regimes.

Indeed, there is entirely too much about the Middle East of today that might attract a Wilsonian missionary. The President-Who-Should-Have-Been-Preacher never did manage to "teach the South American republics" much of anything, except that they didn?t understand what he was talking about?and, after enough harangues and bullets, no longer cared to even try.

Can President Bush, following Mr. Wolfowitz?s ideas, do better with Muslims than Wilson did with Latin Americans? It seems unlikely, since neither man seems ready to drop the didactic tone, with its attendant belief that the native population in question is made up not of men and women, but of ignorant children. And whatever small chance Mr. Bush and Mr. Wolfowitz might have at success seems further doomed by still another factor that played a central role in giving the lie to Wilson?s supposedly beneficent policies: the voracious appetite of international American corporations.

I'm far from convinced that "American corporations" will play a make or break role in post-Saddam Iraq, but Carr's analysis is worth checking out. That he was pro-war adds to the mix.

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  1. Where is Lazarus Long ?

  2. I have decided to fade back to lurker status. I am pretty much convinced that posting here is a waste of time (the authors of the posts rarely respond, most of the comments are off topic, lots of trolls and name calling — you get the drift). Hope that clears up any mystery of my status.

  3. Sounds like someone is whining.

  4. Nope, just informing. Now go back to your bitching.

  5. hey Laz!

    even though you are now a lurker (a great monster in the old-school computer game “bard’s tale”), i do appreciate you didn’t give me an “i told you so” for one of my wonders of how turkey would behave. you were dead on with that — i tip my hat.

    cheers!
    drf

  6. Lazarus,

    The only who is bitching here is you.

    “I am pretty much convinced that posting here is a waste of time (the authors of the posts rarely respond, most of the comments are off topic, lots of trolls and name calling — you get the drift).”

    I have to ask – if you despise Hit N’ Run so much, why lurk to begin with? Are you a masochist perhaps, or just desperate?

  7. I have to go with the anti-war crowd on Syria. Yes, they’re annoying, yes they’re undemocratic, yes they’re a nasty place, but:

    1) Israel nicely contains them. Those chemical weapons are for internal use (sad and reprehensible, but not a threat) and to deter Israel. But Israel has them more than deterred with nukes of their own, and Syria won’t waste its deterrent on anybody else while they have Israel at their door.

    2) They aren’t strong enough to take on the rest of their neighbors.

    3) They support terrorism, but to a much lower degree than they used to.

    4) We need to rest and re-arm unless there is a dire crisis, like a North Korean invasion-level crisis.

    5) The administration isn’t going into Syria anytime soon anyway, since they just recalled two carriers.

    It’s one thing to take out a regime that was forcing us to stay heavily in Saudi, quite another to go after one who’s been behaving better, not worse, as time goes on.

    And yes, I supported, reluctantly, taking out Saddam.

  8. “… trolls and name-calling…”

    Perfect!

  9. “So whoever you disagree with is a “moron?” If I thought everyone who disagreed with me was a moron, I wouldn’t frequent a libertarian website, now would I?

    “What are you, some kind of morally relativistic pipsqueak leftie traitor?” Who talks like this? Did you get hit with a rock quelling the ’68 riots, and just come out of the coma? You sound like Joe Friday on crank.

    “Why are you even trying to defend Syria?” I could give a rat’s ass about the Syrian government. I just find herb behavior amusing to watch. Oh, and I have this soft spot about not wanting to see large numbers of people get slaughtered. I guess I’m just a bad American.

    And if you didn’t get the “war with Eurasia” comment, you need to read more books.

  10. oh oceania! why don’t you cry for me? er, nevermind, you can go back to reading your commie books now 😀

  11. south american fundemntalist terrorists were planing on nuking NYC during the Wilson administration? who knew!

  12. The administration need to get on the road to Damascus. Don’t make the same mistake as the president’s father did in GWI, pulling back from Baghdad in their moment of victory. That’s why he lost his reelection. What’re we going to do, wait around for Bush’s son (Bush III) to finish the job? Ha!

  13. yeah, talk about snatching defeat away from the jaws of life. on to damascus!

  14. I’ve never before heard an American talk about the need the invade Syria – until this administration starts talking tough to them. Bam! All of a sudden, every moron in American decides it’s crucial that we do so.

    We’re at war with Eurasia. We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.

  15. >>We’re at war with Eurasia. We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.

  16. So whoever you disagree with is a “moron?” What are you, some kind of morally relativistic pipsqueak leftie traitor? Why are you even trying to defend Syria?

  17. One can actually make the case that Syria is an /actual threat/ to the United States because, unlike Iraq, Americans have /actually/ been killed in international terrorist incidents sponsored by Syria when it was ruled by Hafez Assad. That said, the September 11th hijackers have never seemed to have had anything to do with Syria, but that never stopped us before. Of course, none of us would have even thought that Syria was a threat in the Middle East if the Bush Administration didn’t tell us so (Iran and Libya, for example, are much more dangerous. Why is noone agitating for us to go down the “Road to Tehran”? You are all so predictable).

