Monday, December 22, 2008

Why Organized Labor Is Kind of Important

I should have caught this days ago, but didn't:

...In the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, [Walter] Reuther, then head of the [UAW] union's General Motors division, came up with a detailed plan for converting auto plants to defense factories more quickly than the industry's leaders did. At the end of the war, he led a strike at GM with a set of demands that included putting union and public representatives on GM's board ...

In 1949, a pamphlet was published that argued that the American auto industry should pursue a different direction. Titled "A Small Car Named Desire," the pamphlet suggested that Detroit not put all its bets on bigness, that a substantial share of American consumers would welcome smaller cars that cost less and burned fuel more efficiently.

The pamphlet's author was the research department of the United Auto Workers ...

The UAW not only built the American middle class but helped engender every movement at the center of American liberalism today -- which is one reason that conservatives have always held the union in particular disdain ...

Now you can believe what Meyerson writes, or you can dismiss him as another pinko lib, but here's the reality of what's going on today:

For the past thirty years, there has been a general philosopy that everybody would be better off if "government got out of the way." If regulations were lightened or, better yet, eliminated.

If market forces were allowed to work their magic and make the country bigger, better, and richer. No need for regulation or any horrid redistribution of wealth. Markets were magical ... and self-correcting.

Republicans believed it. Lots of Democrats believed it.

And here we are.

The financial and economic crash of 2008, the worst in over 75 years, is a major geopolitical setback for the United States and Europe. Over the medium term, Washington and European governments will have neither the resources nor the economic credibility to play the role in global affairs that they otherwise would have played. These weaknesses will eventually be repaired, but in the interim, they will accelerate trends that are shifting the world's center of gravity away from the United States.

A brutal recession is unfolding in the United States, Europe, and probably Japan -- a recession likely to be more harmful than the slump of 1981-82. The current financial crisis has deeply frightened consumers and businesses, and in response they have sharply retrenched. In addition, the usual recovery tools used by governments -- monetary and fiscal stimuli -- will be relatively ineffective under the circumstances ...

So how the hell did we get here? How did it come to this?

There were lots of causes; here are a few of the major drivers of the debacle:

We stripped away the rules that kept banks and investment companies honest. (When the government allows Godlman Sachs to leverage investments 40 to 1, GS is delighted to do it, figuring they're smarter than everybody else, and if things start to head south, they'll get out and let the suckers hold the bag of crap. Didn't exactly work out that way, of course. Goldman Sachs got swept up in the disaster it helped create, and has now converted its businesses so it can receive Federal handouts. Socialism for the Investor Class! Fuck Yeah!)

We allowed the minimum wage to become ludicrously low relative to the purchasing power it had forty years ago.

We undercut unions' abilities to organize newer businesses by non-enforcement of labor laws. Since unions tend to drive wages up, pay rates stagnated.

We provided financial incentives to ship manufacturing offshore, ship service jobs offshore, ship brainpower offshore.

No doubt people will argue about specific causes, whether it was more of this and less of that. What's hard to argue is that we are today in a deep, deep economic hole ... and sizable sections of the American middle class are melting away.

What's also hard to argue is that without a middle class, the "American Standard of Living" will cease to exist, because without a population that has money to buy things and send their children to college and generally make their lives better ... thereby lifting the American economy ... we turn into Mexico, India, or Brazil.

We end up with a wealthy oligarchy that lives well in gate-guarded communities and drives expensive cars, with everyone else eking out their various meager existences in small, rented houses and one-bedroom apartments, eating a lot of meatloaf sandwiches.

But enough sweeping generalizations. Let me boil it down to specifics in this narrow, neck of the woods known as the Animation Industry.

When I rolled in here nineteen years ago, the Animation Guild and the cartoon business were on their mutual keesters. We had about seven hundred active, working members. General unemployment was high. Non-union animation work was everywhere (DIC at the time was huge, paying $500 a week for storyboard work, half the union minimum.)

Over the next few years, through happy accidents, also the efforts of various artists, we ended up signing contracts with a lot of studios and repping about 85% (give or take) of the cartoon business. Plus the business was roaring, and a lot of the cut-rate 'toon factories were forced to raise wages in order to hire people qualified to get needed work done.

Like I say, happy accidents.

And then the business went really crazy, and industry wages went through the roof and then the upper atmosphere, and people said to me:

"Heey now! What do we need union minimums for? I'm earning double the damn minimums! And my best friend's making triple! Hot damn!"

People began thinking it was the natural order of things. And would last forever.

But it wasn't ... and didn't. And now we're paddling along in the year 2008, and nobody thinks high wages are a birthright anymore.

