Tag: hypocrisy

Hobgoblins of a Little Mind

The US does not negotiate with terrorist groups.*^

*This statement does not yet apply to the Haqqani Network in Pakistan; even though its founder and senior leadership have all been individually designated as terrorists. 

[ Oh, come on Vikash, the US negotiated with “reached out” to that group before Admiral Mullen’s testimony to Congress. Until that testimony we had no idea that  a group founded and led by people we call terrorists could actually be considered a terrorist “group.”  Sure the Haqqanis are vicious individually, but as a group they’re like the Cub Scouts. Seriously, though it’s not like the Haqqani Network is the same as Al Qaeda.  Anyway, if you designate the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization that might mean that Pakistan would be declared a state sponsor of terror and that would be bad because … umm … our ally might stop cooperating with us in the War on Terror. ]

^This statement also does not apply to individual Al Qaeda linked militants who might be of some use to the US in overthrowing the government of Libya.

[ Look, my friend, if he is willing to work with NATO, we should overlook all the indiscretions of his youth, and hopefully he will also overlook the fact that we tortured him and his wife and then handed him over to the Libyan regime for even more torture.  We all know that Qaddafi was the brutal one, right? ]

The US has a Responsibility to Protect unarmed civilians from brutal repression by armed aircraft or ground units.* ** ^

*This offer does not apply to pro-democracy demonstrators who happen to live within shouting distance of a major US military base.

[ Hey! We honestly thought those screams were coming from a loud party.  We did our duty, we called the Saudis and the Emiratis and they said they’d take care of that “noise complaint” for us… and umm… they did. Okay, seriously, we can’t just intervene in the domestic affairs of our allies, especially one that hosts the 5th fleet. Our responsibility isn’t to protect all civilians yearning to be free, only the civilians who aren’t being oppressed by our own allies. ]

**This offer certainly doesn’t apply if you happen to be Palestinian.

[ Don’t even think about it…  Look, if an occupying power has the responsibility to protect civilians under international law as the UN Special Rapporteur is arguing, that would mean that the US also had … ummm, well … let’s not even go there.  R2P can only apply to slaughtering your own citizens, otherwise, well… it is just too broad and there are too many dead bodies and troubling cases to cite the R2P principle… why dig up old war crimes accusations? We’ll be done with that war in December anyway. You have to be realistic, sometimes a state has to use lethal violence to pacify a rebellious population — a little shock and awe. And in the end it doesn’t matter because we’re immune from war crimes charges. So let’s look forward, not backward. ]

^This R2P principle also does not apply to attacks by American drones on American citizens.

[ Stop it.  Yes, he was a 16 year old American citizen — boohoo — but he was also the son of a traitorous citizen we just terminated. By running away from his mother to go look for his crazy father in Yemen, it was almost inevitable that he would become an Al Qaeda terrorist.  Anyway, executing our own citizens with drone strikes is not a form of brutal repression that can in anyway be compared to Libyans massacring or potentially massacring unarmed citizens with helicopter gunships…  For one thing we’ve only murdered three of our own citizens (so far)… stop being intentionally thick, you know there aren’t enough dead bodies to meet the R2P threshold. And your desire to draw an equivalence is really pretty stupid. Let me make it very clear for you my dim witted friend: we can commit as many mini-atrocities as we want; even if we unleash the slaughter of half a million civilians in an illegal war, that will never add up to a mass atrocity and you can’t cite R2P. Right or wrong it doesn’t matter anyway, they’re dead, let’s move on and not dwell in the past… 

And before you start yakking about our complicity in helping Pakistan kill scores of their civilians, let me just stop you and say that as long as we say we are targeting militants, then what we are doing is completely legal. It is tragic that civilians get killed, but that is just what happens and we don’t lose sleep over it. And we don’t have to answer to you or anyone else about what we’re doing over there.

You liberals are so frustrating. First you say we can’t subcontract torture to Syria anymore, then you tell us Libya is off the rendition list because it’s going democratic and now you’re saying we shouldn’t just kill anyone we suspect with drones. Sheez! Thank god we still have our old pals in Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan to protect our nation and humanity from lawless barbarians. ]


Liar, hypocrite or partisan hack?

