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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Where is freedom "worth it"? 


Australia has fought for the freedom of others all around the world, including in some places where America has not gone. Australian Andrew Bolt wonders why Iraq seems to be the one place where people claim that freedom is not worth the trouble:

Maybe this past week has taught us to pity. Because look: East Timor is being forgiven like Iraq never is.

Its capital can be looted, its soldiers can gun down its police, its gangs can murder children, its people can be made to live on charity, its politicians can squabble over the power they then abuse -- but no fool here says freedom was a mistake.

Even as our soldiers guard refugees cowering in church yards, still no commentator sneers that it all shows we were crazy to liberate East Timor in 1999.

No one is saying these 900,000 East Timorese just aren't cut out for democracy. Nor is anyone saying the toppled dictator -- Indonesia's old president Suharto in this case -- at least kept the killers under control.

No, East Timor is allowed to make mistakes without having its new freedom questioned the way it is so gleefully with Iraq.

It is forgiven as we forgive South Africa, despite everything, and even Zimbabwe. Think of how nice and understanding we've been of them.

Just consider: South Africa's economy is struggling so badly, 12 years after the end of apartheid, that private economists and the Congress of South African Trade Unions say more than 40 per cent of workers are out of a job. That's higher than the very worst estimate for Iraq.

What's more, some 20,000 South Africans are now murdered each year, according to police statistics, although Interpol has warned the true figure may be twice that -- or perhaps four times the number of Iraqis now killed each year in fighting. The incidence of rape and AIDS is more horrific than anything known in Iraq, too.

But we don't doubt South Africa is better free than enslaved, do we?

Or consider post-independence Zimbabwe: Its mad president, Robert Mugabe, has so wrecked the place that inflation is over 400 per cent and four in every five workers are unemployed.

He has now created such a famine in this rich land that millions of his people, hungrier than any Iraqis, must beg for food from foreign aid groups while their leader drives around in a new Mercedes S600L Pullman.

Yet, no one says we were wrong to help get rid of the white rulers of Harare. Or that it was stupid to free South Africa from apartheid. Or that East Timor should have stuck with Suharto, who at least kept these killers under control.

Of course not. With East Timor, South Africa and Zimbabwe -- and Russia, too -- we understand freedom isn't an overnight cure.

We know that even the British Parliament took centuries before banning slavery and giving women the vote. We know it was only a few decades ago that the United States finally gave all African-Americans their full rights.

We know democracy doesn't guarantee perfection -- just the right to sack the leaders who fall too short.

Only with Iraq, which under Saddam bled worse than South Africa did under apartheid, are we told freedom isn't worth the trouble.

Read the whole thing, and consider particularly Bolt's explanation for difference between Iraq and these other examples:
Still, the East Timorese aren't Muslims, are they? And their liberators weren't Americans. Big difference.

There is another difference, actually. For many on the left, it is not merely enough to do the right thing. One must also have pure motives. This is why many leftists supported an antiseptic air war in Kosovo and call today for Western military intervention in Darfur, the Sudan. The West in general and the United States in particular have nothing obvious to gain in either intervention other than the warm and fuzzy feeling of having killed bad people in the interests of helping innocent people. Iraq, however, has oil, and the liquidation of Saddam's government benefited not only innocent Arabs but also Israel's security. If there are two things that today's left hates more than the United States, it is the oil economy and Israel. The fact that all three might have benefited from the invasion of Iraq rendered the Coalition's motives impure and tainted, for all time, our project to bring democracy to that country.

CWCID: Lucianne.

12 Comments:

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Wed May 31, 05:40:00 PM:

Breaking out the rhetorical long knives today, eh?

"If there are two things that today's left hates more than the United States, it is the oil economy and Israel."

Wow! I hate all three of those, eh? Thanks for letting me know. Here I was thinking I loved America, saw the need to move beyond an oil economy, and saw Israel as a pivotal nation in the world that deserves peace.

Little did I know about all my hatin'.

Your framing is interesting - "Freedom not worth the trouble". You infer that (1) our troops are bringing "freedom"; (2) that anyone who contests this is somehow lazy or devil-may-care.

Our troops have brought change. That much is certain. Do Iraqis feel more free now? I don't know. I doubt the ones in the most embattled zones do, but I'm sure the Kurds do. The Bush administration rolled the dice on a risky war of choice and here we are. 140,000 of our troops in the sands of Iraq with no exit strategy and no plan beyond "When the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down".

The majority of Iraqis want us out. You suppose that our presence is hurrying or creating the conditions for more of this freedom. You base that supposition on what?

The Bush administration's motives were certainly craven, but that doesn't mean I don't want freedom for Iraqis. The idea anyone would think that is patently absurd - something I would expect CardinalPark to spew. I don't know the best way forward for Iraq, but I do hear the sabers rattling for the next war, even as the wheels are starting to fall off the last war in Afghanistan.

Find me pure motivations and I'll find you a fairy princess who will tell you how smart you are. I just want Bush to stop lying to us. That's a national security issue evidently, and he has to lie to me to keep me safe from the terrorists.

