Why Not Let Them Hate Us, as long as They Fear Us?

Much as I hesitate to introduce yet another post with a plug for LNL, the interview with Chas Freeman last night obliges me to take the risk. Now retired, he was, as well as holding many other distinguished positions, US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. Terrific speaker . . . . . low key, intelligent, well informed with a humour so dry as to almost be invisible.

I was curious about this fellow and so had a look on Google. Found a few interesting things, amongst which was this transcript of a speech given late last year to the United States Information Agency Alumni Association. In it, he sums up the radical deterioration in the US position in the last five years particularly well, I thought, and does so as an insider. The title of this post is the one he used for that talk. Indeed, his opening words were:

“We are gathered together to reflect upon our country’s adoption of Caligula’s motto for effective foreign policy — ODERINT DUM METUANT — ‘let them hate us, as long as they fear us.’ As we do so, let us observe a brief moment of silence for the United States Information Agency and also for our republic, both of which long stood for a different approach.”

Although he takes care to trace the decline in America’s influence and reputation to well before the current administration, there’s no doubt things have taken a sharp turn for the worse on its watch. The post 9/11 American descent into a kind of serial irrationality, one that also found slight echoes here, he puts down to “the equivalent of a national nervous breakdown”. I think that’s right. Certainly measured judgement, openness to reality and awareness of the aspirations and viewpoints of others largely vanished on that day and have not yet reappeared. This despite the rebuke handed out to the White House and the Republicans in the recent election.

It’s particularly alarming that the cognitive dissonance so apparent in US policy vis a vis Iraq is, even in the face of overwhelming public dissatisfaction with that benighted enterprise, flourishing around the question of what to do about Iran. If anything, the principle Democratic candidates appear more bloodthirsty than the administration. As Freeman pungently puts it:

“Both Republicans and Democrats seem to consider that statecraft boils down to two options: appeasement; or sanctions followed by military assault. Both behave as though national security and grand strategy require no more than a military component and as though feeding the military-industrial complex is the only way to secure our nation. Both praise our armed forces, ignore their cavils about excessive reliance on the use of force, count on them to attempt forlorn tasks, lament their sacrifices, and blithely propose still more feckless tasks and ill-considered deployments for them. Together, our two parties are well along in destroying the finest military the world has ever seen. “

Critical though they are to the health of a democracy, the separation of powers and checks and balances Cam discussed in his earlier post on “Democracy and Empire” may in fact have limited application when the entire body politic is in thrall to an essentially emotional, fear based state. While some Americans are in the process of slowly emerging from this largely self-induced nightmare, it seems the political leadership lags far behind, obsessed with not appearing weak, belligerent to a fault and almost entirely impervious to rational analysis. Despite the manifest failure of current policy, and the frantic scrambling to find a solution to the resulting impasse, it would seem an attack on Iran can’t with confidence be ruled out. Truly extraordinary.

Freeman attempts, at the end of this talk, to sum up the present dilemma and propose in broad terms the way forward:

“We have lost international support not because foreigners hate our values but because they believe we are repudiating them and behaving contrary to them. To prevail, we must remember who we are and what we stand for. If we can rediscover and reaffirm the identity and values that made our republic so great, we will find much support abroad, including among those in the Muslim world we now wrongly dismiss as enemies rather than friends.

To rediscover public diplomacy and to practice it successfully, in other words, we must repudiate Caligula’s maxim and replace it with our traditional respect for the opinion of mankind. I do not think it is beyond us to do so. We are a far better and more courageous people than we currently appear. But when we do restore ourselves to mental balance, we will, I fear, find that decades are required – it will take decades – to rebuild the appeal and influence our post-9/11 psychoses took a mere five years to destroy.”

That seems about right. The fear I can’t quite shake is that the lingering madness which still seems to infect American political judgement will prove sufficiently strong to drive them, and us, over a cliff.

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55 Responses to Why Not Let Them Hate Us, as long as They Fear Us?

  1. For about ten years Romolo who ran Cafe Lella in Green Square in Kingston (ACT) had a sign up on the cafe’s wall ‘Let them hate, so long as they fear’.

    He was a funny guy – especially when sending us up – as with his chants (in an Italian accent) of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

    His spaghetti gamberi (is that how you spell it) has no equal. He’s now plying his trade with some others in Yarralumla – not sure if the sign has reappeared.

  2. James Farrell says:

    We should make up a roster for LNL follow-up posts, Ingolf, to prevent any one individual from seeming obsessed.

  3. Ingolf says:

    With a two for two score so far, James, in percentage terms at least I’m obviously the primo candidate. I shall have to choose my next foray with care.

  4. Please could you two stick to the topic – spaghetti gamberi.

  5. Ingolf says:

    Bit like herding cats, isn’t it?

  6. Harder than herding prawns.

  7. Ingolf says:

    Do you think a trip to Yarralumla may be necessary to corral this unfolding obsession?

  8. Juan Moment says:

    Thanx for the link to this fine Freeman speech. Most of his observations are imho spot-on, going right to the root of the problem the US faces these days in its foreign affairs, and may I add, increasingly Australia too.

