Excellent commentary in The Nation about this push for a Gulf War II. Every single word is right on the money. Richard Falk addresses all the current ills that this government has thrust upon American foreign policy and upon the American international image. He also questions what has happened to our consititution in these times. His assessment of that constitutional crisis is almost identical to his words on it: it is in such a dire situation that it is almost an after thought. This shouldn't be. If war is to be made, it should be done the correct way. Unilateral strong-arming will gain us nothing.
Falk also is critical of American media for failing to illuminate the down side to an attack on Iraq. Similarly, he finds fault with the American public for not asking the tough questions. Lawmakers are not let off the hook either. His disappointment with Democratic legislators is apparent and his frustration that no dissident voice has arisen is clear.
The article calls for a real public debate on the costs and benefits of a major sequel war. In his most desparate call for dialogue, Fisk writes,
"A real public debate is needed not only to revitalize representative democracy but to head off an unnecessary war likely to bring widespread death and destruction as well as heighten regional dangers of economic and political instability, encourage future anti-American terrorism and give rise to a US isolationism that this time is not of its own choosing!"
The negative possibilities of a Gulf War II are evident. Does anyone see them?
Today's L.A. Times (via War in Context) has a poignant commentary that asks the simple question, "Where Is the Voice of Dissent?" It tells the story of Senator Wayne Morse who, during the Vietnam War, was not afraid to ask the tough questions and to show his opposition to the war publicly. He would use harsh imagery and biting argument to display his displeasure with the double standard of American policy. His honest voice would be seen as outlandish today. He had true ideals that he stuck by regardless of opposition.
Today's Congress is without that sort of candid character. The 107th Congress is filled with politicians who's only goal is to do what will earn them the most votes in the next election. Congressmen are in a state of constant campaigning. They lose focus of their principles, if they had any in the first place, and instead of listening to their conscience, they listen to their staffers who feed them the latest opinion polls.
Case in point has to be the current Democratic leadership. They couldn't waffle more if they tried. One day Tom Daschle is trying to be Mr. Tough Guy and stand up to Bush's policies, and the next, probably after he has seen the latest numbers, he goes public that he stands fully behind the President. What is that about? Unfortunately though, he is not alone. The ranking Democrat in the House, Dick Gephardt, is just as bad. Gephardt has, seeing that an attack on Iraq seems inevitable, has postured himself as having been in favor of such an attack all along. Surely both of these men, though there are many others, have aspirations for the White House and therefore are doing all they can to be in the spotlight. But, to ignore ones standards and personal philosophy at the expense of the latest polls is one of the gravest errors a presidential hopeful can ever make.
The only senior Congressman I have seen who has stuck by his principles regardless of how much flak he gets is Senator Lieberman. I attribute this to his part in the 2000 presidential campaign. He's been through the storm, and after the mess that was the 2000 election, he really can't get pegged for much more. However, Lieberman also hasn't lived up to the brutally honest standards of truth telling that Senator Wayne Morse set during the Vietnam War.
If Democrats want to earn the respect of the voters, they should be honest. It will go a long way. Stick with your ideology, not with what your pollsters say.
Those who push to attack Iraq seem to accept the idea that America is on its own and will be just fine doing so. This is the worst thing that this country should do. As soon as you don't think you need your allies you find that you need them more than ever. The only thing that can be accomplished by dismissing our European allies and other crucial partners is to irritate them to such a point that we will be without a friend in the world. Is this really what we want? Some say yes. Those are the people that think might alone will keep America in the position of lone superpower that it now holds. However, brawn without beauty will only breed resentment, hatred and indignation.
To be truely powerful America must show that it has a heart and that it respects and cherishes its fellow nation states. Even if it is blatantly evident that America is the world's strongest power, ("At almost $400 billion, The U.S. military budget will account for 45 percent of the world's military expenditures next year, or just about as much as all of its NATO allies, Russia, and China combined"), that does not mean that brushing off old, steadfast allies will not yield dangerous consequences.