Dick Cheney’s memoir apparently verifies an interesting political point from George W. Bush’s memoir. Last November, I noted that the former President claimed that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had approached him in 2006 prior to the congressional elections in order to urge withdrawal of some US troops from Iraq. This might save the Republican majority, argued the Majority Leader, even though McConnell was publicly taking the position that the US should remain in Iraq for vital security reasons. After the election, of course, Bush famously increased the US deployment in Iraq (“the surge”).

A local columnist in Louisville has identified a key passage in Cheney’s memoir that apparently confirms Bush’s account, based on the former Veep’s recollection of a July 2007 dinner he hosted (p. 462):

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walked over to me. Mitch had been one of the most concerned of the Republicans. He was up for reelection and had suggested to the president that he needed to begin a withdrawal in order to avoid massive defection of Republican senators.

As my original post noted, McConnell’s opposing public and private positions certainly make him look bad.

Was he lying when he said US troops were vital for security? Was he simply acting as a hypocrit? Or, and you can feel free to pick more than one choice, was he overtly expressing his partisan preferences in each situation, regardless of the security implications?


Bush: McConnell plays politics with national security

In his new memoir, former President George W. Bush says that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) let electoral politics influence his advice about the Iraq war in 2006. Cincinnati’s CityBeat has the exchange from Bush’s memoir:

“In September 2006, with the midterm elections approaching, my friend Mitch McConnell came to the Oval Office. The senior senator from Kentucky and Republican whip had asked to see me alone. Mitch has a sharp political nose, and he smelled trouble.

‘Mr. President,’ he said, ‘your unpopularity is going to cost us control of the Congress’ …

‘Well, Mitch,’ I asked, ‘what do you want me to do about it?’ ‘Mr. President,’ he said, ‘bring some troops home from Iraq.'”

The Louisville Courier-Journal, November 9 quotes Bush as replying that he would “set troop levels to achieve victory in Iraq, not victory at the polls.”


My local paper (and McConnell’s) lets Michael Desch, a realist IR theorist and chair of political science at Notre Dame, explain the Senator’s problem:

“Because he [McConnell] had been a cheerleader for the president in the war, it makes him look like a bit of a hypocrite,” Desch said of McConnell. “It also makes him look bad because he seems to be trimming his sails in response to electoral politics, which doesn’t look very statesmanlike.”

Indeed, in an op-ed on November 11, the C-J detailed McConnell’s hypocrisy:

At the time that Sen. McConnell was privately advising Mr. Bush to reduce troop levels in Iraq, he was elsewhere excoriating congressional Democrats who had urged the same thing. “The Democrat[ic] leadership finally agrees on something — unfortunately it’s retreat,” Sen. McConnell had said in a statement on Sept. 5, 2006, about a Democratic letter to Mr. Bush appealing for cuts in troop levels. Sen. McConnell, who publicly was a stout defender of the war and Mr. Bush’s conduct of the conflict, accused the Democrats of advocating a position that would endanger Americans and leave Iraqis at the mercy of al-Qaida.

Ouch again.

The op-ed notes that McConnell has three choices: call Bush a liar, admit that he was lying publicly at the time, or “explain why the fortunes of the Republican Party are of greater importance than the safety of the United States.”

In the original piece, University of Virginia’s election savant Professor Larry Sabato says that this revelation signals that George W. Bush is out of politics and that he’s settling some scores.

Virtually everyone quoted in the story agrees that McConnell was right — Bush’s war in Iraq did cost the Republicans the Congress in 2006.


Hypocrisy watch

Before departing on vacation, Stephen Walt posted about a rift between South Korea and the United States concerning spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. The U.S. is opposed, primarily because plutonium is a byproduct, while South Korea wants to reprocess waste so as to reduce the volume of nuclear refuse from its large-scale atomic energy program.

To reduce proliferation fears inherently tied to plutonium production, South Korean policy in this area reflects a pledge (and as Walt notes, implicit threat), that “We will never build nuclear weapons as long as the United States keeps its alliance with us.”