    Somehow he delivers a before and after shot of the US image abroad, with this being the before package:

    No country was then more widely admired or emulated than ours. The superior features of our society – our insistence on individual liberty under law; the equality of opportunity we had finally extended to all; the egalitarianism of our prosperity; our openness to ideas, change, and visitors; our generous attention to the development of other nations; our sacrifices to defend small states against larger predators both in the Cold War and, most recently, in the war to liberate Kuwait; our championship of international order and the institutions we had created to maintain it after World War II; the vigor of our democracy and our dedication to untrammeled debate – were recognized throughout the world. Critics of our past misadventures, as in Vietnam, had been silenced by the spectacle of our demonstrable success.

    This itself is a pretty rosy appraisal of the US, certainly not how I perceived the US and its gun barrel diplomacy throughout my years on this planet, but then again, I am one of those Vietnam critics, one that hasn

  9. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Clearly you are caring human being. There can be no doubt of that. But to think that you have a monopoly on caring because you percieve your views to be “the caring views,” however, is a demonstration of ideology, not truth. The nexus of Geopolitics, Economics, Necessity, Emotionalism, Propaganda and Truth is so much more complicated than you seem to suggest. Neoconservatives love their children, and other’s, too. Quelle horreur!

    Furthermore, your charaterization of the people of U.S. and our participation in the 20th century is a sad sad simplification. Whenever I hear these lines of arguments my first instinct is to ask “Are you a fan of Chomsky, Znet, Howard Zinn and The Nation?” In America the answer to that question is usually yes. Then when I ask, “who do you read on the other side?” I get a blank stare. Or “I don’t read that right wing fascist garbage!” Or something similar. I used to be the same way, until I broke out of the bubble and started reading more widely. The world is so much more complicated than the anti-war marxian crowd allows.

    It would take me all day to address all the half-truths you repeat above. The one that struck me quickest is the one that often causes the most brain fog with respect to the twentieth century. And that is the heedless shrugging-off of the horrors of the Soviet union while simultaneously scrutinizing american actions according to Soviet propaganda paradigms. This results in a complete misunderstanding of the cold war and, often, venemous self-righteous hatred toward the U.S.

    Once this ideologically-cleansed mindset is achieved, it acts as a funnel down which all facts travel. It’s all America’s fault. Rinse and repeat.

  10. James Farrell says:

    ‘I used to be the same way, until I broke out of the bubble and started reading more widely…’

    Ahah! The old ‘I used to think that’ gambit. I used to subscribe to the opinion you currently hold. Therefore I understand the logic underpinning all your arguments. But since, as you see, I no longer subscibe to that opinion, it must follow that the logic is flawed. QED.

  11. Kevin Schnaper says:

    The point stands, that everyone should look at the countering arguments to what they believe for the sake of intellectual honesty. I used my particular educational journey as an example and a plea, not as a proof of anything. That is your imputation.

    Furthermore, I felt the point about the Soviet Union was a telling one. And one that tends to be associated with an ideological imperviousness that I believe needs to be combatted. Again I say it is simply impossible to understand the twentieth century without taking a long, hard, cold look at the atrocities of the Soviet System and the enormous impact they had upon the world. This in turn tends to temper one’s views toward the United States given how much of America’s actions and reactions were predicated on the fact that the Soviet Union was a threat to the civilized world.

    If you do not believe that the Soviet Union was a threat to the civilized world, or at least not much of one, I would suggest a little more study of the other side of the ledger was in order. Assuming other ideas are entertainable, of course.

  12. Ingolf says:

    Juan, I don’t think Freeman for one moment holds the view that America’s loss of respect and liking around the world is primarily due to being “misevaluated and misunderstood”. I imagine much of the boilerplate extolling America’s past virtues as well as that comment are a kind of reflexive act of diplomacy, particularly when addressing an audience such as the US Information Agency Alumni Association.

    The following two sentences alone provide sufficient evidence that he’s very clear on where the blame lies for the current unhappy state of affairs:

    “It’s hard to find anybody out there who believes we know what we’re doing or that we have a sound grasp of our own interests, let alone any understanding or concern for theirs. We have given the terrorists what they cannot have dared dream we would – policies and practices that recruit new terrorists but that leave no space for our friends and former admirers to make their case for us or for our values or policies.

    Not much wriggle room there.

  13. Kevin,

    We’re grown ups here. Of course we believe that the Soviet Union was a threat to the civilised world. It was an abomination.

    May I suggest you try to take in some of the criticisms of your once great country on their merits?

    I guess we could tell David Hicks about how terrible the Soviet Union was. But that wouldn’t really be germane to the issue as he sits there chained to the floor without proper charges or trial for five years while your own nationals accused of the same things were removed and tried in a court of law.

  14. Ingolf says:

    Kevin, I can’t speak for James but I’d be astonished if he disagreed with your exhortation to “look at the countering arguments to what they believe for the sake of intellectual honesty”. I certainly wouldn’t.

    What is striking is that you don’t engage with Freeman’s arguments. This is a man who I’d imagine you would accept as an American patriot, one who has spent much of his professional life fighting the good fight, as he would see it, not least against the Soviet Union and its satellites and proxies. I very much doubt he needs reminding about any aspect of the Cold War. And yet he’s devastated by the egregious folly of US policy.