In fact, a lot of people are pretty grim. Scared shitless, in fact. And grateful to have a job, any job. I know, personally, animation professionals bagging groceries and doing secretarial work and laboring as security guards at one-fifth their old salaries.

And every studio I know about, union and non-union, is cutting their labor costs every way they can. The non-union places are below the union minimums that they used to be above, and the union places are hiring at scale. But because a large number of skilled artists still work under union contracts, and we still have critical mass, the overall wage structure hasn't collapsed.

Over in auto-building land, the situation is a little different. The UAW, that long-ago builder of the American Middle Class, hasn't been able to organize foreign auto plants in Tennessee, in Alabama, and a number of other southern states that have "right to work" laws. The slope is just too steep for them to get the Toyota, Honda and Nissan plants organized, and so the foreign companies are happy to match UAW pay rates, even as they lowball benefits. And the UAW gets pretty much nowhere in making those Camry, Accord and Altima factories union.

But Senator Mitch McConnell and company are trying their best to disembowel what's left of the UAW. They've made a nice run at it the last month or so, and for a little while, it looked like they would succeed in taking the Auto Workers out. (Of course, it would have meant the Big Three Auto Makers would have gone bye-bye with the UAW, what's known on the battlefield as "collateral damage," but what the hell. Sometimes you gotta destroy an industry in order to save it.)

Now, happily, President Bush has decided he doesn't want to add "Goodbye to the Big Three" to the rest of his sparkling legacy, and so has overruled his Republican cohorts in the Senate and cut a deal with Chrysler and GM. So the companies will survive ... at least for another few months.

But who knows? Maybe Senator Mitch and those other Sons of the South will yet be successful in driving the UAW over a cliff. Maybe Ford, Chrysler and General Motors will slide into insolvency and oblivion anyway, and the Japanese and German car companies will have the United States all to themselves.

When and if that day comes, I'm reasonably certain the foreign car makers won't be paying wage rates that match UAW's workers, for those workers will be gone. They'll be paying less, probably far less, even though labor costs now are only 10% of a car's costs.

Why? Because the union that kept wages up will be gone, along with one more segment of the American middle class.

46 comments:

ping ping said...

There's also the easy availability of credit. Financial institutions need to make it harder to take out loans or even receive a credit card.

Why ARE there these financial incentives for shipping work overseas? No taxes for importing the resulting goods either. It's almost like companies are penalized for keeping work in the USA.

Anonymous said...

I agree that organized labor has helped protect the American standard of living, but unfortunately, sheer global competition has time and time again cleaned our American clock in the last twenty-five years and will continue to do so despite any artificial floors you try to place underneath this leviathan. This is not 1941 or 1926. The sooner we get our heads around this the better.

We have not yet seen the bottom of this thing, not by a long shot, despite the smile that every media outlet is trying to put on it. Why American media refuses to acknowledge the absolute and total destruction of this crash is just another huge failure, as bad if not worse than Iraq War coverage. We will never find our way out of this until we know for ourselves what bottom is. And we will only be able to reinvent ourselves on new terms when that bottom arrives. It is not here yet, folks.

Steve Hulett said...

It's not simply a question of wages.

Germany builds one out of eight cars that exist in the world, and Germany is a high-wage, high-benefit country.

But I agree with you that we haven't hit bottom. That happens in the next 12-36 months.

Anonymous said...

You can't compare a western european nation like Germany to the United States. The German government subsidizes their auto industry, and the tax rates for citizens climbs to well over 50%.

Anonymous said...

We have to compare ourselves to other countries like Germany. Maybe we should have higher taxes, and more benefits, maybe we should have government subsidies of certain industries. (We subsidize agriculture) We are a global economy, we compete with all these other countries and their different economic models. Who's to say ours is still the best.

Anonymous said...

you can keep the high taxes of the socialist EU. The U.S. car companies just need to make better cars period. They may be forced to take actions now because its finally getting serious for them.

Peanut said...

I'm happy to agree that we are much better off if the government is NOT subsidizing our auto industry. We are better off if the government is not subsidizing ANY industry--let them live or die based on the desirability and quality of their product.

But it's also important to note that worker's wages are not the problem here, as some on the conservative side have suggested.

Nobody was complaining about how prohibitively high autoworker's wages were when the car companies were selling cars people actually wanted to buy. In the late 90's, the public LOVED the suv's and trucks that Detroit was making, and the companies made piles of profit.

The difference now is that they have very few cars in the showroom that people want, so suddenly certain people are trying to scapegoat the auto workers' wages as the problem. Utter nonsense.

Anonymous said...

