OCCOM BILL wrote:
That was one hell of a post Craven! I'll not question your stamina again.
I had a big one to respond to.
I apologize for offending you with my repeated suggestion that you were sick. I had thought I detected exhaustion, as your points seemed to become less focused and defensible. I honestly thought I was offering as much "excuse", as "insult". Again, I apologize.
No offense taken at all Bill. I didn't think it was an insult (many ad hominem arguments are not insults).
And in addition, it wasn't really central to any of your points, so was not much of a gaffe at all.
I do, however, like pointing them out as they are the most common of ploys... Why I just saw someone respond to a factual post about Canadian politics with the simple retort that the messenger was American.
Anywho, no apology necessary, you were not insulting or rude at all.
So, we agree on this much:
We agree Saddam was an "evil" "bad guy".
We agree his removal from power was a good thing (not the means).
If the UN had backed the Regime change, we'd both have been glad they had.
I agree that we can both quote sources stating Gulf war was a relatively slight profit or loss, so it's not worth debating.
We are pretty much in agreement there. Except that I do not believe in evil (though with what I expect your concept of evil to be, I think Saddam is a good candidate).
Main points of contention in bold for emphasis:
I like how you organized it.
Fair share: I have long been under the impression that the US carries a disproportionately large share of the Cost of operating the UN and carrying out its functions. I do not have facts to prove it at this time. You've left me with the impression that you can prove the opposite is true. While I frequently disagree with your opinions, I have little doubt you'll deliver accurate facts. Translation: your willing pupil is ready to be taught.
"Fair" is subjective and we will likely disagree on it.
Let's put it this way, the US is slotted to pay more (general UN dues) than most nations. Many poor nations pay bare minimums.
But outside of nations that qualify for this poverty break the US pays among the least when it comes to GNP.
So if you think "fair" is based on total amount, then yes. The US is billed (payment is very different) an inordinate amount (based on total).
The actual calculation is based on GNP. And by this standard the US is actually getting a sweet deal.
We negotiated a "cap" of 22%. That's 22% of the UN dues and I'm sure it sounds high to you. But when you consider that our percentage of world GNP is closer to 50%.
Also consider that Japan alone pays 19.6%.
The dues are calculated based on % of world income. In this regard Japan is paying much more than us, as they have not met the cap.
The cap was created for one nation: the US. We are the only nation getting a "too rich" cap.
Initially, the cap was 40%, so the US would pay 40% when our actual percent of income was over 50%
The US argued for a 25% cap and this was phased in over many years. We also promised that if this 25% cap were reached we'd not seek to lower it even further (which was a broken promise).
Anywho, these numbers are moot, since the US does not pay the dues. American conservatives block this as most conservatives don't like the UN.
Moves like this hamper the UN as our position forces the UN to accept our terms. There is a saying; "if I owe you 10 bucks it's my problem. If I owe you 10 grand it's your problem."
We intentionally use debts to weild pressure. This is true of our overall debt and our UN debt.
We frequently don't pay and this is a political protest favored by American conservatives.
Moves like this undermine the angle that the complaint with the UN is one of efficiency. Many simply do not like the concept of a global body that might disagree/oppose the US at all.
Now many conservatives play fast and loose with statistics to say that not only do we not owe the UN (see Walter's link, the overwhelming majority of what is owed the UN every year is our debt).
So what these conservatives do, is simply add up any of our military spending remotely related to UN missions and atrribute it to what they think the UN should owe us.
But that's not how it works and I'd compare it to telling your boss you will entertain a client in a restaurant and then saying that you purchased the restaurant on the "business lunch" and should be reimbursed.
It get's tedious to argue against because when you do all the research you still get to the same bottom like: many think a dollar spent on the UN is a dollar too many. They have a constitutional objection to such an entity.
So what is and is not "fair" is up to you to decide for yourself. The simply facts are that we do not pay what we agreed to and that we have a cap that makes us pay a lot less of a GNP-proportional share than nations like Japan.
Whether or not you think the amount we agreed to pay is fair or not is yours to decide.
I think it's the bare minimum. We have a cap that makes nations like Japan carry about 100% more of a proportional burden.
We do a lot of the peacekeeping but what we volunteer for outside of the peacekeeping budget is, well voluntary.
For example, if the US had wrangled a UN sanction of the latest invasion, it is not the same as the UN saying they'll pay for it.
So many conservatives count this type of figure. To again use a parable I'd compare it to saying that when permission to go shopping is granted all monies spent can be billed to the person granting said permission.
So the only way to come up with stats that would show a "fair" US contribution based on proportion to GNP is to say that our voluntary acts that we run by the UN should be a part of our dues.
