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June 28, 2008


lord rev dyjuan d barnes YAHWEH

if we trust YAHWEH we can and will be at peace with others around the world but we are some greedy little fuckheads and we donot want to live in this world in peace for if we did then the world would be a better place

Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

P.S. . . .

You said: "While I have no doubt that many Iranians want a different regime, I am just as confident that they do not want change imposed by American intervention."

Well, yeah. I agree. First, even if our military power was fully available, it does not appear that traditional direct American and international diplomatic, economic and military means will be effective for the Iran problem. Second, at present, the US doesn't have realistic capacity nor will to attempt regime change in Iran.

Third, the basis for our comprehensive intervention in Iraq was established under President Clinton, whereas no such basis has been established for Iran.

That's why I build upon your point of increased Iranian influence in Iraq. You characterize it as an American defeat. I believe improved post-Saddam Iran-Iraq relations may well prove to be the best, though non-traditional, way to attain our goals vis-a-vis Iran. If Iraq eventually fulfills the liberal political and economic promise, with regional influence, that the vilified neo-cons predicted for Iraq entering OIF, then Iraq may very well influence Iran in our favor in ways out of reach of direct American and international means.

You said: "neo-conservatives were very confident that an enthusiastic reception of U.S. forces in Iraq would be the beginning of democratization in that country and in the neighborhood."

You know, 'neo-con' has been used as a pejorative a lot since 9/11, even to the point of straw-man - that seems to be the case here. The vast majority of mission supporters I've observed caution that patience is key. Anybody with real-world experience on any ambitious, difficult project knows that a plan doesn't survive 1st contact, when tenacity and adaptation comes to the fore.

Is President Bush even a neo-con? He strikes me as an anti-interventionist realist who converted into a Wilsonian liberal on 9/11. Besides, should liberal reform only apply where it's cheap and easy? (Wherever that is.)

It has not been disproven (nor, admittedly, definitely proven) at the 5 year mark that political liberalization of Iraq, and the region by extension, has begun in earnest. Even judged against past successes, I'm not sure that the ME peace project can reasonably expected to be further along at the 5 year mark. It is an ambitious project without guarantee of inevitable success, and it is radically different than pre-9/11 American ME policy. Like our own short-circuited Reconstruction after our Civil War, today, gains in Iraq can be reversed through short-sighted partisan politics. Reform in the ME will take time, with cautious highs and alarming lows. At present, at least, there are signs of progress.

Like I said, South Korea today is a success story, even accounting for the unresolved civil war. At the 5 mark of the Korea liberal project, we were embroiled in one of the most brutal and unpopular wars of the 20th century, in a country, by the way, that had already been decided unnecessary for American national security. In comparison, Iraq at the 5 year mark certainly appears favorable next to South Korea at the 5 year mark. Iraq does not equal Korea, but there is precedent to say we ought to be more patient and believe in our inherited revolution.

Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

Thank you. As always, it is a privilege to share ideas with you on your blog.

Professor, since you oppose Choice-C, which alternative to OIF was your choice, Choice-A or Choice-B?

Choice-A: pre-OIF status quo, or indefinite UN/US containment of Saddam's Iraq.

Choice-B: (unilaterally) end the pre-OIF Iraq intervention by restoring Saddam's Iraq to full and free sovereignty.

Choice-C: OIF, or trigger the steps to regime change by holding Saddam to a hard deadline and the standard set forth by us and the UN, followed by progressive peace-building in post-Saddam Iraq.

The core of your argument against Choice-C is that Saddam's Iraq was innocent. Therefore, It seems that you must have favored Choice-B, since Choice-B is the only choice based on the presumption of innocence for Saddam's Iraq. You could not have supported Choice-A, because the same presumption of guilt that informed Choice-C also informed the pre-OIF status quo.

So, what was your choice for Iraq, if not Choice-C -- Choice-A (status quo) or Choice-B (free Saddam)?

I don't want to go deeply into it now, but I do have much to say about America's "moral high ground" - what American global moral leadership meant for the Cold War, the hypocritical failures of American global moral leadership between the Cold War and 9/11, and most importantly, the current painful restoration of American global moral leadership in the midst of rising 21st century challenges. Suffice to say, you and I have a fundamentally different view of what it means for America to be a genuine global moral leader.

