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Friday, February 14, 2003

From Michael Jabbra: SOME CHALLENGING QUESTIONS FOR LEFTIES

Michael Jabbra, who graduated from UCSB in 2001, is looking into a variety of possible careers in public service. When he was in political science 121 (IR theory) and 129 (The US, Europe, and Asia), he proved to be an ideal student: constantly peppering me during lectures with hard, right-to-the-point queries and comments, while doing the same, it seems, in the discussion sections led by his teaching assistants. Whatever the career Michael eventually chooses, our public service will be the better.

Needless to say, Michael would welcome any replies to these comments of his --- as many of us would.


Dr. Gordon,

Here are some considered thoughts of mine about all ther recent North Korean bluster and nuclear brinksmanship, and the Japanese threat discussed in a BBC article yesterday that Tokyo would pre-emptively attack that country if it believed that the Pyongyang Communists were moving to attack it. The Japanese are right to take seriously that threat and treat it that way. North Korea's several hundred mid-range missiles, after all --- as you have discussed in earlier commentaries sent to your list-server subscribers --- have the range to target all of the Japanese islands. And in 1998 the North Koreans did test fly a missile over one of those islands, much to Japan's dismay.



Where are the lefties in this country and elsewhere who are screaming about North Korean bullying and war-mongering noise? Or, more to the point, about Japan's declared pre-emptive tactics in the current North Asian crisis? After all, they made a big pother about the Bush pre-emptive doctrine when it was announced last September as provocative and dangerous, even though --- as you also observed in your listserver commentaries --- that it made explicit a policy adopted both by the earlier Bush and Clinton administrations, only adapted to the post 9/11 world. Again, I ask: why all this strange silence by American lefties and gut-level critics of any US use of coercive diplomacy or force these days, even after the Bush administration has spent months winning Congressional approval for war against Iraq and months now trying to convince the UN Security Council to live up to its commitments or suffer the same fate as the ill-starred, totally useless League of Nations in the interwar period. A victim, as your commentaries and lectures have pointed out, of empty utopian rhetoric and moralizing, with no backbone or teeth to the League's lavish use of rhetoric.


I'm also reminded of what you've said about the even more ill-starred fate of the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928, in your lectures and the listserver commentaries.

Practically all the sovereign countries of the world solemnly declared in that pact that they would renounce war once and for all --- never again; not any more force. The utopian liberals and radicals of the 1920s seemed to dance for joy when it was signed, a kind of liberal constructivism (to use a theoretical approach to IR that we studied at length in political science 129) that supposedly marked a radical change in international life: the death of power politics, the triumph of collective security forever and ever. As you noted, 3 years later the Japanese military attacked Manchuria, and the League did nothing. Five years after that Japan attacked China, and again the League did nothing. In 1933 Hitler walked out of the League's disarmament conference; again nothing. And rearmed openly after 1934 in violation of the Versailles Treaty. Nothing; nothing; nothing. Nothing over the militarization of the Rhineland in 1936 or the later annexation by Nazi Germany of Austria (1938? I should remember) or the aggression against Czechoslovakia in March 1939 that violated the empty but very very solemn commitments of Nazi Germany made in the Munich agreement a few months earlier. It was hailed by Prime Minister Chamberlain, as you noted just a couple of weeks ago in a commentary here on our contemporary appeasers, as "peace in our time". A year later, WWII erupted, the League didn't even take notice, and 50 million corpses later, the United Nations emerged out of the triumph of Anglo-American arms (and Russian arms too), and Anglo-American liberalism.



Well, after chewing over the silence of our lefties about Japan's pre-emptive doctrine (and Australia's adopted last November after the terrorist attacks on its citizens in Indonesia), and all this disastrous history of appeasement and fantasized belief in the power of empty moralizing rhetoric in international life, I have come up with some questions for our lefties in this country now working so diligently to keep Saddam Hussein in power.

Why is it all right for other countries to go on a nationalist/patriotic kick, but when the U.S. does so it's imperialism, colonialism or disguised fascism?

Why is it that the United States government is considered oppressive, but no leftie has ever had much to say about North Korea, where everyone starves under a bankrupt Stalinist system, or about Saddam Hussein, whose police regime is far nastier than any of the comparatively few abuses of police power we have had here?

Why is it that lefties squall about Israel's sometimes heavy-handed treatment of the Palestinians, and strangely silent about the rampant human-rights abuses of Arab and Muslim governments?

If capitalism is so terrible, why would poor people here be considered rich in many countries on Earth?

If the U.S. is so dreadfully abusive of the environment, why is it that some of the worst-polluted areas in Europe were those formerly under Communist rule?

If the American political system is so totally unaccountable to the populace, why is it that politicians who get in trouble can be forced out? Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, James Traficant, and others come to mind. Show me something similar in any of the dictatorships that lefties are enamored of.

Just some food for thought. And for all the lefties out there, I've got a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you.

And why was France given a permanent post on the U.N. Security Council?