Unilateral or Multilateral, you can't have it both ways

If W told the CIA that they had to obey him, as head of the government, and give him some bad intel so he could go to war; and if the meek, subservient bureaucrats (??!) at the CIA said, “OK, boss, here’s some bad intel, we got a whole basket of it for you, have a good time at the war”; what did W do to make the KGB go along with that? The Russians have been trying to take over the middle east about as long as there have been Russians, so they don’t need to depend on our CIA for what is going on there. I think that the main reason why it is even necessary to mention that point after all this time is that we tend to speak in generalities about the FrenchGermansRussians, or the current leaders of those countries, who are not the well known household names that Stalin was, and most Americans don’t grasp the point that the other countries made their own independent determination about the WMD. As the late Lloyd Bentsen might say, I remember Joe Stalin; Stalin was an enemy of mine; this Putin is no Joe Stalin. When we think of the KGB, most Americans remember them from the cold war as something to be feared and respected. In 2003, those sovereign states did not claim that Iraq had no WMD; they only argued with us over what to do about them.

When W took strong action against Iraq without making sure that every country in the world was going in there with us, his political enemies complained that we were a rogue state acting unilaterally. Now that W is organizing several countries to participate in negotiating with North Korea, his political enemies complain that we won’t act unilaterally. Condie Rice on the news recently had an answer, that a bilateral agreement with North Korea wouldn’t amount to much, and with more countries on board, there is at least a better chance. Essentially the same situation exists with Iraq. And, although some say that our credibility has suffered with the failure to find large quantities of WMD in Iraq (never mind that nobody can find the thousands of tons of conventional munitions that disappeared during the war, we are supposed to be able to find a vial of microorganisms the size of a pencil, or a stack of notebooks and blueprints the size of a shoebox) it doesn’t take much credibility to convince people that there is a threat of such weapons in Iran - and especially in North Korea. Further to WMD, it seems strange to me that top level Iraqi generals say publicly that the WMD were moved across the border into Syria and other countries, but the conventional wisdom today is that they never existed. What do we suppose the Iraqis were planning to make in those mobile fermentation facilities in trailers - maybe beer, or wine, or yogurt? At least the yogurt isn’t prohibited for them.

Similarly, there is a lot of criticism of the USA for not going in and protecting the refugees in Darfur - some of it from the same people who criticize the USA for disturbing Saddam Hussein’s fun and games in Iraq. I asked my son, the one in the Marines, how many people it would take to go into Darfur and kill a lot of those murderers - if one platoon would do some good - and he said that they could do quite a bit in a conflict like that with less than a platoon. We didn’t take the time to go into a lot of detail about what kind of vehicles and air support he would want, but I definitely have the impression that cost is not the problem there, the problem is that the UN is supposed to be our means of dealing with that kind of trouble and it doesn’t work. As Maggie Thatcher said about the problems in Yugoslavia, there are times when no amount of diplomacy without firepower will get the job done.

When W talked about missile defense, his political enemies talked about suitcase bombs and said we shouldn’t bother with missile defense. When W talked about WMD in Iraq (see tagline) his political enemies said not to worry because Iraq didn’t have a big air force with intercontinental bombers, as if they had never heard of smuggling. From time to time we do hear about the great importance of inspecting every cargo container that arrives here, as if nobody knows that we inspect most of them in their country of origin; they also overlook the fact that if somebody had a nuke and wanted to nuke New York or any other port city, they really wouldn’t have to unload the container off the ship before pushing the button. The same applies to passenger airliners, air freight, and general aviation: just load the nuke and the suicide bomber (or the remote detonator) onto the plane, fly it to the target and fire it before the plane lands. Secure borders would be nice, but carrying the war to the enemy and keeping the pressure on them will do more to keep us safe than any amount of fortification of the borders.

Of course, in 2002 we weren’t really asking our supposed friends to go to war beside us, just to stand up and be counted on the side of making Iraq cooperate with the weapons inspectors instead of playing shell games and generally stonewalling. With just a little more Solidarity, we wouldn’t have needed a war. What W’s political enemies don’t seem to understand is that no amount of normal diplomacy could persuade our supposed friends to rock the boat and disturb their comfortable commercial relationship with Iraq - especially those who were on Saddam’s payroll through the Oil For Bribery billions. Isn’t it strange (Kafkaesque, perhaps?) that it was really those who opposed action, rather than those who tried to promote action, who allowed their commercial interests to dominate their foreign policy, and yet so many still criticize the USA and think we went to war for oil?

Having seen firsthand the high energy prices in Europe, I think that the danger of allowing a dictator like Saddam to obtain control of the rest of the middle east oil is not anything to do with a new embargo against the USA, but the ability to use the oil weapon against the Europeans and other countries, building a coalition against the USA in international organizations. We could survive an embargo against our own country much better than many other countries, but we might not survive the secondary effects of an embargo against them. It’s like the online problems with hackers, who can’t cause much trouble by themselves but can create a distributed denial of service incident and shut down a large organization.

BTW, according to my own survey, Japan is not going to go nuclear. I happened to run into a couple of Japanese friends of mine recently, and I commented that there is talk that Japan could go nuclear very quickly if they chose to do that, and one of them said that Japan would never do that, and the other did not dispute that conclusion. How’s that for analysis in depth? :-) OTOH, when I suggested that Japan is widely respected for technological expertise, so its enemies should understand that if Japan chooses not to have nuclear weapons it is not because they can’t make them, they did not disagree with that.

Finally, I listened to your interesting discussion of the environment for a little while before I had to disappear off to work. (Work is the curse of the drinking class, and it raises H with political activism, too:-) According to someone who was cited in a National Geographic article a couple of years ago, it would take 40 times what the Kyoto accords could accomplish to really do much good. If they had said 2X, that wouldn’t seem so bad, and it might be worthwhile to take the first step, in hopes of finding ways to do better as we go along. If the figure is really anywhere near 40X, then we should quit beating that dead horse and look outside the box for a real solution. I predict that if we fail to solve the global warming problem, it will be not because conservatives demanded the freedom to buy big cars (when I had a wife and children, we really enjoyed our full size van where we could all be comfortable) but because environmentalists insisted on punitive solutions and fought against anything else.

And, I have heard some of your co-workers in the environmental movement talk about converting the Carbon dioxide from burning coal to a liquid and hiding it in various places; I think Senator Clinton is one who was advocating that. I don’t know what the process was that she had in mind, but I ran through some back-of-the-envelope calculations and it appears that in order to condense the carbon dioxide directly from the flue gas to a liquid, the compressors would use more power than the plant produced. I am not denying that there could be a solution; indeed, I can think of ways that do not seem to have been tried; I am, however, saying that W (like your guest in the recorded interview you played last Wednesday morning) may not be all that much better at engineering than Hillary, but at least he knows he doesn’t have the answer.

Dick Hatzenbuhler
Deering, NH