Addicted to novelty since 2001

To Get Involved or Not

Smug Canadian replies to Dave Winer’s comments about American interventionalism:

Compare east and west Germany, north and south Korea, Japan, east to west Europe. Freedom in the free places was bought and paid for with American lives at the great discount of America becoming an island of freedom in a world of hell.

Huh? He might want to change his handle to ‘Smug, Inaccurate and Generalizing Canadian’. Let’s have a closer look at his list:

  • East and West Germany: I’m skipping this one, because he references ‘east to west Europe’, which I understand to include Germany.
  • North and South Korea: Man, they’re living it up in democratic North Korea, aren’t they? It’s all fireworks and apple pies. As for South Korea, let’s not forget the other 19 nations involved besides the US.
  • Japan: I’ll grant him that one, but let’s not forget about, you know, ushering in the nuclear era.
  • East and West Europe: Has he forgotten about the UK and every other nation involved in the liberation of Europe? And is he actually giving the US credit for the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe? For starters, I know a few million Czech students who would disagree.

The US has enacted a number of fine, admirable international missions in the 20th century. However, what Smug Canadian fails to mention are the US’s many shameful failures, both when they intervened or when they choose not to. To start, here are some failed efforts off the top of my head:

  • Vietnam
  • Nicaragua
  • Cuba
  • Somalia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Angola
  • Haiti

Admittedly, in some of these cases, other nations were also involved. Regardless, America played a central role.

Now, some sins of omission, where a consistent foreign policy would have the US acting:

  • Taiwan
  • Tibet
  • China
  • North Korea

Why haven’t American lives been bought and sold to resolve the gross human rights violations and dictatorial governments in these countries? When I talk to Europeans, this is their number one complaint about American foreign policy: it’s woefully inconsistent.

Like any nation, the US serves its own self-interests. While it ostensibly invaded Korea to halt the progress of Communism, the true origins of the war are highly debatable. Oil was clearly a major concern during the first Iraq invasion. Given America’s checkered foreign policy record, shouldn’t their every act on foreign soil be scrutinized?

54 Responses to “To Get Involved or Not”

  1. Alan

    I have stopped reading Winer for exactly what you point out. He is not very well spoken or thoughtful. His only area of strength, RSS, has fallen into a debacle and public embarassment all for the want of a one-page legal agreement among the parties involved with the development. All in all something of a self-promoter with perhaps a reasonable web application but not exactly a Tim Berners-Lee.

  2. Smug Canadian

    Think you kind of missed my point in the first part: e.g. the comparison between North and South Korea. The U.S. brought freedom to the South, let the communists take the North and we see the result. A top 10 economy in the South, cannibalism in the North.

    Interestingly, the failures you list all suffered from the same problem currently experienced by the U.S. in Iraq: an unrelenting negative attack on the U.S. by their own media.

    Europeans are funny: simultaneously accusing America of inconsistency by not solving all the world’s problems at once while carping like whiny children when America solves one problem. All while unable to solve any problem, large or small, in their own backyards.

    You can give Czech students all the credit they deserve. They had the opportunity to do what they did (along with the rest of east Europe) only because America was in Europe with huge forces for decades, pressuring the USSR into collapse.

  3. Darren

    “the comparison between North and South Korea. The U.S. brought freedom to the South, let the communists take the North and we see the result. A top 10 economy in the South, cannibalism in the North.”

    How long are you going to give the US credit for South Korea’s recent economic success? From the CIA Factbook:

    Three decades ago GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. Today its GDP per capita is 18 times North Korea’s and equal to the lesser economies of the European Union. This success through the late 1980s was achieved by a system of close government/business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort.

    So, 20 years after the US (and 19 other nations) liberated South Korea, it was still an impoverished nation. Clearly there were some other pretty important factors at work to bolster the Korean economy, eh?

    “Interestingly, the failures you list all suffered from the same problem currently experienced by the U.S. in Iraq: an unrelenting negative attack on the U.S. by their own media.”

    Are you actually placing blame for, say, Somalia, on the American media? Are you actually going to argue that, if not for the American media, the US would have won in Vietnam? That’s simply foolhardy. Firstly, the media wasn’t unrelentingly negative in any of those cases–there’s been plenty of conservative media for the past 50 years, and plenty of media to support actions in any of the countries discussed.

    “Europeans are funny: simultaneously accusing America of inconsistency by not solving all the world’s problems at once while carping like whiny children when America solves one problem. All while unable to solve any problem, large or small, in their own backyards.”

    Four major social problems western Europe has solved in the past fifty years that the US hasn’t:

    * Universal health care
    * Inexpensive and accessable post-secondary education
    * Crime
    * Gun control

    Or, if you want to talk foreign policy, how the formation of the EU, and the introduction into of former East Bloc countries. And while we’re on the subject of international aid, every Western European nation but Italy gives more money per capita than the US. Germany 3 times, France 5 times and Norway 12 times (from http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/eco_eco_aid_don_cap). Would you care to make some other generalizations about Europeans?

    “You can give Czech students all the credit they deserve. They had the opportunity to do what they did (along with the rest of east Europe) only because America was in Europe with huge forces for decades, pressuring the USSR into collapse.”

    You need to re-read your history, if you think the US is largely responsible for the collapse of the USSR.

    From http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/coldwar/soviet_end_01.shtml:

    As well as the pull of social change there was the push of policy failure. The rate of economic growth in the Soviet Union had been in long-term decline from the 1950s to the early 1980s. There was lower life expectancy, especially among adult males (linked by many observers to excessive alcohol consumption), and higher infant mortality rates.

    Technologically, it was falling behind not only Western countries but also the newly industrialised countries of Asia. Its foreign policy evinced a declining capacity to win friends and influence people.

    And from http://www.coldwar.org/articles/90s/fall_of_the_soviet_union.php3:

    By the time of the 1985 rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, the country was in a situation of severe stagnation, with deep economic and political problems which sorely needed to be addressed and overcome. Recognizing this, Gorbachev introduced a two-tiered policy of reform.

