The Stated Reason, the Moral Reason, the Real Reason, and the Right Reason

Jacob Sullum on the White House’s “noble” facades:

Last June New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman counted four reasons for the war: the stated reason (Saddam had WMDs and might give them to terrorists for an attack on the U.S.); the moral reason (saving Iraqis and their neighbors from a brutal, murderous tyranny); the real reason (after 9/11, the U.S. had to smack a Muslim country around to show it meant business); and the right reason (defusing the anger that leads to terrorism by transforming Iraq into a model of liberal democracy).

It seems to me the stated reason for war should be the same as the real reason, so the American people can judge for themselves whether it’s right and moral. Distracted by images of nuke-wielding Islamic fanatics, they never really had that opportunity.

Read the whole thing.

I’ve long admired Sullum’s reporting on legal issues, and though my take on Israel is rather different from his (but also see this and this), he has been a consistent critic of Bush’s Iraq policy. Find his archives here.

Democratization Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Andrew Higgins of The War Street Journal seems to think he’s stumbled across an original insight. In today’s opening installment of a series called “Power & Peril: America’s Supremacy and Its Limits,” Higgins profiles Morocco (sorry, not available for free). The Moroccans, of course, have democratized themselves, so the resentment of outsiders that we see in Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t an issue there. Moroccan democracy must be running fairly smoothly then, no? Give us the historical perspective, Mr. Higgins:

Democracy has had a good run in the past decade and a half. … Yet democracy has sometimes empowered the intolerant.

I recall the refrain from junior high: No sh*t, Sherlock.

The perils are especially keen in Muslim lands, where fervent Islamists are often the only organized alternative to entrenched and frequently corrupt elites. In Iraq, the U.S. wrestles with the influence of clerics from the Shiite Muslim majority, including some radicals who want a rigid theocracy. Others don’t push for this but insist on direct elections likely to be dominated by sectarian passions. And here in Morocco, after the suicide attacks, King Mohammed VI, in a somber television address, pinpointed the cause in those “who take advantage of democracy … to sow seeds of ostracism, fanaticism and discord.”

And here you have the crux of this very long (and, I must admit, informative) article ostensibly on Morocco: This is why we’re not holding elections in Iraq. Which raises a universe of questions, including: How come no one thought about democracy in Iraq while planning to bring Iraq democracy? When will Iraq be ready for elections—two years, six years, twenty? What will have changed in the meantime? Will the Shiites scrap a millennium+ of doctrine and chill considerably? Will the Sunnis reach demographic parity? Will every schoolchild read Alexis de Tocqueville and understand him better than Americans do? Or will Iraqi democracy simply amount to voting for Paul Bremer’s gofer?

I love to say “I told you so.” (Sorry– a lot of the links are broken, but that’s a peril of writing as I do.)

Mars Tax

The “Defense” Dept. actually endangers the United States — for example, its empire of bases brought a foreign power struggle to New York and DC a couple of years ago. (So now we have a Homeland Defense department. What were the other guys supposed to be defending?)

NASA, of course, is part of the whole dangerous militaryindustrial welfare program. Predictably, NASA is actually inhibiting the development of space travel by strangling competition — as a new book, Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age, argues. (Buy the book!)

Forget about Bush’s martial Martian boondoggle; what the off-world needs now is legal lunar homesteading.

The Decline of American Civilization, Symptom #4,329,286

The inability to make distinctions, or the belief that one’s audience is so unable. R. Emmett Tyrrell begins his defense of Oxyconservative Rush Limbaugh as follows:

Really, it is not very amazing that a government vendetta has been launched against Rush Limbaugh, the very successful and gifted talk show host. Governments have attempted to suppress criticism for centuries. The Founding Fathers were acutely aware of that, and provided strong protections in our system of government for dissent and for free speech.

