Just Above Sunset Archives
September 21, 2003 Opinion
Thomas Hobbes, "Big Minh" and how the world works - getting what you want (more notes on diplomacy by insult and assassination)
ITEM 1 - Tuesday the 23rd at the United Nations
Pretend this is your basic high school debate club.
Proposition - The best way to obtain cooperation and aid from the United Nations in our efforts in Iraq is to taunt them and shame them, telling them that if they don't send money and troops, they're nothing more than irrelevant debating society. Tell them to authorize bodies and cash - or be branded as irresponsible children. Half of you argue for the position, and half of you argue against it. Any takers?
Proposition - American public opinion is clear. Everyone hates the United Nations and, in particular, despises France. To be reelected in 2004 the president must belittle both, even if that means no one else ever joins us in fixing things in Iraq. All of us would rather bear the full cost of the effort than admit any errors, and will reelect a leader who takes this position. Half of you argue for the position, and half of you argue against it. Any takers?
Seems the debate in Washington is over. Check this out -
Then there is Jonathan Power writing in The International Herald Tribune - Why we all need the United Nations - September 17, 2003
The argument here is no matter who screwed up, there is work to do. As the late Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nation's former secretary general, once said, "The UN was created not to get us to heaven but to save us from hell." Folks thought he was sensible.
I suspect most member nations of the UN see that no matter what, things need fixed in Iraq. The question is the tone the US adopts in discussing this. Saying, in effect, "You're whining fools and cowards and you owe the world men and money to make things better, to get things done now - and no, you can have no say in how things are done..." well, that seems a bit counterproductive. But it may help with the 2004 presidential campaign.
ITEM 2 - Assassination as a Diplomatic Tool
Let's see here. Israel has long claimed the right, in self-defense, to conduct "targeted assassinations." A few times a week for the last month or more their helicopters fire some rockets and take out an apartment or car - and thus take out a Hammas leader or two. And usually a few civilians too. The Israeli government is struggling with, now, whether to actually assassinate Arafat.
Even our government says that might be a rather bad idea. When your closest ally and best friend says it might be a good idea to slow down and reconsider, well, you listen. But for the greater good, Israel claims they have the right to do that. Out of goodness and mercy Israel may not, one supposes. Or they may not because doing so would be bad public relations, and piss off a lot of people who would then blow up more busses full of children.
Perhaps they should have just assassinated Arafat and not said anything, publicly, but it's too late for that now.
The United States claimed that in self-defense it had the right to invade Iraq, overthrow its government, and, in the course of that war, kill Iraq's leaders. And we got the two evils sons. We showed the world their bodies. The father is still pending. This is not technically assassination, of course.
This was war, one that "they" forced us to wage. Iraq had massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and an active program to develop nuclear weapons, and the means to attack the US and UK within forty-five minutes. They could spray America with germs or poisons using the drone aircraft they had produced. So "we will kill their leaders and end their government" was the only option for us, even if other countries and the United Nations suggested alternatives. We were forced to war to defend ourselves.
That's still the official line as of this week, although it has somewhat been modified given recent difficulties with evidence. Check today's newscasts for the most current explanations. Just Above Sunset is, after all, a weekly magazine.
But we haven't done, exactly, what Israel is proposing - the assassination of the government leader who is giving you trouble. We of course have conducted a few low level "targeted assassinations" - most notably in Yemen last year.
But "targeted assassinations" of heads of state are not our usual way of conducting foreign policy.
There are some exceptions.
Under the Kennedy administration we passively cooperated in the 1963 assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam, as his régime was not doing, in our eyes, the right thing about the communists. We supported the actions of Duong Van Minh - "Big Minh" as he was called. He did the wet work, and we got the job done. And thus we avoided a protracted war there?
Did our cooperation in the assassination of Salvatore Allende in Chile in fact make things better for us for decades in our relationship with South America? One wonders.
Our "targeted assassination" attempts on Castro seem to have been bungled, but we tried. So we won't count that. Like Osama and Saddam, Fidel is still pending.
Well, not everything works as planned.
And assassination is not the only option. In Venezuela last year we funded a coup d'etat and announced our support of the new government, and then we were mighty embarrassed when the whole thing failed within two days. Hugo Chavez is still in power. So we are now funding a recall effort there. Sometimes "targeted assassinations" are just not efficient. Sometimes a recall election will do.
Then there is the legal question. In the Ford administration an Executive Order banned "targeted assassination" as a foreign policy option. But that order has expired and no one since has reinstated it. Whether "targeted assassination" is allowable under our laws, or under what is know as international law, is ambiguous. But when you are at war, all of the ambiguity disappears, of course.
Now, is all politics really local? I live in Hollywood. Is there a local application of these principles?
I was thinking of "targeted assassination" one morning watching the news about the California recall. Shwarzenegger is a rich man. He could hire someone to take out Gray Davis and his wife, and Cruz Bustamante, as a caller or two has suggested out here on talk radio. Interesting. Heck, the United States could take out Chirac and occupy that country - France has nuclear weapons and an ever-growing Muslim population. A pre-emptive strike with the smart bombs? There was an article on TOWNHALL.COM, the conservative website, last year proposing just that.
We have, after all, assumed the position that any nation can do whatever is necessary in self-defense, no matter who objects or why, because, after all, we ourselves were simply forced to do what was necessary. No choice. Saddam made us do it.
We have claimed, also, that it is necessary to act before being attacked, as matter of common sense. It saves lives to eliminate the threat before lots of people die. Okay.
The radio callers about Shwarzenegger hiring Guido from Detroit to take care of things was just a little too enthusiastic.
But this letter appear in the Los Angeles Times last week:
Well, we live in a violent world, as Hobbes put it. The reference is "[In his natural state] the life of man [is] solitary, nasty, brutish and short." Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Part I, Chapter 13 (1660).
Everyone does what they must. Is a revolution unavoidable?
ITEM 3 -
Both the items above are related. The issue is whether listening and compromise is soemthing for sissies and losers - and what we need to do is just slap some folks around, and knock of the bad guys one by one. We'll get what we want. People respect power, and are motivated by fear. Any alternative view is foolish? And Hobbes was right?
Other Current Topics:
These are a continuation of several "open forum" pages. I will not add to them myself. Send your comments to be posted to these topics, or suggest additional topics.