After making other interesting points about the dispute, Walt makes an argument that I have often discussed in the past. The U.S. view on nonproliferation is laden with hypocricy:

it’s hard not to be struck by the basic hypocrisy of the U.S. position, which it shares with other existing nuclear powers. Washington has no intention of giving up its own nuclear weapons stockpile or its access to all forms of nuclear technology. The recent New START treaty notwithstanding, U.S. government still believes it needs thousands of nuclear weapons deployed or in reserve, even though the United States has the most powerful conventional military forces on the planet, has no great powers nearby, and faces zero-risk of a hostile invasion. Yet we don’t think a close ally like South Korea should be allowed to reprocess spent fuel, take any other measures that might under some circumstances move them closer to a nuclear capability of their own.

Walt and I agree about what counts as hypocrisy, what about the implications for foreign policy? Walt:

In my view, there’s nothing reprehensible or even surprising about this situation; it merely reminds us that no two states have the same interests and that hypocritical (or more politely, ‘inconsistent’) behavior is common-place in international politics.

Criticial theorists like me are a lot lest sanguine about the meaning of hypocrisy. In fact, critical theorists see it as a basic function of their scholarship to reveal hypocritical policies and arguments in order to foment emancipatory political change. If the illogic undergirding inconsistent positions is revealed and thus undermined, replacement policies and arguments are more likely to reflect something like well-reasoned consensus. At least that’s a central purpose of immanent critique.

As I’ve argued previously, many contemporary neorealists like Walt seem also to prefer a world with less hypocrisy. The short blog post about the U.S.-South Korea dispute is no exception:

But the U.S. ability to persuade others not to flirt with their own nuclear capabilities might be a lot stronger if we didn’t place so much value on them ourselves.

Read differently: if the U.S. was less hypocritical, its policies would be more effective.


The taboo

Political Scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt received a lot of heat for their recent work about the power of the Israeli lobby inside the United States.

Mearsheimer and Walt raised issues that are rarely discussed in the United States. Indeed. some describe this topic as “the third rail” of US foreign policy debate.

Now that the power of “the Lobby” has been made part of the US public debate, Israel’s nuclear weapons program should also be scrutinized more publicly. Ordinarily, that subject is taboo.

Lew Butler (who used to chair the Ploughshares Fund) explained in an op-ed in the SF Chronicle, November 30, 2007:

Estimates are that there are probably as many as 200 [nuclear weapons] in the Israeli arsenal, including thermonuclear (hydrogen) ones.

What is surprising is that there is almost never any public discussion in the United States, and certainly none in the White House or the Congress, about these weapons.

…Clearly, the Bush administration is not going to talk publicly about our understanding, if any, with Israel about its nuclear weapons. And no member of Congress is rushing to get into a subject as politically delicate as this one. That leaves it to those of us in private life to begin the debate, for the sake of the United States and Israel.

Part of the reason nobody wants to talk about Israeli nuclear weapons is that any debate would quickly reveal American hypocrisy. How can the US put pressure on Iran or North Korea about their proliferation if it turns a blind eye to Israel?

The unspoken basis for U.S. policy about Israel’s nukes seems to be that we don’t want our enemies to have such weapons but we don’t worry as much if our friends, like Israel, Pakistan and India, have them.

However, the lack of debate about Israel’s arsenal occasionally causes US political leaders to make careless and immoral threats. Hillary Clinton’s recent warning that she would “obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel led me to note the following in comments:

I don’t know why Israel’s nuclear force isn’t sufficient to deter Iran’s. Estimates suggest that it has 100s of deliverable weapons, some in the form of accurate cruise missiles on relatively invulnerable submarines.

Butler asks a set of related questions

Is there any understanding between Israel and the United States, its principal source of military aid, about their use? If so, does the understanding cover “no first use,” similar to the policy advocated in the United States at the height of the Cold War? What would the United States do if Israel were ever under an attack that might lead it to a nuclear response? Has the United States ever talked with Israel about its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? For Israel, are the weapons more of a danger to its security than a defense?

I see no reason to avoid public debate about these issues.

