Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mormons & Iraq

Let me begin by stating that I do not speak for the LDS Church. This essay is simply the fruit of my attempts to reconcile current events with what my religion teaches. However, there are many who share my faith but will not share the opinions I express. The LDS Church has not made a public statement regarding the “righteousness” of the Iraq War. So it falls to the members of the Church to use reason and faith to come to their own conclusions.

I am not one that believes that war is never justified. I believe the words of the prophets both modern and ancient are clear on the matter, and so I will not address that point here.

That leaves the question of when is war justified, and does the war in Iraq meet those qualifications?

I will use as the basis for this essay a talk given by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the April 2003 General Conference of the Church. I encourage all to read it. This talk was given shortly after the war started. President Hinckley began by quoting Revelation 12:7-9 about the War in Heaven. He called it a “terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children.” He says that most of the world’s conflicts have been fought for essentially the same reasons.

Later, President Hinckley says, “the question arises, where does the Church stand in all of this?”

The following paragraph is in my opinion incredibly important.

“In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.”

And what is the “overriding responsibility” of which he speaks?

He answers this question in part by remembering a particularly devastating war between the Lamanites and the Nephites recorded in Alma. The Nephites were fighting for “a better cause”, their “homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, for their rites of worship and their church.”

He goes on to say that, “It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”

Through much thought I have come to the conclusion that liberty is a God-given right, but there are those that seek to oppress and have succeeded in stealing the liberty of millions of people, and it is our duty and obligation to “fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”

This fight does not have to be by the sword, but often it does. Oppressors do not relinquish their ill-gotten power willingly. Saddam Hussein was one of those. Here was a man who mercilessly killed hundreds of thousands of people, if not more. He used biological and chemical weapons without remorse. When asked during his trial if he had ordered the massacre of a village’s entire population of men and boys, he said it was his right and privilege as president. He paid thousands of dollars to suicide bombers. He spent the better part of two decades procuring nuclear weapons capabilities with the intent to use them on anyone that stood in his way of world power. He stole the lives and liberty of countless people. It was, and is, our moral obligation to fight and defeat him and all those like him who seek for tyranny.


Charles D said...

The question then arises, "Are you justified or obligated to fight for someone else's liberty, when your family, and your liberty are not being threatened?"

In the case of Iraq, we also must ask whether it is ethical to choose to fight for the liberty of some people while taking away the liberty of others. The Bush administration claims to be fighting for democracy and freedom in Iraq while it overthrew a democracy in Haiti and imposed a government of thugs. It has now defeated the oppressor in Iraq but instead of giving liberty to the people remains as their occupier.

You are right in a way to view foreign relations as an ethical problem - it is. What one needs, however, is a consistent ethic. It is not enough to apply an ethical standard when it suits one's interests and disregard it when it does not.

Cameron said...


Thank you for your comments, I appreciate your insight.

To answer your question, "Are you justified or obligated to fight for someone else's liberty, when your family, and your liberty are not being threatened?"


Charles D said...

At least you are consistent. Now let me ask it another way: Are you justified in obligating another person (say the son or daughter of someone in another town) to fight for someone else's liberty, even risking their life, even when the other person has not asked for your help and poses no threat to you, your family, your community, or your nation?

I would commend to you the speech of a fellow Utahan on the subject of this war and this president. I think his position is ethical.

Cameron said...

Well, our military is volunteer, so our nation does not compel anyone to fight. And the great majority of our volunteer military personnel are quite willing to be in Iraq.

As for my "fellow Utahn" Rocky Anderson, I have no respect for the man or the politician, so bringing him up scores zero bonus points.

But I did read his speech. It doesn't address the point of my original post, that it is our duty to stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves.

But his logic is flawed. Here is an excerpt:

"Besides the fictions of Saddam Hussein somehow being linked to the 9/11 attacks and his supposed connection with al Qaeda, what was the principal justification for forgoing additional weapons inspections, failing to work with our allies toward a solution, refraining from seeking additional resolutions from the United Nations, and hurrying to war - a so-called "pre-emptive" war - in which we would attack and occupy a Muslim nation that posed no security risk to the United States, and cause the deaths of many thousands of innocent men, women, and children - and the deaths and lifetime injuries to many thousands of our own servicemen and servicewomen?"