This is the worst, most misguided thing I've seen you write. As a member of the left, I'm surprised that you would allow yourself, a moderate Republican or something, to be led down this path of fallacious rhetoric.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Wed May 31, 06:43:00 PM:

One must also have pure motives. This is why many leftists supported an antiseptic air war in Kosovo and call today for Western military intervention in Darfur, the Sudan. The West in general and the United States in particular have nothing obvious to gain in either intervention other than the warm and fuzzy feeling of having killed bad people in the interests of helping innocent people.

I wonder how long that warm and fuzzy feeling would last, given the inevitable screw-ups.

As Screwy is fond of reminding us, the Left will support an intervention as long as the President, his advisors, and the military are preternaturally competent, and no-one who isn't supposed to get killed suffers as much as a hangnail.

I doubt that will ever happen in the real world, and so grumbling from those who live to reflexively oppose U.S. imperfection would seem inevitable.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed May 31, 07:28:00 PM:

Screwy:

1. Whenever I grossly generalize about lefties, why do you assume I am writing about you? It ain't like there's no gross generalizations over at the Hooligans.

2. If this is the most misguided thing I've written in 3400+ posts, then I'm way ahead.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed May 31, 07:45:00 PM:

"Wanting freedom" and having the will do do something about it are different things. Rightists call for an Iraqi withdrawal... the extreme rightists. But virtually all leftists want an Iraqi withdrawal. Why? Is it really so hard to see that consequences of that, or do they just not care?

"The majority of Iraqis want us out."

Eventually. The follow-up question, "how soon should the Americans leave" is almost always answered as "when it's safe here." Our presence there is not widely hated. Logical solution: Make it safe there, then leave. Which is what we are trying to do.

Oh, since we're on the topic of leftists and their perpetual anti-Iraq war position, I meant to ask... where is that civil war we were promised back in February and March? You know, the one that I argued with you guys (and I think perhaps you in particular) wasn't actually a civil war, rather it was crime and civil disorder that would pass, and certainly wasn't a threat to the government. I was swayed and all geared up to watch the government fall apart and sectarian armies to arise and begin the bloodbath, but it seems I'm to be disappointed...

Maybe we'll have better luck with the next oil thieving invasion of a dictatorial third world country. I vote for Venezuela.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Wed May 31, 08:03:00 PM:

Whenever you grossly generalize about lefties you are talking about me. I'm a lefty, you see. It may be you need to know that we lefties have differences, that's what makes us so difficult.

I certainly swing the rhetorical sledgehammer at ScruHoo, but to suggest that I hate America is beyond the pale.

And, yes, you are way ahead. That's why I'm a fan. Though that CardinalPark guy really needs an editor and an ombudsman. He writes things here that aren't even true.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu Jun 01, 09:53:00 AM:

Screwy:

Libya was a diplomatic achievement without force of arms, was it not?

Also, war is a weapon in the diplomatic arsenal.

Get your terms straight, and work on your reading.  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu Jun 01, 10:48:00 AM:

Dawnfire says "I was swayed and all geared up to watch the government fall apart and sectarian armies to arise and begin the bloodbath, but it seems I'm to be disappointed..."

Then you haven't been paying attention, Dawnfire. Do you see the reports of the bodies that pile up every day because of sectarian violence? How about all of the militias shootign at each other, many of which are actually "the police," as in official government forces. I am not sure what you expect a civil war to look like. It's not always one group in grey and one in blue standing in a line and firing at each other. I got back to the example of the Lebanese civil war. It was not one army battling another army to see which would control the government. Rather, it was militias that had become so powerful that the central government became irrelevant. At this point, a police uniform becomes just another gang color, signifiying whatever militia has gained control of the police force. Here's some fine reading on the issue:
http://bostonreview.net/BR31.2/rosen.html  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jun 01, 01:57:00 PM:

"Do you see the reports of the bodies that pile up every day because of sectarian violence? How about all of the militias shootign at each other, many of which are actually "the police," as in official government forces."

Now, which militias are shooting at each other? I haven't heard or seen anything about Iraqi organized armed groups (not counting the Al Qaeda terrorists, who try this occasionally during prison breaks and such, since they're not a local political force) fighting it out in the streets. Unless you're confused and you mean Palestine. Rather, I see the after effects of targeted killings. That is, the discovery of 10 or 12 corpses at a time, none of which are the result of any kind of 'warfare.' They're not functionally different from drug murders. You implied that if I paid attention I would see 'sectarian armies arise and begin a bloodbath.' Where? When? If things are so bad, how is the violent death rate (not counting terrorists who blow themselves up, et al.) actually lower than certain major US cities? Does this indicate that we're suffering a civil war here in the States, or what?

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1640166/posts

As for the participation of law enforcement, you can draw a direct parallel with the history of the US when law enforcement personnel were members of the Know Nothings or KKK and abused their legal powers to accomplish personal agendas. The same things happen nowadays too, but on a lesser scale. It's more widespread in other, more stable nations. (think Egypt, Sudan, Syria, for instance) Is that some kind of civil war? Or simple police corruption in a changing society?