    More to the point, here’s a more appreciable parallel between Latin America and the Middle East. The abortive governments and the civil unrest that rose and fell in Latin America have ensured that no single Latin American nation is capable of positioning itself as a regional power or even one that can competently project any military power outside their borders. This seems to be the vision of the future Middle East– “You have the chance to democratize, and if you succeed great, and if you fail, your countries will be too broken after all that for us to care.” And while this strategy didn’t work well in 1990s-era Afghanistan, we might decide it’s worth another try.

  18. One thing is clear from this article: Caleb Carr is a certifiable retard. He’s for the war, then doesn’t want us to help them rebuild the country we blew the shit out of? He suggests we “let its people live as they wish,” (as if such empty, cliched generalities have any relevance beyond the rhetorical) and offers no advice on how to build such consensus without democratic institutions of some kind. I submit to him that the best way to allow “people [to] live the way they wish” is to help them build some type of democracy, as that is, after all, what we’ve been doing around these parts for 230 years. What precisely is he saying, that we should just install a benevolent, pro-U.S. dictator? (After all, why not just squander the Near East’s biggest chance for change for the better that’s come along in years -or ever-, while betraying our Iraqi exile allies in the process?)

    Or am I just missing the point or being didactic?

  19. every moron in American decides it’s crucial that we do

    So what alternative do you propose? Like Rumsfeld has clearly stated, “I don?t quite understand a country that foregoes the economic opportunity that comes from interaction with the world community and the opportunities for their people by creating an environment that?s hospitable to enterprise and to economic intercourse.” I don’t quite understand it either, and that’s fine.

    But if they take their misunderstanding to our doorstep and threaten us, then we have a problem. First and foremost, we take you out. Second, if we can persuade them to come by our way of thinking all the better. Them’s the spoils. That, in a nutshell, is our National Security Strategy; it’s that simple (and yes it encompasses Iran, Libya AND Syria; AND Eurasia and Latin America for that matter).

    All we are doing is ridding the world of dictators to make their people free to experience the unadulterated miracle of freedom, private property and laissez-faire capitalism. If some US corporations prosper from it, so be it. I do not begrudge them their well-earned profits because I believe oppressed peoples will profit ten-fold that from their ultimate liberation. Even a strict utilitarian libertarian can do the math and see that wealth is being created.

  20. Why don’t we just liberate France again?

  21. AND Eurasia dumbass. France is in Eurasia.

  22. The premise of the hawks appears to be that the Syrians are a “threat” to the US. Is that premise correct, or is it merely convenient? So far, I have as yet to see any evidence that Syria is a threat to the US in a way that would require the 3rd ID to come knocking down their door.

  23. Who do you believe, the President or the peaceniks? For Christ’s sake, WAKE UP. *shakes head sadly about the ignorant state of America*

  24. “Who do you believe, the President or the peaceniks? For Christ’s sake, WAKE UP. *shakes head sadly about the ignorant state of America*”

    Well, the administration told a lot of BIG lies to get us into the Iraq war and a lot of the peaceniks are confused lefties so its a hard one.
    But wait! Some of the anti-war folks are both rational and principled. Check out antiwar.com a libertarian founded web site,”American Conservative Magazine” and “Liberty” Magazine. Ah yes, love all three! My kind of Peaceniks!

  25. >> Don’t make the same mistake, as the president’s father did in GWI, of pulling back from Baghdad in their moment of victory. That’s why he lost his reelection.

  26. >> No single Latin American nation . . . can competently project any military power outside [its] borders.

  27. “All we are doing is ridding the world of dictators to make their people free to experience the unadulterated miracle of freedom, private property and laissez-faire capitalism.”

    We should be so lucky as to experience laissez-faire capitalism ourselves. Why are we assisting Israeli governments in depriving the Palestinians of their freedom? The Sharon government worst of all.

    All we are doing?…Our government killed and wounded thousands of civilians in the Iraq war The hidious lasting pain and hell of war.
    There are better ways to make people free. Check out “Reagan War” about his sruggle and defeat of
    Communism. Now there was a liberator!

    “If some US corporations prosper from it, so be it. I do not begrudge them their well-earned profits…”

    Very different then profits earned by voluntary patronage in a free economy. Not as honorable.

    “because I believe oppressed peoples will profit ten-fold that from their ultimate liberation.”

    You can’t be so sure about their ultimate liberation. What about Afghanistan?
    Check out “War at the top of the world” by Eric Margolis or his article in the March 24th issue of The American Conservative.

  28. Shipping oil out of Iraq, due south, on US-flag-bearing tankers using the narrow Gulf, is not only inconvenient, but downright dangerous — as the weekly tankers will have to pass insidious ambushes (like the coast of Iran, Yemen, Egypt’s Suez, etc.)

    Too volatile.

    A due-west pipeline, straight through Syria, and having an Israeli terminus, is a more optimal solution.

    Think we could get such a pipe through diplomatic negotiations?

    (Would that it were so.)

  29. That was supposed to read “herd behavior.” But I like it the other way, too.

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