I ask, if Iraq posed no security risk, what was the point of more inspections and resolutions and "working with our allies toward a solution"?

Charles D said...

While we have a "volunteer army", I believe we as citizens and our government have a moral responsibility to honor them by placing them in harm's way ONLY when our nation is under attack or immediate threat of attack. We also have a moral responsibility to honor our commitments as a nation such as requiring a Congressional declaration of war as defined by our Constitution, by honoring the international agreements which we have ratified including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter, both of which are of paramount importance to our men and women in uniform.

As for Saddam, the UN inspection regime was put in place to insure that he did not possess or attempt to develop WMD and that regime was quite evidently working very well. Saddam posed no threat to the United States, had no links to Al Qaeda, was not involved in sponsoring or supporting any groups engaged in terrorism against the USA, and posed no threat to his neighbors. There was no justification whatever under international law, common sense, moral judgment or any other rational viewpoint to launch an attack on Iraq.

If we have, as you suggest, a moral obligation to free all oppressed people, we should at this time be launching attacks against China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Haiti, Morocco, Algeria, and God only knows how many other countries. That would be sheer folly.

Cameron said...

To say that we cannot help everyone so we shouldn't help anyone is faulty logic.

I stand by the intent of my original post, that is that we have an obligation to fight against tyranny and oppression wherever it may be. Diplomacy should be attempted, economic coercion can be tried, but like I wrote in the post, dictators don't give up their ill-gotten power willingly. Saddam was one of those. He brutalized and terrorised millions of his own citizens. When they tried to effect change in their own country, they were tortured and killed. It is immoral to stand by and allow it to happen.

Charles D said...

I don't have a problem with your position on fighting against oppression and tyranny. What I am trying to say is that no one nation, particularly not the world superpower, can take on this responsibility alone.

The US has "interests" all over the world and in no case in the last 50 years have we intervened in any other nation to do anything other than serve our own national interest. If the world is to overcome and ban oppression and tyranny, it must do so through democratic international institutions.

Cameron said...

But if the United States is the only nation in the world willing to fight against tyranny, should we then forgoe our morality because no one else shares it?

More to the point, if what I have written about fighting for liberty is valid, then are we not obligated to follow through regardless of what China thinks? Or what Russia thinks? Or France?

Charles D said...

The United States is not the only nation with morality. In fact, when you look at our history particularly recent history, it is clear that the US is less moral than the other Western democracies. We are not in the business of "liberating" anyone from tyranny. That has nothing whatever to do with our motivations in Iraq or anywhere else we have intervened in the last 50 years. In fact, the US has intervened far more often to impose tyranny than to overthrow it.

What moral nations must do is band together to prevent genocide, and insure that all nations obey the UN Charter. The UN has not been prevented from acting by France, China, or Russia. The nation that has blocked UN action more than any other is the United States. If you want to investigate the UN's failure to act, you have to start with the US veto or threat of veto in the Security Council.

Sometimes you have to look at the beam in your own eye before criticizing the speck in your brother's.

Cameron said...

"I don't have a problem with your position on fighting against oppression and tyranny. What I am trying to say is that no one nation, particularly not the world superpower, can take on this responsibility alone."

You stated that fighting against oppression and tyranny is ok with you, but that we shouldn't do it alone.

Iraq is one case of tyranny. We asked the UN for help and they refused, largely because of China, Russia and France.

So if you grant me that it's ok to fight against tyranny, I again ask you why we should do so only if the UN says it's ok with them?

Charles D said...

We did not ask the UN to fight Iraq because of tyranny - they would have laughed us out of the room given our own history of support for tyranny. We asked them to fight Iraq because of bogus intelligence about weapons of mass destruction that their own inspectors told them was false. We lied to get them to sanction our aggression and they refused, as well they should have.

When we went ahead anyway, we violated the UN Charter, then proceeded to violate the Geneva Conventions. What we have done in Iraq is a war crime and those responsible should be brought to justice.