Yes, America has the strongest military, sets the table for world politics, dominates global culture, and sets economic trends for nations of every size, potency, and will to succeed. All of these things are worth celebrating, for they all make America the most revered, respected, trusted, indebted to, and venerated nation since the age of the Caesars. However, this worldwide dominance also has created the evils that correspond to their opposing benevolences. American power has resulted in the hatred, jealousy, contempt and violence that made the targets of September 11 what they were: the two tallest buildings in America's largest and most vibrant city in which capitalism was busy doing its thing, and the home of American military brain power.
With power comes responsibility. That responsibility must be obvious to those who fall under the hegemonic hand of the one who holds the cards. For those government leaders who have pushed for a unilateral attack on Iraq, their plans are short-sided. Regardless of the pain that it may instill on the powers that be to use the mechanisms of international agreement prior to any action against a sovereign nation such as Iraq, the benefits gained from consultation with lesser allies will be harvested with plentitude in the future. America must be the benign superpower that it has hinted it can be. Respect for those lesser in might but equal in intellect will gain America the praise it deserves. While the will of our allies may be largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of events, an open ear will earn respect, admiration and thankfulness from around the globe. If the U.S. would like to retain its power for the long term, being the world's bully will not produce results. It is the gentle giant who has the most friends and who lives with the most security and peace.
Here's part four of that Tribune series. It looks at the creation of the European Union over time and how its slow, meticulous and excellently cultivated evolution has made it a utopian zone of peace and passivity. It also examines how the U.S. has encouraged its development but has nevertheless been frustrated at its complicated and indecisive nature.
In the article one contributor lists three things that define the relationship between the two powers: "Europeans want permanent institutions to embody general principles, while Americans want temporary institutions to solve particular problems. Europeans favor neutrality and consensus, while American make judgments about right and wrong. Europeans want to limit sovereignty while Americans rely on it." I couldn't have said it any better. The relationship between Europe and the U.S. is changing and it needs to be addressed before each side pushes for the future.
From my local hard copy news source, the Chicago Tribune, comes a wonderful four part series that takes a close look at the changing relationship between Europe and the U.S. While it tends to avoid some of the more in depth arguments about American unilateral aspirations, and the European desire to maintain the peaceful status quo, it does address the topic quite well.
The first part of the series addresses how the two sides have grown apart as a result of their divergent world views. As one contributor put it, "Europe is not willing to be bullied, but the United States is not willing to be restrained." This seems to be the general thesis of the series, and as the second part unscores, where the topic is the opposing views of the "war on terrorism," it is very appropriate.
The third part addresses the aging alliance between the two powers. The relevance of NATO seems especially well timed. As this third part points out, NATO is the only binding multilateral organization that unites the two powers. With the threat of the Warsaw pact long gone, and the U.S. remaining as the only world superpower, the importance of such a treaty organization is properly questioned by this article. The questionable relevance of multinational treaty organizations in today's world where temporary, but vital allies shift continuously to meet the threat of a non-state enemy makes this series especially well timed.
The fourth and final part of the series, and the one I am most interested in reading, will address the European Union and how it effects U.S. relations with Europe in this changing world. It is scheduled for tomorrow (I will provide a link when it is available). This series provides a good framework for the changing nature of the Euro-American alliance and relationship. Read and contemplate.
This article in The Guardian (via The War in Context) goes along with what I suggested on friday. It needs to be read with a grain of salt, but I think there is certainly something to the idea that Sharon and his top brass knew of the cease-fire possibilities and went ahead with the assassination knowing full well that it would destroy the possibilities for peace. Sharon's intentions need to be looked at, but get your grain of salt ready for this article.
I seem to have attracted some attention from a self-proclaimed "neocon." In his wonderful, yet quite contrary blog, Robert Prather seems to have found continuity with my position on the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. He likewise argues that the prospect of armed troops acting as everyday officers of the law is something that should frighten every American. He stresses that current law enforcement is more than adequate. He writes, "Civilian authorities, in combination with the national guard, can handle anything short of a direct invasion." Right on.