Empty Days

Friday, April 02, 2004



The crux of the matter

The Volokh Conspiracy (which is an all-jewish neocon outlet by its own admission) doesn't understand how giving some international legitimacy to the Iraq war could improve things there. He quotes this argument from Slate:
If there is a way to deal with the insurgents, it will be fundamentally political -- and it will have to take shape in the next few months. Two things are necessary. First, the occupying "coalition" must be broadened, and the occupation authority must be turned over to some international body. The Bush administration seems to realize this -- hence Bremer's recent urgent calls for the United Nations to mediate internal disputes in Iraq. Will an international organization -- the U.N., NATO, the Arab League, or whatever -- be more effective than the U.S.-led CPA? Maybe, maybe not. But it would be more legitimate...
And comments:
I don't get this. It wasn't the French who killed the four contractors. It wasn't the U.N. It wasn't anyone who cares about "legitimacy." Would Islamist radicals behave any differently if NATO were controlling the show rather than the U.S.? Would the ex-Baathists? Would even the local supporters of the killers support them any less if NATO were in charge?

Now it is possible that the Islamists and ex-Baathists would be more open to the Arab League's running the occupation theory. (It's also conceivable that the same would be true if the U.N. were running it, but I highly doubt it.) But is there any reason to think that the Arab League will actually provide remotely effective security? That it would fairly treat the Shiites and the Sunni, and for that matter the non-Arab Kurds? That parts of it won't be infiltrated by the Baathists or the Islamists? Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe I'm underestimating the competence and reliability of Arab League. But I don't think so.

Legitimacy is not an end in itself, at least in this situation. It is a means towards effective peace-keeping, which of course means to the extent necessary, effective war-making (since even the most "legitimate" body will have to hunt down those people who keep fighting against them). I don't see how any of the other examples that Kaplan points to will be more effective.
That's interesting because that's exactly how a whole lot of people think about this. They're convinced that 90% of Iraqis are basically favorable to US presence, despite whatever reservations, and that it's only a small group of rabid insurgents who cause all the havoc and need stamping out, like a burning cigarette in a pile of hay. The logic is simple: just keep stamping out those cigarette buts and all will be well in the end.

What Volokh is not getting - or, more accurately, refuses to "get" - is that perhaps there is no such thing as the 90% popular support, however lukewarm, that the US can rely on. That the stack of hay may be too dry on trust - and it is this basic *trust* that needs restoring rather than just running around stamping out burning hate. The lack of legitimacy, which originally incited and continues to deepen that lack of trust, creates too much of an inflamable environment for that hate to propagate like a wild fire across all the disgruntled varieties of the local society.

How do you restore trust, if it wasn't really there in the first place? Sure - thanks for ridding us of Saddam, but you know what: we really don't like you, we think you are here for your own ends, you want to fight some war-on-terror that got nothing to do with us, so get the hell out. The only way to dissolve that logic is to involve the rest of the world, to show at last that you're not there only for yourself - that's what the argument of legitimacy is all about.

This is pretty fundamental. And it's too bad such a lot of people prefer to imagine that USA is at all welcome in Iraq. It's there alright - but it's not well trusted, and with good reason. If the climate was really as favorable as people here wish to believe, I don't think we'd see such a steady proliferation of hate and insurgency as we've seen in the past year. It's important to recognize that and stop acting as if all of this were nothing but an endless series of "isolated incidents" perpetrated by some misguided thugs.

(The thing about Arab League doesn't deserve much discussion - these guys won't mess with Iraq at this point for the life of them, it's too much of a messy issue, they'll rather wait to see how the UN fares in there first.)

***

Another pro-war blogger is convinced that the thing in Fallujah was an Al-Quaeda deed. I wonder who told him so. But he's dead-set on that idea and short of a massive Sunny uprising nothing will convince him otherwise, and even then - unless it comes from FOXnews or such.

In the end I have to wonder what these people even mean by "Al-Quaeda" :-0

***

Update. To my immense surprise and amusement, Volokh saw my post and then he saw red - and wrote a debunking. Apparently he thinks I am a raving anti-semite no doubt intent on destroying Israel and all its children. And what else could be expected of somebody sporting a canadian flag? Talk about vitiol:
WE JEWS are apparently a biased, untrustworthy lot -- but at least we can read. Empty Days begin its response to my legitimacy post this way:

The Volokh Conspiracy (which is an all-jewish neocon outlet by its own admission) doesn't understand how giving some international legitimacy to the Iraq war could improve things there.

Oh, that's what's important! We're all Jews (not quite accurate, but close enough), and neocons to boot. Actually I've never said that I'm a neocon (I haven't figured out the articles of faith enough to decide whether I am or not), but never mind. Here's how our Jewish biases apparently manifest themselves:
[quotes my post - see above]

As I said, we Jews are apparently evil and selfish, but we are smart, and we can apparently read better than other people. When reading my post, for instance:
[quotes his own post - see above]

we'd notice that none of it remotely relies on the notion that 90% of the Iraqis like us. Rather, the post argues that (1) there's little reason to think that Iraqis will like NATO more than they like us, and (2) even though some of them might like the Arab League and conceivably the U.N. more than they like us, being liked isn't good enough -- you also have to be effective, and the Arab League won't be.

But the admitted Canadian (there's that little maple leaf flag on the blog, and obviously it tells us volumes) Mr. Days seems to have somehow missed this. Our flaming Jewishness must have temporarily blinded him.
Yeah, thanks for noticing the flag - though I don't see how spitting on flags would do anybody any good, but that's a matter of opinion, I guess. As to all this offended-jewishness-sos-pc-police talk, I have to wonder why the Volokh guys feel the need to explicate at length how they're all pure-bred jewish on their blog. Sorta cliquish, I figure. Oy-vey, a conspiracy! :)

Otherwise I do concede I didn't address Volokh's point directly but rather tried to understand why he sees no light in better legitimacy. Involving UN (with perhaps some support from the elusive Arab League) doesn't mean pulling out all US troops - if that's what Volokh implies by effectiveness. Creating a better climate of trust for these troops to operate for law and order can't be a bad thing - and the glaring fact so far is that the US-led CPA has not been able to do that, but not at all.

Better legitimacy simply means better communication - that's all is needed for now, better communication between Iraqis and the occupying force. Once the goodwill is there you could talk of reconstruction, nation-building and all the rest.

***

Update II: Randy and Eugene, if only you guys spent a bit less time gloating over supposed antisemitisms and spent at least a fraction of these precious lawyer-minutes talking about what's happening to America in Iraq, then this would have a more certain ring to it:
And me? Like my father, I have always considered myself American. Not Russian, German, Polish, or Lithuanian -- American. Although I am now a nonobservant nonbeliever, for some reason I still consider myself Jewish. And for me, America has always been the "Promised Land."
Thank you for your attention. Oxblog was right: a strange silence has fallen over the blogosphere (some parts of it at least).





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