Cameron said...

The UN was well aware of Saddam Hussein's atrocites against his own people.

UNSCR 688 (April 5, 1991) "condemns" Saddam Hussein's repression of the Iraqi civilian population -- "the consequences of which threaten international peace and security." UNSCR 688 also requires Saddam Hussein to end his repression of the Iraqi people and to allow immediate access to international humanitarian organizations to help those in need of assistance.

In 1991 the UN "required" Saddam Hussien to stop brutalizing his own people. He ignored them, just as he ignored every other "requirement" placed upon him by that body.

Charles D said...

There is no question that Saddam was a tyrant, but the US did not go to the UN and ask them to support an invasion of Iraq because it was ruled by a tyrant, or that it violated that specific Security Council resolution. We all saw Colin Powell delivered his speech to the Council and we all know now what the Administration knew then - that it was all phony.

If we were going to select a country to fight because of its flagrant violations of UN Security Council resolutions, it would not be Iraq - it would be Israel.

Cameron said...

I think there's a huge difference in what Israel has done and what Saddam Hussein has done.

Israel's actions, however wrong you may see them, are out of a desire for self-preservation.

Saddam Hussein's actions were out of a desire for world domination. The citizens that he killed were his own, their only crime was that they existed.

Cameron said...

But you're right, we should not condone true abuses of liberty by any nation.

Charles D said...

I don't believe nations can justify aggression on the basis of self-preservation. You can justify defense that way most certainly, but to attack and occupy another people's country is not an act of defense.

If we cannot condone abuses of liberty by any nation, then we cannot condone abuses of Palestinian liberty by Israel or of Iraqi liberty by the US.

Cameron said...

Again, Saddam Hussein's abuses are a lot different than Israel's.

Self-preservation is self defense. When citizens-terrorists-from one nation attack innocent civlians of another nation, retaliation is self defense.

We don't know what Israel would have done to peaceful neighbors because they've never had any.

Charles D said...

Retaliation is not defense, it is revenge. If you strike me and I strike you in retaliation, we are both guilty of assault.

Clearly the tit-for-tat revenge killings carried out by the Israeli military are a very poor method of defeating terrorism. If the method worked, we would not now have the problem. There are only two ways to defeat Palestinian terrorism: kill all the Palestinians, or negotiate a solution. Unfortunately a negotiated solution acceptable to the Palestinians would certainly involve Israel returning to its original borders and paying some economic price for their theft of Palestinian land and property.

Take a close look at the early history of Zionism in Palestine and you will understand why their neighbors don't love them. Of course, you will have to read that history from the point of view of the Arab people, not that of the Israeli government.

Cameron said...

If I stab you, you are well in your rights to defend yourself. If a country bombs this country, we are well in our rights to attack said country.

Negotiating with terrorists never works. It has been attempted numerous times, but the stated goals of the terrorists is the total destruction of the nation of Israel. That is the only way they will be appeased.

Charles D said...

"If I stab you, you are well in your rights to defend yourself. If a country bombs this country, we are well in our rights to attack said country." I agree. That's hardly the point.

If I think you might be creating a homemade bomb in your house and I am afraid you might use it to blow up my house, in spite of the fact that the police have repeatedly checked your home for bombmaking equipment and found nothing and the fact that you have never threatened me or my house -- in that case, am I justified to blow up your home and kill half your family?

Do you seriously think that the state of Israel is in any danger of being destroyed? They have the most powerful army in the region and nuclear weapons. They can defend themselves without our help.

Cameron said...

"If you strike me and I strike you in retaliation, we are both guilty of assault."

Actually, no. If I strike you, I am guilty of assault. You would be within your rights to defend yourself.

Your next analogy of the bomb-making neighbor would work better if you add the following:

The neighbor is a convicted murderer

Has been convicted of making bombs in the past

Has been convicted of using these bombs in the past

Is holding his family hostage, and continuously abuses them

Is on probabtion which requires him to allow periodic inspections of his home

Is constantly moving things around and not letting the police check certain rooms

Actually forcibly tossed out the police and refused to let them continue the inspections

Is funneling money to other bomb-making neighbors

Is bribing the police in order to end the probation

Cameron said...