    I listened carefully to the interview with him that prompted this post and there was not a hint of schadenfreude. All his energy is devoted to trying to steer a country he clearly loves back onto a sensible course, one that may in time return it to the favoured position in the world’s affections it so long held.

    And your response to all of this is to quibble about Juan’s possible exaggerations and James’ clear indentification of a rhetorical gambit?

  15. James Farrell says:

    Every so often someone shows up in the comments box who posts long comments, one quarter of which constitute actual arguments, with the remainder devoted to accusing people who don’t agrre with them of being uninformed, narrowly read, under the spell of leftwing ideologues, lacking intellectual honesty, motivated by hate, etc., etc. A stock feature of these comments is a transcript of a conversation with some cariacature leftist who illustrates all these lamentable traits. Presumably readers are supposed to recognise themselves in these portraits, recoil in horror, and recant.

    You are the latest in the procession, Kevin. I have no objection to hearing your arguments, but you would do us all a favour, and save yourself a lot of typing, by skipping all the other stuff. We’ll just take it as read.

  16. Kevin Schnaper says:

    On the etiquette required of the posters to this board, all I can say in my own defense is I am learning.

    In my above comments I was directly addressing Mr. Moment’s opinions, which I assume are available to be commented upon. I was not addressing Mr. Freeman. Mr. Gruen your defense of Mr. Moment’s knowledge of the Soviet Union does not seem to borne out by what he wrote.

    On the Freeman piece, I think we can all appreciate it for what it is, an informed opinion piece by a respected former ambassador. Whether we judge Mr. Freeman’s opinions in a favorable or unfavorable light seems a purely subjective matter — based upon which information set we are subjected to, or in some cases, predisposed to. This is not to say that I don’t agree with him on many points. But I can’t help feeling that the intense hatred many feel for our current president is the main culprit of much of the current ill will directed toward my country. I think the west will return to more friendly terms when he is out of office, no matter who replaces him.

    By the way, “once great country” is pretty funny. Everything that was great about the U.S. is still intact, I assure you, despite what the hysterical media has to say.

  17. Ingolf says:

    Whether a country is great is less about material means than it is about spirit and character, Kevin. As it happens, the nuts and bolts part has also suffered considerable decline in recent years.

    As to board requirements, as far as I can see its etiquette seems fairly simply centred around respect and avoiding ad hominem arguments. I’m sure you can make whatever sort of argument you feel best promotes your view of the world, but as James indicated, how receptive people will be depends on your credibility. For my part, your tendency to sidestep by shifting the focus to where you can hammer away at tried and trusted themes reduces the pleasure of the conversation. As does the regular procession of straw men you raise only to demolish.

    It strikes me as odd that you could imagine such transparent techniques would serve any useful purpose on a board such as Troppo.

  18. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Ingolf,

    You write: “Whether a country is great is less about material means than it is about spirit and character, Kevin. As it happens, the nuts and bolts part has also suffered considerable decline in recent years.”

    To the first part I say, yes, of course. And no doubt Democratic and Media loathing of our president has worsened the admittedly annoying fact of his presence in leadership. But that is all cosmetics. And insofar as the cosmetics affect the spirit of this nation, it is still a temporary proposition. The war, as well as the resulting debates over individual rights versus collective security, is certainly taking its toll on the American Psyche. But I think these are unavoidable factors during a time of crisis, exacerbated by the presence of the inarticulate Mr. Bush in office and an hysterical left press that despises him and wildly mischaracterizes his party to the public and the world.

    To the second part I say, do you have some evidence of this? Are you under the impression that the wheels are falling off over here?

    As far as “tried and trusted themes” goes, I only address them as they come up and affect thinking. In the case of Mr. Moment’s characterizations of the cold war, I think my repudiation was legitimate. He was wrong to diminish or shrug off Soviet culpabilities during the cold war, and it seemed to me the rest of his post demonstrated that this was naturally titling his thinking about America toward the negative end of the spectrum. This led me to make the analogy that most of those who share his view in this country tend to have a preferred reading list. I was hoping he would respond with information that either rejected or confirmed the applicability of my analogy.

  19. Kevin,

    Lets have an argument on the merits?

    Oh – and yes those Soviets were very very nasty indeed. Very nasty.

    If you’d like like a latter day Cato I’ll repeat that at the every comment.

    Very nasty indeed. I wish people appreciated that more . . .

  20. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Nicholas Gruen,

    The repetition re: Soviet Super-Badness was necessary in order to explain myself in this thread. I would have thought that obvious. And, as you already undoubtably know, your sarcasm is hilarious and withering.

    kev

  21. Pingback: Club Troppo » Friday’s Missing Link

  22. Yes, my sarcasm wasn’t very nice, but I think if you really understood how nasty those Soviets were you’d appreciate that I’m a fairly easy going guy.

  23. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Yes, but you’re no Caligula.

  24. Was it Caligula – I thought it was a latter Emperor? That’s what the sign in Romolo’s cafe said (I think).

  25. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Cicero.

  26. tigtog says:

    According to Wikipedia (sprinkles salt), Caligula cribbed it from an earlier (Republican even) tragic poet, Lucius Accius (170 BC).

