Sunday, November 4. 2007
Tom Engelhardt: Thoughts on Getting to the March. One of the differences between the Vietnam and Iraq wars is the declining trajectory of antiwar protests today. Engelhardt reflects on this, but by the time he gets to the point I had already gotten there. Protests against the Vietnam war increased because people on both sides of the issue saw them as a legitimate democratic process. Engelhardt writes:
Now, that such demonstrations seem pointless is as much as anything a loss of faith not just in the current leadership but in the democratic process as a whole. This has occurred at several levels, starting with the inordinate focus on money in influencing political decision-making. There's also an ideological prophylactic which roughly translates as "war's too important to let the people have any say about it." Iraq is a whole textbook on that theme, designed as it was to marginalize and forget the 500,000 antiwar citizens who marched on Feb. 15, 2003 in New York plus millions elsewhere -- a standard which if innefectual left the movement nowhere to go.
Michael Schwartz: Iraq Policy Floating on a Sea of Oil. In rehearsing the history of America's oil diplomacy, Schwartz misses one thing that I think is key: the extent to which America's expertise in world affairs before WWII was limited to business interests. For every US government employee abroad there must have been at least 10 businessfolk (and probably 2-3 missionaries). One consequence of this is that business interests were able to lead state (presumably public) interests -- in fact, it took little more than a red scare to push the state's buttons. That oil is considered a "national interest" is a residue of this confusion, a good part of the problem the difficulty officials have in distinguishing the interests of consumers and oil companies -- rather incredible given how cleanly they break on the question of price, don't you think? The upshot of this is that the Iraq war was incredibly stupid for US consumers, who are paying at least twice as much now as they would with Saddam's Iraq free to sell to the market. On the other hand, for the oil companies the war was a win-win proposition: either they capture much needed new resources or at least they squeeze the market and profit from the price rise. The odd thing is that it's never clear who's leading whom around: do the oil companies want the war? or is oil just an angle for the warmongers to get their way (in which case the oil companies are just going along for the ride, hoping to keep in good grace)? Same thing can be said for Israel's relationship to the Iraq war: most likely they didn't need or or even particularly want it, but they went along with it, figuring it kept their alliances intact.
Tony Karon: Give Fareed Zakaria a Medal! You know, the much threatened war with Iran is boring. That's mostly because it's locked in the jaws of interminable contradiction: on the one hand, it's clear that launching such a war would be an act not just of political stupidity but of outright insanity; on the other hand, the people with their fingers on the triggers are certainly stupid and quite possibly insane. So it's impossible to dismiss their threats as mere bluster or taunting, but it's exhausting to have to deal with them afresh each time. At least, I'm not the sort of person who suffers idiots kindly. So it's good that Zakaria has put himself into this debate. That he went along with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may cut him some cred in Washington that people who were right all along don't seem to have.