    What else you got?

  4. dean

    To quote Smug (it is ok if I call you Smug, isn’t it?):

    Compare east and west Germany, north and south Korea, Japan, east to west Europe. Freedom in the free places was bought and paid for with American lives at the great discount of America becoming an island of freedom in a world of hell.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re saying here, whether you are extrapolating from the examples to get a general statement that ‘freedom in the free places was bought and paid for with American lives’, or whether you are saying that freedom in those specific places was bought and paid for with American lives.

    In any event, let’s examine east and west Germany first. Who freed Germany? Let’s start with 1945. It seems to me that you’re parroting the standard American line about America saving the free world in WWII; that without them, the entire world would have gone down in Nazi flames. I have news for you: the Germans were beaten before D-Day. They were in retreat, having suffered staggering (and I mean staggering) losses on the Eastern Front, which remains the most costly military campaign the world has ever seen in terms of lives.

    Ironically, freedom in West Germany was purchased in large part with rivers of Russian blood. Let’s also remember the Commonwealth nations, including our own small nation, who played a rather significant role in the European war, shall we?

    For these reasons, it is not true that freedom in West Germany was bought and paid for with American blood. They paid for part of it (a smallish part in the grand scheme of things) but there were others involved.

    Now East Germany: it may be that you’re claiming that freedom in East Germany was BAPFWAB. I really can’t see your argument here, unless it is somehow that Americans died to bring about the end of the Soviet system. I realize that patriotic Americans like to tell each other that this is the case, that Reagan’s spending caused the Soviet Union to collapse, but most of the credible people I’ve read assert that the USSR was living on borrowed time with or without the US being around, and that it collapsed under its own internal weight and the horrific costs of Stalinism and WW II, which cost the Russians more than it did anybody else.

    Further, the collapse of the Soviet Union was not hastened in any meaningful way by any expenditure of meaningful amounts of American blood.

    For these reasons, it is not true that freedom in East Germany was bought and paid for with American blood. If anybody paid for it, it was the huge number of Soviet citizens killed under the Soviet system.

    I won’t bother going through your other examples. I will say, though, that the last line that Darren quotes, “an island of freedom in a world of hell”, is interesting. Let’s deconstruct it gently. I believe that you are saying that Canada, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Holland, and Switzerland (to stop at the top tier of obvious examples) are therefore in the ‘world of hell’. Since you counterpoint ‘world of hell’ with ‘island of freedom’, I can only assume that you believe that the countries just listed are not free.

    That, I maintain, is an absurd position. Thus, your argument is an absurd one.

  5. Arthur

    …Ironically, freedom in West Germany was purchased in large part with rivers of Russian blood….

    Not to mention that the Lowlands (Netherlands, Belgium and portions of Luxembourg) were liberated by (mostly) Canadian forces. That’s because the US were suddenly in a hurry to reach Berlin hoping to be there before the Russians entered the city. No suprise, a lot of Canadians were killed during that last Winter/Spring ‘Blitz’ of 1945.

  6. billg

    >>”As for South Korea, let’s not forget the other 19 nations involved besides the US.”

    No, let’s don’t. But, let’s also not forget that almost all of the troops were American. Are you suggesting that the UN would have had the guts to intervene in Korea absent the U.S.?

    >>”Japan: I’ll grant him that one, but let’s not forget about, you know, ushering in the nuclear era.”

    A couple of hundred dead residents of the nation that attacked the U.S. versus a million or so dead Americans and countless more dead Japanese expected in the planned 1946 invasion of Japan seems a more than fair trade. Would you rather have had the Nazis or the Soviets build the first atomic bombs? I’ve never understood this fear of increased knowledge and ts application. Would you have us all be lobotomized?

    >>” * East and West Europe: Has he forgotten about the UK and every other nation involved in the liberation of Europe? And is he actually giving the US credit for the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe? For starters, I know a few million Czech students who would disagree.?

    I think it is reasonable to assert that, absent the U.S. commitment to Western Europe, it would have been part of the Soviet empire by the end of the 1950’s. Don’t forget that all those Czech students were able to get away with what they did because they U.S. was willing wage nuclear war and risk its own destruction in order to thwart a Soviet attack on western Europe. Absent that pledge, those Czech students would not have had a chance. (Not that the spring of 1967 really changed anything.)

    Your comments are typically hypocritical, condemning the U.S. for lack of consistency then chastising it for not currying favor with feckless international organizations like the UN. Can’t have it both ways.

  7. Richard Bennett

    While it’s charming to see someone – anyone – rush to the defense of the odious Dave Winer, the rescue mission might be more successful if your arguments were somewhere close to coherent. Winer says the US should adopt a policy of isolation, because we do more harm than good on foreign soil. The Canadian points out that US intervention has been significant in liberating Germany (and the rest of Europe) from the Nazis, and in building modern democratic nations in Japan, Korea, etc. It seems to me that these are incontrovertible historical points: in these countries, at least, we did more good than harm, which is all that has to be shown in order to defeat Winer’s narcissistic isolationism.

    So how do we get from the Canadian’s point to wild claims about health care, crime, and oh, my, *gun control* in Europe and the hypocritical attack on American interventionism and non-interventionism in the same sentence? Is your complaint that American foreign policy is too interventionist, or that it’s not interventionist enough?

    My guess is that you’re arguing both points, because your main project is simply to bash America for not being as smug and self-involved as the Western European nations who opposed the liberation of Iraq because they were profiting so handsomely from illegal trade, kickbacks, and graft under the UN-managed Oil for Palaces program.

    Let me offer you one little piece of evidence that shows the esteem in which the US is held by the rest of the world: an absolute majority of all immigration, worldwide, comes to the United States. This is not simply saying that the US is the largest single destination for immigrant, or the largest per-capita, or anyone of that that sort; it is to say that the US is more popular among immigrants than all other countries combined, including Western Europe with its free (but low-quality) health care, (hardly) complete freedom from crime, universal higher education (for the top 20%), and gun control (except in Switzerland, which has more guns per capita than the United States.)