Now while this is satisfying to many who feel we pay our fair share it neglects that the UN runs on a shoestring budget. The actual general dues are a pittance and the general peacekeeping dues are as well.
The fact that we spend lavishly on military technology means that when we put out expensive military machine in gear we rack up costs that dwarf the UN dues.
UN dues are very insignificant, and nations' military acts remain, as they should, on the tab of the nation generating the cost unless the UN members agree to pay.
This is, IMO, the way it should be. There's a basic budget, and the rest is based on agreement. Otherwise it'd be like having a phone plan, paying the basic service fee but letting your talkative (i.e. militaristic) neighbor rack up extra costs by using up minutes you did not subscribe to.
Now many think we pay exhorbitant fees. Look at this chart for perspective:
Total Amount of US Regular Budget Assessment Due (as at August 2000) $464 million
Cost of one B-2 Bomber $2.2 billion.
Annual Budget of the NY City Police Department (2000) $2.5 billion.
International Law: This is a relatively new concept that is still in its infancy.
Not really new, but I agree that it's in its infancy.
You have far more faith in the UN than I do. You seem to think the successes of the UN are despite the US and the failures can be attributed to the US.
Actually I think the US deserves most of the credit for the very existence of the UN today.
I think we do very much and deserve a lot of credit.
But within the last decade, I think we deserve most of the blame for trying to prevent the evolution to international rule of law.
You've repeatedly told me that I can't have it both ways in regard to the "Saddam's of the world" being obligated to recognize the "International Authority" while the US does not. I disagree.
True, you can
have it both ways. More accurate than the indiom I used is that for the purpose of logically consistent arguments I do not believe you should
have it both ways.
I think the world is slowly making a transition from the "Natural Law of Might Makes Right" that has always existed, to an International Authority; to be recognized by all.
Same here, but I think those with might are serving as the greatest impediments to it. Which is as natural as it is unhelpful.
Until such time as the "Mightiest of the Mighty" is satisfied with the performance (or is obligated by a "mightier force") of the International Authority, we will continue to retain and enforce our will over the likes of Saddam.
But this is a "meta-might-makes-right". It says that if we wish to prevent the development of, as you say, "International Authority" it is justified insofar as we have the means (might) to do so.
Now from a practical standpoint I agree that this is the way it will be, if not the way it should be. And I envision the balance of power coming in the form of economic contagion and subsequent economic pressure from regional economic blocs.
So while I don't think it's the way it should be, it is the way it will be. As long as the mighty can stave off rule of law (which is a contraint to the mighty) they will.
You can describe this as a desire for a "rubber stamp" if you wish, but I think that's a bit too simplistic. I admire your sense of fair play, but think it is naïve to expect the US to yield the inherent authority that stems from being the mightiest until such time as we are satisfied with the alternative.
I agree that it is unrealistic to expect the mighty to cede might voluntarily, but I also happen to think that the mighty will never really be satisfied with the alternative.
It's important to remember that king of the world
vs. any alternative
is a choice in which preference for the former is very likely to be consistent.
This is the paradox. The mighty can't be expected to cede power, but rule of law requires that they participate. Rule of law will inevitably decrease the power of the mighty.
So, it's a catch 22. We'll never be satisfied with it this way and to make the UN more palatable to use we'd need to trust it in this fashion or simply use it selectively (thereby undermining it and inhibiting the evolution of rule of law).
Had the "International Authority" enforced it's own resolutions; there would have been no overstepping by the "natural authority".
Indeed, and if the US had even made a halfway decent effort at making this war seem
to be about enforecing UN resolutions it would have been received differently.
Members of this administration went out of their way to make sure that the UN would have a tough time swallowing it. They made it clear before
we addressed the UN that they thought doing so was a waste of time and that the UN's position would be ultimately irrelevant to the decision.
Despite the obvious hypocrisy of stating Saddam's violations of UN sanctions as justification for our disregard for the UN's opinion; I still think this is a natural, logical chain of events. Do you think the US would have invaded Iraq if Saddam had followed the UN's sanctions from the beginning?
Nope, but I think we'd have liked to. I think the war has more to do with a bold new American century and a new footprint in the mid-east than the resolutions.
Like it or not; until such time as there does exist a true "International Authority" recognized and obeyed by all countries (including ours), he who holds the gun will continue to make the rules.
Agreed, and I wish said gun would stop mowing down those who seek to establish the international rule of law.
And do realize that if the US remains the mightiest, they'll likely be the last to yield to another authority.
IMO, we'd have to start losing power through other means before we ever join in.
My problem with your viewpoint is: You seem to think that this fact alone makes vigilantism an invariably "bad thing". Absent from this rational is the true meaning of the word:
I don't really think that vigilantism is always wrong, and while that may be the impression you get from my rationale here, I shun absolutism (this is why I do not believe in evil).