But that analogy works for Iraq. I believe we were talking about Israel.

Here's an update to your analogy, more catered to Israel:

You move in to a new neighborhood because where you used to live the people tried to kill you.

You really like the new place; it has special meaning for you.

Your new neighbors don't like you.

They don't like that you have a big family.

There's enough space in the neighborhood for everyone, but the neighbors tell you to leave.

You don't, so they try to burn down your house, beat up your kids, and kill your dog.

Some of your kids fight back, but that only makes the neighbors madder.

The police step in and try to break things up, even going so far as to make a whole new neighborhood.

They let the whole city have input into the situation and vote on the new neighborhood.

The city approves the plan, you approve the plan, but the neighbors don't.

Their only plan is for you to leave.

The city makes the new neighborhood anyway, and your neighbors attack you.

For 50 years.

Charles D said...

We could play the analogy game for quite awhile, but you always evade the point.

The questions are: What possible justification can one have for murdering thousands of people and destroying a country when that country has not attacked you, has not threatened to attack you, and doesn't have the capability to attack you?

Why should one single American soldier die to preserve the Israeli government's right to occupy Palestinian territory outside their borders, when they don't need our help and have no right to be there?

Don't tell another story - answer the questions, if you can. As you do, remember that what's ethically justified for one person is justified for another, so if you say the US has a right to do something, then remember that so does China or Iran or whatever bugaboo nation you choose. Be consistent.

Cameron said...

We seem to have moved the discussion from a moral obligation to fight for liberty to a discussion of US intentions in Iraq and Israel.

I am confident I have sufficiently defended my stance of the former argument.

As for the two new arguments, I think my analogies are quite consistent with the two situations. However, they don't seem to have satisfied you, so I will move on.

You have asked two additional questions of me. Here is the first:

"What possible justification can one have for murdering thousands of people and destroying a country when that country has not attacked you, has not threatened to attack you, and doesn't have the capability to attack you?"

I assume you are writing of Iraq. One possible justification for liberating Iraq is the thesis of the post we have been discussing until now. That thesis states that it was our moral obligation to liberate the Iraqi people from a ruthless, genocidal dictator.

I've discussed with you in other places certain points regarding Saddam Hussein's weapons and intentions. I will not repeat them here. Perhaps I will make a post out of them and we can debate their merits once more.

Your next question is this:

"Why should one single American soldier die to preserve the Israeli government's right to occupy Palestinian territory outside their borders, when they don't need our help and have no right to be there?"

I really liked my analogy of the neighborhood for this. I thought it was quite clever and am disappointed that you dismissed it so quickly. :)

Nevertheless, the facts remain that the very beginning of all this started with the UN attempting to make two countries out of this area. One for the Jewish community and one for the Arab community. The Arabs said no thanks and started a war. When conventional warfare proved fruitless, they turned to terrorism. Has Israel fought back? Yes. Have they made mistakes? Yes. Have they been supported by the UN, including the United States, England, France, and even the USSR? Yes. Have 5 decades worth of politicians all over the world tried to negotiate peace for the region? Yes. Has the Arab community ever accepted that Israel has a right to even exist? No.

It is not an easy situation and does not have an easy solution. I do not believe that if the US abandons all support for Israel the terrorists will suddenly stop attacking. Apparently you believe the same because you say that Israel can take care of itself. Perhaps. I wonder if left alone, the two sides could negotiate a peace agreement? Or would they just endlessly fight? Is that ok with everyone? We just let them duke it out until...what?

Part of Saddam Hussein's reasoning for pursuing WMD's was to finally have the military power to destroy Israel. Now Mr. Iran is pursuing nuclear technology, and in the same breath he uses to proclaim his "right" to nuclear power, he proclaims his intent to wipe Israel off the face of the map.

You may argue that it is the UN's duty to negotiate peace. Fine. However, it was the UN that built Israel in the first place. Furthermore, I have no confidence in Mr Iran and others like him to honestly sign a peace agreement and adhere to it.

