While the neocons gloat over Qaddaffi's decision to come clean about his weapons programs as a clear indicator of the success of the Bush doctrine of preemption, it seems that the story is a bit more complicated. Josh Marshall
, Juan Cole
(in particular), and this evening, NPR's Dan Schorr
on how this story came about.
It had little to do with Iraq and a great deal to do with intense, long running diplomacy and fierce UN economic sanctions. Why sanctions worked in Libya and not in Iraq is a question that should be studied closely. How were they different in real terms, in spirit, and in how they were applied?
Juan Cole also comments
on the rise in assassinations of former Baath party officials in Iraq, and how this is being winked at by Iraqi police and, by extension, the U.S. military. Encouraging vigilantism, vendettas, and lawlessness. Always a good thing for a fledgling democracy.
"Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says some Iraqis think the spike in assassinations reflects a gradual loss of hope that the Coalition Provisional Authority or the new Iraqi government will quickly bring the Baathists to justice, and a fear that they may be regrouping to reestablish some political momentum in the new system."
Jon Stewart on the cover
of Newsweek [I could not open this page in Safari, so switch to Explorer if you run into trouble]. I fervently hope this is a positive development for both the culture and our politics. Probably not, though.
It's taken a year, but I finally finished Margaret MacMillans fascinating history of the Paris Peace Talks following World War I. Published in 2001, but clearly the result of years of research and work, Paris 1919
offers a wealth of detail about the conference and the relatively few men who were to decide the fate of millions around the world. Relatively few men, like Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and of course, Wilson, but all of whom were beholden to public sentiment back home, the first time in history that the press made such an impact on treaty negotiations.
The book is valuable for debunking the myth that the treaty signed at Versailles was so odious in its terms that it led inexorably to Hitler and World War II. In fact, the treaty's ultimate terms weren't significantly worse than the terms Germany laid on France following the Franco-Prussian War; it's just that German popular sentiment blamed the treaty on everything from post-war unemployment to the weather.
But it's even more valuable in illuminating the way in which the "Council of Four" divvied up the world, creating festering wounds that are still bleeding in places like Kosova, the middle east, Asia, and Africa. History repeating itself over and over.
Here's Wilson on senators not supportive of the U.S. entry into the League of Nations:
"'I cannot imagine how these gentlemen can live and not live in the atmosphere of the world. I cannot imagine how they can live and not be in contact with the events of their times, and I cannot particularly imagine how they can be Americans and set up a doctrine of careful selfishness thought out in the last detail.'" "Midwinter break."
"The mistake the Allies made, and it did not become clear until much later, was that, as a result of the armistice terms, the great majority of Germans never experienced their country's defeat at first hand. Except in the Rhineland, they did not see occupying troops. The Allies did not march in triumph into Berlin, as the Germans had done in Paris in 1871. In 1918, German soldiers marched home in good order, with crowds cheering their way; in Berlin, Friedrich Ebert, the new president, greeted them with 'No enemy has conquered you!' The new democratic republic in Germany was shaky, but it survived, thanks partly to grudging support from what was left of the German army. The Allied advantage began to melt.? "Punishment and Prevention"
"Nationalism, in [the Bolsheviks'] view, was simply an excuse for feudal landowners, factory owners and reactionaries of various sorts to try to hang on to power. 'While recognizing the right of national self-determination,' wrote [Leon] Trotsky, 'we take care to explain to the masses its limited historic significance and we never put it above the interests of the proletarian revolution.' This was old-fashioned Russian imperialism in new clothes." "Poland Reborn"
"Early on Ataturk developed a contempt for religion that never left him. Islam -- and its leaders and holy men -- 'were 'a poisonous dagger which is directed at the heart of my people.' From the evening when, as a student he saw sheikhs and dervishes whipping a crowd into a frenzy, he loathed what he saw as primitive fanaticism. 'I flatly refuse to believe that today, in the luminous presence of science, knowledge, and civilization in all its aspects, there exist, in the civilized community of Turkey, men so primitive as to seek their material and moral well-being from the guidance of one or another sheikh.'" "The End of the Ottomans"