I'm not suggesting you don't understand this. I'm suggesting your belief that establishing International precedence, too often supercedes the importance of the application of "some form of justice".
I understand it well, and frankly you have a powerful point. My brother Lusatian (think attila the hun) and I frequently sum up our very difference in this regard as being a macro vs. micro view.
My concerns about establishing collective morality and precedents often go against the grain of very defensible individually defined morality.
And which is right can never be determined because only one avenue is chosen and the alternative will forever be a "what if".
I find the focus on the moral micro to be naive reductionism and my brother thinks I can't see the micro for the macro and that I let such trivialities impede straightforward justice.
This is a difference between logical foundation that can neither be reconciled not disproven. I will think more laterally and he will think more narrowly.
Neither can prove the other side wrong with hypotheticals.
I will go so far as to say that I think many situations are better served by a narrow micro than a lateral macro. I see both as having their place but tend toward concern for the macro and the meta more often.
In the case of Iraq; you agree that Saddam was a terrible tyrant whose actions gave cause for his removal. This however, is overshadowed by your belief that: International Standards must be recognized and observed by all of the nations of the world. I would tend to agree, but reverse the order of importance.
You sum it up well. Thing is, I base my disaproval of Saddam based on criteria. One big one is sanctity of sovereignty and what the US did, was a very severe violation of that sanctity.
For better reasons the US commited the same technical "sin" as one of Iraq's.
The motivation is vastly different, but I am not comfortable with devining motive as a criteria to differentiate the same "sin".
My desire isn't just for standards, it's for fundamental building blocks for civilization.
A cop killing a terrorist is differentiated from a terrorist killing a civilian by complicated structures that are the foundation of civilization.
I wish for similar functions to differentiate between such acts on the global level and because I did not see Iraq as an imminent threat I saw this as a perfect change to forward the establishment of mechanisms to achieve said differentiation than to undermine it.
In the absence of a recognized, obeyed and enforced International Law Enforcement Agency; the unmatched ability of the US to help, IMO, will continue to carry with it the responsibility to do so. (I'll appreciate it if you continue to not mistake my motivations with that of my governments, like you have in the past. We are talking about justification, not necessarily motive).
I agree with the part outside of parenthesis. But I think we have definitional incompatibility on the rest.
While I see it as a practical inevitability I don't necessarily think it just.
You have incorrectly assumed that our application of this principle clears the way for tyrants like Saddam to follow (like in Kuwait for example).This is untrue because our superior might effectively nullifies his "might" advantage over Kuwait (as was witnessed a decade ago).
But then, Bill, civility is contingient on the good guy being the most powerful. Which is not a given.
Again, until such time as all of the countries of the world (including ours) establish, recognize and obey the international community's authority, there will continue to be instances that call for the invocation of "Might Makes Right".
Example: Man believes he has a right to slap his wife around
Not in front of me. If possible, my might will make my brand of right the right in this situation.
I'd agree that it will
be called on but might disagree that it should
Incidentally in your example, you describe what could be a legal act. And one made legal through differentiating criteria and the rule of law.
The above should also explain what I meant by "Yes I can" in answering your claim "You can't cite a UN resolution using your own individual interpretation of it." and what I meant by "all evidence to the contrary"
and why I consider it false to assume other countries can follow a precedent set by our actions. There is only one Alpha.
Well, my use of idioms seems to have been a problem. More accurate verbiage would have been to use should
instead of can
Ny use of can
in both cases I have in mind was due to colloquial factors and would have better been served by should
Craven de Kere wrote:
I think we both agree that means can't serve as moral justification. Otherwise we'd be robbing candy from babies left and right.
Love the way you put that. But, I think you should understand by now why I believe Means can serve as moral justification. (Ability comes with Responsibility).
Ability comes with responsibility but responsibility doesn't always come with ability. Hence my desire not to trust ability as a justifying afctor.
Craven de Kere wrote:
I'll say it again Bill. You can't have it both ways. If you want UN authority it needs to apply to both Iraq and the US.
I agree with this
but the UN needs to grow some teeth first.
Any suggestions? ;-) The status quo is the status quo because people are having a hard time coming up with practical suggestions for this catch 22.
I'd like to see a new International body formed.
I'd like to see a reformed UN. Starting anew means almost a century of lost progress.
My Rodong ICBM Link has gone into the archives, but the beginning of the story can be read here.
. Perhaps you know a way around this?
I knew the story Bill, I knew that documents that say nothing about ICBMs were reported on and that the US administration believes that the liasons were about ICBMs.
There's no evidence for this, and it rests entirely on first trustng the documents to have been valid, and then the plausibility of the speculation about ICBMs.