  27. Kevin Schnaper says:

    My bartlett’s quotations says, Lucius Accius 170-86 BC, fragment. The footnote says: From a lost tragedy. Frequently cited by Cicero and others. Suetonius says that Caligula was fond of quoting it.

    It also references Quintus Ennius who said “whom they fear they hate” and Machiavelli with “From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

  28. tigtog says:

    The New Penguin Dic. Quot. adds that it was quoted in Cicero’s Philippic (1.14). He didn’t use it approvingly.

    What I am more afraid of is lest, being ignorant of the true path to glory, you should think it glorious for you to have more power by yourself than all the rest of the people put together, and lest you should prefer being feared by your fellow-citizens to being loved by them. And if you do think so, you are ignorant of the road to glory. For a citizen to be dear to his fellow-citizens, to deserve well of the republic, to be praised, to be respected, to be loved, is glorious; but to be feared, and to be an object of hatred, is odious, detestable; and, moreover, pregnant with weakness and decay. And we see that, even in the play, the very man who said, –

    “What care I though all men should hate my name,

    So long as fear accompanies their hate?”

    found that it was a mischievous principle to act upon.

    Seneca also used the phrase to disparage the principle in De Ira (On Anger) 1.20.4

    The phrase “Let them hate, so long as they fear” is cruel and to be rejected. You could tell it was written in the time of Sulla.

    Caligula seems to be the only one who used the phrase approvingly.

  29. Ingolf says:

    Kevin, you say you only address “tried and trusted themes” as they “come up and affect thinking.” I can see that you might wish to inject some balance into the picture painted by Juan and that to do this, mention must be made of the part played by the other great actor in the post WWII world.

    Still, you know my views on this subject from our earlier long exchange and Nicholas certainly made his clear, so wherein lies the virtue — or necessity as you might have it — in sticking to your favoured side of the ledger and ignoring or downplaying the other? As I was at pains to point out so that this conversation might have a chance of moving on, Ambassador Freeman is unlikely to need reminders on the harsh realities of the Cold War. That’s what I meant by sidestepping.

    As I see it, your insistent focus on the invidious media plays a similarly useful role. Now, I grant you many of them are getting a bit toey with Mr Bush recently, but from 9/11 until not that long ago they couldn’t have been more obsequious if they’d been indentured servants. So the issue of balance cuts both ways. For the record, lest I find myself pigeonholed, I’m not at all sure I’d be any more comfortable with a President Hillary Clinton, for example, than the current incumbent. The sickness in the American body politic is in my view quite pervasive.

    Finally, a quick word on the nuts and bolts. How would you characterise an heir to a great fortune who, through a combination of excessive consumption, grandiose gestures and ill-advised adventures is not only chewing through the accumulated wealth of generations but also putting himself ever more at the mercy of his lenders? For that, in a nutshell, and with all due allowance made for a bit of hyperbole, is how I see the US today.

  30. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Ingolf,

    You wrote: Still, you know my views on this subject from our earlier long exchange and Nicholas certainly made his clear, so wherein lies the virtue

  31. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Here is the snippet I mentioned:

    Tim Russert:

  32. Ingolf says:

    The gloves come off again, it seems.

    Kevin, I know from our long previous conversation that you

  33. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Ingolf,

    I take you at your word that you admire the America of Yore. When that particular Edenic America existed, I don’t know. To my mind, the principles you appreciate are all still intact and emanating from our shores. But there is a cloud of hysteria stretching across the Atlantic that often blocks the rays.

    I have never thought you were, in fact, anti american. But I do believe that what you often say is, let us say, counterproductive. Not just to American interests, but to Western interests all told, including your own.

    Eventually, if the Iraq and Afghan projects succeed, and they still may well, the world will settle down into an era of unprecidented prosperity. I hope if that time comes, you will look back at this grandiose gesture and say “even though I thought it was clueless and poorly executed, headed by an oafish character and his machiavellian minions, in the end it was for the best.”

    If I may attempt to crack your information bubble again: Condeleeza Rice was quoted as asking administration officials to play down the Russia angle. This was obviously a strategic assessment to keep the war, and the concentration of the American people, focused on the projects at hand. Despite the ludicrous amount of Russian weaponry at the ready throughout that region.

    The buried warplanes in the desert are factual. Mitrokhin is there waiting for you. Pacepa’s revelations are fascinating and illuminating. Georges Sada might be worth a look too. Closing your ears to facts and opinions not coming through your narrow slit to the world fairly well contradicts the erudition your grammar posits. How could you consider yourself educated when you’re only allowing in half the story? You betray yourself.

    The quote of mine you cite, “hate us for a thousand years” was in regard to the either/or scenario. It seems obvious enough that it is rhetoric — “poetic” exaggeration used to exemplify my firmness. It was not a recipe, how could it be. It went to this idea, which relates to the idea of propaganda: If America’s choice is either stave off Islamist expansionism at the sacrifice of its “good standing” in the world, or pussyfoot around expanding Islamism so that the free thinking world opines we’re swell, I would choose the former. Bad opinion can always swing around to a good reality. The reverse is unlikely to be the case.

