Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Orson Scott Card's International Update is brilliant this week.

I suppose, however, that you can say that “inspections are working” as long as you don’t specify what they’re actually accomplishing.

I mean, if your goal is to keep the Western nations from uniting in opposition to Saddam, then the inspections are doing a bang-up job.

If your goal is to help Saddam protect his weapons and keep his lies from being exposed for what they are; if your goal is to allow him to continue to stonewall, withholding documents and refusing to let Iraqi scientists leave the country, with their families, to give honest reports to inspectors; if your goal is to allow him to continue to transfer technology and know-how to terrorist groups while the world looks on complacently ... inspections are indeed working all too well.

Michael Kelly, editor at large of The Atlantic Monthly, uses his two pages in the March issue (“What Now?” pages 23-24) to take on the widespread complaint that (in John Le Carre’s words) “The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.”

Nowhere in his editorial does Kelly come out and say how he feels about the war with Iraq. Instead, he ridicules – by using the evidence – the idea that debate is somehow “stifled.” On the contrary, the debate is overwhelming, with the views of both sides easily available to Americans everywhere.

Indeed, the only story he found that seemed to have been stifled was the outrageous (and false) statement by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington that Osama bin Laden has “been out ... building roads, building schools, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities.” (It’s worth pointing out that the only schools he has built are terrorist propaganda mills, the only roads and infrastructure have been in support of his training camps, and as for day-care, what civilization is Murray talking about?)

Only 162 mentions of her gaffe were found in a Nexis search of American media, compared to 2,886 mentions of Trent Lott’s no less – but no more – stupid statement about Strom Thurmond.

In the February/March American Heritage, Fredric Smoler interviews Ralph Peters, a noted military theorist and historian who has been influential in shaping American military thinking in recent years. He has also reached out to the public with novels like Red Army, back in the Cold War era.

Another quote from Peters: “When we say that borders are inviolable, that we always respect sovereignty, we pretend that somehow humanity has achieved this magical state where existing borders are perfect. Well, they’re not perfect” (page 46).

He goes on to suggest that the borders of Afghanistan, drawn to meet British security concerns during the “great game” in which Russia and Britain struggled for control of South Asia, bear no relation to any actual nation or language group.

I have long believed that the colonial boundaries in Africa, too, are a cruel burden that divides and combines tribes and language groups in meaningless “nations” that are doomed to disunity and eventual civil war or revolution.

Rational boundaries don’t guarantee peace, but irrational ones almost invariably lead to war, persecution, revolution or instability.

Of course, I don’t think much of Peters’s current application of cheap Freudian psychobabble to the Muslim mind ... but that doesn’t stop me from recommending that you read the words of a guy who is smarter than me.

Besides, I’ve got to love anybody who can say, “I personally feel that we’ve made a grotesque mistake aligning ourselves with the most oppressive of the Arabs, with the Arab world’s Beverly Hillbillies.

“Other Arabs built Damascus, Cordoba, Baghdad, Cairo. The Saudis never built anything.

“The fact that they came into their oil wealth was a disaster, not for us, but for the Arab world, because it gave these malevolent hicks raw economic power over the populations of poor Islamic states, such as Egypt” (page 49).

It’s about oil.

That’s what Nelson Mandela claimed, in his excoriation of America’s stance on Iraq. All we want is to get control of Iraqi oil.

What a laugh. OPEC already learned its lesson back in the ’70s. Sure, they could bring the rest of the world to its knees with an oil embargo. They could jack up the price of oil whenever they wanted.

But then what? When they embargo oil, they cut off their only source of income. And when oil prices go up, so does the price of everything that is manufactured or transported using oil – so that when they go to spend their windfall money, it buys about as much as it bought before.

There was a serious danger, in 1991, of a lunatic getting control of Iraq’s, Kuwait’s, and Saudi Arabia’s oil, and it would have been perfectly legitimate for Western nations to step in and stop him.

Oil is the lifeblood of our economy, and when critics of Republican presidents sneer about how the Gulf War of ’91 was “just about oil,” one wonders what they put in their cars, or how the food they eat is transported to their grocery stores. By ox cart?

But the fact is that neither the Gulf War of ’91 nor its continuation today is primarily about oil. We could get Iraq’s oil any time we wanted by simply lifting the embargo – Saddam is eager to sell, and the world is hungry to buy.

We threw Saddam out of Kuwait because bullies shouldn’t be allowed to conquer their neighbors, and we were the only ones who could lead a coalition to stop him.

We face renewed hostilities with Saddam today because he persists in his dangerous behavior, amassing weapons, lying about them, and sharing with terrorists whose avowed purpose is to use such weapons against the rest of the world with the openly stated goal of waging aggressive war to force the rest of the world to live under the tyranny of Islamic law.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t dumb as bricks to continue to use up oil as if it were water.

< email | 2/19/2003 07:36:00 AM | link

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