Foreign Policy

Updates to the official foreign policy of D-squared Digest coming in …

First, a clarification on the issue of the State of Israel. Since giving Thomas Friedman that award for saying something silly about divestment (which got me a lot of criticism on weblogs I don’t read), I’ve been worrying that people might see me as an anti-Semite of some sort. If people were disposed in that direction, I get the uneasy feeling that they might take my description of Michael Hardt’s hair as an “Isro” in something other than the spirit of fun in which it was intended. I don’t think there are any other racial slurs on this weblog at the moment, unless you count my reference to Ann Coulter as “Bog Irish rather than Mick Irish”, but even so, some clarification of my Middle East policy would appear to be in order.

Basically, I regard the Palestinian Authority, or whatever it’s called, as the moral equivalent of the IRA. In other words:

  • I think they have a genuine grievance and a genuine right to have their claims taken seriously
  • I think that their grievance, and their case, is by no means as strong as their more vocal supporters think it is
  • I think that the population that they claim to represent is being made the victim of unacceptable governmental repression and are the chief victims of an unconscionable political situation
  • I think that their chosen method of warfare is cowardly and disgusting, and not to be tolerated or apologised for
  • I deeply doubt that they really represent the people they claim to represent
  • They are, on balance, the villains of the piece, but the cause that they support in their villainous manner is at bottom, just.

You will have to take my word for this since it predates my appearance on the Internet, but I was never, unlike a lot of the British Left (Paul McCartney, I’m looking at you. And John Lennon too), an apologist for the IRA. I always thought that it was possible to believe in the case for a united Ireland without simultaneously thinking that the Protestant Ulstermen should be driven into the sea, or that it was ever acceptable to put bombs in shopping centres. However, the time comes when one realises that if what you care about is stopping the senseless killing, you have to hold your nose and negotiate with people who you regard as slightly worse than serial killers, and accept that they quite likely think the same about you. Like the Israelis, the Protestant Irish have a sincerely held belief, which is not at all unreasonable to hold given the evidence, that the people they were until recently forced to deal with at Stormont fundamentally want to eradicate them from the face of their homeland. But still they negotiated. I think that what this brings home to me is that a) what a bloody shame it is that there does not appear to be any Palestinian equivalent of John Hume and b) that when you extend this analogy to judge the Israeli forces by the standards of the RUC and the B-Specials during the worst periods of the Troubles, they still appear to have behaved bloody badly. Actually, in all honesty, I do understand why sensible English people supported the IRA despite knowing about the carnage; most of the people lined up against them were so transparently arguing in bad faith, which is also the case these days …

Now, on to war …

A further development in my Iraq policy as well. I am now, after comments from Brad DeLong and others, revising my opinion of the murderousness of the sanctions policy and concluding that it might not be as terrible as a number of quite possibly interested parties have portrayed it. On the other hand, I am also convinced by Max Sawicky’s argument that Iraq is likely to be the first excursion of an American policy of empire-building in the Middle East, which is likely to be disastrous under any possible performance metric.

But, I retain my original belief that improvement in Iraq is politically impossible unless there is some sort of shooting war in the area culminating in the removal of Saddam Hussein. I don’t set much score by “national-building”, and don’t really believe that what the Gulf needs is more US client states, and I never believed any of the scare stories related to the “WMD” acronym which is currently doing such sterling duty in picking out weblog authors who don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about. I just think that Saddam needs to go, because it’s just one of those Damned Things which Has To Happen. I’m a fatalist, not a moralist.

So, how can we square these beliefs a) that something has to be done and b) that if something is done, it will be a disastrous imperial adventure by George Bush. Here’s how, and it’s so simple it’s beautiful:

The official policy of D-Squared Digest with respect to Iraq is now that we support a policy of containment until after the 2004 Presidential elections, and after that, we will support immediate war with Iraq if and only if someone other than George W Bush is elected

I could dress that up by going “WHEREAS” a lot and turning it into a manifesto, but I’ve never really had any problems with thinking of new ways to call anyone who disagrees with me an idiot, so it seems a bit pointless to bother. Basically, the idea is that I’ll support a war just so long as that idiot currently in charge has nothing whatever to do with it. Thinking about it, I don’t want to sign up to a different figurehead for the Perle/Wolfowitz Axis of Idiocy, so maybe I should just tell the truth and shame the devil; I’ll only support a war if it’s the Democrats fighting it. I would like to find some warblogger with a decent argument against this view; strikes me that I can accept all the arguments about containment, inspection, risk, etc, etc and still hold the statement in bold italics just above. Nobody believes that Saddam will have nukes by 2004 ….


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