Charles D said...


I think you're remarks on the history of Israel are quite good. Given the history you outlined, it is certainly easy to understand why many Arabs, including particularly Palestinians do not want Israel to exist.

I agree that if the US stopped backing Israel unconditionally and adopted an even-handed or arms-length stance, terrorism against Israel would not automatically cease. What I am saying is that there is no need for the US to strongly back the Israeli government, particularly in light of the blowback of terrorism against our nation and the commitment of US military and other resources in the region.

Given that the US cannot be perceived as an honest broker in a negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, it makes more sense for us to back away and let others try. I would rather see a real peace brokered by the UN or anyone else than a continuation of the conflict and loss of life.

As for Iraq, you are still confused - understandable given the pronouncements of our government on the situation. We did not go into Iraq in order to establish democracy or bring freedom. That rationale was not used until after the invasion ended and they could no longer hide the fact that there were no WMD. This is much like the schoolboy who manufactures a new lie when his first one is uncovered.

I think there are significant problems with your ethical position that we have a moral obligation to fight for liberty - even if we suspend belief long enough to imagine the US government had such an intention.

Here are some more general issues I have with it:

1. It has almost never been possible to impose democracy on a nation by military force from without. A people must in the final analysis decide on their own form of government and be willing to fight for it. What we can do is work to insure that the conditions are right. Fareed Zakaria has a book The Future of Freedom which talks about the conditions that need to exist before democracy can take hold. Among them are a growing middle class and stable economic growth. "Fighting" for another's liberty militarily almost never works.

2. No nation, particularly not the world's superpower, are innocent, pure actors with no ulterior motivations. Any nation that intervenes in the affairs of another has its own interests at heart. In fact, it is highly unlikely to intervene if the oppressed nation is military powerful (China) or strategically unimportant (Sudan).

3. A nation cannot intervene in another without bringing its own cultural and religious baggage along. Often, rightly or wrongly, those cultural and religious differences are seen as a threat by the inhabitants of the other nation.

While I abhor repression and totalitarianism, I don't believe the solution is military. We cannot kill our way to freedom. If we, as the richest superpower, began to act to improve living conditions for ordinary people in the developing world, and supported trade policies that would help develop a strong middle class in those countries, we could do more to bring about democracy than we will ever accomplish with guns and bombs.

Anonymous said...

By choice I choose to not become consumed by the pros and cons of American's in Iraq,or anything too political for that matter; but I do feel that overall as humankind in this world we should feel obligated to help and defend one another. If we so choose to ignore the situation, and not help another we are guilty of neglect. Whether that person in need is our next door neighbor whom we have known for years, or the stranger across the world in which we will never meet, we have a moral obligation to help anyone in need. It is our duty to fight for the underdog. We always teach our children to not be bullies, and look down on those who are. Well,what about those bad neighbors in that hypothetical neightborhood you discussed...are they not bullies. We need to fight against all bullies in the world, or ultimately we are telling them it is okay to continue on with what they are doing. And the little guy that is being picked on...generally he is too little and without resources (whether physically or emotionally) to fight back against the bully. They need backup to stand by their side in defense against the bullies!

Cameron said...



Cameron said...


Awesome comment. Very well thought out and well said. Really, I'm gushing.

Cameron said...


You post,

"A people must in the final analysis decide on their own form of government and be willing to fight for it."

How do the citizens of Iraq fight for freedom under Saddam Hussein? Do they appeal to Congress or Parlaiment? Do they take it ot the Supreme Court? Do they schedule a sit-in? Or perhaps they should throw rocks at tanks and hope their "president" doesn't use biological weapons on them-again.

I appreciate the difficulties of deposing dictators. But it's worth it. It is possible because we've done it before. As a free and freedom-loving people it is our responsibility. From Gordon B. Hinckley's talk I referenced before, "We recognize and teach that all the people of the earth are of the family of God. And as He is our Father, so are we brothers and sisters with family obligations one to another."

Your second point is interesting. However, it doesn't stop you from advocating the UN to intervene in other nations.