It's not really about wages for those that are working, but about wages and benefits for those that aren't working that have made it impossible for American car companies to compete with German and Japanese companies. The American car companies have to pay workers that aren't working as well as pay huge benefits to families of retired workers that the foreign companies don't. There are completely different contracts for Domestic and Foreign companies.
Add all that to stupidity and mismanagement (thinking that there wouldn't be high enough repair bills for non gas engines etc) and you have a big problem. But the UAW isn't completely innocent in all of this either.

robiscus said...

That last post is dead on. The latest statistics show that US auto plants with union contracts pay seven salaries for every one union member actually working. The other six individuals are either laid off and still collecting full pay and benefits or retired with the same pay and benefits as those working.
THAT needs to be renegotiated because no business model will survive for long enduring that.

Whether you are union or not, you have to recognize reality.

Anonymous said...

Even so, how does that stack up sheer money-wise with what the execs are making and wasting? If cuts are to made, it should start from the top.

When the GM dooshes took private jets to Washington DC to plead their case for getting BILLIONS of our dollars to support them, that said to me that they're not interested in actually saving their industry. They're just interested in saving themselves. If they gave a damn, they would've flown on a regular passenger jet in coach to SAVE MONEY for their companies. But nooooooooooo, that would've been too inconvenient for the thieves. Do you think expensive "company retreats" are going the way of the SUV? Not for the top of the food chain.

And with that in mind, I can't say I blame the UAW too much for holding on to what they've got. Which isn't to say that I wholly agree with the idea of so much payout going to people who don't work for the auto-makers for whatever reason, but I understand that they're going to grab what they can get, because the executives of these companies cannot be trusted to look out for anyone else but their greedy little selves.

Peanut said...

Robiscus-

Citation please for your "latest statistics" on the 7:1 claim. The UAW job bank, which pays laid off workers 95% of their pay for two years, has only 1,000 workers in it.

Granted, I don't really agree with the concept of the job bank--it can be done away with.

And I am skeptical that there are six times the number of retirees as active employees.

Anonymous said...

"The German government subsidizes their auto industry."

The U.S. government subsidizes their auto industry.

A LOT.

robiscus said...

Peanut, gladly:

http://tinyurl.com/cbksn

http://tinyurl.com/9o7odj

robiscus said...

Peanut, the first link is from 2005 so its outdated and your current figure is correct; that there are currently 1,000 workers in the job bank.

but a mere three years ago there were 12,000 union members in it. It explains the circumstances that led them down the road to this mess.

Anonymous said...

Why LA labor has been important to me of recent years? For TAG, good health coverage, but only until the work runs out, of course. That's all that's left, truly. Across the board, pensions (if you are lucky enough to have one in this day and age) are frozen solid, and social security is going to get sucked dry by the f'ing me generation. Blame the baby boomers - the one generation that has single-handedly screwed the rest of us for all eternity. The feel-good "Can't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow" hippies skipped Econ. 101 to Howl poetry, smoke weed and get blow jobs in the Oval Office. Awesome. Thanks for the memories, a-holes. All of you. You opened the door wide open for every evangelist neo-con dittohead that ever wanted to bomb Iran and almost got the chance.

If Obama manages to get Single-payer off the ground after some miracle from God gets Goldman Sachs out of surgery and into permanent intensive care in the Investment Banking Home for the Terminally Ill, and if it actually functions as something competitive to with what TAG has, great! Anything that gives us more control over where we work and how often we have to switch careers or move across the country because of the latest NY or DC scam that comes down from on high, count me in.

But then again, I wouldn't be surprised if people like Mitch McConnell end up backing national health just to make collective bargaining redundant. And if you dig deeper still, I bet you will find some of the most powerful labor lobbyists fighting in the back rooms to keep single-payer from happening on account of just such a thing happening. It's upside-down world, but that's what happens with these things. It's never a straight line. If it didn't make you laugh so hard you'd just be crying.

Proud Boomer said...

Someone here seems to be channeling Dennis Miller. It was very colorful but it didn't make any sense. How about slow it down and connect the logical dots. What's that- Boomers are all hippies that cause neo-cons...What?!!

Obama didn't campaign for single payer. The "Me" generation; junior- corporate greed-is-good world beaters came AFTER the Counter Culture generation, (you know, the "Hippies"). All the Baby Boomers were trying to do was stop the military-industrial spooks from destroying the world, but you would have had to have been there to know that. I suppose it's easier to paint every generation that came before yours with a single broad paranoid brush.

Sounds like you would benefit by kicking back and lighting up a fat one. Whatever it is you're on is frying your brains.

Anonymous said...

The only truly meaningful thing that I have been able to glean from one of the largest and most influential generations of our lifetime is that it singlehandedly managed to convert Dennis Hopper to the national spokesperson for Ameriprise financial planning advice. That and VH-1 nostalgic circle-jerk specials about Woodstock are your greatest achievements.