    Darren, you should read some books instead of playing computer all day – you wouldn’t be prompted to say such foolish things if you were to educate yourself a bit.

  8. Smug Canadian

    All burning bags of off-topic shit aside, those who don’t understand America’s role in history regarding the collapse of USSR, the general increase of freedom in the world or the growth of free economies don’t understand that “America” is not a country, it’s an idea.

    So far it’s the best idea for organizing a country ever attempted. It’s an idea that through sheer growth defeated the USSR and, in a blink in historical terms, turned shell shocked places like Europe, Japan, and Korea into productive nations again. You need only to compare these places to their neighbors that wallow in impoverished communism to understand the difference.

    It’s not because Uncle Sam pushed the buttons and pulled the strings of daily life it’s because the United States used violent force against the local fascists and created environments that allowed freedom and capitalism to thrive. Not to perfection, but not fascist hell either.

    If you can’t understand that the *idea* of America is winning you don’t even understand as much as the average terrorist. It’s why they hate the lot of us and wish they could kill every last one us – except maybe for the BBC. They know who’s side they are on.

  9. Darren

    billg: I’ll grant you the point on Korea. I knew that was a dubious point when I wrote it.

    I trust that you made a typo when you wrote ‘couple of hundred dead residents’. I trust that you meant to write ‘a couple of hundred thousand dead residents’. As for ‘this fear of increased knowledge and its application’, I don’t care to enter into a discussion of scientific ethics. We can debate alternative outcomes to the Pacific theatre of World War II all you like, but suffice it to say that nuclear weapons = bad. Even the US government, with all this talk of weapons of mass destruction, seems to agree with me on that point.

    Since you didn’t give me any supporting evidence or citations to back up your assertion on further Soviet encroachment, I’m going to take a pass. As for the Czech students, I was referring to these ones: http://archiv.radio.cz/history/history15.html.

  10. Darren

    Richard: If you read the flow of the argument, you’ll see that I cited gun control as a problem Europe had solved (in response to Smug’s comment that Europeans were ‘unable to solve any problem, large or small, in their own backyards.’)

    Regarding your immigration point, let’s put that to the test. I’m using numbers from http://www.migrationinformation.org/GlobalData/countrydata/data.cfm.

    In 2001, the US had 1,064,318 immigrants (shortened from ‘inflow of foreign-born population’). The entire population was roughly 282 million, given us a per capita immigration rate of 0.0037%.’

    In 2001, Canada had 250,346 immigrants. The entire population was roughly 31 million, giving us a per capita rate of 0.0081, or more than twice the rate of the US.

    To put it another way, in 2001, while the US was roughly 10 times the size of Canada, it only took in 4 times the immigrants.

    Let’s address your other point: ‘that the US is more popular among immigrants than all other countries combined.’

    In 2001, Germany welcomed 977,701 people.
    The UK welcomed 106,820 people.
    Australia welcomed 88,900 people.

    That’s 3 countries, and we’ve already exceeded the US’s total for that year.

    Now, tell me, Richard, which of us should hit the books?

    While I don’t think I’ve been US-bashing (I’ve bashed before, and defended your country against other bashers, so I know of what I speak), you’ve highlighted why people do. It’s your assumption of superiority on so many topics that is offensive to the rest of the world.

  11. Alan

    Hmm…you’re right. Well, I am may be a weenie…but why does he always trigger these sorts of arguments without resolution?

  12. Darren

    Smug: I’m sorry that you’ve downgraded the debate from facts and specific arguments to general propaganda on the American way of life.

    I never said that America didn’t play a role ‘in the collapse of USSR, the general increase of freedom in the world or the growth of free economies.’ I simply pointed out that:

    a) American foreign policy is woefully inconsistent.
    b) Europe has done plenty of good, domestically and abroad, in the last half-century.

    You seem to have largely ignored all of the examples of both of these points. I tried to refute all of your arguments, why won’t you do me the same courtesy?

  13. billg

    Yes, of course, I typoed that phrase.

    I do not except your premise that “nuclear weapons = bad”, at least from the perspective of the dead. You seem, along with many others, that use of nuclear weapons carries with it some special sort of moral condemnation. Are you, therefore, suggesting that it would have been morally more acceptable to have caused the deaths of millions of Americans and Japanse by launching a conventional invasion of Japan rather than using atomic weapons?

    Scientific ethics having nothing to do with this. The universe exists, and all its potential is available for us to know and understand. We, as humans, have an obligation to learn as much as we can. The same argument about the inherent evil of nuclear weapons can be applied, even, to the sword.

    My point about Czech students — not that they were in any way responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union — is that any anti-Soviet actions by any residents of East Europe from 1945-1989 were possible because of the protection afforded Europe by the U.S., which was precisely dependent on American willingness to risk nuclear annihilation in order to counter a Soviet thrust.

    For our willingness to save Europe (from itself, since, contrary to racist European opinion, Russia is part of Europe) we get…what? Smugness and sophistry..

  14. billg

    >>”a) American foreign policy is woefully inconsistent.”

    This canard is constantly trotted out.

    Why does it matter? By what yardstick are you assessing consistency?

    By the measurment of what several different adminstrations have thought best suited the interests of the U.S., American foreign policy is as consistent as any nation, probably more so. The central, bipartisan, element of U.S. foreign policy since, at least, 1941 has been to make ths country invulnerable to tyrants and criminals who seek to do it harm. I’d say we’ve been remarkably consistent in pursuing that objective. Our differences about tactical issues are, to be sure, reflected in our policy, but the central aim is always accepted without question.

    Of course, it is always easy to accuse others of inconsistency if you make up the rules.

  15. Arthur

    The central, bipartisan, element of U.S. foreign policy since, at least, 1941 has been to make ths country invulnerable to tyrants and criminals who seek to do it harm.

