- EphBlog - http://ephblog.com -

Crane versus Needham

Before the comments to the below post get overwhelmed, I though it best to move the debate between Sam Crane and Mike Needham ’04 (and others) about Bush’s foreign policy to a new thread. That debate left off with

Prof. Crane:

You’re completely right that Jimmy Carter’s initial policy was to continue the “Republican” policy of detente (detente was “Republican” insofar as we define “Republican” to mean pre-1976 Republican Party civil war). I have not, do not, and most likely will not ever defend detente. Indeed, I was very pleased when Prof. Shanks asked the Record for a file photo of Prof. McAllister so the photo of Kissinger could finally be removed as his faculty facebook photo (hopefully by throwing in a Williams connection, I can keep this thread upon a little longer… though at the end of the day (literally) that’s just going to make me have to stay at work later to finish a paper… *sigh*).

Yes, he put an embargo on the Soviets. The effect of the grain embargo was to hurt our farmers and not the Soviets as he allowed everyone else to sell to the Soviets without any consequence.

There was the matter of doing nothing when Iranian militants stormed our embassy until he finally got around to launching a disastrous military effort.

Panama, Taiwan, etc.

Anyway, I like a lot of the ideals of his foreign policy. He was just a disaster because he was utterly unwilling to do anything about them.

Onward to Bush:

Before 9/11: I just couldn’t disagree more on your assessment of Taiwan. If his policy actually were “we will do whatever is necessary to defend Taiwan” then he would have sold them Aegis cruisers which they very, very desperately wanted/demanded, but he did not. So I think your characterization is an unfair distortion of his actual policy. I guess we’ll just disagree on Kyoto, though if we’re talking about diplomatic process it seems worth mentioning that both Russia and China agreed to back our withdrawal from the ABM.

Afghanistan: The question becomes how many resources it would have taken to focus on Afghanistan the way you suggest we should’ve. Given the differences between Afghanistan and Iraq (lack of history of modernity, lack of infrastructure, lack of resources to help finance its own rebuilding,etc.) there’s plenty of reason to believe the job in Afghanistan would have been far, far more difficult than what we face in Iraq. And, despite your pessimistic assessment, there is a ton going very right in Afghanistan.

I’m not sure it’s worth arguing about Iraq, especially in such a difficult forum to persuade people as an internet chat board, as I doubt either of us is going to convince the other. The sanctions regime was not working. I think you can make a coherent and intellectually-honest case that you could have fixed the sanctions regime in the leadup to war given the fact that we were about to go to war (cf. Marc Lynch), but that too would have been a short-term solution as the international will simply was not there for a serious sanctions regime (just as it wasn’t there for war). Anyway, as was said last night by McCain, it was not a choice between a stable status quo and war, which you incorrectly posit it was.

Can you cite a specific example of your patriotism, or the patriotism of others like you being called into question? I’d find it easier to respond to a specific example.

See the comments in the other thread for how this discussion began.

Comments Disabled (Open | Close)

Comments Disabled To "Crane versus Needham"

#1 Comment By Sam On August 31, 2004 @ 3:00 pm


Yes, we will disagree. Your reference to Panama and Taiwan for Carter? Are you suggesting that we are in worse shape strategically since the canal was retro-ceded? How, exactly, have we been hurt there? And, further, do you also mean to suggest that the US should not have granted diplomatic recognition to the PRC? Has not an open relationship with the US been central to the transformation of China in the past 25 years? Has that, too, hurt us strategically? What would have been the alternative?

Back to Bush: In Afghanistan, the central state apparatus does not control the territory it claims, it is hardly a “state” at all. And what are we doing about it? The initial policy was not to put peacekeepers anywhere else in the country except Kabul. So we, and Karzai, have no capacity to counter the drug-growing and smuggling that finances al-Queda, nor can we stop the continuing insurgency. To do so would require a much larger commitment of international military force, but no one will deal with us because of Iraq. Rumsfeld does not want to deal with it because it does not fit in with his ideology of “revolution in military affairs.” It is worse than a job half-done.