As for Eisenhower's prophetic warnings, we all still currently live, breath, and suffer under that reality daily, uninterrupted, with the exception of commercial breaks for VH-1 Remember the Music specials, since 1945. Just because you took a twenty year break in your garage to smoke your spleef and debate Hendrix doesn't mean the machine stopped humming along at full speed. I guess holding hands with Timothy Leary in global harmonic convergence didn't result in bringing those spooks to the gallows now, did it? But, hey! We have Ipods! Neat! Thanks, hippy!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I almost forgot. I actually couldn't afford to pay for that big fat brush I'm painting with because I'm paying the bill to finance Dennis Hopper Incorporated's gi-normous social security shortfall. I paid for the brush with credit at 25% interest to the Chinese.

Boomers changed NOTHING.

Steve Hulett said...

I'm paying the bill to finance Dennis Hopper Incorporated's gi-normous social security shortfall.

Uh, there is no shortfall.

And the "Trust Fund" that Alan Greenspan & Co. invented in the middle 1980s won't run out of SS bucks until most of the boomers are dead and buried.

I grow weary about the mindless mewling re "Social Security going broke." It isn't. The Plan will be able to pay 75% of benefits thirty-five years hence under the most pessimistic of projections.

Think about that. 75%. If a private pension plan goes belly up anywhere in the country, the Feds will step in and guarantee a mere 60%.

Everyone should suck it up. If we can drop a trillion dollars into the desert sands of Iraq with zip to show for it -- except a lot of Iraqis who want us gone -- then we can manage Social Security fine and dandy.

Added to which, we're running $400 billion annual deficits NOW, even with the Social Security surplus.

Everybody calm down.

Steve Hulett said...

The German government subsidizes their auto industry, and the tax rates for citizens climbs to well over 50%.

And of course, we subsidize our various auto industries (those tax breaks for Mercedes Benz plants in Alabama and other places are subsidies.)

Also, the tax rates for Germans includes health care, as weel as a host of other things. Factor that little reality in, and U.S. and German tax rates are ...

equivalent.

Except the Germans aren't supporting an insanely expensive military-industrial complex. They got off that kick back in ... oh ... 1945.

robiscus said...

" If we can drop a trillion dollars into the desert sands of Iraq with zip to show for it"


25 million people free from a tyrant and with an elected government as opposed to a rogue nation that kicked out all representatives from other nations (so there was zero diplomacy) with sanctions levied against it that, according to antiwar groups, were responsible for the deaths of 100,000 Iraqi children a year...

and you STILL can't cull any positive from our efforts in Iraq?!?

Its not even a matter of you being biased at this point, it has to be a clue to you being stupid. What has been accomplished in Iraq is the exact same thing that we are also trying accomplish in Afghanistan. Two nations that the world turned their back on. One ruled by a tyrant and one ruled by savages. The differences is that the former is actually one of the most developed nations of the middle east with an educated populace and a massive infrastructure while the latter is a lawless wasteland for the most part.

One was prioritized over the other and the efforts of the soldiers there are something that you DENIGRATE when you state that "we have zip to show for it". I come in here because I like to see whats going on with the union, but its really a slap in the face when I come in here and you inject a directly insult at our US troops when they have accomplished what has never been accomplished in the history of that nation. a history that is as almost as old as civilization itself.

They have a representative government and their people are free from a tyrant and yes, mistakes were made along the way, but here you are taking any proper credit away from our troops like "a grade A asshole."

robiscus said...

"Except the Germans aren't supporting an insanely expensive military-industrial complex. They got off that kick back in ... oh ... 1945."


"They" didn't get off any kick. The treaty of Versailles prohibited them from maintaing any military and that held until the cold war ended 15 years ago. They currently have a military that is used only for defensive measures because they are e member of NATO and they are prohibited from holding a seat on the UN security council. But this is all academic... you clearly have it all figured out when you imagine intentions of other nations in your head and post them here.

stevenem said...

If that isn't the oldest Conservative trick in the books; where exactly, in Steve's remark about the war did you see the word "troops," Robiscus? Saddam was a bad actor, nobody disputes that, the troops are serving their country wholeheartedly and deserve all the support we can give them, (like properly armored HumVees?). No one disputes that, either. We are talking policy, here, so stay on topic. The standard for war is "clear and present danger." Iraq did not fit that criterion. We have no trouble supporting dictators,(including Saddam), when it's expedient to our foreign policy. Saddam's "crime" was threatening to nationalize oil. Sorry, that's really why we are there. That's also why the CIA deposed the Prime Minister of Iran and installed the Shah. How did that one work out?

robiscus said...

I mentioned mistakes were made Stevenem. Next time read my post. "Zip to show for it" takes away all accomplishments of the troops. The rest of your rant is a diversion from that.