    Show me one official document that states that America was going to make itself invulnerable to tyrants. This is typical ‘revisionist’ bruhaha: the outcome of the war is known for years and during all those years the facts are so easily forgotten and ignored. (http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/japwar.html), (http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/resource/document/DECWAR.htm), (http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/germwar.html).

  16. Nick Irelan

    You are free to feel however you want , but please be honest. All of the countries that America has helped are better of than those it hasn’t. Dave Winer seems to be on the wrong side of yet another issue.

  17. Tom

    Sorry, Smug Canadian, to be another to take issue with what you say… But every reply you post seems to introduce something else I feel like reacting to! Here is my 2 cents on something you said earlier: America is an idea, not a country. Don’t know if you have read the papers these past weeks, but how do you reconcile America “the idea” with the fact that 1 in 75 americans is in jail? We are off ridding the world of evil do-ers, while at home we have a failing educational system, a failing healthcare system, a failing justice system in which we are starting to lock people up with no right of appeal? Does the “idea” seem like is it working to you? I agree with the spirit of your statement – I get your point – but an idea is only as good as its implementation, and “America” if failing at it. An idea will only be given due credit if the motivation behind it is deemed honorable; the high ground is reserved for those that strive for moral perfection. We are no where near, and going the other way fast.

    t.

    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040527/ap_on_re_us/prison_population_4

  18. Darren

    Nick: You said “All of the countries that America has helped are better of than those it hasn’t.” What about the countries on my list of failures? How do you make this case for Vietnam, for example?

  19. Roger Benningfield

    re: solved social problems

    * Universal health care
    * Inexpensive and accessable post-secondary education
    * Crime
    * Gun control

    I suspect a great many Americans (this one included) would argue that two (and perhaps three) of the four aren’t social problems to be solved, and even if they were, it wouldn’t be government’s place to do the solving.

  20. Chris

    There’s no crime in Europe? That’s news to me.

  21. Darren

    Chris: Europe has a better record on crime, particularly violent crime. For example, crime rates per 1000 people (from http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/cri_tot_cri_cap):

    United States 81.55 per 1000 people
    Germany 76.02 per 1000 people
    France 62.67 per 1000 people
    Italy 38.03 per 1000 people
    Switzerland 37.02 per 1000 people
    Portugal 35.96 per 1000 people
    Spain 22.95 per 1000 people

  22. Chris

    It doesn’t sound like they have “solved” crime, yet. Why is Germany’s crime figure so close to the US, for example? Is it because they have less gun control than Switzerland? Maybe there’s some other reason(s) for the generally lower crime numbers, that have little to do with European governments’ policies? E.g., maybe cultural factors are more important for Portugal’s crime numbers than political ones. (Hey, maybe Portugal should take France’s permanant seat on the security council — they’re clearly the more advanced culture!)

    And as for the other problems in your list… well… they may have universal health care and inexpensive secondary education today, but those are hardly guaranteed for the future. One bad recession/depression, or mismanaged economic policy, and those problems may be quickly “unsolved”.

    Pardon my French, but there’s no reason to think that Europeans’ sh’t don’t stink.

    Of course none of this has anything to do with Dave Winer’s comment about disliking Spirit of America, which is not a governmental body, nor is it supported or organized by our government’s officials, so it doesn’t have anything to do with official US policy. Except that it was created by a bunch of people who want to do more to make sure that the US’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan turns out more like Japan, western Europe and South Korea, and less like Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba, etc.

    Winer’s attitude toward SoA is truly bizarre. But of course he recommended relocating persecuted Kosovars (essentially speeding along the ethnic cleansing) on the US taxpayer dime, rather than dealing with Slobodan Milosevic directly. Later he admitted that Yugoslavia didn’t turn out to be another Vietnam, but that was clearly his view at the time the bombs were dropping.

    By comparison, Iraq is a much harder situation than Yugoslavia, but it’s way too soon to judge whether it will be more like western Europe, or more like Vietnam. In the meantime, there are a lot of people (and even a few governments) who will work toward a better future for Iraq (and therefore the rest of us).

  23. billg

    Arthur, your university links don’t work. Presumably, you wanted me to take them as “official” documentation proving me wrong.

    The central goal of WW2 was to eliminate — not stop — the Nazi regime and the Japanese fascist regime. Before the war was over, it became clear the same goal had to be applied to the Soviets. The leaders of all three entities were criminals and tyrants. The core of Amrican foreign policy has been remarkably consistent for almost 70 years: Eliminate the possibility that any such entity would be tempted to attack us.

    What do you think all those nukes are for?

  24. Smug Canadian

    Darren:

    My original post wasn’t a debate about details and facts but did include my general perception of history.

    It’s likely impossible for us to debate the facts because we aren’t working from the same ones. I wrote (http://smugcanadian.weblogger.com/stories/storyReader$1066) about that because I doubt there’s any point in arguing further. We have two different sets of facts and when you say “check your facts” what you are actually saying is “believe my set of facts”.

    For example, you say that the U.S. is inconsistent in its foreign policy. I say, yes, absolutely, that’s as it should be. Presidents change, conditions change, big government bureaucracies do imperfect things. I don’t expect perfection from the U.S government, I just compare them to what else is out there.

    You also say Europe has done good things abroad. I’m not sure what, but I will say the Europeans are somewhat consistent, particularly when sponsoring genocide in dozens of different African countries over the last 100 years.

    But you probably won’t read about that in the BBC so it doesn’t exist for you and we therefore can’t argue about it.

    If you actually want to be able to argue about the facts you can’t show up with the assumption that the United States is “always” one thing or another. It’s just a government, it behaves much like a big stupid company – the goal is not perfection, but to be a few notches better than the other guy.

    In general, taking a long view of history, the United States is a very free place. They make piles of big mistakes but nothing like the kind of mistakes that are made in other places with other systems of government. In general, when the United States army spends enough time in your nation the place will become vastly more hospitable. That’s about as detailed as my original post was and if you want to disprove those “facts” good luck to you.