    The Russert inteview is in direct contradiction to many of the hysterical “observations” of Freedman’s. Particularly in the area of the supposed bad faith of the administration. Incidentally, the Saudis did not want the iraq war to happen, for several reasons. The fact that Freedman was the Saudi Ambassador is interesting, in this light.

    Furthermore, in case you didn’t know, the U.S. State Department tends to be Democrat-run, diplomatic, and thus, nearly by definition, pacifist. The joke about state is, it always believes in more negotiation.

    On the uses of fear and rational analysis: Fear is what has kept man alive for the millenia. It is the ultimate in rationality in that sense. That which keeps us on our toes, keeps us alive. Analysis, properly utilized, has been used to create defenses, weapons and strategies, all based on alleviating fear by outthinking enemies — that we may kill them first. Or find a way to co-opt them, if such a possibilitly arises.

    Abstract Rationalists (Critiques offered but never Ideas, Considerations gathered but never Willpower) are often considered weak because when push comes to shove, they pick up a book and retreat from the battle space.

    “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is a nice statement, but countries don’t mobilize into global conflicts because they feel secure. Fear is the great motivator.

    Rationality, in times of conflict, is a demotivator — and is only as good as your enemy’s word. After all, could anything be more rational than wanting “Peace in our time?”

  34. Ingolf says:

    You’re right of course that an Edenic America is more myth than reality. Still, it’s dedication to its founding principles has at times been moderately strong. An underlying sense of manifest destiny and great worldly success do, however, tend to make for a heady brew.

    I’m happy, once again, to leave matters there, Kevin. We’re pretty clear on each other’s views and I don’t see much to be gained in trying to bring them any closer. If, as you suggest — and despite all the indications I see to the contrary — it all turns out swimmingly that would certainly cause me no pain. I’m not wedded to disaster scenarios.

    That said, I would also undoubtedly in such a case still be quibbling about whether there wasn’t a far more effective and civilised path . . . .

  35. Juan Moment says:

    Hello Kevin,

    Clearly you are caring human being. There can be no doubt of that.

    Thank you, likewise.

    But to think that you have a monopoly on caring because you percieve your views to be

  36. Juan Moment says:

    There is a second part to this reply, but for some reason it won’t print it. Anybody has any ideas why?

    Greetings

    Juan

  37. Juan Moment says:

    Part 2:

    Furthermore, your charaterization of the people of U.S. and our participation in the 20th century is a sad sad simplification.

    You are right, it is a simplification and it is sad. You dont however have to read Chomsky and company to come to such judgement, reading newspapers will do. I do try to understand the ‘other side’s’ arguments, the ‘defend the free world’ blanket reasonung, the ‘stop the tyrants’-case they put forward. I find myself more often than not supportive of those motives, but not the means to achieve those ends. I can not agree to methods tyrants would use, regardless if they are used by tyrants or people who want to fight the tyrants. If the US tortures (and it does), it is in the same league as Saddam Hussein. For the majority of the electorate to accept this

  38. Juan Moment says:

    And that is the heedless shrugging-off of the horrors of the Soviet union while simultaneously scrutinizing american actions according to Soviet propaganda paradigms. This results in a complete misunderstanding of the cold war and, often, venemous self-righteous hatred toward the U.S.

    Again Kevin, where did I shrug off the horrors of the Soviet Union? I didn

  39. Juan Moment says:

    But while we are at it, I despise the atrocities and aim for global dominance of that country as much as I do the US

  40. Juan Moment says:

    And you know Kevin, the best of it all, a historic fact quite often forgotten by the

  41. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Well Juan,

    Thanks for the reply and all the work you put into it.

    Of course it is difficult to know where to begin to respond. You say this fact-set you present is from newspapers, not books. Well, unless you were alive in 1954, which I doubt, you are getting your history lesson from somewhere. The fact that your take on US history directly coincides with the Chomskian/Soviet line suggests to me that either you’ve read Chomsky or one of his confreres or you’ve read people who’ve read Chomsky (or one of his confreres). Let’s be honest here.

    Most of the facts you present have a foundation in reality, as these critical litanies of the US tend to be checkable. Just google Grenada or Mossadegh and you have your proof. But facts are pretty well meaningless without context. It seems reasonable that any set of facts can be used to prove just about anything without a context to ground them. So without getting a firm grip on the Cold War context which your fact-set seems to slightly drift up from, the gaps in knowledge get filled in with bias.

    History cannot be reduced to a laundry list. This left anti-US laundry list you offer is a classic tactic used to overwhelm dissenters. It works because it would take a book for each episode you site to explain what the heck was really going on and why it was important, why it was important in context of larger global conflicts such as the cold war and Islamist expansionism, etc. Not to mention that there are usually about seven different version of each episode, the first of which is usually the Soviet-style line.

    This has been one of the grave consequences of US secrecy. The real story doesn’t come out for decades, and by that time the world has been carpet-bombed by the Soviet-line. That’s why to this day Chomsky can spout error after error and be oblivious to them. Because at the time he was educating himself on many of these manners, the truth WAS the soviet line.

