Saturday, January 06, 2007
# Posted 11:09 AM by Taylor Owen
I am taken aback by the reaction in India to Saddam Hussein's hanging. The anger cuts across religious and political divides.
(ed. - don't forget the reaction from the Middle East!): from the NYT, via TPM:
In the week since Saddam Hussein was hanged in an execution steeped in sectarian overtones, his public image in the Arab world, formerly that of a convicted dictator, has undergone a resurgence of admiration and awe.(15) opinions -- Add your opinion
When they clear the Ganges of corpses I might start to take their views on death and the sanctity of human life seriously.
Then again, maybe they're outraged that Sajida Talfah hasn't thrown herself on the fire yet!
Lots of folks'wishful thinking.
The Arab street is a useful tool for arguing outside the ME. That it generally fails to perform as advertised seems to be invisible to many.
Just a quick footnote, since it's a point that comes up a fair bit. It's true for a period following 1971 (and Bangladeshi independence), India's Muslim population was higher than Pakistan's. This isn't quite true at the moment, with Pakistan's population having reached 165m, of whom 96 per cent (159m) are Muslim (CIA world factbook and Pakistani Bureau of Statistics). By comparison, Bangaldesh has 129.6m of the subcontinent's Muslims (88 per cent of a population of 147m). In India, Muslims are 13.4 per cent of a 1.1bn population, or approximately 147m, thus more than Bangladesh but not quite as many as Pakistan.
Taylor, tell us what to do. You have a keen grasp of world opinion, it seems eerily to duplicate your own; how should the US treat dictators to earn your approval, and with it the sanction of the sanctified International Community?
If we were to restrict our interaction with dictators to vacationing with them, as Castro and Treadeau did, or selling them weapons and nuclear technology, like France and Russia, would everyone love us?
We probably shouldn't have helped facilitate a public execution in which Saddam was given the opportunity to look like a dignified victim, rather than the genocidal monster he was.
It probably hasn't helped the dwindling cause of nationbuilding that the hangmen shouted sectarian slogans, thereby reinforcing the implosion of Iraqi society into warring tribes.
I actually share some of your frustrations:
I had a twinge of satisfaction that Saddam was killed, even after a dodgy trial and in such a politically counterproductive process. Moreover, I am disturbed that some antiwar voices who stress the violation of Iraq's sovereign independence in an illegal occupation are prepared suddenly to deny them the sovereign right to try their own dictator.
I agree that hatred of the US is not just a reaction against what it does, but rather a political device manipulated by rulers and clerics as part of a wider culture of hatred in the Arab/Islamic world. In other words, Americans are hated for reasons not primarily to do with their behaviour.
And I agree that invocations of the international community often ignore the flaws and failures and problematic nature of some of the regimes that populate that very community.
But that said, I think Taylor has a point here. If our cause is now associated in many minds with an ugly, masked cause of sectarian hatred, it is a blow against our aims.
I share your concern with the circumstances of the execution, but Taylor cites complaints over the fact of the execution. I can think of three ways to deal with the criticism of the international community:
-announce that we shall follow France in all foreign affairs, whether selling weapons and nuclear technology to Arab tyrants, conducting African military intervention without UN sanction, or sinking Greenpeace ships, and trusting that we become as immune to criticism as the French
-ignore the criticism for the reasons you outline (which is not to say obstinately refusing to change a course of action because it is criticized)
- if Saddam is the object of admiration and awe, we can model our behavior after his
If Taylor has a fourth option, I'd love to hear it.
bgates, the options you point to in both this comment stream and the last are simply absurd. So to is your request for one single course of action to appease the 'international community'. In fact, the tone of your comments does more to point out the root of the current US image problem than anything I could say. That being said, since you asked, I believe that the US should lead the world in the pursuit of human security, in the broadest sense. I believe they uniquely have the influence, resources and ingenuity to do so. In this first principle, Porter and I are in overwhelming agreement, and this is why there is such a convergence of objectives between liberals and neocons. However, where Patrick and I differ, is that I believe that the only way to sustainably and justly address global issues is through international law and institution, however flawed. In fact, it is because they are flawed, that the world needs US leadership. I believe the next US president should make dramatic gestures to lead the reform of the international system. They should lead the overhaul of the UN, the ICC, and a new NPT among others. It would require bold humility and a sincere call for cooperation for a common global objective. Trying Saddam through an ad hoc tribunal would have been one small step in the hundreds that would be required to lead this reform. The world would be behind them, and together we might actually have a chance in dealing with the profound challenges of the 21st century. A unilateral and belligerent America, regardless of intentions or resources, in my view has no chance.
Taylor, of course the options I cite are absurd, with the possible exception of ignoring the opinion of the international community (a course of action the French, Russians, and Chinese appear to be following with great success.) While my suggestions are absurd and even grotesque, I'd offer the mild defense that they are at least clear. When I write we should behave like Chirac or Saddam, you know what that would entail.
