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AvatarComments by Roland Dodds*

On “George Washington was wrong

You have to still differentiate between Classical Realism and Structural Realism if we are going to debate the finer points of “Realism” in IR. I have written many positive things about Morgenthau’s conception of human interaction, and often find the way Classical Realism sees mankind as valid. The colder, calculating realism that has developed in the decades after the war have demonstrated why I cannot follow along with such an ideology.

Realism as defined by Morgenthau has a pluralistic vision of the affairs that govern man, attempting to explain a complicated set of relationships on everything from interpersonal relationships, to state affairs and international society (Morgenthau, Hans. 1962.“Love and Power.” Commentary, Volume 33, no. 3, p. 247-251). This broad approach cannot be placed in the same theoretical model that Structural Realists like Waltz propose. The “realism” perpetuated by the likes of Stephen Walt (and sadly, many of the folks perpetuating this ill-informed concept on this website) does measure “interests” in a purely measurable manner. If realism is going to stay viable, it needs to adjust to the modern world of reciprocity, or it will be just another idea in the dustbin of history.


Another fine piece CC. I specifically liked this:

"Humanitarian concerns are part of the national interest because others will not be concerned about our list of priorities if we are not concerned about their list of priorities. This represents a portrait of statecraft as reciprocity of interests."

The folly of "Realism" has always been its short sited approach that limits the variables included in deciding what is and isn't an "interest", and this line sums up why.

On “Should Microsoft Let This Man Die?

Excellent point CC. Like you, I argue that all humankind has a responsibility to provide a number of services, funding, and support to folks both in our own state but outside of it as well.
I am thankfully Ron Paul and his crowd has stayed around as long as he has. His position and the causes his grouping supports do a great deal to discredited their own ideology, and that moment from the debate made it vividly.

On “Why Do Liberals Care About Ron Paul’s Goldbuggery?

Booooo, neocons! Scary!

Here is a piece in the realist minded National Interest.



I am confused by this piece. So I am to believe that I shouldn’t fear a Ron Paul presidency because the likelihood of his batshit policies being implemented are slim? Should that not tell you something about the candidate in question?

I don’t know much about the “liberals” you speak of who like making fun of people “for being dumb.” I am also not a liberal who believes we should pull out of Afghanistan, or has embraced much of Paul’s foreign policy for that matter. Might make me just some commie outsider, but that is something I can live with.

As for Ron Paul’s strong showing in polls, well I would remind the author that the only poll that matters is the poll box on Election Day, something Ron Paul will never win. Not in a thousand years. He can rock all these bullshit straw polls with his cult members as often as he pleases; most of us recognize that they don’t mean much in the end.
I should also add that Ron Paul’s history of racist connections, and the cult-like group that follows him about as if he is Jerry Garcia raised from the grave sure doesn’t help his case.

So you can add that long list of infractions to the reason liberals care about Ron Paul.

On “Bloody Madness

No, but you are advocating that the US (and other outside powers including multinational organizations) should not exert the limited effort and treasure required to turn the tides of what was by all reputable accounts a slaughter against people demanding change in their authoritarian state. Your argument that “callous bloggers don’t live with the consequences of their positions” cuts both ways. No one here who has advanced the non-interventionist position on Libya was going to live out the consequences of said position on the ground. After Gaddafi forces had finished their attacks and regained control, non-interventionist bloggers could reassure themselves that Libya was screwed no matter what, and thus taking any action to alter that trend was doomed.

On “Tripoli and the hawks

Not all dictatorships are going to fall apart with mass public protests. Libya and Syria make that case quiet well. The "wait and see" approach sometimes ends with enough local support to overthrow the regime, and sometimes it doesn't. But that should not color our policy in each situation.

Juan Cole has a post about about ten myths around the Libya War that is worth a read. This bit is especially timely:

"The Libyan Revolution was a civil war. It was not, if by that is meant a fight between two big groups within the body politic. There was nothing like the vicious sectarian civilian-on-civilian fighting in Baghdad in 2006. The revolution began as peaceful public protests, and only when the urban crowds were subjected to artillery, tank, mortar and cluster bomb barrages did the revolutionaries begin arming themselves. When fighting began, it was volunteer combatants representing their city quarters taking on trained regular army troops and mercenaries. That is a revolution, not a civil war. "

As for Murali's argument that "There is nothing intrinsically wrong with dictatorships".... sigh. But there you have it really.


"The international community is likely somewhat to blame in Gaddafi’s rise to power and grip on power for so long."

Condemn and combat when wrong, support when correct. The fact that capitalists and Western heads of state supported a strongman and a dictator should be no surprise to most, but it also doesn't make the fall of Gaddafi any less support worthy.

