Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Find a pin and pick it up, and all day long you'll have a pin

What sort of lawyer waits three and a half years to think of claiming British citizenship for David Hicks? Oh, that's right, a military lawyer, trained to mindless obedience rather than lateral thinking. Sheesh.

I reckon the whole Guantanamo Bay escapade is a bad thing, because- in my opinion- it is a direct affront to the principles embodied in the Declaration of the Rights of Man which constitute the 'good bits' of Western secular culture.

I also reckon the Anglospherican intervention in Iraq is a good thing, because- in my opinion- it is in essence a logical application of those same principles.

What do you reckon, Androo?


Andrew Shellshear said...

I really thought I had articulated my doubts about the intervention in Iraq in our previous discussions, which is that I didn't believe the US would improve the situation by unilaterally invading. I am certainly not against the overthrow of Saddam Hussain, but I think overthrowing him successfully required finesse and cleverness and diplomacy, which I didn't think the US government demonstrated. I think the end result came a little too close to "We had to destroy the village to save it".

In summary, it is not the noble goals I object to (which is one of the nice things about neo-conservatism: it does have some very noble goals). It is the poor execution of these goals (which appears to me to be another feature of neo-conservatism). I don't think the situation in Iraq has improved as the result of the invasion. To me, it looks like the country is on the verge of civil war.

Dr. Clam said...

Well done! Thanks for talking to us! :) I shall hassle you no longer. I cannot speak for Marco, of course...

Do you see an intrinsic moral difference between a multilateral invasion under UN auspices and the eventual multilateral coalition of the 'bribed and bullied', or did you make a pragmatic judgment that the chances of success were minimal under any readily conceivable circumstances, and that the greater good was therefore better served by aiding the anti-war forces rather than working towards a greater role for non-US governments in the process?

Dave said...

I think - through fuzzy, sleep-deprived neurons, so bear with me - that there's an intrinsic moral question to be raised about the quality of planning that went into the non-UN effort. I must bregrudgingly concede that, as far as can be discerned from the partisan reporting available, the initial military expedition appears to have been as surgical and effective as could be hoped, with the tanks rolling into Baghdad less than three weeks after the go signal.

(I will, with great reluctance, overlook the very high likelihood that a very large number of somewhat blameless civilians were deprived of ongoing corporeality as a result of these operations, because That's War and You Can't Make an Omelette without Breaking a Few Eggs).

But come on, Andrew's right, the execution post-"Mission Accomplished" has been an utter dog's breakfast, and I'd put it down almost completely to crap preparation before the fact.

No reliable political or security intelligence, bugger all support from creditable locals, the factionalism and insurgency seemed to come as some sort of fucking surprise, institutionalised torture - I'm sorry, intelligence procedures that totally backfired on them because Our Boys carry mobiles and digital cameras these day and they've got no exit strategy beyond "We'll get out of Iraq when our last under-trained, under-equipped National Guardsman gets his ass blown up guarding an oil pipeline".

The current US government couldn't demonstrate finesse, cleverness or diplomacy if the suppurating zombie of Pitt the Younger bit them on the todger.

Please feel free to point out something they've got right, apart from economic management and domestic emergency planni- er, oops.

Dave, cheapshooter extraordinaire

Andrew Shellshear said...

They came up with a plan. The plan, to my judgement, was lousy. I marched as a protest against the lousy plan. I didn't want Australia to be part of this plan of lousyness.

As a side note, when I was at DSTO, I attended a lecture from the weapons inspection team (I think, but I'm not sure, that it was given by Richard Butler) who had just returned from Iraq and Kuwait. The talk gave me great faith in the weapons inspection process. I felt that the coalition did not give the weapons inspectors sufficient time before the invasion.

Marco said...

My measure of "do prospects seem better for an average Iraqi now than before the war?" is not deaths, pictures or evidence of bad Americans; but "are there more Iraqis wanting to go back to Iraq now than there was before the war, and presumably with the alternatives to war?" in a general sense. My ballpark estimates of this measure is that indeed, war has improved the sentiment of the (remaining) Iraqis and ex-Iraqis. Everyone knows that the US is pathetic at peace-keeping and disaster recovery. In essence, US managed chaos, as bad as it is, is still an improvement on Hussein- managed chaos.

Dr. Clam said...

The lack of a post-invasion plan plan was not obvious before the invasion, and the invasion plan itself worked pretty well, so what was so obviously lousy about the plan?