You also post,

"A nation cannot intervene in another without bringing its own cultural and religious baggage along."

Rightly or wrongly, US culture and "baggage" is spreading all over the world, regardless of our military actions. It spreads because of our economic power, but also because people the world over like it.

DL, your consistent theme is that the US needs to butt out of world affairs. You don't trust the US to do the right thing. The problem with this isolationist policy is that the US influences the world even if we do nothing. A message is sent by our own inaction. It is arrogant to think that we can somehow live apart from the world. History has shown that this policy is impossible and foolhardy. The US affects and is effected by the world.

Cameron said...


Your final paragraph deserves a response of its own,

"While I abhor repression and totalitarianism, I don't believe the solution is military. We cannot kill our way to freedom. If we, as the richest superpower, began to act to improve living conditions for ordinary people in the developing world, and supported trade policies that would help develop a strong middle class in those countries, we could do more to bring about democracy than we will ever accomplish with guns and bombs."

It sounds nice in theory, but history has proven that it fails. Increased trade to totalitarian regimes only serves to line dictator pockets. Negotiating with people like Mr Iran and Mr North Korea only serves to give a lesson on bait and switch methods. Placating people like Hitler only serves to entrench them and embolden them.

"We cannot kill our way to freedom"; actually yes we can. And that is what we must do when faced with murderous dictators who are more than willing to kill their way to power.

Charles D said...

Well, you do stick to your guns, Cameron - even when you're wrong. In both Iran and North Korea we have oppressive regimes that have clearly got the message the US is sending: if you don't have WMD, we will attack you whenever we like (as in Iraq), if you do have WMD we will talk tough but do nothing (as in North Korea). Therefore if your nation is on the US fecal roster, then it behooves you to go nuclear ASAP. That's exactly what the Bush "foreign policy" is doing - making the world less safe.

We also need to realize that in neither case are we the least bit interested in democracy and freedom for the people of those nations. In fact, a case could be made that the sabre-rattling and fear-mongering about Iran and North Korea, like that about Iraq, is more about reducing our freedom here at home and crippling what's left of our democracy.

We will not succeed in bringing freedom to Iran by invading it. We will only succeed in killing tens of thousands of innocent people and causing hundreds of thousands more to hate us even more vehemently than they do now.

Cameron said...


Just stating I'm wrong doesn't make it so. You still have to prove it.

I addressed your concerns point by point. Should I take your non-rebuttal as proof of my rightness?

Cameron said...

The current situations in North Korea and Iran have been coming for some time now. Didn't we already negotiate North Korea's ending their nuclear program? That didn't turn out so well. No, negotiating with terrorists/dictators does not work. In fact, our negotiating with North Korea in the past has only emboldened them to the point that they now threaten war if the UN even puts sanctions on them.

Interesting that a number of years ago President Bush called out a few nations by name and called them the Axis of Evil. Those nations? Iraq, Iran, North Korea.

He was right on all counts.

Charles D said...

Yes, Clinton negotiated with the North Koreans and succeeded in staving off their nuclear ambitions. When Bush took over, he scuttled the talks and replaced them with saber-rattling bravado which drove the NK regime to resume their nuke program.

Negotiation will not always bring about the final solution to all problems, but it can prevent war and unnecessary death and destruction.

We have deposed Saddam, but two recent reports indicate that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died in the process and that torture is at least as widespread now as it was under Saddam. We have achieved nothing positive at a horrible price. Could we have brought freedom to Iraq? Maybe, but not by invading and occupying. Iraq proves my point.

As for North Korea, could be depose Kim and bring democracy to that beleagured nation? If we have any hope of bringing down that regime, it is through negotiation to bring NK into the world community so that it is in the interest of the regime to act more responsibly and so that, over time, the people can at least have enough to eat.

I can respect Hinckley's point of view, but taking responsibility for your brothers and sisters doesn't mean taking actions that result in their deaths or substitutes one yoke of oppression for another. The best way to meet your family obligations is to help your relatives take responsibility for themselves and give them the support they need to overcome their adversity. Doing it for them is often unproductive. When it involves killing innocents, it is unethical.