  25. Darren

    Smug, this debate is coming to an end, but let me point out a couple of things:

    a) All of the facts I cited (and there were plenty) are verifiable. Alternately, if you’ve got other facts that contravene the ones I cite, let’s hear them.

    b) I’m confused by your referral to the BBC. In this thread, I cited them once. I also cited the CIA Factbook once…I wonder why you aren’t concerned with that source? How is my using the Factbook, for example, giving us ‘two different sets of facts?’

    c) ‘When the United States army spends enough time in your nation the place will become vastly more hospitable.’ I’ve already cited plenty of exceptions to this, but can you understand how the phrase itself might be a bit worrying? That is, countries are rarely keen to invite foreign armies onto their soil, particularly the biggest and most powerful one in the world.

  26. boiler stud

    Darren most of your arguments are just plain silly.

    Your list of countries that the US have failed is exactly that. They failed to stay the course and mostly due to gaining short term political gain at home.

    Your crimes stats conveniently miss those of the UK or do you not consider them to be European? If you had included them you would have seen that their violent crime have surpassed the US. So have Canada’s. You mention gun control as a social problem. I thought that was ironically funny. We here in Canada have spent upwards of two billion dollars on a non-functioning gun control fiasco that has had no affect in deterring crime rates. It’s a social problem allright just not how you perceive it and I am not a gun owner.

    Your immigration numbers for the US conveniently miss those of the illegals which no matter whose numbers you look at are massive.

    Dean then tells us he has news for us. The USA had no effect on the outcome of WW2. Wow! Tell that to my mother who hid in fear of the Russians and rejoiced liberty by the Americans. For this to be true then we need to conveniently ignore the MASSIVE quantities of supplies that left America for the UK and Russia. The huge loss of life of the merchant marines that such died horrible deaths on the North Atlantic shipping these goods. War is logistics and supply but Dean would have us believe that Jesus was nearby, the supply bottle of men and machines never emptied.

    Finally, I clicked a bunch of links but lots of them failed. The one I didn’t and laughed at was to the BBC. It is oxymoronic to look to the BBC for historical fact or context. Just look at their history.

    I’m going back to my Chomsky novel, he writes the best fiction.

  27. Smug Canadian

    All the exceptions you’ve cited as failures are places where the US Army, for whatever reason, did not stick around to finish the job. All the examples I give as successes are places where the US Army did remain until peace was achieved.

    It would be tough to argue that the US Army’s “shameful failures” are actually their fault. If the US Army fails at a military task it is for the same reason a dominant army has failed for thousands of years: politics entered the battle. It’s why the current enemies of the U.S, who have almost no military capability at all, use *nothing but* politics to fight through the media. The only way to create a fascist state these days is to disgust the American people into leaving.

    It used to be a lot easier to do that: the media won the Vietnam war for the communists, to the great misfortune of millions of Vietnamese.

    They were able to do that because people like you actually believe that US Army failed at the task they were given when in fact the task was taken away from them before it was completed.

    What started this for me was Dave Winer’s comment:
    “I think the best thing the US can do for the world is get our own house in order and stop trying to fix the world, something we’re exceedingly bad at.”

    That is simply not true. That intelligent people can ignore plain facts such as the United States’ history of liberating people from fascism is a testament to the power of denial and the ability of people to find a narrative that matches their bias.

    Yes, many stupid mistakes are made. But one last time: America at its worst is still better than living in fascist hell. If you don’t believe that you have a set of facts different from mine; my facts are pulled from human experiences in these places – not the CIA or the BBC.

  28. Billg

    The tactics being used to refute your statement, Smug, remind me of high school debaters who believe they can defeat an opponent’s argument by finding an old Time magazine story that contains one contradictory detail.

    In truth, their intent is not actually to refute your argument, but simply use it as a springboard to engage in their favorite activity: public exhibitions of America bashing.

    If they are seriously arguing that a quiescent life in a fascist state is better than a noisy, uncertain life in a democratic state, then they have gone over to the other side.

  29. Darren

    Billg:

    Sorry to throw all those facts into the debate. If you’d like me to verify any fact I’ve cited with a couple of other sources, I’m glad to do that.

    I wonder how we should proceed, then, if not by citing evidence to support our position? For example, was it not worth my while to disprove Richard’s claims about American immigration? Or for Dean to point out that Germany was won mostly with Russian blood?

    My chorus, from my opening post (where, despite your charges of American bashing, I said that ‘the US has enacted a number of fine, admirable international missions in the 20th century’) is that American foreign policy has been inconsistent. They invade one country, claiming international treaty or human rights violations, but are apathetic to or complicit in genocide in other nations. They act in the defence of one third-world leader against a military coup, but sit idly by while others take place.

    Like any nation, the US looks out for its own self-interests. However, when they’re the most powerful nation on the planet (by a considerable margin), that behaviour is questionable.

    To put it another way, either they’re the global cop, or they’re not. For the past fifty years, though, they’ve only been the global cop when addressing the violation suited them.

  30. Richard Bennett

    Darren, you didn’t disprove my claim about immigration, you simply pulled some numbers out the air without citing a reference. See the following chart to get a clue: http://www.migrationinformation.org/GlobalData/charts/5.1.shtml

    You were apparently mislead by the fact that Germany admits guest workers for limited periods and then replaces them on a regular basis, while most immigration to the US is permanent, so the key figure is net migration.

    Judging immigration on a per capita basis is a silly way to do it, because it says nothing about the desirability of one country over another. A more sensible way to do it is on a per square mile basis. Apply that measure to Canada and tell me how it looks.

    Now back to the main point, when not bashing America for failing to intervene in places like Rwanda, where we should have gone (and would have if the UN had sanctioned regime change), we’re criticized for trying to pull Vietnam out of the Soviet orbit. OK, we failed there, and the cost of our failure was that 200,000 Vietnamese were murdered by the Communists in the year after we left.

