[lit-ideas] Realpolitik and my Counterfactual

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 21 May 2008 12:09:52 -0700

Eric,

 

I don't disagree with what you say regarding Danner.  I knew the Nation
Building phase wasn't going smoothly and remembered Sandra Mackey's
prediction and wondered if anyone in the administration had read her book.
I didn't comment on these matters because they pertained to how Phase Four
could have been handled better.  My counterfactual interest had to do with
the situation before Phase One.

 

I have never heard anyone discuss this.  Maybe it isn't worth discussing.
Maybe we couldn't do Realpolitik in such a ruthless manner, even though it
might be less ruthless in the long wrong than what we choose to do.  The
same thing is true about the counterfactual pertaining to assassinating
Hitler.  We could have saved millions of lives.  We could have prevented the
holocaust, but we couldn't assassinate Hitler.  For one thing we had
disarmed ourselves and hadn't the means to do it.  For another it is too
out-of-character for us.  We aren't that ruthless or farseeing despite what
we see in conspiracy-theory movies.  

 

Maybe a democracy can't always do what is best for it.  One of the guiding
ideas of the Neocons is that we should do what is in our national interest.
That should be, if not an absolute principle, at least a guiding or
operating principle.  If our administrations have choices, they should do
what is in our national interest.  The Neocon movement is idealistic.  It is
evangelistic about democracy.  It would not consider the counterfactual I
have been trying to consider.  But the earlier Realpolitik of Kissinger
might consider it.  I'll bet that if Kissinger were on Lit-Ideas he'd
respond to my question.  

 

In regard to the assassination of Hitler, Kissinger might say do it, but do
it only if you won't get caught and it won't become public.  In regard to
the support of Saddam Hussein, he might say there is no way that could be
done because it goes against our national principles.  We do not cozy up to
brutal dictators because it goes against our beliefs.  Yes, we did it during
the cold war, but that was different.  We only did it to keep these brutal
dictators from assisting our chief enemy the Soviet Union.  It didn't mean
we approved of what they were doing, and as soon as the Cold War was over we
quit doing it.  

 

So I'm not suggesting we could have supported Saddam without the pretext of
the Cold War - anymore than I am suggesting that we could have assassinated
Hitler.  We were (and still are) not mentally equipped or conditioned to do
either.  So we operate in accordance with our principles, Hitler slaughters
huge numbers in Europe, and kills millions of Jews.  Later on when it might
have been better (in the long run) to leave a Hitler-wannabe alone, we take
him out, even though leaving him in might have saved us a lot of trouble.

 

Again, I am not advocating these things, but I am interested in them.  Why
can't we do them?  Is it because we are democracies?  Is it our Christian
heritage?  Is it because we aren't willing to look with jaundiced eye at
what is out there and what might be in our best interest - even though
countless movies and TV shows have depicted a Machiavellian CIA or other
government agency which does exactly that?  That is another interesting
aspect of my counterfactual.  Others have thought (negatively) that we have
been doing all along something like what I want to consider - even though
the CIA was eviscerated during the Clinton administration and may still not
be up to doing the job it was created to do, let alone the Machiavellian
machinations of the movies.  No doubt I am risking a tangent here.  Some
people on Lit-Ideas can get into this, the hypothetical excesses of Homeland
security, but I don't want to get into that.  I am only interested in this
one counterfactual:

 

What would our present world have been like if we had supported Saddam
Hussein prior to the First Gulf War?  We sided with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
instead of Saddam.  How do you like your Saudi and Kuwaiti friends now, Mr
and Mrs America and all the ships at sea - not to mention everything else in
the Middle East?

 

Lawrence

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Eric Yost
Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 8:50 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Mark Danner and Realpolitik

 

Lawrence, I have no objection to parsing the Iraq Invasion as part of

one continuous war that began under Bush, Sr.

 

On the other hand, what impressed me about Danner's article is the way

he explicated the Iraq occupation mistakes pre-Petraeus, which were not

rooted in de-Baathification per se, but in purely structural errors,

organizational errors of the kind a more managerial President would have

avoided. He quotes Colin Powell:

 

"...You have to understand that when you have two chains of command and

you don't have a common superior in the theater, it means that every

little half-assed fight they have out there, if they can't work it out,

comes out to one place to be resolved. And that's in the Pentagon. Not

in the NSC or the State Department, but in the Pentagon."

 

"[H]ow could U.S. officials," asks Danner, "repeatedly and consistently

make such ill-advised and improbably stupid decisions, beginning with

their lack of planning for the "postwar.'?"

 

Danner continues, "The Iraq occupation would have all the weaknesses of

  two chains of command, weaknesses that became apparent [when Sanchez

and Bremer took over], leaving the occupation in the hands of two

officials who despised one another and hardly spoke."

 

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