Iraq was an unnecessary war which has now brought down on us disastrous consequences. The “major hostilities” demonstrated just how weak Saddam was militarily, a weakness that was certainly caused, in some part, by the sanctions regime. Moreover, he had no WMD (an embarrassing point to remember for war supporters, to be sure), a fact in itself which demonstrates that UN weapons inspections, too, worked. All Saddam could do was kill his own people, which he was depressingly good at. He did not pose a threat to us or any other country. The only reason, then, to invade, was to turn the regional strategic calculus in a more favorable direction, and that is precisely what appears to be blowing up in our face. The growing power of radical Shi’ite forces serves Iranian interests very well; disaffected Sunnis seem intenet on continuing the violence in the “Sunni triangle”; and the Kurds have not bought into key provisions of the provisional constitution: it is a matter of time until they pick up their toys and go home. Great. A three-way civil war. Or, if not that, simply a disintegration and Lebanonization. How does that serve our interests in the region?

#2 Comment By Mike On August 31, 2004 @ 3:15 pm

I think, unfortunately, David started a new thread just as the conversation drew to an end.

#3 Comment By Mike On August 31, 2004 @ 3:15 pm

oops, never mind.

#4 Comment By Mike On August 31, 2004 @ 3:40 pm

Prof. Crane:

On Afghanistan, I simply don’t think we could be doing a better job in Afghanistan than we are due to the limitations (and others) I mentioned earlier. Obviously it would be nice if we could pull the entire area together into a functioning state and immediately have tight border control (which we don’t even have here) and so forth. The reason we don’t have that is not because Rumsfeld wants a smaller, more mobile military. It’s because that’s frankly a goal that is not attainable in the near term.

On Iraq: The sanctions regime was eroding. As it turns out Iraq didn’t have WMD at the time of the war and probably wouldn’t have in the next few years, but there’s no doubt Saddam wanted them and the world was not going to maintain a strict enough sanction/inspection regime into the long-term to prevent him from getting them. At some point, action was going to have to be taken.

And while it’s easy to dismiss the point now that the intelligence (ours, the russians, and everybody else’s) has been proven false, it is relevant that in the leadup to the war there was every reason to believe Saddam had WMD and was aggressively pursuing a program. The fact that the intelligence was wrong is besides the point. In a world as dangerous as ours with terrorists who would love to have WMD to unleash on our cities, you have to act on intelligence that may prove false because you can’t wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud over the Capitol Building (chosen at random because I have a view of it about 1/4 a mile away from my office window). If you have a regime that wants WMD, intelligence that says they have them, and no way to prevent the regime from getting them short of war, then war may be necessary. Obviously, we need to do our best to rebuild the country after the war and that has not gone as well as everybody would have liked. Three-way civil war, while possible, is not inevitable, however, contrary to the picture your paint. But ultimately, would we have been better off if we hadn’t gone to war and the intelligence proved to be correct? Seems like a difficult case to make.

Part of the reason North Korea is such a mess is the possibility that if we miscalculate Seoul or Tokyo or L.A. might be blown up. It doesn’t seem wise to wait for other countries to get nukes so that they can hold Israel, or the Northern Saudi Oil Fields, or whatever hostage.

On Carter: I don’t think selling out Taiwan against the will of Congress was a particularly great thing to do. I’m still waiting for clarification regarding what part of Bush’s pre-9/11 Taiwan policy you disagree with.

#5 Comment By Sam On August 31, 2004 @ 4:08 pm


On Bush, pre-9/11, the quote (“we will do anything necessary…”) was his! He made that statement, which, on its face, was out of step with long-held US policy of strategic ambiguity. It clearly inflamed the situation and required a “clarification” latter, when it became obvious that Taiwan thought that it might be able to formally declare independence with US support. Happily, the spy-plane incident brought things back down to earth. He, and I suspect the usual neo-con suspects, cannot seem to accept the need for sublty and nuance (a favorite Kerry-bashing term) in foreign policy. They resisted the idea of China as a “strategic partner” until they were, essentially, forced to accept it.