    The history of the twentieth century is still being written. Unfortunately, many have already filled their cups and don’t care to drink any more. People being what they are, I don’t hold out hope that this will change.

    The twentieth century was quite a mess. Indeed the US is probably responsible for a few million deaths that were arguably unnecessary. I say arguably. Because we are by no means perfect and we are out there in the world like every other country trying to be successful. And one of the ways we have always defined success, besides materialistically, is Peace. And peace is hard won and often times thankless. So nobody counts the lives we saved. We probably saved the world. But nevermind that, we made some tough choices, played a little economic hardball, and we have to hear it from the left. Well, thank you very much. America hears you and hopes to do better in the future.

    What’s that old phrase about a cynic; One who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Well, that’s what I sense a bit of here. You see suffering and you naturally respond with heart. As I do, and I submit, every single neoconservative I know or read. How many beautiful German people were killed by the allies during World War II? Untold numbers. And each one is a tragedy, a life lost, a mother burned to death, a father without an eye, a child disfigured. If we wanted to cry for all the beautiful innocent lives lost in battle, we would weep until the end of days. We would cry forever.

    The twentieth century was rife with moral impossibilities. It takes enormous courage to act in the face of these impossibilities. To listen to your laundry list is to have evidence of that impossibility once again.

    You look at our interventions and you point to the US and you say, you have done this! But you do not ask why. The context doesn’t count.

    The Soviet Union was an expansionist empire that killed something like 80 million people. It’s economy was wretched, backwards and caused untold horrors, starvation, slavery. It jailed its dissidents, millions of them, and left them to rot in concrete prisons. Its ideology was odious, its beaurocracy filled with duplicitous thugs, paranoid, anti-semitic, abusive torturers, executioners. It had spies everywhere, in Germany, in the US, throughout the third world. It owned politicians and newspapers. It paid for the publication of anti-west propaganda in books and magazines. It taught terrorists how to hijack planes, what to say to get the ears of the west’s disaffected, how to make bombs, it gave them guns and weapons and tanks.

    The Soviet Union had to be stopped. According to Gorbachev it would have taken forty more years for it to collapse by itself. And it only came to that kind of ruin because we blocked them at every expansionist turn, including viet nam, at the cost of trillions of dollars and many many lives. For which we get next to no credit, apparently, from people who only see costs, not value.

    The accusations implicit in your slanted “history lesson” are easily dispelled in the face of the facts now available. I respecfully suggest you try to acquire a bit more perspective.

  42. Kev,

    What do you think of David Hicks being untried for five years, and I would imagine completely destroyed psychologically. Do you think it is in any way defensible while your own nationals are given different treatment ?

    Yes or no please. Are you proud or ashamed of your country regarding its treatment of our national.

  43. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Hmm, I realize this may be an indictment by itself, but I have not heard much about this. I perfectly understand your concern and anguish. I will look into it and get back to you.

  44. Juan Moment says:

    Heloo Kevin,

    The fact that your take on US history directly coincides with the Chomskian/Soviet line suggests to me that either you

  45. Juan Moment says:

    You look at our interventions and you point to the US and you say, you have done this! But you do not ask why. The context doesn

  46. Kevin Schnaper says:

    Juan,

    You’re analysis of the collapse of the SU is unsupportable when the full measure of history is taken into account.

    If the US had not fought all those wars against Soviet encroachment, the soviets would have taken most of those countries into its web. Those countries would have bolstered the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union would have gotten stronger on the backs of those countries. And the SU would have grown still further and felt emboldened to continue its mad ideological march towards global dominance.

    And as we all know, the Soviet communist system was wretched economically, styfling innovation and growth, destroying the spirit of the people, practically enslaving them, clearly damaging them psychologically, mismanaging food supplies and farming, causing famines and starvations, and shortages, etcetera…

    Not to mention its viral ideology.

    It should be obvious that whatever SU touched would have also been infected by that awful societal torpor. There was quite enough evidence among the former Soviet sattelites, even to this day, for you to see what the world would have become had the cold war gone the other way.

    Instead we fought them every step of the way, every inch, in seeming every country in the world in good ways and bad for every year from 1945 to the present at enormous costs. (The cold war is not quite over yet, IMHO, although the forces of freedom, democracy and open markets are clearly taking route the world over) The cold war was fought on other battlefields than those of the actual participants. I can understand how some countries would resent that fact. But larger questions were at stake. I do not believe it is callous to say so.

    This is what you don’t seem to grasp… You look at the 1980s, when most western scholars were still talking about the SU in glowing terms, and you say, well from what we know now, they were totally gonna collapse anyhow. Not only is that wrong in terms of what we knew at the time, witness all the scholars who were wrong about the matter. If that were true Reagan’s tear down this wall speech wouldn’t have cause such a shock wave accross the SU.

    Furthermore, your emphasis on the inevitability of the fall prevents you from seeing the strategic point of detente plus proxy wars plus CIA plus Interventions, etc. that the US kept up for all those many years that led to that “inevitability”.

    You miss the fact that it was EVERY U.S. effort to check the SU, stretching from the falling of the Berlin Wall back to the collapse of Nazi germany, that made the difference in turning back the tide of the SU. It was the TOTALITY of our efforts that beat back the SU and showed itself for what it was, including the evidence of our success. We slow-crushed them over half a century on every front there was.