Hm. Lebanese Civil War = warring militias who became so powerful that the government became irrelevant, and Lebanon essentially broke into smaller states that violently competed with each other with the support and active participation of outside powers (namely Israel and Syria). Which is not what's happening in Iraq. That reminds me of something that someone said before on this topic... oh yes.

"You know, the one that I argued with you guys [that this]... wasn't actually a civil war, rather it was crime and civil disorder that would pass, and certainly wasn't a threat to the government."

The Iraqi government enjoys legitimacy, though not yet universally. The Army and Police have solid legal authority and monopolies on the legitimate use of violence. (if the 'militias' were seen as legitimate, they wouldn't have to do it in secret) There are no breakaway provinces and no rebellions. No 3rd party states are overtly interfering, though Iran may yet try. There have not been instances of ethnic cleansing. The capital is not split up into sectarian zones with fortified borders that people are afraid to cross at speeds less than 55mph because machine gun emplacements will fire on them. And not more than a few months ago there was a fair, nationwide election with better turnout than most Western democracies. I'm not seeing many similarities with Lebanon. I should obviously just pay better attention.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Thu Jun 01, 02:05:00 PM:

Iraq is safer than Washington D.C.! Well I'll just have to pack the wife and kids up and head to Baghdad instead of seeing that boring old Lincoln Memorial again...

It's nonsensical statistical manipulation, Dawnfire.

linky: "1) The King report uses 2002 data for Washington, D.C., finding a violent casualty rate of 45.9 deaths per 100,000 people. That number is badly outdated. Using the most recent 2004 data, the violent casualty rate in D.C. is 35.8 deaths per 100,000. There were 198 homicides total in D.C. for the entire year.

2) According to Pentagon’s own data released today, there have been 94 violent casualties per day in Iraq between February and May of 2006. (see p.33). That translates into 34,310 deaths per year in Iraq. For an Iraqi population of about 26.7 million, plus another 150,000 coalition forces, the violent casualty rate in Iraq is 128 deaths per 100,000.

3) Lastly, the King report is trying to conflate the data for one urban area in the U.S. with the entire country of Iraq. As OpinionJournal writes, “The comparison with U.S. cities poses a problem of scale. Just as some municipalities here have high concentrations of crime, Baghdad and some other Iraqi cities have high concentrations of military, guerrilla and terrorist activity. A comparison of Baghdad with Los Angeles or a similarly sprawling U.S. city would be more enlightening than a comparison of Iraq as a whole with cities of well under a million people.”

I still don't know if we're seeing a civil war or not. When this many kidnappings, assassinations, and murders are happening it's hard to know who's doing what isn't it? It's a hell of a mess, that's for certain, and there's no end in sight.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jun 01, 02:40:00 PM:

Oh whoops. I left a word out of my post. The research put forth by the Rep. specifies "Civilian" deaths.

1) .... so? So Iraq had a lower level of violent civilian deaths than D.C. in 2002, not 2005. *shrug*

2) That is it's own statistical manipulation. Taking a sampling of only a few months (that just happens include a spike in the number of civilian deaths) and multiplying that out as standard fare over the course of a year is sheer speculation at best, and dishonest at worst.

Secondly, the stats on 'p.33' list casualties, not deaths. There's a difference. Wounded count as casualties as well, and there are almost always way more wounded than killed.

Lastly, there's also a note on that graph that those stats are from unverified initial reports and are useful only in comparison to similarly gathered data.

3) Probably true. If such stats for major Iraqi cities exist I'd be happy to see them. However, since the statistic in question is percentage based, the question of scale isn't that big of a deal if we're just comparing for non-practical purposes.

I like the link you gave, especially since starting on p.39 there is an analysis of civil war indicators and an explanation of how there is not currently, nor will there be in the forseeable future an Iraqi Civil war, specifically mentioning the high level of confidence that the Iraqis place in the Iraqi Army and Police, the lack of support for illegal violence, and the large number of actionable tips given to authorities against insurgent and criminal elements.

"It's a hell of a mess, that's for certain,"

Agreed.

"and there's no end in sight."

Iraqis disagree. Reference same document, page 42.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Thu Jun 01, 04:50:00 PM:

"If there are two things that today's left hates more than the United States, it is the oil economy and Israel."

Screwy, I'm guessing that Hawk's referring to folks much further left than, say, Hillary Clinton or John Kerry, since they are both Israel supporters (can't comment on their love or hatred of the oil economy- but suspect they both enjoy driving- like the rest of us.) Al Gore's only halfway there- while he may loathe our oil-based economy, he still likes Israel. So for TH's reference to make much sense, he's gotta be referring to the Noam Chomsky crowd. Otherwise, he's misguided.

Shonshu John: you're right about armed Iraqi militias making the central government irrelevant.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Thu Jun 01, 04:51:00 PM:

Which reminds me, John. I remember you from the Michael Reynolds days. How did you end up here?  

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