Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Monday, February 18, 2008

Der Spiegel interview with Henry Kissinger

Some excerpts:

The major events in European history were conducted by nation-states which developed over several hundred years. There was never a question in the mind of European populations that the state was authorized to ask for sacrifices and that the citizens had a duty to carry it out. Now the structure of the nation-state has been given up to some considerable extent in Europe. And the capacity of governments to ask for sacrifices has diminished correspondingly.


By this time next year, we will see the beginning of a new administration. We will then discover to what extent the Bush administration was the cause or the alibi for European-American disagreements. Right now, many Europeans hide behind the unpopularity of President Bush. And this administration made several mistakes in the beginning . . . To go into Iraq with insufficient troops, to disband the Iraqi army, the handling of the relations with allies at the beginning even though not every ally distinguished himself by loyalty. But I do believe that George W. Bush has correctly understood the global challenge we are facing, the threat of radical Islam, and that he has fought that battle with great fortitude. He will be appreciated for that later.

Read the whole thing.


Blogger Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

I know this subject has been a sensitive one between us, you may be in no mood for a debate, and that there is little chance of either of our opinions changing even if we have one. I hope you will forgive me if I address your analysis on your terms, however. Your assertion that President Bush "correctly understood the global challenge we are facing" seems to hinge on the idea that the Iraq policy *should* have yielded different results if it had been conducted differently. But if we address the errors that you enumerate, it seems clear (to me) that any statesmen who correctly understood the global challenge would have known that these were not merely errors, but the manifestations of critical vulnerabilities that placed final outcomes in Iraq beyond the control of the US from the very outset:

1)To go into Iraq with insufficient troops

What number would have constituted "sufficient troops" is a counterfactual that one could bandy about all day without real results. What is clear, however, is that the US army post-Vietnam had been radically overhauled on the assumption that it would never be engaged in an extended occupation of a hostile nation again. Thus the elimination of the draft, the radical turn toward mechanization (even pre-Rumsfeld), etc. Any leader should have known that the Iraq mission was one for which the US military was structurally and systemically unprepared- decades had been spent retraining and retooling the armed forces for what was assumed would be the "war of the future"- brief incursions or short, destructive conflicts between the forces of opposed superpowers. The entire strategic logic of the Iraq mission was predicated on the assumption that there would be no need for occupation- to admit that there would be the need to occupy Iraq would have been to admit that the mission was one for which the US military was unprepared. This is why figures like Shinseki, who called for higher troop tallies were axed- to concede to their views would have made the entire enterprise look so strategically daunting as to be politically untenable.

2)To disband the Iraqi army-

I agree that a change in this policy might have yielded different results. However, if we scrutinize Bush's "understanding" on this score it seems just as fair to ask what he is doing now to reconstitute the Iraqi military. The Bush policy of a "long-term presence" in Iraq hinges on the refusal to equip the Iraqi military with the weapons (planes, copters, tanks) that would give them true sovereign power- weapons that even Blackwater is allowed to operate within the precincts of Baghdad. Keeping the current Iraqi military in such a denuded state does not argue well for the contention that Bush would ever have successfully enlisted the help of the Iraqi military in the first place. If the Iraqi army had been enlisted as a partner in keeping order, it would eventually have demanded the reconstitution of its heavy weapons corps, and and if the Bush response then had been what it is now the final result might have been just as good as having disbanded the army in the first place.

3)the handling of the relations with the allies

Again, this presumes that there was ever a way to broaden the number of allies engaged in this endeavor. Bush was seeking to establish a precedent of preemptive war that was never going to sell well in Paris or Berlin. If the outcomes up to now had been different one could speak of a broader alliance for the *next* preemptive mission, but that is an even "deader" letter now than it was in 2003.

Predictive assertions are never quite falsifiable, so yours (that Bush "will be appreciated...later") may well come true. I don't agree, however. I suspect final outcomes in Iraq will be ambiguous enough to sustain debates about the right or wrong of this policy for a very, very long time. But I think it is overly optimistic to hope that a positive consensus is going to emerge with respect to Bush's wisdom in the conduct of our foreign affairs.

February 18, 2008 12:37 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Oops, Madman. I neglected to italicize the latter half of the excerpts I included, and thus made it appear that Kissinger's analysis was mine. I fixed the italics. Sorry.

I posted the interview with Kissinger not as a means of advancing my own views in a debate, but because I thought Kissinger's take on several issues was interesting and intelligent.

I hasten to add that I don't disagree with Kissinger. My posting has been very link-heavy lately, because I don't have time at the moment to sit down and write a long, coherent post of my own.

February 18, 2008 1:16 PM  
Blogger Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate,

Sorry for the mix-up. Please forward my comments to Henry (or "Hank" as we used to call him).

February 18, 2008 1:58 PM  

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