Archive for the ‘foreign policy’ Category

legalization will do what?

Fester over at Newshoggers proposes that we legalize all drugs and put high taxes on them in order to drive drug lords out of business. He makes an excellent point that drug lords are only becoming more and more powerful, and that Mexico is becoming destabilized, possibly to the point of becoming a criminal-controlled state, which would be a disaster for the US. This argument is good in theory, i.e., US pharmaceutical companies could make heroin and cocaine, etc., much more cheaply than the drug lords and could then drive them out of business.

What it fails to recognize is that drug lords don’t compete along capitalist lines, they compete along lines of both market and projection of violence. If big US pharmaceutical companies become competitors, then drug lords will have the executives executed, chemists murdered or kidnapped, and normal employees bullied and harassed. There will be no way the companies can provide sufficient security; they would have to secure every employee’s home. Also, if the companies have to greatly increase security, then that greatly increases their costs, meaning the drugs they produce won’t necessarily be that competitive against drug lords with established markets.

As a side note, high taxes will be counter-productive, decreasing the competitiveness of legally-manufactured drugs, as I noted earlier.

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h/t Instapundit, who seems to like the idea.

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Iraq war reasoning link roundup

This is a collection point for links to well-reasoned, relevant posts and articles, as well as primary documents, relating to the war in Iraq. It will be updated whenever I have new links.

Authorization & Goals

H.J. Resolution 114: Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq; clearly lays out the goals to be achieved

Legality

Gabriel Malor on war powers, w/ links to his three posts on AUMF

  1. Congress declared war
  2. No difference between AUMF and formal declaration of war
  3. History of declarations of war

General Reasoning and Debate Links

Owen Harries Primer for Polemicists

the danger of the UN, part 2

Sudan is free to commit genocide because it supplies China with oil.  As a permanent UNSC member, China has veto power over all UNSC resolutions, so actually doing anything to stop the genocide in Sudan would be impossible to do legally.

In a similar way, the UN system is responsible for supporting tyrants and oppression around the world.

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part 1

the danger of the UN

In the comments to a post at abu muqawama (a good COIN blog), there is a discussion of the role of the UN in world security. I take the position that it has recently made the world a more dangerous place. Here is my argument, which is also posted in abu muqawama’s comments. (The whole post is worth a read as well.)

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a direct result of the UN’s corruption during the sanctions period. If the UN had authorized the removal of Saddam in 1998 when the inspectors decided he was making their job impossible, they could have given him one last chance and he would have made good on it, or not. Whether Saddam complied or not, and been removed or not, the UN would have been both effective and seen as effective, and it would have kept the proper relationship between US military force and the UN. This would have probably been the best resolution.

Instead, when Butler and his inspectors left Iraq, the UN did nothing, and effectively the Coalition did nothing. Of course, by that time three of the permanent members of the UNSC had been bought by offers to allow their oil companies to develop Iraqi oil fields once sanctions were lifted. Since the US had made a big show of following the UNSC, Saddam considered himself safe to do as he pleased.

What pleased him was causing pretty big numbers of Iraqis to die due to malnutrition and lack of proper medical care after he had corrupted the Oil for Food program. The UN officials he bought looked the other way, and he and his cronies got wealthier while his propaganda machine exploited the deaths he caused to build hatred against the US. AQ cited Iraqi deaths under sanctions as one reason they attacked the US, I believe, and I am fairly certain Saddam’s propaganda on the sanctions helped recruit anti-US terrorists in the late 90s and early 2000s.

At the same time, Saddam was funding and supporting terrorist groups, particularly ones that targeted Israel. Since the Isreali-Palestinian issue is seen as key to peace in the ME, Saddam’s influence was for more war and less peace.

The UN was Saddam’s main protector, regardless of what he did, what laws he broke, or how many deaths he caused, because he bribed the relevant components of it. This contributed far more to violence and instability than to peace, law and order. Clearly the UN increased the threat of violence in the ME and the world during that decade, and it has not apparently improved in the meantime.

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part 2

just rhetoric? what?

