Secret <STRIKE>Agent</STRIKE> Bearded Man

I don't often agree with contemporary French intellectuals (certain exceptions notwithstanding), but this NYTimes piece on Tzvetan Todorov contains some interesting observations:

"We have gone from the world of George Orwell, where large empires confronted each other, to the universe of Ian Fleming and James Bond, where a megalomaniac billionaire hidden in a cave sends planes against American cities."

Gobinda.jpg Osama.jpg

Other than the beards and the turbans, I don't see much of a resemblance.

More from the article:

But his principal reason for opposing the intervention in Iraq was that it lacked the legitimacy of, say, the 1991 Iraq war or the ouster of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. And it is this, more than anything, he believes, that has fed anti-Americanism: "It seems to me that Washington does not care enough today to give legitimacy to its acts in the eyes of the world."

While the United States has traditionally oscillated between isolationism and a desire to manage the affairs of the world, he said, what is new is the combination of self-righteousness and extraordinary military power.

But this approach, designed by what he calls the dominant "neo-fundamentalist" group in Washington, is doomed, he believes: "This mission of extirpating evil, of imposing good by force, is a policy that more closely resembles that of communism or the permanent revolution than a liberal agenda. For me, `liberal imperialism' is a contradiction. One cannot impose the liberal spirit by force, one cannot impose freedom at the point of a bayonet."

More relevantly, he argues, the United States lacks the will to intervene everywhere that freedom is threatened. "It intervenes only in certain cases that coincide with its clearly defined interests," he said. "This means that in the eyes of the world it intervenes to defend its interests, not to defend justice. But an empire cannot maintain itself only through force of arms. It also needs to impose itself through legitimacy."

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why should the US intervene

why should the US intervene when it is does not coincide with its clearly defined interests?

When we deployed in Somalia there was not the will to take the situation seriously and everyone wanted us out quickly. Consequently, we had American soldiers dragged through the streets.

What has the U.N. done for me lately? How is there peace in this world when North Koreans are cannabalizing themselves, some ungodly percentage of Africans are HIV positive, and educated Muslims in the Middle East can't get a job?

As far as imposing freedom at the point of a bayonet, I don't think too many Germans, Japanese and South Koreans are complaining about the style of their government.

I certainly agree with you

I certainly agree with you that the U.S. has no obligation to intervene in cases that do not promote its interests.

The problem is that the current claim offered by the administration is that we are interfering in order to promote freedom and justice, and not simply to promote our own interests. The world rightly sees this claim as inconsistent and hypocritical.

Also, as mentioned in the article, the current intervention doesn't have the same sort of legitimacy that previous interventions have had, because we are not acting out of self-defense.

As for imposing freedom at the point of a bayonet, if we are already justified in intervening out of self-defense, as many argue we were in Germany and Japan, then the promotion of freedom is simply a positive side-effect of the justified act of self-defense, and not a justification for the intervention itself.

There is much injustice in the world. That doesn't mean that the proper role of the U.S. government is to act as the world's policeman, however well-intentioned such acts may be.

I believe the current

I believe the current conflict in Iraq was sold to the American public on the claims of WMD and pre-emptive self-defense. Many opponents claim the war was over oil, which is also true in my opinion.

I believe the unspoken reason for the Bush Administration to go into Iraq, was to release the oil reserves in Iraq and in turn reduce our dependence on the Saudis. Let's not kid around, the Saudis are not our friends and as long as we import large amounts of oil from them, we are their bitch.

Eventually, we need to ween off of oil completely either via hydrogen or some other form of fuel. Unfortunately until then, the U.S. will have a major interest in the Middle East.

I think that one of the

I think that one of the great ironies of recent history is that Saddam caused his own destruction by making himself look more dangerous than (perhaps) he was. While I have no doubt that Saddam wanted WMD, and had active WMD programs in the past, and had hidden much of the products and productive capital of such programs in the past, the sanctions may have, indeed, made active programs untenable (and so he mothballed & went on to 'Operation:Hand Waving')- thus he was brought down by having told such a convincing lie that it became imperative to get rid of him.

The only way Iraq is about oil is in a very roundabout way. US companies certainly aren't going to benefit from Iraqi oil any time soon. But the reason we're the Gimp to the Saudis is because they can stick a straw in the sand and have it gush forth oil. With the 2nd best alternative (Iraq) in pro-western hands, the room for manuver re: Saudi Arabia is increased. We have already removed our troops from the land. As Iraq gets more and more stable, its likely that, ala Germany, a permanent and huge US Army base will be situated somewhere between Baghdad and Basra. In which case, the Saudi's, like Saddam, will start to see that base as a knife at their throat, further circumscribing their political options, and perhaps finally giving the US enough room to tell the Saudi's to "either be with us, or against us", which we currently will not do.