Steve Hulett said...

and you STILL can't cull any positive from our efforts in Iraq?!?

No, actually, I can't.

We've most likely killed 100,000-plus civilians. We've installed a Shiite government allied with our new best enemy Iran. Iraqi infrastrucute is now less than it was when we went in. And the Iraqi population wants us to stop occupying their country.

And we went in -- if you care to remember -- because Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction," not to rid the world of a dictatorship.

So on a cost-benefit basis, I believe it's a loser. You're entitled to think otherwise.

But ... and this is the big issue with me .. how do I insult the troops, Robiscus? What do I say to give that indication. (And no, saying we have zip to show for going into Iraq is not "insulting the troops." It's maybe insulting the commander-in-chief that sent them there, but that's it.)

As a military veteran, I've had a bellyful of supporters of the Bush invasion of Iraq labeling me a non supporter of U.S. troops.

Please point out where I am against the military. Or kindly shut up about it.

Steve Hulett said...

here you are taking any proper credit away from our troops like "a grade A asshole."

Let's hope you don't mean I AM a "grade A asshole," because you're 180 degrees wrong.

I volunteered for military service, served years in the U.S. Navy, and so you can keep your pet names ... used as a simile or otherwise .. to yourself.

I don't call you names. Please return me the favor. Disagree with me, fine. But don't denigrate my patriotism. Or you'll start being unwelcome here.

Steve Hulett said...

... its really a slap in the face when I come in here and you inject a directly insult at our US troops

Uh, no.

The treaty of Versailles prohibited them [Germany] from maintaing any military and that held until the cold war ended 15 years ago.

Also no. See "Reich, Third" ... also "World War II."

Germany rearmed with a vengeance, from 1934 to 1945.

Its not even a matter of you being biased at this point, it has to be a clue to you being stupid.

You're really going to have to knock off the ad hominem attacks, Robiscus. Debate and challenge all you like. But no personal slams.

Otherwise, I'm going to start deleting them when I see them.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the legacy of Bush and the neo-cons: replace reasoned political debate with ad-homenim attacks and fabricated outrage. And, presto - a post about unions becomes a political slug-fest about the Middle East.

Back to the topic at hand - you all know that labor wages account for only 10% of the cost of manufacturing a U.S.-nameplate car, right?

Anonymous said...

Yep.

Hulett, I think, said so above.

robiscus said...

"We've most likely killed 100,000-plus civilians."

No. The guerilla war waged by Al Qaeda has killed all of those Iraqis. The US military has not. Go to IraqBodyCount and click on the database, then READ the details surrounding deaths in Iraq. Carbombs are not the direct fault of the US military. Suicide bombs and sniper fire into crowded markets are not at the orders of US military. Those are casualties caused by a desperate subhuman sect of terrorists and you are trying to hang those deeds on our US servicemen. aI have two damily members ion the service and its people like you that drag them down, that denigrate their cause and sabotage any support that they should be getting from home when you equate attacks by the enemy on a populace with their actions.


"We've installed a Shiite government allied with our new best enemy Iran."

Wrong again bub. If any entity in Iraq was directly propped up by Iran, it was the Mahdi Army in Sadr city. *I urge you to look these things up since your posts show that you know jack squat about whats going on in Iraq). When Mahdi fighters rose up in support of their Basra brethren, the Iraqi army at Maliki's direction confronted them and prevailed in every town — Najaf, Karbala, Hilla, Kut, Nasiriyah, and Diwaniyah — from Basra to Baghdad.
Without any American ground forces, the Iraqi army entered and occupied Sadr City, the Mahdi army stronghold. The government is not propped up by Iran and in fact it just swept through its ranks arresting those shiite extremists who were plotting a coup.
You are woefully ignorant of the situation in Iraq and in being that, it would behoove you to steer clear of the subject.

" Iraqi infrastrucute is now less than it was when we went in. "

I'd love for you to just post where in the world you got this information from? Because again, you are SOO off base, and so inclined to sully our servicemen's efforts that its embarrassing. The Iraqi infrastructure. From the BBC back in January:

Iraq faces a period of economic growth and political progress, according to assessments by the International Monetary Fund and the UN.
The IMF sees 7% growth in 2008 and a similar rise next year.The UN envoy to Iraq welcomed dialogue between the Sunni and Shia communities and praised the government's work.

the link
http://tinyurl.com/2ubvct

...and since January, things have improved exponentially. So clearly, your assessment is biased, uninformed and borderline delusional.

"And the Iraqi population wants us to stop occupying their country."

Good for them! And we will!(although its downright impossible for 160,000 troops to "occupy" 25 MILLION people. If the Iraqis wanted to kick the US troops out of Iraq, they could do it in an afternoon. Again, your fundamental inability to grasp the situation.