All of the hooplah about Obama’s spiritual advisor has generated a little blogstorm it seems. The Anchoress, whom I very much respect, says this is destructive:

I was in the car today and flipped on Sean Hannity and heard him really carrying on, saying that because Obama “sat in those pews for 20 years,” even if he repudiated Wright it would not be “credible.”

. . .

Is Hannity suggesting that a politician must review a pastor’s sermons each week and run around denouncing and deserting those preachers who might cause him a little bit of political heat? Wouldn’t that be both extreme behavior and a bit dis-crediting?

. . .

Wright’s rhetoric is extreme, but it’s just rhetoric.

This issue is pretty thoroughly hashed out in the comments and, whichever side you are on, I highly recommend them. The Anchoress’ comments in response to opponents especially made me think about this issue.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about that last line up there, “it’s just rhetoric.”

Nonsense. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and it is rarely empty. All a political campaign is, for example, is rhetoric. Nothing more. Even the showy parts, wearing a flag pin (or not), kissing babies, making policy speeches, debates, these are all rhetoric. If the Anchoress means that Wright’s rhetoric is hyperbolic, that’s one thing. To say it’s just rhetoric, as if there is no meaning imparted, as if no one’s mind could possibly be changed by it, is false and dangerous. It was ignoring Hitler’s rhetoric that resulted in WWII. It was ignoring Al Qaeda’s rhetoric that probably led us to fail to predict the 9/11 attacks. It’s been ignoring the racist, hateful, divisive rhetoric of certain black preachers and the Nation of Islam that has strengthened racial division in the US and prevented healing and reconciliation to a certain extent.

Rhetoric should be treated seriously. When the results of one’s words have real consequences, one can stick to his guns or modify his words. Either way, it is only by taking words seriously and acting on what our fellow citizens say that we find out whether the words were truly meaningful or empty rhetoric.

(This post will have a follow-up.) Update 2008 June 21: Or maybe not. It’s been too long to even remember what I wanted to follow up with. I blame grad school.

american empire?

In response to a dreadful piece of faux-journalism in the Atlantic entitled The Price of Empire:

In 1945 neither the Germans nor Japanese had a choice in whether or not to be occupied. However, since then, the democratically elected governments of both nations have renewed the defense treaties and agreed to continue to host US bases. What is more, both governments have enacted policies antithetical to American interests from time to time, for example, Japan’s export policies, and Germany’s refusal to go along with the invasion of Iraq.

Next, empires by definition are physically maintained by force (cf. Rome, British Empire) and for the economic benefit of the empire, frequently to the detriment of the subservient regions. In the cases of both Germany and Japan, however, we see a voluntary military association that could be abridged by the German or Japanese governments, and we see that rather than economically profiting from these associations, the US poured huge sums of money into these nations for no defined economic gain. These two nations are in no way cases of empire as normally understood.

However, in the early 20th century, the Lenin-Hobson (i.e., communist) theory of empire asserted that capitalist nations who run out of internal ways to use capital will then turn outwards and will force weaker nations into economic subservience, creating a new kind of empire. The Lenin-Hobson concept of empire also turns on the use of coercion backed up by armed force. This has turned out to be false, but has become a mainstay of leftist thinking since it was published.

If, for the sake of argument, we allow both cases, then an empire is maintained by coercion and at least the threat of military force. Iraq and Afghanistan may or may not fit into this category (depending on whether the US pours more money in or takes more out of each of them)*, but Japan and Germany, who freely signed renewals of their defense treaties with the US, certainly do not.

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h/t to Winds of Change

* Update: Actually, whether or not these two nations are part of an alleged American empire depends on several factors, first among them being whether or not they become fully independent nations, whether they are being exploited economically, etc. Right now I find it highly improbable, but I also maintain that we don’t know everything going on, so my estimate may change later.

Update ( June 29, 2008 ): Armed and Dangerous has an excellent post that approaches the topic from a different angle, followed up by a reply to a commenter.

Bush welcome in Africa

I’m posting this just cuz.

Bush has done a lot of good internationally, as did Clinton before him.  Neither seems to get much domestic respect for their work, and Bush doesn’t get much outside of Africa, it seems.