Charles D said...

By the way, for a better understanding of the North Korea situation I recommend the article Bush's Tough Talkin Korean Bungle. Good insight into the difference between diplomacy and talkin' trash.

Cameron said...

Yes, the US negotiated a settlement with North Korea. The terms of which required him to stop efforts to gain nuclear weapons, and for the US to pay him lots of money to do so. We paid, and he cheated.

In former Secretary Albright's words:

"They did cheat. There's no question. But I think that there would have been a way, in an agreement, to get them to explain what they were doing and hope that that would be a way to mitigate the issue, but it's not a reason not to have agreements with them."

North Korea lied. They took our concessions and our money and did exactly as they were doing before. It was a failed bribe. It was a lesson in bait and switch, which apparently Secretary Albright still didn't learn.

Cameron said...

From the article you linked to:

"In March 2002, the New York Times reported that “North Korea threatened … to withdraw from the [1994 nuclear suspension] agreement if the Bush administration persisted with what North Korea called a ‘hard-line’ policy that differed from the Clinton administration’s approach. North Korea also renewed its complaints against delays in construction of two nuclear reactors promised in the 1994 agreement to fulfill its energy needs.” [NYT, March 14, 2002]

The North Koreans were telegraphing how they would respond to Bush’s nuclear saber-rattling. They would create a nuclear threat of their own."

That's just it. They already were creating a nuclear threat of their own.

Of course they wanted more negotiations! They got to keep their nuclear program, plus they got free stuff from the US.

Charles D said...

Yes, they decided to create a nuclear threat of there own - because they were being threatened with nuclear weapons by the United States. Had Bush had the good sense to continue the negotiations started by Clinton, NK would not have had that reaction.

If you threaten other nations, they obviously feel a need to protect themselves. When you attack weak nations and your only effort against strong nations is with words, they realize that they need to build up their military, and if possible, get a nuke to protect themselves. It's not rocket science.

The ethical objective here is not to find some kind of eschatological final solution in which all nations bow to Washington, but to find a way to make the lives of ordinary citizens throughout the world better. That cannot be achieved by force or the threat of force.

Cameron said...

"Yes, they decided to create a nuclear threat of there own - because they were being threatened with nuclear weapons by the United States."

No, they weren't being threatened by the US, they were being bribed by the US throughout the 90's. They took our money and promised to not make weapons. They lied. They were working towards nuclear weapons the entire time.

Charles D said...

During the 1990's while they were talking to us, they were permitting international inspections. When Bush killed the negotiations, started talking tough about the Axis of Evil and adopted a first-strike tactical nuclear policy, they realized they could be a target and re-started their program. I'm sorry that your favorite President is responsible for this mess by being bullheaded and arrogant, but that's what happened.

Was Kim a crazy tyrant in the 1990's? - yes, but he wasn't posing an imminent threat. Now after 6 years of badmouthing him and demonstrating US willingness to attack nations who posed no threat to us, we have him actually posing a threat. This is nothing short of stupid. If we had gone ahead and kept up the negotiating pressure and increased trade in non-military goods like FOOD(!), the people of NK would be much better off and Kim would not have a nuke.

Cameron said...

You're not listening. Let me link to the interview again. Please read it this time and pay attention. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that North Korea cheated. We gave them what they wanted and in return we expected
them to stop developing weapons. North Korea agreed to this in the 90's. But they never stopped They didn't just start up again after President Bush was elected. President Bush had nothing to do with North Korea's push for nuclear weapons. They'd been dealing in all sorts of weapons for decades. Secretary Albright said their whole economy is based on selling weapons. See a trend here? We have pushed them to talk to their neighbors and they only want to talk to us. Why is that? Perhaps they want the same kind of agreement we had with them in the past. You know, the kind where we give them stuff and they get to make more missles.

When you make agreements with liars, don't be surprised when you are lied to.

Charles D said...


Re-reading it is a good idea. For example, Albright says "So I think we managed to make a pretty good deal in terms of having them freeze their nuclear program at Yongbyon. We now know that if they had been reprocessing those fuel rods all this time, there would be different estimates of the number of nuclear weapons that they could have. Some say between 50 and 100. So I think that was very important.

