July 12, 2006

Please, Sir, May I Have Another War?

I suppose I could confine my commentary about this unrepentant warmonger's latest lunacy to a Shorter Andrew Sullivan:
I feel gypped! Our big, strong, manly leader promised us lots and lots of wars! So far, we've only had one! [Who counts Afghanistan? Nothing to see there.] One measly little war, and it totally fizzled. And there are big scary monsters all around! Under the bed, behind the curtains, and when I turn the lights out, there's tons of them! They're everywhere! You promised us lots of wars! Please, please, can't we have some more wars?
No wonder he worships Churchill (quoting Ralph Raico):
In 1925, Churchill wrote: "The story of the human race is war." This, however, is untrue; potentially, it is disastrously untrue. Churchill lacked any grasp of the fundamentals of the social philosophy of classical liberalism. In particular, he never understood that, as Ludwig von Mises explained, the true story of the human race is the extension of social cooperation and the division of labor. Peace, not war, is the father of all things. For Churchill, the years without war offered nothing to him but "the bland skies of peace and platitude." This was a man, as we shall see, who wished for more wars than actually happened.
I've explained before how and why Sullivan has learned absolutely nothing. If you had any doubt on that point, consider these latest remarks about the Iraq catastrophe:
Again, you see the strange, almost surreal disconnection between the president’'s words and his actions. He has indeed described the current conflict between civilisation and terror masters armed with WMDs as the equivalent of the third world war.

And yet he still refuses to send two more divisions to pacify Baghdad, a critical element in stabilising Iraq. He hasn’t enlarged the size of the military, and has had to rely on part-time reservists to hold the line in hell-holes in Iraq.


As someone who backed the resolution and analysis of this president in the run-up to war against Saddam, and who still hopes for the best in Iraq, I can only say I feel somewhat conned.
You see? If only Bush would follow General Sullivan's expert military advice ("Just send those two goddamned divisions! I know they're around here someplace! And get me a bigger military! Just do it, you miserable grunt!"), everything would be peachy keen. No, Sullivan: No. And still he "hopes for the best in Iraq." Dear God. Hope is cheap, and it is definitely not a policy, you hack war propagandist.

I'm certain that Sullivan once must have had a passing acquaintance with what we mysteriously refer to as "reality." Any such knowledge now diminishes hourly, and approaches the vanishing point. What is most striking about his column concerning the The Threat that Will Destroy the Known Universe, otherwise known as "North Korea," is its barely contained hysteria. Note:
[North Korea] has launched missiles aimed at the American homeland, has the potential to murder millions in a country allied with the West, has constructed concentration camps for dissidents, has starved thousands to death and is far further along in the nuclear bomb-making process.
Sullivan attempts to distance himself a bit from his own hysterics by contending that Bush and Cheney are being inconsistent on their own terms: given their arguments, Kim is a much greater threat than Saddam ever was. While it's certainly true that the administration's foreign policy is one of near-total incoherence, this tactic of authorial distancing doesn't work, because Sullivan's own very real dread continually seeps through. For Sullivan, the Biggest, Baddest Monster is really, really here:
The Cheney argument, as outlined in Ron Suskind’s book-length brief for the CIA, The One Percent Doctrine, is clear. It is that if there is a 1% chance that terrorists can get access to WMDs, the US, after 9/11, must treat that chance as a 100% certainty.

Under that Cheney risk-rubric, Kim is easily the gravest threat to American lives since Bush took office. He has the materials; he has the motive; all he lacks is a delivery system.

And the failure of his missile delivery system is not a cause for relief. It merely means that if he is to deliver the nuclear goods to his enemies, he has to find another way.

A suitcase? An Al-Qaeda suicide bomber? A Pakistani intelligence agent?

You think these options aren’t available to him? If you live anywhere near a western city you should be concerned.
In a wonderfully level-headed column, Randal Mark ably dissects the meaningless and dishonest dodge of describing the leader of any country the warmongers want to attack next as "certifiably loopy." Given the increasingly tenuous connections between Sullivan's arguments and the relevant facts, we may assume that Sullivan has considerable familiarity with that particular phrase -- although it would appear to find its most obvious application in a different direction than that selected by Sullivan himself. Mark also offers some valuable observations about the severe limitations of Sullivan's "ideological blinders."

But perhaps the best part of Mark's article is his accurate assessment of the Korean threat and what ought to be done about it:
The foolishness of his piece lies most obviously in the inherent absurdity of his claim that there is a threat from North Korea that requires action. In reality, North Korea, although highly militarized, is a small, impoverished, Third World dictatorship that is comprehensively outclassed, in technological and numerical terms, by the U.S. and its allies. The U.S., on the other hand, currently spends almost as much on military force as the rest of the world put together, and has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over.

There are no conceivable circumstances whatsoever in which North Korea could substantively attack the U.S., or any ally the U.S. chooses to shield, without facing its own certain, immediate, and total destruction. There is no plausible future scenario in which this situation could change.

Sullivan would have us believe, presumably, that for some reason Kim will commit suicide merely to get in a blow against the U.S. or its allies. Needless to say, he prefers not to discuss the precise chain of events by which this will occur (in the absence of continuing U.S. aggression [3] toward North Korea, that is). Rather, he makes dark hints by describing Kim as "certifiably loopy," implying that he'll probably do it just because he's crazy. This is a great way to avoid the need for explanation. Except, of course, that Kim isn't "certifiably loopy" in the sense of being likely to bring about his own immediate destruction by rank irrationality. ...

The only situation in which North Korea (or Iran, or Saddam's Iraq) might attack the U.S. in the face of their own certain national destruction would be in the case of utter desperation, having been driven to the wall by U.S. economic and political pressure, or following an act of military aggression doubtless mendaciously dressed up as a defensive "preemptive" attack [4]. It is up to the U.S. to make sure this doesn't happen (though in practice it is highly unlikely the Chinese would allow it to, in the case of North Korea). In the meantime, however, confrontation merely confirms to the North Korean people that their government's claims of an external threat are true.


Here, then, is the simple policy solution to the "problem" of North Korea for the U.S. president: do nothing. It's also known as masterly inactivity. In due course, the nature of the North Korean regime will change, whether that change is peaceful or violent. It will probably change a lot more quickly if North Korea's economy has more wealth and wider links with the outside world, rather than being further isolated by demonization and sanctions on top of the constraints imposed by its own government. It will also help if Kim's attempts to seek nationalist legitimacy by claiming an external threat aren't regularly demonstrated true by Washington. In the meantime, North Korea isn't going to attack anybody so long as Kim knows that the result would be his own destruction.
In its essentials, this is exactly what I proposed some time ago with regard to Iran, as well as in connection with a non-interventionist foreign policy more generally. But of course, doing nothing is anathema to the political leader, for whom action, and today the more destructive and bloodier the better, is considered to be synonymous with and absolutely required for any achievement whatsoever. Yet on many occasions, in foreign policy and in many other circumstances in life, the bravest and best course is to keep a watchful eye should serious dangers arise, but to refrain from acting until it is absolutely necessary.

Writers like Andrew Sullivan are a positive danger to the peace and safety of the world. Even though I am utterly opposed to such licensure schemes, this is the kind of situation that almost makes me wish for one -- in this case, for all commentators of any prominence. If such a procedure were in place, Sullivan's license should be revoked forthwith, with an instruction that it is never to be reinstated, under any circumstances whatsoever.