"The British and French governments, in a declaration that was circulated widely in Arabic, conveniently discovered that their main goal in the war on Ottomans had been 'the complete and definite emancipation of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations.' Words were cheap. The British, as [Lord George] Curzon had said, were confident that Arabs would willingly choose Britain's protection. The French did not take Arab nationalism seriously at all. 'You cannot,' said [Georges] Picot, 'transform a myriad of tribes into a viable whole.' Both powers overlooked the enthusiasm with which their declaration had been received in the Arab world; in Damascus, Arab nationalists had cut electric cables and fired off huge amounts of ammunition in celebration. The British and the French who had summoned the djinn of nationalism to their aid during the war were going to find that they could not easily send it away again." "Arab Independence"
"[Arnold] Wilson head of the British administration in Iraq], like most of the other British there, assumed that Britain was acquiring a valuable new property. With oil, if Mosul had any worth exploiting, and wheat, if irrigation was done properly, the new acquisition could be self-sufficient; indeed, it might even return money to the imperial treasury." "Arab independence"
"Wilson had firm ideas about how the area should be ruled. 'Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul should be regarded as a single unit for administrative purposes and under effective British control.' It never seems to have occurred to him that a single unit did not make much sense in other ways. In 1919 there was no Iraqi people; history, religion, geography pulled the people apart, not together. Basra looked south, toward India and the Gulf; Baghdad had strong links with Persia; and Mosul had closer ties with Turkey and Syria. Putting together the three Ottoman provinces and expecting to create a nation was, in European terms, like hoping to have Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs make one country. The cities were relatively advanced and cosmopolitan; in the countryside, hereditary tribal and religious leaders still dominated. There was no Iraqi nationalism, only Arab. Before the war, young officers serving in the Ottoman armies had pushed for greater autonomy for the Arab areas. When the war ended, several of these, including Nuri Said, a future prime minister of Iraq, had gathered around Feisal. Their interest was in a greater Arabia, not in separate states." "Arab Independence"
"In April [Gertrude Bell] wrote her old friend Aubrey Herbert, himself anxious about Albania, 'O my dear they are making such a horrible muddle of the Near East, I confidently anticipate that it will be much worse than it was before the war -- except Mesopotamia which we may manage to hold up out of the general chaos. It's like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can't stretch out your hand to prevent them.'" "Arab Independence"
"The Arabs were consulted, but only by the Americans. Wilson?s Commission of Inquiry, which Clemenceau and Lloyd George had declined to support, had duly gone ahead. Henry King, the president of Oberlin, and Charles Crane, who had done so much to help Czechoslovakia?s cause, doggedly spent the summer of 1919 traveling through Palestine and Syria. They found that an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants wanted Syria to encompass both Palestine and Lebanon; a similar majority also wanted independence. 'Dangers,' they concluded, 'may readily arise from unwise and unfaithful dealings with this people, but there is great hope of peace and progress if they be handled frankly and loyally.' Their report was not published until 1922, long after the damage had been done." "Arab Independence"
"'The Palestinians are very bitter over the Balfour Declaration,' reported an American intelligence officer in 1917. 'They are convinced that the Zionist leaders wish and intend to create a distinctly Jewish community and they believe that if Zionism proves to be a success, their country will be lost to them even though their religious and political rights be protected.' The Balfour Declaration had promised protection for what it called 'the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,' a curious formulation when Palestinian Arabs, most of them Muslims but including some Christians, made up about four fifths of a population of some 700,000. It also reflected a tendency on the part of both the world?s statesmen and Zionist leaders to see Palestine as somehow empty. 'If the Zionists do not go there,' said Sykes firmly, ?some one will, nature abhors a vacuum.' A British Zionist is supposed to have coined the phrase 'The land without people -- for the people without land.'" "Arab Independence"
"Even before 1914, there were signs that nationalism and a corresponding unease at the Zionist presence were starting to stir among the Palestinian Arabs. [Chaim] Weizmann, who when he talked about the Palestinians sometimes sounded like a British district officer in India, at first discounted this: 'The Arabs, who are superficially clever and quickwitted, worship one thing, and on thing only -- power and success.' The innocence, and the incomprehension, were breathtaking -- even dangerous." "Arab Independence"
And does this sound like something Karl Rove might have engineered:
"Paul Cambon thought the whole affair [the signing ceremony in Versailles] disgraceful. 'They lack only music and ballet girls, dancing in step, to offer the pen to the plenipotentiaries for signing. Louis XIV liked ballets, but only as a diversion; he signed treaties in his study. Democracy is more theatrical than the great king.'" "Hall of Mirrors"