Bravo, Bob–you almost sound like one of those kooky libertarians who criticizes the war on drugs or the PATRIOT Act. The government certainly is repressing Mr. Limbaugh, as it does millions of others, but as soon as this truth is recognized, it’s gone. After moving the shells about a bit, Tyrrell comes back to repression, but the repressors have suddenly changed:

[T]he American press is today highly politicized, and its politics are antithetical to Limbaugh’s. The press is liberal. Limbaugh is a dissident in the best sense of the word. He is conservative. That the press in general ignores the attempts to suppress him is another example of its stupendous hypocrisy, but this is not surprising. …

The harassment of Limbaugh provides another unlovely glimpse into the workings of the liberal elites.

Wait–David Broder and Maureen Dowd control the federal drug cops and Florida authorities? Why, I coulda sworn Dubya is president of the U.S.A. and Jeb runs the show down in Tallahassee! But they and their policies couldn’t be at fault; no, it’s the big bad liberals.

My God, no wonder this war was such an easy sell.

News: Nukes are Back!

War planners not only are rethinking the unthinkable — how and when to use nuclear weapons — they’re discussing it. Out loud. Over drinks and cheese balls…

William M. Adler begins his frightening commentary with the opening night reception of Strategic Space 2003, a three-day national security conference held in Omaha, Nebraska this past September.

Three months after the 9/11 attacks (although clearly in preparation much earlier), the Bush administration delivered its “Nuclear Posture Review” to Congress. The Pentagon-authored text is couched in recommendations, but its tone and direction are unmistakable. It buries alive all those quaint Cold War holdovers — diplomacy, arms-control treaties, test bans — in some figurative fallout shelter, never to be heard from again. In their stead, war planners bellow and yearn for a doctrine that strikes first and evades questions later. “The need is clear,” the posture review states, “for a revitalized nuclear weapons complex that will be able … if directed, to design, develop, manufacture, and certify new warheads in response to new national requirements

“The world of nuclear weapons policy is kind of Alice in Wonderland,” says Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. “In many ways, the lower the yield of the weapon, the more dangerous the weapon, because it is more likely to be used.” That’s where mininukes come in. A one-kiloton mininuke (a kiloton equals 1,000 tons of TNT) may sound cuddly — and it is relatively low-yield: about one-13th the force of the Hiroshima bomb. But a one-kiloton warhead would generate a crater roughly the size of the Ground Zero site where the World Trade Center used to stand, and would spew a million cubic feet of radioactive fallout, estimates Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association

In one respect, however, the posture review is unambiguous: It considers the new generation of nukes potential weapons of first resort. Not only does that lower the threshold for using them, it blurs the line between nuclear and conventional weapons. And it vaporizes the international principle, based on nearly 60 years of diplomacy, law, practicality, and morality, that nuclear weapons are exponentially more lethal… … read more

Of further interest, in Mr. Adler’s article one of the main sites named for a new nuclear factory is Pantex, near Amarillo, Texas. This particular facility has been in the news recently because of safety concerns. read: Contractor faulted after workers tape together warhead explosives

The Costs of Tough Talk

Does America really need “warrior” presidents, and what does that say about our country and its citizens. Why is a military background so important in candidates for the presidency, and would we be better off as a nation without that qualification? In this commentary, The Costs of Tough Talk, these topics are discussed.

It might be that the American public is being confused by the issue of military service and its value in the presidency, and intentionally so. Certainly, any person having served on active duty would have a notion of what the prospect of sending troops into battle might mean, but so would anyone with a modicum of respect for one’s fellow human beings…

What is lost in all the punditry on military experience or attitudes is a simple truism: the people we elect to office reflect our own fears and ambitions. As long as we make military experience an essential requisite for office or think militarism a valuable asset in a president, or believe that our corporations deserve military intervention for their benefit, we’ll continue to have a government which is fundamentally militaristic, either in its foreign policy or its apportionment of our national resources, or both. Some in this country revel in military exploits (especially those not investing their lives in such), and right now, it seems they dominate the political process.

We, as a people, continue to mistake offense for defense, and continue to threaten the rest of the world by the money we spend on defense, and by the political choices we make in voting for hawks, or chickenhawks. We continue to believe that we are well served by a military budget far in excess of that spent by dozens of countries, and are protected by tough talk and by wars of opportunity……… read more