Wednesday, November 27, 2002

incipient totalitarianism
An important discussion here of the implications of Homeland Security legislation, spineless democrats and the boundless neocon thirst for power. And yes, the time to end complacency about what's happening is now.
word to your madre
In honour of American Thanksgiving, the international women's rights group Madre has posted an exhaustive summary of the antiwar argument that nicely captures the real issues involved in Iraq.
every bomb says "i love you"
There are those in the incipient American antiwar movement, like Michael Berube, who would apparently prefer to spend the next few months temporizing and carping about NION, presumably because they can't be bothered to organize rallies or circulate petitions themselves. Fortunately, though, there are also those who continue to keep their sights on the real problem at hand: an abomination that must not happen. These remarks come from the former defense insider who leaked the Pentagon Papers, and they come with a realistic assessment of the Bush Administration's goal, which is simply to provoke war at any cost and by any means necessary, no matter how flimsy (or non-existent) the justification. Unfortunately, I think Ellsberg's "war before Christmas" scenario is a little more likely than John Mearsheimer's Bush Administration declares victory and avoids war scenario.

Ellsberg also hits the nail on the head in comparing the likely consequences of all this to Afghanistan, writ large. This is particularly on point because, while many people across the political spectrum abhor the ill-justified War on Iraq, most still hold on to the idea of Afghanistan as a "good" war that achieved its objectives and dealt a blow to the enemies of civilization. I have some differences with that, but I won't go into them here. The main point I want to take issue with is Berube's contention that the invasion of Afghanistan "slowed down" Pakistan's radicalization.

In the "comments" section over at MaxSpeak, where I first ran across this nugget of wisdom, someone remarked that this contention was "too stupid to require discussion" or refutation. I don't agree. If there's one thing the Bush Administration has taught us, it's that there's nothing that's too stupid to require refutation. Often several times. So, first things first: yes, Berube's comment would seem, to put it as politely as I can, misinformed. The war in Afghanistan contributed significantly to major political gains for extremists in Pakistan, and I've yet to see any observer of Musharraf's setbacks there who seriously disputes this.

But it's the logic underlying Berube's comment that concerns me. A key part of the war party's platform on Iraq is that it is fundamentally possible, and desirable, to influence Muslim world opinion in America's favour by dropping ordnance on them. Whether the warmongers are ill-informed enough to seriously believe this will lead to less terrorism is open to considerable doubt; Ellsberg doesn't think they believe it, and I tend to agree with him. But there are evidently those among the undecided who are willing to buy this line of reasoning, and for that reason, it's important to keep in mind two simple and related points:

One, that dangerously anti-American strains of Islamic fundamentalism draw their power from general feelings of insecurity and unjust treatment in the Arab world;

Two, that bombing and invasion -- particularly on flimsy or non-existent pretexts -- are very effective in promoting feelings of insecurity and unjust treatment in the Arab world (gee, go figure).

The recent growth of so-called "Islamism" in Pakistan is a perfect demonstration of this -- and that was a case where there was at least a plausible pretext for American military action, even if there were those of us who felt (and still feel) that it was exactly the wrong approach. Needless to say, there is no such broad-based consensus on Iraq.

All of which strongly implies that warmongering scenarios of an Arab world happy with, or at least intimidated into being happy with, a gratuitious invasion of Iraq are less than likely to materialize. Those really interested in belonging to a "responsible antiwar movement" would do well to re-examine their acceptance of the bizarre belief that ordnance can somehow promote America's image in the Muslim world.