Personal anecdote, regarding Iraq: I used to favor Choice-A, until as a Columbia student, I participated in a 2003 TV program called "Bridge to Baghdad". It was a real-time moderated satellite discussion between American and Iraqi college students filmed immediately before and after the invasion. One of the Iraqi students asked, if the US was going to invade Iraq anyway, then why did we also force the Iraqi people to suffer for so many years under Saddam and the UN sanctions? It made me realize that, while Choice-A was the cheaper course of action for the 'international community', it had at the same time caused suffering for the Iraqi people while also worsening the Saddam problem. Worse, our pre-OIF Iraq intervention lacked any foreseeable ending nor progressive solution that could give Iraqis hope.

It's no mystery why in 1998 Osama bin Laden chose to use the UN/US Iraq intervention as the cornerstone of his declaration of war against us - he understood the world's view of our hopeless and corrosive Iraq mission. You say we've squandered our "moral high ground" since 2003 in Iraq. You're wrong. We lost our "moral high ground" in Iraq in the 1990s. Since 2003 in Iraq, we've been earning it back.

Why do you believe that opposing regime change in Iraq, with its follow-on peace-building, is the moral choice? Instead, how much longer would you have had the world watch while the Iraqi people suffered under the combined internal pressure of Saddam's regime and the external pressure of UN/US containment? Another decade? 2 decades? Uday and/or Qusay's reign? Forever? How long? And then what?


Eric: I appreciate your comments and first of all want to wish you a happy July Fourth as well.
As for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq--even the president has recognized by now that there were no WMD, certainly not nuclear ones, when the invasion began.
While I agree that the situations in North Korea, Iraq, and Iran were and are distinctly different, these countries were the culprits in President Bush's "axis of evil" and his war against terrorism. I looked at the different U.S. approaches vis-a-vis Iraq and North Korea to discuss what I believe would be the best way to deal with Iran. While I have no doubt that many Iranians want a different regime, I am just as confident that they do not want change imposed by American intervention.
As far as the pace of democratization in Iraq and in the Middle East is concerned, the neo-conservatives were very confident that an enthusiastic reception of U.S. forces in Iraq would be the beginning of democratization in that country and in the neighborhood.
Finally and unfortunately, the Bush administration has lost its and America's moral high ground when it comes to the promotion of our most esteemed democratic values and rights and freedoms by so many violations and restrictions of those civil liberties and human rights in the name of national security.
In my book, then, Independence Day is not only an opportunity to celebrate the forever great values and principles that made me decide to become a U.S. citizen years ago; July Fourth should also remind us of our responsibilities to demand that we act according to our values--here at home and abroad.

Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

I missed this in my response . . . you said: "The Bush administration’s plan to build a shining democracy in Iraq and thereby trigger a domino effect of similar reforms in the Middle East has not materialized."

President Bush said: "Democratic institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight; in America, they grew over generations."

So, President Bush believes that this process will require "generations". Is it your belief, instead, that a liberal revolution in the Middle East should have been completed at the 5 year mark in Iraq?

I admit, as I have said here before, I am biased by my military service in Korea. We occupied southern Korea when we defeated Japan. At the 5 year mark in Korea, we fought an exceedingly brutal (civil) war, which was followed by slow, imperfect, and difficult political and economic reform. The ROK did not hold its first democratic election until 1987, or 42 years after our post-war occupation began. Liberal reform was not destined in South Korea anymore than it is in Iraq - the illiberal Korean regime to their north proves that. It's not a stretch to say Iraqis face challenges that, although different, are at least as difficult as those faced by the Koreans.

Our competitors employ a generational perspective to their revolution. At what point did we reduce our inherited revolution to a 5 year horizon?

President John Kennedy:

"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

President Bill Clinton (speaking about Iraq):

"In the century we're leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we'll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace."

President George W Bush:

"For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability, and much oppression. So I have changed this policy. In the short-term, we will work with every government in the Middle East dedicated to destroying the terrorist networks. In the longer-term, we will expect a higher standard of reform and democracy from our friends in the region."

Happy Independence Day.

Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

You said: "there was far less certainty about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and especially an alleged nuclear program"

There's revisionist history implied in that statement which ignores the history of our intervention in Iraq that led to Operation Iraqi Freedom. If your basis for criticizing Operation Iraqi Freedom is true, Professor, then by the same reasoning, President Clinton should have ended our pre-OIF Iraq mission by January 1999 at the latest. Of course, this argument sets aside the fact that WMD was only one reason for our Iraq intervention (reminder: Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq:

Recall, Iraq's guilt was established. The key point in Iraq's conditions of surrender in Desert Storm was that Iraq - and Iraq alone - was responsible for proving its rehabilitation from both its existing WMD program and any future intent to reconsitute a WMD program.