    Was that a good thing, and does it mean we never should have tried to liberate Vietnam from the Soviets?

    I think we all know the answer.

  31. Myron

    If I may interject – the stated US objective to ensure Vietnamese freedom was a good one. I believe, in the same vein, that fighting terror, ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein and pushing for democracy in the Middle East are also laudable.

    The problems arise when such noble goals are tarnished by the means to achieve them. LBJ (and to some degree, JFK before him) employed subterfuge and deception to get the US into the war in Vietnam and, when they were exposed, those means mitigated against the end (read Macnamara’s mea culpa for more on this). Now, we have a war on terror (to bag Osama) that has been conflated with a war on Iraq (ostensibly to avoid imminent destruction by WMDs and the collaboration between bin Laden and Hussein).

    America’s failure, if we want to call it that, is not in its goals or its stated motivations. I would suggest that its failure is, rather, to take responsibility for its own lack of intellectual honesty and transparency in achieving its goals.

  32. Richard Bennett

    Saddam was a supporter of terrorist groups, Myron, and connecting him to them was not a subterfuge – it was a fact.

  33. Myron

    If that is true, I have yet to see convincing testimony to connect Saddam with Osama, as was the implicit assertion of the Bush administration. It is that kind of rhetorical hucksterism that debilitates American claims to the moral high ground.

  34. Darren

    Richard, my numbers all came from the URL I cited, http://www.migrationinformation.org.

    First off, there’s no indication whether Germany’s numbers include short-term workers or not. By the same token, there’s no indication whether the US’s numbers recognizes that country’s work visa program.

    You’re the one who cited per capita as a possible metric. Furthermore, net migration is a biased stat, because Americans are notoriously sedentary. This is both cultural and a result of the size of the nation…they can ‘immigrate’ internally for a different lifestyle. Conversely, the EU agreement permits Europeans to work in any EU nation of their choice. This fosters both immigration and emigration.

    Since you suggest a land mass comparison (which, as far as I can figure, isn’t any better or worse than per capita), let’s take a look (numbers from the CIA Factbook):

    Canada: 9,093,507 sq km
    USA: 9,158,960 sq km

    Those numbers obviously favour the US, until you take a closer look at the land we’re discussing. At least half of Canada is pretty unattractive to the average immigrant. After all, 90% of Canadians live within 160 kms of the 49th border.

    A better measure might be to compare population densities?

    This whole immigration debate is specious because of a factor we’re not discussing: ease of immigration. Clearly, Canada and the US’s immigration policies differ, and both differ radically from Europe. Relatively speaking, the US and Canada have plenty more attractive land for immigrants than, say, Germany or France. So, clearly there will be more immigration into North America than into the average European country.

    As for Vietnam, are you arguing that not trying to liberate Vietnam would have resulted in more deaths than doing so? I’m having difficulty understanding why that would be the case. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War#Casualties, we get ‘Vietnam released figures on April 3, 1995 that a total of one million Vietnamese combatants and four million civilians were killed in the war.’ Add another 650,000 for American deaths and deaths in Cambodia. Would a quick, clean Soviet invasion have cost more 5.5 million people?

  35. Richard Bennett

    Your source link doesn’t work, Darren, and my figures actually come from the same domain as the one you cited. According to the Excel data that the chart I linked is based on, you reported five-year figures for Germany as one-year figures. I’m sure you didn’t mean to do that.

    The US makes it harder for immigrants to come here than most large countries, but despite this they insist on flocking here, so what to do? We’re obviously the world’s most desirable country, and the fact that most Canadians live a stone’s throw from the border confirms it.

    When you look at the people who are killed in war, you generally have to take in the larger context to make sens of the numbers. We killed something like 10-20,000 Iraqis in the course of liberating that country from Saddam, more or less. Is that a lot? Well, when you consider that Saddam killed a million or so, perhaps it’s not, because no matter how many panties we’ve put on the heads of Al Qaeda terrorists in Abu Ghraib, we’re real slackers at the killing game.

    Perhaps we need to try harder to gain the approval of the sophisticated Europeans, who after all killed 6 million in the German camps and another 30 million or so under Stalin’s hands.

    We’re total weenies compared to the the Europeans, certainly.

  36. Myron

    Perhaps, Richard, you should adjust your figures for Americans in Iraq to include those killed by Saddam. After all, if it weren’t for Bush, Sr., Hussein would never have killed that magic million to begin with.

    Nothing like getting somebody else to do your dirty work for you.

  37. Darren

    Richard:

    I wasn’t looking at your chart, I was looking at the page (dynamically generated, so I can’t link to it) created when you go to http://www.migrationinformation.org, then choose Germany, then select ‘Inflow of foreign population by country of nationality, by year’ under Arrivals. The resulting page shows 977,701 immigrants for Germany for the year 2001.

    As for Canada’s population, what do you supposed happened in 1608, when Samuel de Champlain was establishing a trading post that would soon become Quebec City? That they knew the USA was going to be across the river, and planned appropriately?

    The positioning of Canada’s population has everything to do with the climate. Visit northern Alberta or Quebec in winter and argue that Canadians are on the 49th parallel because they want to be close to the States.

    You didn’t answer my question regarding Vietnam: ‘Would a quick, clean Soviet invasion have cost more 5.5 million people?’ What larger context should I be applying here?

    As for your World War II casualty numbers, I imagine that people in Yakutsk will be pretty surprised that they’re being called European. The last time I checked, Russia was part of Asia.

  38. Dean

    Quoting the Stud:
    “Dean then tells us he has news for us. The USA had no effect on the outcome of WW2. Wow! Tell that to my mother who hid in fear of the Russians and rejoiced liberty by the Americans. For this to be true then we need to conveniently ignore the MASSIVE quantities of supplies that left America for the UK and Russia. The huge loss of life of the merchant marines that such died horrible deaths on the North Atlantic shipping these goods. War is logistics and supply but Dean would have us believe that Jesus was nearby, the supply bottle of men and machines never emptied.