An honest discussion about Israel’s arsenal might lead the US to adopt policies that would reduce its hypocrisy. For example, achieving genuine nonproliferation in the Middle East might require Israel to abandon its reliance upon nuclear weapons. Alternatively, perhaps the US and the regional states could embrace some kind of mutual deterrence based on Iran maintaining a secure second strike force. Iran does not currently have a nuclear-armed ally willing to extend deterrence on its behalf.

How would the US respond if Russia announced that it would obliterate Israel if it used nuclear weapons against Iran?

Note: Cross-posted at my blog.


Romeny on immigration: “don’t ask, don’t tell”

A quick note on the CNN/YouTube Debate.

Although the point is rather obvious, I think it is worth reflecting on how whe exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney about illegal immigration encapsulates fundamental tensions in this country, and within the Republican party, on the issue.

Recall that Romnney attacked Giuliani for running a “sanctuary city.” Giuliani rejected the the label but also went on the offensive:

It’s unfortunate, but Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he’s had far the — worst record.

For example, in his case, there were six sanctuary cities. He did nothing about them.

There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed, not being turned into anybody or by anyone. And then when he deputized the police, he did it two weeks before he was going to leave office, and they never even seemed to catch the illegal immigrants that were working at his mansion. So I would say he had sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city.

Romney denied that he employed illegal immigrants, but also responded:

Are you suggesting, Mr. Mayor — because I think it is really kind of offensive actually to suggest, to say look, you know what, if you are a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home — paint the home, put on the roof. If you hear someone that is working out there, not that you have employed, but that the company has.

If you hear someone with a funny accent, you, as a homeowner, are supposed to go out there and say, “I want to see your papers.”

Is that what you’re suggesting?

But, of course, many of those concerned about illegal immigration–the very constituency Romney’s targeting in his attacks on Giuliani–want the government to engage in behavior that Romney labels “racist”: conduct sweeps of hispanic laborers, and hispanics in general, because of their accents and appearances.

Indeed, Romney’s implicit claim, that individuals have no positive obligation to comply with immigration laws, highlights some broader inconsistencies in the current political environment. Romney, I imagine, employed the company in question because it offered to do the job he wanted at a competitive price. How did it get its prices sufficiently low to secure a contract with Romney? Presumably because it employed low-wage illegal immigrants.

Romney made the same choice that, I’d wager, at least tens of thousands of Americans make every day: to adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to accepting cheap goods and services made possible by, at least as the employment market currently works, illegal immigrants.

Romney’s position may be particularly hypocritical because, after all, he seeks to exploit the current wave of anti-illegal immigrant sentiment even as he may have directly gained in material terms from illegal immigration. And unlike Fred Thompson, he doesn’t even express some regret from possibly having done so. But like not a few other Americans, Romney wants to have it both ways: to take a strong stand against illegal immigration without assuming the kind of personal responsibility that would reduce the size of his bank account.

Romney’s inconsistency reflects a more abstract dilemma. Most political elites support free trade on the grounds that the open flow of capital, goods, and services contributes to economic efficiency and aggregate economic growth. But many of these same elites draw the line at labor. If we should import other production factors, such as rubber, from wherever they are cheapest, why shouldn’t we enjoy the unrestricted ability to import cheap labor as well? The answer involves, ultimately, distributional and cultural politics. But similar considerations also apply in the context of debates over “free trade.” So those who want to restrict the flow of cheap labor to this country but not of other production factors, let alone finished goods, have some explaining to do.


Extended rant on Bush, Pakistan, and total hypocrisy

(Kaplan and Arkin make pretty much the same point, but I’m rather exercised about this whole deal, and hence the following)

I’m not really angry with Musharraf for his crackdown–he’s a barely legitimate dictator who took power in a coup trying to hold on to power and keep his fractured country together. Like so many in his position before him, he sees his country in danger and thinks that only he can hold it together, so he holds onto power and takes what steps he can to eliminate the most pressing threats to his power. In this case, the threat is the Law, in the form of lawyers and the Supreme Court. Crack down on the secular opposition, eliminate any real challenge to power, stay in office, its all good. Any self-respecting authoritarian would do / is doing the same (Chavez, Putin, Mugabe…)

The thing that has me really exercised is the US reaction to it–no, strike that, the Bush Administration’s reaction to it and the sheer hypocrisy it embodies. Its symptomatic of the fundamental failures of US foreign policy over the past I don’t know how many years, and it is “why the terrorists hate us.” No, its not that they “hate our freedoms,” its because we betray those freedoms and those who desire those freedoms in the name of security and interest.