    But again, the cold war was a morally impossible situation. Clearly, that people such as yourselves hold such animosity toward my country demonstrates the futility of explaining grand strategy to certain types of thinkers. Like, for instance, those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    About your lefty laundry list (I call it that, because of the reductionist nature of it. It simplifies everything to an accusation. And I’ve only ever heard it read as a list except by lefties) we’ll take the example of Chile…

    Do a study of what was happening in the Soviet-aligned Chilean economy during Allende: Allende’s socialists, the marxists in government and the lunatic far-left MIR were destroying the country. According to the marxist revolutionary style book, they went and seized factories and farms and such and presto the nationalized sector of the economy got so screwed up so quickly the only way to pay its workers was to print boatloads of unbacked currency blasting inflation into the stratosphere at a 600% clip!

    The attempts by suddenly struggling agra-businesses to right this mess (expropriations and such) caused a mini-civil war and Chile was torn up with food shortages and a flourishing black market and many internationally trading business in-country simply collapsed. Thereafter there was no businesses left to advertise in the free media, so free-speech outlets like newspapers and such pretty much disappeared — except for those few that remained afloat because of secret funding from — you guessed it — the dreaded CIA!!

    So the country was going through absolute hell and the people get scared and there’s a burst of right-centrist sentiment in the country that led to a 56% by-term parliamentary victory against Allende’s irresponsible government, though still short of the 66% that would have been required to oust Allende through impeachment. And Allende wouldn’t step down. For many in-country by late summer of ’73 the only hope seemed to be some kind of military intervention which was widely expected to occur shortly. Of course the military was in kind of mess too, some of its top leaders having been brought into government by Allende as a way to try to co-opt the rage many of the military’s bourgeoise followers felt against his government. This included commander in chief of the army, Carlos Prats.

    Turns out though, that Prats’ pro-Allende sentiments weren’t shared by those officers directly under him, and Prats was ousted by them. This was two weeks before Allende fell. The guy that took over for Prats was Pinochet, who at that point, just about nobody knew. The tidal wave of a military coup was already cresting.

    (The vagaries of the “coup” moment itself have also undergone quite a bit of new research which I advise looking into.)

    Anyhow, I think my point was made. Soviet/marxist influence was absolutely deadly. And, in terms of your list of deadly US deeds, by and large the Chilean coup was internally generated by interior societal forces caused by soviet/marxist influence, and the rise of Pinochet was essential a stroke of even worse luck, so strike that one off your naughty list if you please.

    The only thing that kept the SU afloat economically all those years was oil. Which is why they were and have been so obsessed with the Middle East and Latin America since 1920, when they first made the tactical switch to totalitarianism.

    You should look into the efforts Reagan and Casey made to beat the SU via economic maneuvers in the oil markets, too. That should be very enlightening on the oil question. With their influence in the Middle East and Latin America and Venezuela it is quite conceivable that left to its own devices the SU could have lasted for another 40 years simply on oil revenue alone. Not to mention the fact that the beaurocracy of the Empire was still chugging along with the KGB at its head.

    Post Berlin-Wall sovietology has a host of testaments by high placed Soviets from Gorbachev on down that go to Reagan and the Pope and American Militarism and the arms race and “Star Wars” and the “Evil Empire” speech and other proactive outside events as catalytic. Your notion goes counter to what the actual participants in the event believe. I would trust them over you any day of the week. Maybe you should write to all those greatful to America for their efforts and tell them why they are wrong.

    To this day Russia can’t make enough food to feed it’s people, because of the bad agriculture practices instituted during the twentieth century. Imagine that kind of ineptitude going global.

    And as far as “democratically elected” goes… so was Hitler. Life isn’t black and white and neither is history. Tough choices have to be made.

    I’m still not yet sure if the use of Agent orange would be one of them. We didn’t have a better defoliant. It wasn’t known that it contained dioxin and wasn’t considered a toxic substance at the time of the Viet Nam war so under international law it was legal to use in warfare. It had been used on crops in the US with apparant safety. And I’m sure you know that trials are still ongoing vis a vis the effects of agent orange. And undoubtably you would have heard about the recent, more scientifically sound, study of its effects. Link here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14721554/

    So, I just don’t really know the deal with Agent Orange. And neither do you.

    Anyhow, if you really want to get into more updated sovietology try Vasily Mitrokhin to start. Two volumes. About 1200 pages. Anything by Robert Conquest should also help you get an overview. He’s the one scholar above all others who understood what the SU was all about. And he had it right when it was fashionable to have it totally wrong. He is now considered a hero across the former Soviet Empire.

    There’s tons more authors on the subject. Just read every scholar that you’ve been told to hate by whatever websites you frequent.

    P.S. I certainly do not advocate using military action willy-nilly. Peaceful methods are always best, unless there is such repression that it becomes a moral issue to intervene. That, of course, is a judgement call that has to be made. I think there was a moral abdication by many important countries with respect to Iraq. China and Russia don’t care about human rights. Russia, France and Germany had illicit under the table deals with Saddam for oil.