By contrast, when you write 'the US should lead the world in the pursuit of human security, in the broadest sense,' you are offering a platitude that any supporter of the Iraq invasion would be happy to adopt as expression of support for the war.
But the invasion has happened; Saddam's execution has happened. What should happen next? I can imagine lots of potential reforms to the international system - increasing accountability and transparency at the UN, revamping the Security Council to reflect the 21st century (a seat for India, one seat for Europe rather than two), eliminate farm protectionism in the US and EU, junking the UN in favor of an organization allowing only liberal democracies as members -
but I see no constituency for any of that, or an overhaul of the ICC or anything else, especially if it's pushed by the US.
I assume your overhaul of the NPT would seek to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons; how would you get their cooperation, or the cooperation of powers like Russia and China that aid rogue states under the current regime? The current international system is oppposed more by the US than by anyone else, so why would anyone want to help us change it?
"I believe that the US should lead the world in the pursuit of human security, in the broadest sense. I believe they uniquely have the influence, resources and ingenuity to do so."
Well, sure. But that's like saying the rich are uniquely equipped to help the poor. This is a truism and completely irrelevant since the rich are only in their position by impoverishing others.
My question is how does your position differ from asking the rich to give more generously? I nice enough sentiment but lacking analytic rigour. What makes you think Americans will ever lead on human security in any way that has substance; in any way that distributes the actual conditions and power of self-determination to the people affected by insecurity?
America will *never* relinquish its position as the global hegemon willingly. Assuming you agree with this (sorry to put words in your mouth), you must think human security is consistent with a world of staggering material inequality. How do you reconcile that with a progressive position?
"the rich are only in their position by impoverishing others."
I want Google to give me my money back!
duh. If wed taken Saddam off for an interntational trial, like Slobo had in the Hague, and then put him into some comfy Euro prison, from which he could send out press releases, the Shia in Iraq would have been at our throats. Its too bad this has alienated the Indians, but we dont have troops in India, ya know, and theyll get over it. The folks in India who wont are the same ones who are still angry at us for Viet Nam.
Sure we should work on improving world opinion of us. Treating Saddam well while he was in our custody, went as far as I think we could on that in this case.
If India thinks we should have gone farther and denied the Shia their revenge, well then India can cough up the troops to keep order in Sadr City, thank you very much.
A couple quick things. First, while I don't entirely accept the rich poor equation, ill accept the analogy to a US role in world affairs. As a first principle, I do believe that rich states should give far more generously, the analytic rigour comes in devising ways to distribute these resource more fairly, as you point out. A reform of international aid/trade/governance institutions, and a massive increase in humanitarian assistance are in my mind part of this equation, which is why I support both.
While I certainly believe in the fallibility of US policy, I find it very hard to image significant UN and/or other institutional reform to take place without their leadership. Now, if one fundamentally challenges the very validity of these institutions in toto, then this is a very different discussion. While certainly not a magic bullet, I think they can and should be significantly reformed. Second, I think the argument can be made that a slight acquiescence of US hegemocy would be in their national interest. Obviously this will not result in major concession of power, but what I am talking about is enough to make multilateralism work, not replace US with Chinese unilateralism, something which may happen on its own, and incidentally, I sure hope we have strong institutions in place when it does. Following, the true value of multilateral institutions are not to control US action, but
to mitigate against ANY unilateral action. In this sense, they are in the general interest of all participating parties, even if the exchange of power and influence is different at different periods in history. What a state, even a powerful one, gives up in unilateral influence, they get back in mechanisms that can only be sucessfully conducted in a multilateral fashion.
On human security and material inequality. I should be clear that I see human security and human development as two separate states on a continuum. For me, human security is the protection from large scale disruptions to the ability to live, in a very physical sense. Base human welfare. Development is something quite different. While I agree in principle that satisfactory human development can not be reached without a significant redistribution of resources, I can indeed see a world in which there remains a degree of material inequality but that does provide basic human security. This in part because it would not really even cost that much to address the vast majority of
insecurities people face.
Oh dear. And Jeff, how blog-like and un-illuminating: the whole Ganges comment.
As long as the US remains India's largest trading partner, as long as the vibrant Indian-American diasporic community continues it's activism (known as 'business') and as long as the US courts (if that is the correct word) India via civilian nuclear technology/military cooperation/etc, I think the haunting may be memorably short-lived. Disapproving an execution is one thing: getting what you want from the US is quite another.
Remember, Pew surveys showed a blip of pro-American opinion in India up into the 70the percentile in 2004 or 2005? can't remember which but was most surely after the invasion of Iraq. The visit of Bush was well received.....
"What makes you think Americans will ever lead on human security in any way that has substance; in any way that distributes the actual conditions and power of self-determination to the people affected by insecurity?"Post a Comment
Besides the Marshall Plan, the defense of South Korea, Kuwait, and Bosnia from outside aggression, guaranteeing Taiwan's freedom, accepting tens of millions of immigrants into our country, responding to the worst terrorist attack in our history by attempting to set up a multiethnic democracy in the state from which it was launched, and attempting the same in Iraq, you mean?