    I said no such thing.

    The statement is typical of one of the things I find most troubling about my beloved neighbors to the south: the incredible degree of polarization that creeps into absolutely everything. If someone doesn’t agree with you, then he’s a COMMIE PINKO LONG-HAIRED FREAK, or possibly a NAZI BOOKBURNING BIBLE-THUMPER, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

    I thought you were being sort of over-the-top, sort of hiply satirical, but then you say ‘for this to be true’… as if I had actually said what you said I said. I didn’t. Didn’t say anything even close to it.

    The original point was that Smug said that the freedom of East and/or West Germany was ‘bought and paid for’ with American blood. It wasn’t. If anybody’s blood was spent to pay for freedom in Western Europe, it was (ironically) Russian.

    And that’s the point. The original assertion was bombastic and erroneous.

    BTW: I’m truly glad that your mother was liberated by Americans. But think about whether or not D-Day and that liberation would have been possible if there were 100+ divisions between Normandy and Berlin. Whether you like it or not, the Russians made that liberation possible by killing huge numbers of German soldiers.

  39. Dean

    Richard says:

    “When you look at the people who are killed in war, you generally have to take in the larger context to make sens of the numbers. We killed something like 10-20,000 Iraqis in the course of liberating that country from Saddam, more or less. Is that a lot?”

    Depends on whether you’re related to them or not.

    “Well, when you consider that Saddam killed a million or so, perhaps it’s not, because no matter how many panties we’ve put on the heads of Al Qaeda terrorists in Abu Ghraib, we’re real slackers at the killing game.”

    So that makes it ok? I’ve seen this argument a lot. Does the fact that other people have done worse make your own transgressions meaningless? I maintain that it does not. Prisoners beaten to death are just as dead if an American does it as if Saddam’s thugs did it. Torture is torture, although I notice that you attempt to minimize that, too, with the panty comment.

    “Perhaps we need to try harder to gain the approval of the sophisticated Europeans, who after all killed 6 million in the German camps and another 30 million or so under Stalin’s hands.”

    This is a bizarre argument. Again you seem to be saying that, because the occupation hasn’t killed as many people as the Nazi or Stalinist regimes did, that somehow the deaths that it has caused are meaningless.

    By this measure, any regime that falls short of this standard (and Saddam certainly does) of butchery should have carte blanche.

    As I said, it’s a bizarre argument.

  40. Richard Bennett

    Dean, the world we* live in is not a place of blacks and whites, it’s a place where every issue has shades of grey (*we meaning “adults”).

    In this world, killing 20,000 to prevent the certain murder of a million is a good thing to do. Now I agree with you that it would be nicer if we could all sit at home with a nice plate of cookies and a cold glass of milk instead of going half-way around the world to kill the bad guys, but we’ve found that the bad guys won’t let us do that. We can fight them at our place, or at their place, and it’s really a better deal all around if we fight them at their place.

    Darren, when I cited Stalin’s murder figures I wasn’t talking about WWII, I was talking about those he executed. Regarding the German immigration figures, http://www.migrationinformation.org/GlobalData/charts/5.1.xls says that Germany admitted 924,000 from 1995-2000, when the US admitted 6,250,000.

    Please stop lying.

  41. Darren

    Richard,

    Did you follow my instructions regarding the page referenced? If you were unable to, I’ve uploaded a screenshot:

    http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/images/germany.gif

    Is it clear, now, how I arrived at a number of 977,701 immigrants to Germany, or will you continue to accuse me of lying?

    Regarding Stalin, you said “Perhaps we need to try harder to gain the approval of the sophisticated Europeans, who after all killed 6 million in the German camps and another 30 million or so under Stalin’s hands.”

    That seems to state that Europeans killed 36 million people. I’m with you on Nazi Germany’s 6 million, but I’m unclear how Stalin (born in Gori, in what is now the Republic of Georgia) and the rest of Russia qualify as Europeans. As I said before, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Russia traditionally considered part of Asia?

    Particularly since this discussion has focussed on the tradition powers in Western Europe, I’m confused as to why you would all of a sudden call Russians Europeans.

  42. Richard Bennett

    Russia has traditionally been considered part of Europe, Darren, although the Soviet Union clearly spanned both Europe and Asia.

    Regarding the connection, see: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060746734/

    “Weekly Standard reporter Hayes marshals a wealth of evidence that, in contrast with the tenuous connections that have so far made news, point to ties between Saddam Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda. Most intriguingly, Hayes finds links between Iraq and the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, one of whom apparently received shelter and financial support from Iraq after the attack. Hayes also gets confirmation by Czech officials of the alleged Prague meeting between September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent. Elsewhere, Hayes points to Iraqi intelligence documents that mention a “good relationship” with bin Laden. Other sources note an alleged agreement for Iraq to assist al-Qaeda in making chemical and biological weapons. Relying both on “open sources” like news articles, transcripts from the 1998 embassy bombing trials, as well as anonymous intelligence reports and informants, Hayes allows that some of these stories may prove unreliable. But he contends that the number, consistency and varied provenance of reports of high-level contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq throughout the past decade allows one to “connect the dots” into a clear pattern of collaboration. Despite the frustrating absence of source notes and no knowledge of what cooperative efforts ever came of these contacts, most readers will conclude from this volume that the Saddam–al-Queda thread has some play left in it.”

    Now what was your point about 5.5 million dying in a Soviet invasion?

  43. Darren

    Richard: Did you understand my reference and screenshot to the number of German immigrants? Are you still going to accuse me of lying?

    Regarding Russia, the first two references I found (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia, http://reference.allrefer.com/encyclopedia/R/Russia-land-and-people.html) describe it as ‘a country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia’. Clearly, it borders both regions. However, the main thrust of our discussion has been about western European nations with a long history of democracy–France, Germany, the UK, etc. In this context, citing Stalin’s massacres is pretty dubious.

    I didn’t have a point about Vietnam, I had a question, which you still haven’t answered: ‘Would a quick, clean Soviet invasion have cost more 5.5 million people?’

