MD Understanding Quality And Power

From: Mark Steven Heyman (
Date: Wed Dec 22 2004 - 13:50:10 GMT

  • Next message: Sam Norton: "Re: MD Is the MoQ still in the Kantosphere?"

    Hi Sam, and all,

    <msh attacks N8-P, suggesting history shows the USG is not morally
    qualified to to judge the UN, or to act unilaterally to topple

    sam said:
    No, not the evidence of history, the evidence of present activity.
    That is, for as long as people like Mugabe are allowed to continue in
    power, then 'removing a brutal dictator' is not a sufficient argument
    to explain the invasion of Iraq.

    msh says:
    I think we're quibbling over the word "history." For me, "history"
    includes everything that's happened up to the last instant.

    msh said:
    The second flaw [in N8-P] is the killer, and was described in one of
    my quick posts that didn't make it into your last response. The
    exact same argument could have been used by Saddam Hussein to justify
    his invasion of Kuwait. <snipThe only way it can support the US-UK
    invasion of Iraq is if you claim the USG-UKG are somehow morally
    superior to other nations. I doubt that you would claim this,
    given some of our discussion below and elsewhere.

    sam said:
    Well, yes, ultimately I would. Not that they are morally pristine,
    not that they haven't been the source of terrible things, but that,
    at the end of the day, the West is better than the rest. There you
    go, I've outed myself: I think that the Western system, taken as a
    whole, is a better system than the available alternatives, not least
    because it contains within itself the capacity to improve itself; it
    has a combination of SQ/DQ which leads, in the long run, to
    significantly greater human happiness.

    msh says:
    There are a ton of questionable beliefs packed into this paragraph.
    First, to believe that the "West is the Best" is a "Plattitude", a
    feel-good over-simplification. Clearly there are aspects of western
    culture, for example the focus on self-gratification and
    commercialism, that are morally inferior to some available

    Second, why should we limit our choices to the available
    alternatives? Isn't it better to free up DQ-inspired thinking and
    evolve toward a more inclusive system, incorporating high quality
    ideas wherever we find them?

    Third, you are forgetting that a state may, under tremendous pressure
    from internal activists, grant certain high-quality freedoms to it's
    own citizens, yet have no intention of granting same to citizens of
    conquered states.

    Fourth, even if there existed some supremely benevolent state
    wishing to spread its ideals of goodness, is such a state justified
    in violently imposing its ideals on others? Isn't it possible that
    rational people in other cultures might decide that having the
    freedom to produce 40 competing brands of toothpaste just isn't
    necessary for their happiness?

    msh said to sam re keeping Saddam defanged:
    This was being accomplished by UN weapons inspections. Read Scott
    Ritter. Besides, if the USG was really interested in removing
    Saddam without occupying Iraq, that is, with assisting the Iraqi
    people in ousting their cruel dictator and allowing them to decide
    for themselves their own form of government, why would they refuse
    to work with non-CIA connected Iraqi democrats in and out of exile,
    and even in the Iraqi military? Why, at the end of the 1991 war,
    did they refuse to support rebelling Iraqi generals in their
    attempts to overthrow Hussein? (See UP, page 168, and online notes
    #95.) More broadly, how does the USG find it possible to assist in
    the overthrow of elected slightly leftist governments (Chile,
    Guatemala, Venezuela?) but the overthrow of Hussein just wasn't
    possible without the invasion and occupation of Iraq? The answer
    is simple: the invasion and occupation was the GOAL, not the means.
    The talk of means to an end is just smoke disguising the end itself.

    Well, if that's true then I'm a complete sucker. Perfectly possible.
    Something for me to ponder further.

    msh says:
    Well, it goes without saying that I might be the sucker, not you. If
    there is a difference in our approaches to understanding these
    issues, it might be that I tend to focus on what is DONE, not what is
    SAID. Most people, trying to live normal lives in relatively
    privileged societies, have formed their opinions based on a lifetime
    of hearing what is SAID through the commercial mass media. This,
    IMHO, leads to incredible cognitive dissonance when they try to come
    to terms with what is actually being DONE.

    <snip some stuff about strengthening the UN over time>

    sam said:
    The sanctions regime was evil, corrupt and corrupting and had to be
    stopped. I think there are only two realistic options in that
    situation - drop the sanctions and try to reintegrate Iraq into the
    wider system, or, regime change through military action.

    msh said:
    But those are not the only options. Try this: Lift the sanctions,
    get the UNMOVIC back in (which Hussein was willing to allow),

    But he was only willing to allow it for as long as there were US
    troops on his doorstep.

    msh says:
    So? Keep the troops in place until the inspection is finished.
    Although I would say they should be UN troops on his doorstep, how is
    this different from having a cop on the corner? Besides, the USG did
    not want the inpectors to complete their work, as proving that
    Hussein was without WMD would take away their current pretext for
    invading the country.

    The abiding problem was indeed the nature of his regime (even if the
    nature of the problem was a realpolitik one about what he would do if
    let out of his box, rather than a purely humanitarian one)

    msh says:
    The interesting question here is HOW did an admittedly brutal but
    relatively small and all but defanged thug like Hussein suddenly
    become THE PRIMARY FORCE of evil in the world? I try to address this
    in my next response to Keith.

    msh continued:
    ...and in the meantime work with the democratic opposition toward
    replacing the unwanted leader, as was so expertly accomplished in
    Chile in 1971, for example, or as was attempted in Venezuela last

    sam gets the last word:
    This is a line of thought I haven't spent much time on, so I shall
    remedy that lack. It did boggle the mind a bit when the attempted
    coup against Chavez took place last year. You'd have thought the USG
    would at least have tried to be subtle about it.

    Best to all,
    Mark Steven Heyman (msh)
    InfoPro Consulting - The Professional Information Processors
    Custom Software Solutions for Windows, PDAs, and the Web Since 1983
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    "The shadows that a swinging lamp will throw,
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