"And we went in -- if you care to remember -- because Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction," not to rid the world of a dictatorship. "


We went in for many reasons and many of them wrong, 'll throw you that bone and it STILL doesn't explain away the progress being made right now that was almost unimaginable before and it still doesn't make your comments about "zilch" being accomplished any less idiotic - or insulting to the troops.

"But ... and this is the big issue with me .. how do I insult the troops, Robiscus? "

You are stating that they have done nothing - or that we have "zip to show for it", when in fact they have done a monumental task exceptionally. All they ask is that we as citizens support them and their cause,. Their cause is one of nation building and protecting the populace from terrorists. Its a worthy one where they have delivered.
You refuse to see it because that gives your political stance some fuel. How self serving. How utterly narcissistic and lame.

"As a military veteran..."

I don't care of you're a current general in the military. I'm from a military family and you don't carp at the accomplishments of the troops when they are so apparent and so easy to recognize. You've built up a willful ignorance at the expense of our servicemens reputations and you are espousing it in here at a union website.

Saying we have "zip to show for it" is tantamount to saying that they have done nothing, or that they have failed. They have done neither of those things.

Anonymous said...

I always wondered what the pseudonym Robiscus stood for. It's pretty clear it's a synonym for ultra conservative douchebag.


I'm guessing he thought Palin was perfect in every way...

...if it were my blog he'd be barred from commenting. Everything he says turns into the same conservative diatribe. It's like listening to Sean Hannity

Anonymous said...

" Iraqi infrastrucute is now less than it was when we went in. "

...The Iraqi infrastructure. From the BBC back in January:

Iraq faces a period of economic growth and political progress, according to assessments by the International Monetary Fund and the UN.
The IMF sees 7% growth in 2008 and a similar rise next year.The UN envoy to Iraq welcomed dialogue between the Sunni and Shia communities and praised the government's work.
------------------------

Um, what exactly do economic growth and political issues have to do with the condition of roads, bridges, and utility services now compared to prior to the invasion. It's like Steve said "sure is cold today" and you responded with "of COURSE I like popcorn."

Viper said...

Robiscus-

1) The Treaty of Versailles was WWI, not WWII.

2) There are literally millions--millions--of Iraqis living in exile, because of the ferocious sunni/shiite civil war that has directly resulted from our invasion. They certainly do not feel more free, safer, or happier now than they did when Saddam was in power. And in fact, that opinion is shared now by a plurality of Iraqis. The success of our operation can only be measured by how the Iraqis feel about it, not how American conservatives (or the troops) feel about it. It's their country.

3) The sunni/shiite civil war can't be blamed on us? Of course it can! Your Dear Leader hadn't even heard of sunnis or shiites (by his own admission) until the war was on. He was completely ignorant and unprepared for the consequences of deposing the only power that kept the two factions from killing each other for the past number of decades. Creating a power vacumn, with no viable plan B, could only lead to a highly predictable civil war. We did indeed instigate it.

4) Not just "some" of our motives were wrong. They ALL were, including the installation of democracy. True democracy only will work and last if the citizenry demand it, and make it happen. After all, it is they who will shepherd it. In every lasting democracy, this has only been the case.

Forced democracy at the barrel of a gun will only last as long as the gun is pointed. Frankly, the Iraqis are not culturally ready for democracy, as they place too much of an emphasis on their religion, and not enough on the future of their children. Perhaps one day, but not this day. As soon as we leave, their forced democracy will fall. All our efforts will ultimately be for naught.

5) I do not engage in idolatry worship of our troops. I am under no obligation to support bad policy, and I don't care if those who carry out that bad policy are incredibly efficient, which they undoubtedly are. The policy they have been carrying out was wrong and illegal from the start, and nobody is obligated to support those who carry out wrong and illegal policies. It is sad and unfortunate that they have little choice in the matter, but carrying out bad orders does not absolve anyone of the final responsibility.

6) Among the main reasons why there has been a reduction in violence lately is that the cities have been literally walled off and segregated, barring sunnis and shiites from coming into contact. Once we leave, guess what happens?

Conclusion: Iraq has been a horrible foreign policy disaster, from start to finish. It is good that there has been a lowering of violence recently. But the Middle East is the way it is for a reason. Its people have not gone through their own Age of Enlightenment. Someday they will, but that day hasn't arrived. For us to artificially bring our western freedoms and democracy to their culture is essentially like giving a million dollars to a homeless man.

They are simply waiting for the day we must inevitably leave. Then it will be Saddam redux all over again.

robiscus said...