On North Korea, Bush embarrassed Powell, when the latter tried to do the right thing and keep negotiations going, negotiations that were close to a deal on ballisic missiles. Instead the “moral clarity” of “we do not negotiate with evil” led to a months-long “review” of policy which has eventually brought us back to negotiating with the same evil. It has been a fumbling mess of a “policy.”

Generally, I see Bush like Reagan I, who wanted to do the “tall in the saddle, American can go it alone and do what it wants” act. This worked for a while until, by Reagan II, they all realized that they had to compromise and seek out accomodation with the Soviets. The only difference is that Bush has not changed! He and his administration, doggedly stick to a failed “go it alone” (I know, we have a “coalition of the willing” etc., but, let’s face it, this is an American show) policy that refuses to do what is necessary in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are trying to get out of the latter, which suggests they know it is a losing proposition. They have never been willing to “pay any price” to secure the situation there, perhaps because they know it would take too much of our treasure and blood.

#6 Comment By Reed Wiedower On August 31, 2004 @ 4:24 pm

A small point: I don’t think any foreign policy experts would conclude there is a possibility the North Koreans *can* or *would* blow up Los Angeles. The danger is that Seoul is a very short distance away from the DMZ, meaning that mortar attacks alone could target it. The DPRK has some low-range missiles that *might* be able to carry a nuclear payload, but I have never seen anyone (until now!) suggest these missiles could reach the lower 48.

This sort of fear-mongering calls to mind the bogus claims that Iraq would be able to attach chemical weapons to unmanned aerial vehicles. This claim was shown later to be false…which brings to mind a different point often neglected in the debate over Iraq, namely, that the intelligence community concluded, before the war began, that launching an invasion of Iraq would *increase* the probability of WMD falling into the hands of terrorists. This fact was ignored by the administration in their eagerness to begin the invastion.

Therefore, ignoring facts to create a climate of fear helped spur the invasion. We made that mistake with Iraq. Let’s not make it with North Korea as well. Right now, they propose a legitimate threat to world peace (I won’t say whether they are a greater threat than Iraq was…but even they admit they have nuclear weapons, something Iraq never had) but can legitimately only destabilize one area of the world. They cannot attack the United States. And like Iraq, they’d be foolish to try.

#7 Comment By Loweeel On August 31, 2004 @ 4:30 pm

No WMD, or just not WMD enough?

We’ve found all sorts of things in Iraq…

Like Sarin, and materials for testing NBC weaponry

Like Mustard Gas and 1.77 TONS of enriched uranium and “1,000 ‘highly radioactive sources'”.

Nope, no WMD here

#8 Comment By Sam On August 31, 2004 @ 4:50 pm

Here’s a quote from the mustard gas story linked by Loweeel:

“Even coalition military spokesmen said the weapons were likely to be a leftover from the Iran-Iraq war fought during the Eighties when mustard gas was widely used.”

So…yes, Iraq did have chemical weapons at one time, in the eighties, before Gulf War I. After Gulf War I, under the UN weapons inspection regime, chemicals were found and destroyed. Since that time there were no (OK, perhaps some traces here or there on shells or some old, leaky bombs long-buried) WMD. But let’s face it, this was not what Bush told us. Bush, and his buddies, said they had nukes now. They said they were producing significant amounts of chemicals now. The excuse that everyone else was saying the same thing is, well, childish (how many parents have said: “just becuase everyone else does it, doesn’t make it right.”).

The intelligence always said the same thing: we cannot prove that certain weapons were actually destroyed. That’s what Blix said. But he was gradually coming to the conclusion that they probably were destroyed. So, we could not prove that Saddam did not have WMD. That is not the same as saying that we knew he did have them. It if, in fact, a long way off. But Bush and Co. said that they knew, positively, that he did have them. They hyped the threat to unrealistic proportions and now we all pay the price (A neighbor of mine, retired from the Army reserve but still relatively young, was just called up. They said he is still liable for service and will have to spend “no less” than about 500 days in Iraq.)