Specifically, its stuff like this. Bush, speaking Monday, at a press conference, when asked about Pakistan:

And finally, I briefed the Prime Minister on Secretary Rice’s recent phone call with President Musharraf. I asked the Secretary to call him to convey this message: that we expect there to be elections as soon as possible, and that the President should remove his military uniform. Previous to his decision we made it clear that these emergency measures were — would undermine democracy. Having said that, I did remind the Prime Minister that President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals, that he understands the dangers posed by radicals and extremists. After all, they tried to kill him three or four times. And our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible….

We made it clear to the President that we would hope he wouldn’t have declared the emergency powers he declared. Now that he’s made that decision, I hope now that he hurry back to elections. And at the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists, who not only have tried to kill him, but have used parts of his country from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan, and/or are plotting attacks on America….

In other words, Yeah, its not ideal, but fighting terrorists is more important, so we’ll essentially look the other way. On top of this, the US won’t cancel any military aid to Pakistan, now the 3rd largest recipient of US military aid.

Pop Quiz! Who said:

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

Of course, that’s Bush’s Second Inaugural Address. Sure reads like an empty promise now.

Bush has said before that:

the United States and Pakistan understand that in the long run, the only way to defeat the terrorists is through democracy.

Pakistan is the central front in the War on Terrorism. The Northwest territories are home to Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. It produces a number terrorists that are fighting US troops in Afghanistan. No country faces a greater threat of a revolt or coup by extremists Islamists than Pakistan. So, of course you’d want to work hard to promote democracy there, in a country that once was a democracy, as “the only way to defeat the terrorists is through democracy.” Instead, you get into bed with a guy who overthrew an elected leader. Corrupt, sure, but nevertheless elected through a democratic process. And, you stand idly by as he guts the very institutions that a Democracy needs to survive–the courts and the rule of law–and jails those who would be the vanguard of a secular Pakistani democracy, lawyers committed above all to the rule of law.

Bush just lets Musharraf off the hook. Sure, its not what we say we want, but hey, he’s got terrorists to fight. Yes, everyone is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but come on! You say you’re all about freedom, that democracy and freedom are the only way to defeat the terrorists, and here you go selling out the last thread of commitment to freedom and democracy in Pakistan in the name of self interest and security.

And, just to rub it in, Musharraf is moving faster and quicker and more effectively against his secular, organized political opposition than he was ever able to do against the radical Al Qaeda forces in his Northwest provinces.

So, yes, I heap scorn on the Bush Administration for their response to Pakistan. The condemnations ring hollow–worse, they are duplicitous, deceitful, and devoid of any meaning. Bush is doing irreparable harm US national security with this act. Musharraf is already seen as a tool of US influence by his own people, and now each and every one he jails and harasses, every family member of someone killed or disappeared in a crackdown will blame Bush and the USA just as much as Musharraf. We’ve seen that before, and now we’re going to see it again. It doesn’t matter that we “officially” condemn the action, or that its Musharraf, not Bush doing the imprisoning of dissidents. What matters is what the people of Pakistan see in their government, and what they see now is a military thug holding onto power, backed full force by the US government. Take away the US military support, and Musharraf must play domestic politics and legitimize his rule and make the necessary compromises to govern. Prop him up with aid, offer international cover for his actions and he can eliminate the opposition and stay in power.

And thus the US loses any credibility that it had left for moral leadership in a global war on terror. Gone are any principles, any faith and commitment that a people, when given a free and democratic choice, will choose to live in peace with others and reject terrorism.

This is why they hate us, because we betray the promise that the principles that we enjoy at home can be enjoyed by others. Bush is selling out the people of Pakistan for one last grasp at what they and we and everyone else recognizes as a failed and morally bankrupt policy.


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