"There are literally millions--millions--of Iraqis living in exile, because of the ferocious sunni/shiite civil war"


No one knows how many Iraqis are living in exile, so don't pretend like you do. There are no refugee camps where one can count the tents. Families in the middle east are extended beyond borders and many families reconfigured themselves. Yes there are many Iraqis who left, but at this point those who are still gone and upset are those who benefitted most from the Sunni/Baathist regime of Saddam and they are in Syria and in favorable standing with that Baaathist regime. as for the "ferocious" civil war, is this the one with violence that has plummeted 80% since last year? Is that the ferocity you are referring to?


" True democracy only will work and last if the citizenry demand it, and make it happen."

Those are some really comforting words for those rounded up and killed in China at Tiananmen Square.

*rolls eyes*

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see Barrack is keeping Robert Gates and the 250 Pentagon leaders that have helped keep us safe for the past 7 years. Hope he continues to support our troops and their efforts to combat Islamic Terrorists.

Steve Hulett said...

I know this is difficult, but I'll try anyway.

1) 89,000-98,000 Iraqi casulaties related to our 2003 invasion. (Source: http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/)

Did we kill all of them? No.

Did our invasion precipitate the deaths? More than likely, since few to no Iraqi deaths were occuring prior to invasion.

2) Was Saddam holding and/or manufacturing WMD prior to invasion? No, although this was the reason stated by the Bush Administration for going to war.

Did Saddam desire to manufacture and possess WMD. Absolutely. But ordinarily you don't commit large money and manpower based on a foreign leader's desire.

3) Infrastructure. Three and a half years after Saddam was defeated, infrastructure and electrical generation was worse than before his overthrow. It has improved, albeit slowly, since.

4) Costs. It was represented by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others, that the war and occupation would cost less than $60 billion.

The estimate was wildly off the mark. We'll easily surpass a trillion dollars by the time all accounts come due.

4) The army and marines have done a stellar job, given the task that was assigned them. The reason the occupation was so rocky at the beginning was the ratio of occupying forces to civilians was far below what it should have been.

Had the ratio of troops to civilians been close to what it was in postwar Germany (the German occupation comparison was used by Rice and Rumseld in 2003 and 2004) the years of escalating violence would likely not have happened.

4) Neoconservatives said there would be no Shiite-Sunni conflict; they were wrong. (Some say it wouldn't have happened in a major way "if the Golden Mosque hadn't been blown up." Unfortunately, the Golden Mosque was blown up.)

5) Iraqi violence has definitely subsided. I credit 1) American troops and contractors; 2) the separation of Sunni and Shiite populations; 3) the recruitment/employment of Sunni militas by the American military, There's also the tendency of ethnic violence running down over time because it's difficult to hold the infrastructure (that word again) over long periods.

Against all this you have to weigh the costs to the U.S. economy, the military, the growing deficit, and on and on.

If you believe that the Iraq war has been a net positive for the United States, then we differ. But I don't think you're a traitor, or delusional, or a douche or "stupid" and "against the troops" for thinking that way, I merely think you're wrong.

I continue to believe that the Iraq war has been a negative or zero in terms in helping and strenghtening the United State ("zip" by another name.)

I also believe that Germany rearmed after the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and that Hitler conquered most of Europe in 1939-1941. And I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't brand me "stupid" for that belief.

Thanks.

Viper said...

Those are some really comforting words for those rounded up and killed in China at Tiananmen Square.

Wow, way to completely miss the point. Nice work.


No one knows how many Iraqis are living in exile, so don't pretend like you do. There are no refugee camps where one can count the tents. Families in the middle east are extended beyond borders and many families reconfigured themselves. Yes there are many Iraqis who left, but at this point those who are still gone and upset are those who benefitted most from the Sunni/Baathist regime of Saddam and they are in Syria and in favorable standing with that Baaathist regime.

I see, so because we can't peg an exact number on the problem, that really makes it all okay. We know that vast chunks of Baghdad and other cities up and left, but I guess since many of them were sunni, it's all cool. Sorry if my enthusiasm for ethnic cleansing isn't as high as your's.

The key here is what Steve just said--the Iraq War was of absolutely no benefit to the United States. And this has certainly proven out. Saddam, it is now proven beyond any shadow of doubt, was of no threat to the US. And anyone who bothered to study the issue would've concluded much the same prior to the war.

Meanwhile, it is also indisputable that the cost to the United States has been very high, in both lives and, especiallly, money. It is doubly bad when our own economy is going down the crapper, and we have to continue to waste resources giving pointless welfare to Iraq. For no benefit to us.

Steve Hulett said...

The key here is ... the Iraq War was of absolutely no benefit to the United States.

The best American President in my lifetime? Dwight Eisenhower.

Because he knew war, he knew costs. He wasn't a Texas cowboy (Lyndon? George? You listening?). He looked at cost-benefit to the United States.