There was, I think, a pretty good arrangement that instead of this kind of program, they would get some light-water reactors, and we would deliver some heavy fuel. It was, indeed, to some extent, a quid pro quo, but it got rid of, or at least froze these fuel rods, which I think was very important." .... and ...

Q: "The Bush administration came into office, and the work that you were doing was scrapped."
A:"I think it was most unfortunate because I think we left them a pretty good hand of cards on the table. We were in the middle of some negotiations. We would not have agreed to something if it hadn't been verifiable."

As she states, one expects a person like Kim to cheat. As a former President said, "Trust but verify." The fuel rods (that NK got from Pakistan who is our supposed ally in the so-called War on Terror) were sealed in concrete with inspectors there 24/7 until the agreement was Bushwhacked by the US.

Cameron said...

The US paid off North Korea with "lesser" stuff like "light water reactors" and "heavy fuel", in return North Korea was supposed to stop heading for the "big" nukes ie freezing Yongbyon. However, North Korea "cheated" by continuing to enrich uranium the entire time.

You suggest that after North Korea blatantly flaunts the agreement, takes our bribes and "cheats", that we should bribe him some more? What would that accomplish? Force him to agree to UN inspections? They did such a swell job in Iraq.

North Korea has absolutely no intentions of giving up weapons thru negotiations. Their intentions are to continue to sell them to the highest bidder as they have always done, and to blackmail the world into giving more concessions.

So to combat that desire, we are to give him more "lesser" stuff, tell him very sternly to behave (or else what?), and basically to exactly what they want us to do?

That's the foreign policy?

Charles D said...

What we are "supposed" to do is assume that he cheats and keep up the diplomatic pressure. Kim was enriching uranium, but we knew it is much more difficult to create a nuke from uranium than plutonium. The solution was not to ditch the negotiations and lose control over the plutonium thus accelerating his nuclear development by a decade or so. That was just stupid.

What we are "supposed" to do is care about the people of North Korea. They are not only suffering oppression at the hands of a dictator, they are hungry. We had the ability to help those people and we didn't because their dictator "cheated". Those Koreans are our brothers and sisters and we have an obligation to help them, so let's stop talking to their crazy leader, let's impose a tougher embargo to further cripple their economy and make them hungrier, let's bomb the crap out of North Korea to show them who's boss -- that will meet our obligation to help our brothers and sisters. Is that what you believe?

Cameron said...

This appeared in the Wall Street Journal on October 11. Here are some excerpts:

"Essentially what he is saying is that appeasement works--but only if the U.S. is absolutely committed never to do anything that might upset the North Koreans."

Carter makes quite clear that mollifying Pyongyang is his goal:

What must be avoided is to leave a beleaguered nuclear nation convinced that it is permanently excluded from the international community, its existence threatened, its people suffering horrible deprivation and its hard-liners in total control of military and political policy.

During the Clinton administration, Jimmy Carter engineered an agreement with North Korea that was supposed to have curtailed its nuclear ambitions. What he left was a beleaguered ostensibly nonnuclear nation convinced that it was permanently excluded from the international community, its existence threatened, its people suffering horrible deprivation and its hard-liners in total control of military and political policy.

My favorite:

"Life Imitates 'Team America'

Hans Blix: "I'm sorry, but the U.N. must be firm with you. Let me see your whole palace, or else." Kim Jong Il: "Or else what?" Blix: "Or else we will be very, very angry with you, and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are."--dialogue from "Team America: World Police" (2004)

"The world lined up against North Korea on Monday for staging a nuclear test denounced even by key allies. . . . There was no talk of military action. But the Security Council quickly condemned North Korea's decision to flout a U.N. appeal to cancel the test after the reclusive regime announced it had set off an underground atomic explosion."--Associated Press, Oct. 9, 2006

Charles D said...


You obviously don't understand diplomacy, or you don't want to understand it. Please read more widely. You are simply repeating the Republican talking points and not adding anything original.