    I also haven’t seen a response to my explanation of Canada’s population distribution. Please speak to these points.

  44. billg

    Darren said:

    >>”…I wonder how we should proceed, then, if not by citing evidence to support our position?”

    “Facts” (which in your case appears to mean single instances of contradictory evidence; hence, my high school reference;) don’t necessarily prove anything. In any case, we arren’t debating a provable notion. We’re talking about strongly held convictions.

    >>”My chorus…is that American foreign policy has been inconsistent….”

    First, you need to explain the standard by which you measure consistency. Measured in terms of long-term adherence to Cold War policy, I think U.S. policy after 1939 has been remarkably consistent, and garnered widespread bipartisn political support in the U.S. (Name a serious U.S. politician who proposed withdrawing from West Europe and removing the nuclear unbrella over West Europe?)

    The consistency lies in the application of a foreign policy that seeks to support the interests of the U.S., by one adminstration after another. If the U.S. supports one regime but not another, the consistency is to be found in the motivation and the objective. Expecting any nation to exhibit consistent behavior is to expect that nation to work against its own best interests.

    No state can successfully operate on any other basis. Are you suggesting that, to measure up to your notion of consistency, the Iraqi invasion should be followed by U.S. invasions of every other country any U.S. administration has ever opposed? That would be one form of consistency, but obviously not in the interests of the U.S. as judged by its government.

    In any case, why the rant about U.S. consistency? By your standards, no nation acts with consistency.

    >>”Like any nation, the US looks out for its own self-interests. However, when they’re the most powerful nation on the planet (by a considerable margin), that behaviour is questionable.”

    Why? How? Who is asking the question? Is the U.S. supposed to act against its own best interests just to keep the world’s illegitimate regimes happy?

    >>”…either they’re the global cop, or they’re not. For the past fifty years, though, they’ve only been the global cop when addressing the violation suited them.”

    You’re playing the “When Did You Stop Beating Your
    wife?” game. Yes, the U.S. has a predominance of power. Why shouldn’t the U.S. use it? Perhaps, if the UN had more credibility in the U.S. as an honest and effective organization, the U.S. might be inclined to allow for broader UN particition in certain of its efforts. Remember that the UN has not exactly distinguished itself in the eyes of the American public.

    In addition, why aren’t you slandering the French for their continuing interventions in West Africa? Or the Soviets for interventions on a global scale? Or Russia’s continuing intervetions around its periphery? Or China’s intervention in Tibet? Don’t those measure up to your standard of “cop”? Or is it that you, like so many others, apply a different standard to the U.S.? A standard, I believe, that is deliberately constructed to generate the maximum amount of anti-U.S. propaganda and unreasoned emotion.

  45. Richard Bennett

    Your screenshot isn’t legible, Darren, so I’ll simply refer you to the Excel spreadsheet from the domain you referenced yourself, which doesn’t support your claim that the Germany admits as many immigrants as the US. Going outside http://www.migrationinformation.org, you won’t find any support for your personal theory that the tiny little nation of Germany is a top immigrant destination.

    Estimating the results of a Soviet invasion is an interesting exercise. How many lives have been lost in North Korea and Vietnam as a result of Soviet domination? And how many were lost in Afghanistan when the Soviets ran the place for 10 years? Granted, the invasion itself may be quick and clean – as was our invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam from power – but the imperialism of the Eastern Europeans is much more costly than the invasion.

    Why do Canadians all choose to live as close as possible to the US border? Perhaps it’s climate, as you claim, but I think it’s to get access to superior US medical care, not to mention US television. But the habits of frozen, French-speaking appeasers are not my specialty.

  46. Myron

    I think the Stephen Hayes research has been adequately rebutted:

    “…right after the Hayes piece ran (my note: the Weekly Standard ran a feature article using the same material), the Pentagon knocked it down, saying it was based on raw reports that were classified. “The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and it drew no conclusions,” the DOD release said.” (Salon – 22 Jan 2004)

    The annex referred to above, a memo released by the US Department of Defense, formed the basis for much of Hayes’ research. However, a closer inspection reveals that:

    “…many of the memo’s pieces of evidence come with caveats. For example, in regard to several meetings, the memo states that “None of the reports have information on operational details or the purpose of such meetings” (which are obviously crucial to establishing an “operational relationship” between Iraq and Al Qaeda). Other evidence is indirect, such as a note that “According to sensitive CIA reporting, . . . the Saudi National Guard went on a kingdom-wide state of alert in late Dec 2000 after learning Saddam agreed to assist Al Qaeda in attacking U.S./U.K. interests in Saudi Arabia.” ”

    (Quoted from Spinsanity – 23 Nov 2003)

    So it can hardly be concluded that the case is closed on the connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam, and there certainly is nowhere nearly enough evidence to warrant starting a war on this flimsy pretext.

  47. Richard Bennett

    We certainly don’t know all we’d like to know about the precise operational details of Saddam’s cooperation with Al Qaeda, but we do know enough to say with certainty that there was a working relationship between Saddam’s regime and several terror groups, including but not limited to Hamas and Al Qaeda.

    But if you need to bury your head in the sand, have a nice day.

  48. Myron

    That’s precisely my point – certainty of a “working relationship” does not exist. If it did, we would hear more of it than from one, discredited journalist.

  49. Darren

    Much as it pains me to do so, I’m afraid I must opt out of this debate at this point. I’ve dedicated too much time to it already, and my work’s piling up. Please don’t interpret this as an admission of defeat–just like everybody else, I expect, my mind hasn’t been changed.

    Feel free to continue on without me, and thanks for keeping it intelligent, civil and more-or-less on-topic.

    (Incidentally, Richard, to view that screenshot, if you’re using Internet Explorer, you probably have to hover your mouse over it until a button appears in the lower-right corner. Click that button to expand it to full size and clarity. This is how IE handles large images–it squishes them, often making them unintelligible.)

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