Best example of this: When the French were going down in Vietnam, they appealed to the U.S. for help. Eisenhower asked the Joint Chiefs to give him an assessment of what it would take to secure Vietnam.

The answer was multiple divisions, billions of dollars, and ten years.

So Eisenhower said "No" to the idea of going into Vietnam in a major way. It was clear to him that the cost-benefit wasn't there.

The yahoos who now rule us have missed that point completely over the last eight years. (Dick Cheney, who knows war only from behind a desk in Washington, has been spectacularly wrong in most of his assessments and analysis. What he's good at is bureaucratic in-fighting. But as a strategist, he's mostly hopeless.)

robiscus said...

Steve,

" few to no Iraqi deaths were occuring prior to invasion."

WRONG. you must have a very very short term memory. sanctions against Iraq because of Saddam Hussein were killing hundreds of thousands Iraqis. Thats the line that was towed by the people you are citing over at IraqBodyCount. The US Attorney General Ramsay Clark equated it to genocide. Madeline Albright agreed that over half a million Iraqi children had died. UNICEF released studies that admonished the world for the sanctions.

Which is what makes me so mad. that here you are with a position of authority and you spout off garbage that we have accomplished nothing in Iraq.


I thought the efforts in Iraq were wrongheaded.
I though we should have pulled out of there
I was horrified at the body count
I wrote off the people of Iraq as 'not being worht the effort'

things have changed and as the situation has changed I have changed my opinion on it. The facts demand that I do. I'm not towing a party line. I'm not afraid that someone might think I'm "wrong" -I'm not afraid of being wrong. When one is wrong they learn more abut themselves than they do when they are being right. Bt most importantly I'm not so conceited that i feel like I have to cling to my first convictions so i look good.

In regards to diplomacy, Eisenhower lived in a different world - but even he would recognize the accomplishments that our troops have forged. We have an alliance with a free Iraq. A notion that one would not be able to conceive of 7 years ago.

Diplomacy has never been about "what another nastion can give us", but what they can achieve together. Eisenhower had the benefit of serving as president in the period where the world was cooling off after the biggest armed conflict of human history. That helps put his tenure in perspective.

The middle east is a region woefully behind the rest of the world, and we were without a single arab ally that is genuine. Now, the strategic balance has been shifted. Amedinijad is a dangerous tyrant and he has hijacked Iran and looked to challenge the US at every corner, but with a functioning Iraqi parliament and a leader in Maliki that is holding control we have dealt a blow to the Iranian regime with dropping a bomb on them. Furthermore a free democratic Iraq at the center of the middle east is one that changes arab society. it will promote freedoms and hope and shrink extremism.
A lot better than blindly shooting cruise missiles at mosques from warships

robiscus said...

edit:
thats "without" dropping a bomb on them...

rufus said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJUEULWEP9c

eat it robiscus!!

rufus.

Anonymous said...

I love the way robiscus confuses the decision to launch an expensive and pointless war with "diplomacy."

Such a genius.

Steve Hulett said...

Robiscus,

We disagree with this. We're going to continue to disagree. That's fine.

As long as you get off your "against the policy = traitor = against the troops" thing, it's perfectly okay with me.

Again, for me the Iraq war has been a trillion dollars badly spent, and a net loss for the U.S.

Maliki is better than Saddam, but Reagan was okay with allying with Saddam went it suited his purposes. There's no morality here; just the great game between nations that's sold has morality.

Re Iran, the Iranian mullahs are the ones that hold most of the power, not the fool Aminijad. The U.S. knows this, yet builds the man up as dangerous.

Re your Diplomacy has never been about "what another nastion can give us", but what they can achieve together ...

Uh, not really. The Hitler-Stalin pact was all about what the other nation could give. Period. Ditto for most alliances through history.

Trip through a good history on the Roman Empire ... or eighteenth or nineteenth century Europe. You'll see what I mean.

This has all been fun, but I think I'll let you ramble on here by yourself. As long as you don't get into one of your flavorful personal attacks, post anything you like.

Oh. One last item. Germany did rearm after the Versailles Treaty. It was supposed to be a no-no but the Germans paid no attention, and rearmed anyway.

And the allies let them.

And the thing about treaties? It they're not enforced, then it's almost like not having them at all.

Ciao.

robiscus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve Hulett said...

To repeat:

I'm tired of the personal attacks.

You make them, they're gone. That simple.

Keep it elevated. Also try to say something new.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Quite simply put, the bush "administration" has been the worst and most corrupt in U.S. History. His "legacy express" will do nothing to undo the damge he's done not only with America's standing in the world, but the trust of the American People in Democracy. He ought to be tarred and feathered on Jan. 21, if not sooner.

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