The inspectors were at no point meant to be detectives; they were verifiers. At no point was it our responsibility to prove Iraq was guilty of possession or intent. Our ability to comprehensively investigate Iraq could take place only after regime change. The result of our post-war investigation was mixed: little remaining evidence of the WMD program with stronger evidence that Saddam intended to rebuild his WMD program. By 1998, it had become an academic exercise, anyway, given that President Clinton had established that Saddam's regime was the source problem, so that Iraq's WMD ambition was merely one of a multitude of symptoms, and regime change was the solution.

Under the Clinton Administration, our choices in Iraq had become, A, indefinitely prolong the disarmament-turned-containment program that could only be concluded by regime change, B, end the program unilaterally and effectively surrender to Saddam, or C, regime change. President Clinton settled for option-A after Op Desert Fox for the remainder of his presidency. I believe, if not for 9/11, President Bush would have settled for option-A, too, and like Clinton, punted the Iraq problem to any number of future US presidents while Iraq's suffering due to Saddam plus our containment continued indefinitely.

If we continue to mischaracterize Operation Iraqi Freedom and the history that led to it, then we risk confusing our other efforts at limiting WMD proliferation. What does Iraq have to do with Iran and north Korea? Our experience in Iraq contains all the important lessons.

First and foremost, it is critical that our generation learns to succeed in Iraq - in contrast to a previous American generation's abject failure in Vietnam - because, similar to our present opponents who evolved from the Vietnam war, any future war we fight will evolve from the Iraq war (moreso if we fail again). On the other hand, if we set the precedence of success in Iraq, we will (hopefully) discourage the attraction to social and systems-targeting guerilla warfare in the future.

Second, it's important that we understand the reasons our Iraq disarmament program failed, as it stumbled into a confused, harmful and provocative indefinite containment program, and eventually compelled our invasion of Iraq. In military-speak, drawing upon our lessons from 1991-2003, what can we do at "Phase Zero" in the present and future in order to attain our objectives before we reach a war stage?

north Korea is easier in that it is a more isolated nation than Iran, and none of its surrounding neighbors - including China - want a nuclear-armed north Korea. More to the point, nK is economically isolated. Right now, nK even depends on outside aid. While the Kim regime is clearly the source problem in nK, we hold advantages there that we don't hold over Iran.

We're not going to try OIF-type regime change in Iran. At most, there will be a Clinton-style attempt at laser-guided missile attacks on designated sites. That an invasion is even considered plausible by some is either a masterful 'big stick' diplomacy ruse by the Bush administration or an expedient fiction shared by all sides. Perhaps, the cover of the notion of military intervention allows everyone to ignore that Iran's international economic integration both effectively negates any invasion plan and undermines any diplomatic-economic effort to compel Iran.

In the 1990s, under Clinton, we saw the limits of international diplomacy (remember, Americans weren't supposed to have to unilaterally intervene in the Balkans, either) and those limits haven't been solved under Bush. The Bush administration should be applauded for employing a full range of political measures in different situations, which includes military (politics by other means), during its 2 terms. If for no other reason, the next US president will have plenty of precedent to draw upon as he makes his decisions in those same situations.

In Iran, international diplomacy - already limited - may well already be exhausted. Again, we're simply not going to try an OIF-type regime change. As well, it's probable that an Osirak-type aerial bombing is already an obsolete tactic.

You point to Iran's influence in Iraq as a US defeat, and it may be, but it also can be the key to attaining our objectives regarding Iran, if that influence can flow the other way, too. If the traditional diplomatic-economic-military options are stymied, our best option to address Iran will be what the Bush administration is now putting in place in Iraq: a US-friendly neighbor of Iran that has friendly relations and multi-faceted (diplomatic, people, cultural) flows with Iran.

The assumption, of course, is that the popular will will be ascendant in Iran and the people of Iran are more modern and less radical than its leaders. We don't know this for sure, but the notion is in line with Bush's essential democratic liberal philosophy he has applied steadfastly in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In other words, if the effectiveness of direct US soft power on Iran is limited and a direct application of hard power is a non-starter, then what if US (soft) power can be routed into Iran through a US-friendly Iraq, with a friendly neighborly face?

The liberal solution would be a radically progressive and long-vision innovation by the Bush administration, but the traditional diplomatic-economic-military options for Iran at this point appear exhausted or unrealistic.

It's an exciting time to be a political scientist, no?


Iran's nuclear program is unlike North Koreas because it is under IAEA safeguards. The media are presenting this as a FALSE DILEMMA, according to which we must either sanction/bomb Iran, or else Iran will get a nuclear weapon. This is false - there is a perfectly reasonable peaceful solution widely endorsed by American and International experts: multinational enrichment on Iranian soil
See http://www.IranAffairs.com for more details.

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