    If all those countries and the rest of the corrupt UN had joined the Iraq project, the war would probably be over by now and the peace won. Instead many of these countries actively worked against the success of the project, Russia especially.

  47. Still waiting for your views on David Hicks Kev,

    If there in there with the long explanations – I’ve stopped reading till we do the basic reality check – that’s what the question about David Hicks is about.

  48. Kevin Schnaper says:

    I love the Perry Mason stuff. I don’t answer your questions, boy, you answer mine!

    And thank you for not reading my above post. On a purely humane level, I would prefer you preserve your eyesight anyhow.

    Just to make clear for the tenth time, if you’re under the impression that I think my country is perfect, you’re wrong. Not a chance. I know far more about the problems and unpardonables of my country than you ever can. I merely request balance and perspective and sobriety, that we may all see reality clearer. My country has been a positive force in the world and it has been a negative force in the world. But on balance it has been positive. Those who speak in unbalanced negative terms about it… well what can be said about them? No use getting personal. People will be people.

    But I can tell you really want to blow up at me and AmeriKKKa over the whole “David Hicks” thing, so I’ll just get to it. I can feel the seething rage coming through the words and I wouldn’t want to prolong your wait. I know this is a very important question for you. I can totally understand. You said it’s not just a reallity check. Its THE reality check. And I get how important this is to you. You are practically demanding I answer. Nothing else matters. No defense of my country holds a candle to this one question for which your passion for justice finds so fine a cause. Are you reading this? I know how important this question is to you. I just want to make sure you’re reading this. Is your heart pounding? I imagine it is. So I’ll just get right to it. So without further ado, I’ll just get right to it. I’ll just come out with it. I’ll just speak my mind and you can read it over, and I’m sure you’ll read it over very carefully, and you’ll be able to see exactly the kind of way that I see these matters that you are clearly so anxious and ….

    On Abu Muslim al-Austraili — I don’t think he calls himself David Hicks anymore, does he? I think that’s his dad calling him that — which is perfectly smart thing to do politically. If he used the Abu Muslim name, the public interest among Australians would probably be more muted, I would guess.

    Anyhow, I looked up as much info as I could find from all different sources. There’s not too much I can say about it. I don’t know the inside scoop, except what I’ve read, like everybody else.

    Looking at it as soberly as I can, it seems Abu when he was still David, was a bit of a wild man, drugs, partying, bit screw-loose, he got recruited a la “Taliban John” and became a radical muslim, changed his name, and wrote some nutjob things like “its all a jewish plot to divide muslims” in letters to his dad (which is curious given the thousand year split between shia and sunni and how persians detest arabs and most of the middle east hates palestinians that live in their countries.) It does sound like he’s sort of an unstable guy who went rad-muz, and was caught on the battlefeild with the enemy.

    But that doesn’t mean he isn’t accorded international rights.

    I think the only question is how those rights are administered and what his combat capture status was and all that. Actually, I don’t know what the deal is because international law is just about the fuzziest law going. It sounds like he qualifies as an enemy combattant, from the rules of enemy combattenthood that I read. But I wasn’t there on the battlefield, so I just don’t know.

    Whether he was actually tortured or not is sort of impossible to tell because of the Islamist tactic of constantly claiming torture and desecration of the Koran when imprisoned. So it becomes impossible to tell who is lying and who is telling the truth. But except for a few isolated incidents, like that moron who did the Abu Ghraib porn, I would tend to think the US is pretty good to prisoners. Even when they get spit on by them. Plus they have human rights folks constantly running through there and its been pretty high marks from what I read.

    So the answer is, I just don’t know. I’m not an international law scholar.

    I can only give my opinioin on the matter as a whole. Which is: Clearly the length of this war is going to require some change in the law where people don’t get sequestered for decades without trial. Beyond that, I hope this all is resolved soon. That enough of reality check for ya?

  49. Juan Moment says:

    Kevin,

    thanx for your lengthy reply. I think I know where you are coming from, but in the end we probably have to agree to disagree.

    You are by the looks a firm beliver in ‘the end justifies the means’, a philosophy that doesn’t sit as easy with me as it does with you. For you any argument remotely critical of US policies is dispatched as lefty Anti-Americanism with no footing in reality, as it does not recognise “the wider context”, the ‘how the US saved the World’ context (I am sorry, but I am still laughing about that one).

    Reading your posts, I get the impression that, whilst you might feel ‘sort of’ sorry for the millions of people who were killed by the US Military machine, you believe they were all necessary to stop the evil SU empire from expanding.

    As you might have understood, I too was not a fan of the SU, quite the opposite. A repressive regime with very little compassion for its people. The fact that it collapsed was worth me and countless others celebrating its end. Its peaceful end. So you are waisting time by trying to explain to me just how bad the SU was, preaching to the converted so to speak. But what you certainly have not understood is my believe that this collapse could have and would have also happened without many of the wars the US thought it had to fight. I don’t believe that the Vietnam war did anything to accelerate the SU’s demise. Vietnam become communist anyway and the SU still collapsed.

    Greetings

  50. Kevin Schnaper says:

    “But what you certainly have not understood is my believe that this collapse could have and would have also happened without many of the wars the US thought it had to fight. I don

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