I agree that the post 'mission accomplished' two and a bit years has resembled the proverbial canine repast in many ways. I agree that a major part of this is due to the lack of any apparent plan, as outlined by Dave, for what would happen after the credits rolled on "Operation Shiny Hardware", or whatever it was called. I don't think this lack of plan was or is necessarily fatal, and I think it has been exacerbated by the following:

(1) The understandable but self-defeating desire to do things on the cheap, get out as soon as possible, or not contribute at all after the initial liberating business, by all the members of the "Coalition of Those Who Are Fond of Democracy and/or Shiny Hardware"

(2) The understandable but self-defeating sitting-on-their-handsness of those states that had the most to gain from Saddam Hussein's removal and have the most to lose if Iraq collapses into complete anarchy: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have lots of Muslim soldiers and shiny hardware which would go a long way towards removing the apparent patina of 'Neo-Imperialism' from the exercise.

(3) The petty and amoral 'You broke it, you fix it' attitude of most of the countries that opposed the war.

(4) The assumption that Iraq had to remain as the arbitrary unitary state created at Versailles, rather than being dismembered into three nations: A stable Kurdish one that the Turks could be bribed into accepting with EU membership, A relatively stable Shiite one that Iran and the Gulf States could compete for influence in by throwing guns money at, and a more or less dysfunctional Sunni enclave of no strategic importance that young Assad or King Abdullah would have to intervene in if it got too out of control.

Dr. Clam said...

I shouldn't talk about possible good things done by the current US administration, because Marco has accused me of being an apologist for them, but I can suggest two:

*An apparent willingness to move significantly forward on trade liberalisation

*An amnesty program for illegal immigrants that is breathtaking in scope, the like of which would only be proposed by the unelectable fringes of the Left in this country.

Andrew Shellshear said...

Well, *I* thought it was pretty obvious, before the war, that they hadn't really thought through what to do afterwards. All their comments were along the lines of "they'll greet us as liberators", and "the oil will pay for the reconstruction". People were pressing them for details of their post-war plans - how they'd deal with the possibility of civil war, and so on - and I didn't feel the answers were satisfactory. In addition, there was nothing about the administration that gave me confidence they would handle the post-war rebuilding with any kind of skill or diplomacy.
Of course, it's easy to point back now and say these things, but I do recall them being concerns at the time.

Marco said...

I'm going to side with Andrew on that comment. It was obvious to me too. However, it was also obvious (to me) that Australia was better served by influencing US as an "in" player rather than, say NZ, which had no influence as an "out" player. We are no minnows when it comes to srategy for nation-building.

Dave said...

A second vote for the obviousness of non-planning, but I will concede to Chris his points about the exacerbation of the problem by the ongoing reluctance of the Rest of the World to help fix the mess in Iraq (in particular the neighbouring countries, who have the most to lose by the ever-present threat of civil war).

And do you know, if I've ever heard the suggestion made seriously that Iraq be subdivided into three autonomous states, it didn't stick in my memory. I kind of like it. Authoritarian, audacious, arrogant as it sounds, I suspect it would have been more effective than the current state of affairs (and probably no more unpopular).

Dave said...

Also, I know nothing of the illegal immigrant amnesty thing - can you point me to something informative?

Dr. Clam said...

Something on PBS with links that are not just to foaming-at-the-mouth anti-immigration nuts...

Quote from whitehouse.gov press release:

"The President proposes that the Federal Government offer temporary worker status to undocumented men and women now employed in the United States ... The workers under temporary status must pay a one-time fee to register in the program, abide by the rules, and return home after their period of work expires. There would be an opportunity for renewal. ...

Economic Incentives to Return Home: The U.S. will work with other countries to allow aliens working in the U.S. to receive credit in their nations' retirement systems and will support the creation of tax-preferred savings accounts they can collect when they return to their native countries.

Fair and Meaningful Citizenship Process: Some temporary workers will want to remain in America and pursue citizenship. They should not receive an unfair advantage over those who have followed the law, and they will need to be placed in line for citizenship behind those who are already in line. Those who choose the path of citizenship will have an obligation to learn the facts and ideals that have shaped America's history.

Reasonable Annual Increase of Legal Immigrants: A reasonable increase in the annual limit of legal immigrants will benefit those who follow the lawful path to citizenship."

So, not pay $20,000+ to be detained in the desert and then be deported back to your ghastly homeland, but pay US$1,000 to work for three years... with an opportunity for renewal... and a pathway to citizenship, just slower than for legal immigrants! Can you imagine Kim Beazley's polls if he suggested something similar?