In the end, the same truth is left. There were no WMD, beyond a few rusting shells left over from the eighties. What, objectively, is the threat. If it is simply a matter of intention, then we are opening ourselves up to an extraordinary mess. Shall we start attacking all those in the world who hold bad intentions toward the US?

#9 Comment By Loweeel On August 31, 2004 @ 4:57 pm

So the 1.77 tons of ENRICHED uranium are “a few rusting shells left over from the eighties”?

Good to know.

#10 Comment By Mike On August 31, 2004 @ 5:05 pm

Taiwan: The Bush NSS mentions Taiwan three times and articulates our policy as: “Our commitment to the self-defense of Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act is one [area of disagreement with China].” And as I mentioned, Bush specifically did not sell Taiwan all of the military hardware he could have back in Spring 2001. That strikes me as a reasonable and not very radical position.

China: Bush in his campaign said very specifically we are not strategic partners with China we are strategic competitors. That is, we should work together while being aware that at times our interests will diverge. This strikes me as a reasonable and not very radical position.

North Korea: Here’s how Arms Control Today describes the Bush policy in Spring 2001:

March 6, 2001: At a joint press briefing with the Swedish foreign minister, Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the administration “plan[s] to engage with North Korea to pick up where President Clinton left off. Some promising elements were left on the table and we will be examining those elements.”

March 7, 2001: In a New York Times op-ed, Wendy Sherman, former special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, writes that a deal with North Korea to eliminate its medium- and long-range missiles and end its missile exports had been “tantalizingly close” at the end of the Clinton administration.

After a working meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at the White House, President George W. Bush tells reporters that he “look[s] forward to, at some point in the future, having a dialogue with the North Koreans, but that any negotiation would require complete verification of the terms of a potential agreement.” According to Clinton administration officials, the issue of how to verify a missile deal remained one of the final stumbling blocks to a successful arrangement. Bush also questions whether Pyongyang is “keeping all terms of all agreements.”

Just prior to Bush’s comments, Powell amended his remarks from the previous day, noting that if “there was some suggestion that imminent negotiations are about to begin–that is not the case.”

This strikes me as a reasonable and not very radical position.

On the Bush/Reagan analogy: Reagan had 8 years. If the momentum that started showing up in polls last Friday continues, we’ll be able to test your theory over a similar 8 year period. I think you and I might disagree over whether “Reagan II” was or was not made possible by the existence of “Reagan I.”

#11 Comment By Sam On August 31, 2004 @ 5:30 pm

Here’s a quote from the uranium story:

“Uranium would not be suitable for fashioning such a device [dirty bomb], though appropriate material may have been among the other unidentified “sources”.”

So, what is the threat to the US here? Do you really want to continue arguing that Iraq was anywhere close to having a nuclear bomb capability? Does the Bush administration argue that now? Does anyone?

Mike, same source, Arms Control Today:

“Adopting a harder line toward North Korea than that of his predecessor, President George W. Bush said March 7 that his administration would not immediately resume missile negotiations with Pyongyang left unfinished by the Clinton administration. The announcement differed from previous statements by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had indicated that the administration planned to pursue what appears to have been a nearly complete deal by the Clinton administration to end North Korea’s missile development and exports.”

Link to article: http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2001_04/korea.asp

Anyway, you are citing all the pretty public pronouncements (and ignoring some of the ugly ones, like the confusion Bush created with his verification remark – see above article). Here’s another prespective from Fred Kaplan from June 24, Slate:

“This week, after 20 months of doing nothing about North Korea’s drive to build nuclear weapons, President Bush finally put a proposal–a set of incentives for disarmament–on the negotiating table. The remarkable thing is, the deal is practically identical to the accord that President Clinton signed with Pyongyang in 1994–an accord that Bush condemned and scuttled from the moment he took over the White House. (For more on this tale, click here and here.)”

Here’s the link (sorry I am no good at doing the html thing…): http://slate.msn.com/id/2102963/.