"Besides, the Libyans will almost certainly prop up new dictators to replace the old ones."

More than ever, international support, preferably through the UN and other international organizations, have to support the Libyan people and the existing liberals in that country as they make a transition to a new society. But to say that since their social society has been crushed under years of dictatorship a better future is not possible, sounds sadly reactionary and unfortunate. Societies with less in the way of material interests and greater social divisions have created societies without the need for a military strongman, and counting Libya out on the day they may have actually removed their strongman seems regrettable.


That last sentence is a bit unclear. It should read: A future that would not have been possible under the Gaddafi regime and that would not have been undone without some support from the international community.


I am a bit surprised that this is your first thought on these events E.D. On a day that appears to see the end of a 42 year old dictator at the hands of his own people with the aid of a slew of nations and people, why is your first fear the politically strengthened position of "hawks" and "neocons"?

No one knows the future of Libya, and it will be up to the Libyan people to decide, but I would surely put more faith in the possibility of a free and functioning society from one that has the opportunity to be democratic and representative. A future that would not have been possible under the Gaddafi regime without some support from the international community.

On “Toward a norm of humanitarian intervention

A very fine post Creon Critic. I provide some of the history surrounding the changes in norms leading up to the Solidarist perspective often advanced by interventionists if you have an interest in such things.

On “distrust of government

If Buchanan isn’t a racist, he sure doesn’t try very hard to distance himself from his fans that are.

On “freedom and neoconservatism

That is basically it Mark, but I wouldn’t say that it necessarily infuriated the regime or forced them to over-extend. Just that these changes in the region cause political ramifications. Even though I hate to take the “shit happens” approach, like my discussion with Michael shows, I don’t know how to weigh the variables we can observe, let alone the ones that we don’t even recognize yet. So I don’t know why this is happening. But I think it would be foolish to not take the large variable (a regime change in Iran’s rival state and on its border) as irrelevant.


“But at the moment, not enough is known to do that. You are clearly jumping to your conclusion.”

Yes, but that is what making calls on social sciences entails as the events unfold in front of you. Perhaps enough information will be made available and pondered in the years to come of these events, and maybe they won’t. But if we at an internet blog are discussing an issue that is developing as we speak, we will go with the historical examples and information available. Otherwise, why even come to talk about this at all?

“Unspecified historical analogy is not evidence for a theory.”

You are right, and to be honest, I am not going to be putting the effort into going back into the books and pulling those historical documents here. My laziness is not a defense, but when it comes to discussing current events on a blog, I am not going to dedicate that effort.

I think you will find that every post on this site as well as most articles and pieces on current events is not going to contain the level of detail you are requesting in a comments section. Perhaps it is a greater criticism of this type of debate, but if you went through all of the threads here, you would likely encounter the same.

Nor do I think you have to believe anything I say on any of this; you can surely say all of this is hogwash. But I am more interested in hearing people’s theories on why things are happening in Iran, and while it’s fine you are holding off on making any kind of assessment, I am more interested in getting someone’s perspective on this and the reasons they came to their conclusion.


This will likely get us back into well traveled territory at this point, but I do think the collapse of Saddam’s Iraqis a contributing factor to changes in Iran. Again, This is based on historical examples where as a rival state is removed for a regional equation, and it then produces changes both in that regional system, but also effects the inner workings of the states in that system. Take the end of the Napoleonic wars. After France’s defeat and the end of its control over Europe, Britain was able to rise to become a dominate power in the region (and the world). The drastic change in regional power politics also had a profound affect on the inner workings of the state and its society.

I am doing the easy end of IR analysis however; looking at events that have already happened and finding similarities between them. It is much more difficult to make predictions as to what an act in the international system will actually produce before it occurs. If a neocon theorist were to say “Removal of Saddam’s regime (X) plus democratic Iraqi government (Y) = democratic revolution in Iran (Z)”, they may see some vindication now, but it could have easily (or could still produce) a completely different result. So I don’t know if their prediction is a strong one, but saying a change in the regional power structure produces changes in how neighbouring states operate seems pretty sound historical.

The regime changes in Iraq, considering the country’s history and proximity to Iran, is simple to large a variable to avoid. Therefore, I put weight and emphasis on it.

On “distrust of government

A good point Kyle. I will be shopping around for a new nation to call home if folks like Pat Buchanan become the mainstream. Thankfully, I find that pretty unlikely.


“Go to Taki for cons, what Pat B., he’s a little old (I love the guy),”

Ironic that in a discussion on fixing the conservative movement and stating its moral position, a crazy racist like Pat Buchanan comes up. If he or folks like him are going to be a spiritual leader of the new conservative movement, you are going to have a pretty lonely gathering.

On “freedom and neoconservatism

Perhaps it was for naught. I blame the lack of editing on my part for the misconstruction of my argument. As for Obama causing the events in Iran, perhaps I was arguing with Obama in absentee, since his folks seem to be making that claim now.

On “personae non gratae

If this showdown comes to fruition, the neocons would probably end up taking the back seat in the coalition, simply because many of those described as neocons also fall into the Democratic camp. With the failures of the Bush administration, interventionist numbers have also decreased as a whole, leaving them a group too small to dominate in any coalition.

That being said, their ideas are still going to be strident in the public debate (for better or worse). The basic ideas behind their ideology will find new converts, especially if the Obama administrations “hands off” approach does not produce positive results.

On “freedom and neoconservatism


I misstated your argument Michael. You wrote “Obama gave a speech, then Iran erupted. Why is it the Iraq war then and not the more proximal speech that is the cause? I broadly support Obama’s approach to international affairs; I’m inclined to want make that claim. But I don’t. Why? Because I have no way to prove the causality. If I made the claim anyway, you would have every right to treat it as untrue.”

I meant to say that your sympathies for that argument show an ideological framework you view world affairs to, in the same way that my arguments about power relationships show mine. Not that you argued Obama’s speech was the source of the rebellion.


Yes, this discussion is an important one, but I am by no means asking you to prove a negative, or to prove things on my behalf. The problem with your premise and the line of reasoning you are using in this discussion, is that you are selectively applying your own rules. Take a look at this comment:

“This is appropriately uncompromising wrt neoconservatism (whatever n.c. might be in an ideal world of Mr. Dierkes’ creation), and vindicates everyone else’s (including realists’) non-ideological, non-interventionist desire to see people throughout the world achieve freedom in accordance with their cultural and societal make-up”
Not a logical and scientific argument. Clearly, I can’t prove the Iraq War has contributed to the recent unrest, anymore than you know that Obama’s speech or conciliatory nature created it. Both of which are unverifiable at the moment, yet you none the less jump to the later based on your ideological persuasion. An acceptable tactic, but it undercuts your argument that my point is without validity until it can be proven irrefutably.
My argument (that a nation state may experience internal changes if a rival threatening state is removed from the equation) has a firmer grounding in history than the argument that a foreign leader’s speech caused the upheaval. I would put the weight of most IR theory (both of the realist and institutionalist variety) behind my assertion that power changes in a region can create political ramifications in neighboring states. Many “realists” were content to affirm Iran was emboldened by the invasion and chaos in Iraq, but are now unwilling to accept that it may also produce effects within the Iranian state that are unwanted by the regime? Selective application of the facts I say.
But at this point, I can not prove that it explains why Iran is in a state of flux, so I will cede some ground on this front.

On “personae non gratae

That’s a good point Jaybird. I would say that without a very charismatic figurehead, it is difficult for Democrats to win in national elections with the coalition they have, but clearly the Republicans will have a harder time winning national elections with both their libertarian and Christian conservative wings in tow these days, and that is a larger hurdle to overcome. The Republican wings seem to be at odds more than aligned on any issue circulating at the moment.

I do disagree with E.D. that if a war in the party clears out the movement cons and/or the neocons that a stronger Republican Party would emerge. I am not sure who it would leave left, and if those segments of the Party would actually be able to pull in independents or Democrats to join in a new coalition.

On “freedom and neoconservatism

As for empirical data, following the Iraq War, the Bush administration got Libya to give up its nuclear program, and Lebanon threw out Syria. Since these things are empirical and all, it surely means the loathed and despised Bush is responsible for them and should be given credit.

Or heck, Reagan gave a speech where he said “tear down this wall” in 1987, and a few years later, the Wall fell! Surely those words were the cause!

Or maybe all these events are more complicated and sorted than that.


I have presented you with more in the way of an argument than you have. You can crow on and on about logic and scientific theories, but until you have presented one, I will take your comments as little more than unverified assumptions masquerading as a theory. Hilariously, you make statements like this “It’s a hang-up of yours that you assume those who see a movement for democracy in Iran (myself not necessarily among them) are ipso facto asserting that Iranians would desire a “Western-style” democracy. I think it’s obvious that they wouldn’t, but far from obvious that given free reign to design a new polity-government balance, they wouldn’t opt for a far greater degree of democracy.” Again, you make base this on what? What evidence are you using to support any of your claims? I think your understanding of the rules of discourse are lacking when it comes to your own arguments.

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