Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Sail Away... To Krugmania

Paul Krugman's current column comes with a pre-composed Randy Newman theme song:

And everyone that you know was in my dream
I saw a vampire
I saw a ghost

Everybody scared me but you sacred me the most!

Herr Doktorprofessor says:

What frightens me is the aftermath — and I'm not just talking about the problems of postwar occupation. I'm worried about what will happen beyond Iraq — in the world at large, and here at home. .... What scares me most, however, is the home front. Look at how this war happened.

What follows is an admission that "there is a[n unmade] case for getting tough with Iraq", an unsupported assertion that the Administration used "flawed or faked evidence" about the Iraq nuclear program, and a flat denial of any Iraq link to al Qaeda (it seems unnamed "people inside the intelligence services" regard such links as "nonsense").

Herr Doktorprofessor's is terrified that such alleged embarrassments "went almost unreported by our domestic news media." - although they have been given widespread media coverage. Is he disabling his search engines again? He concludes that "most Americans have no idea why the rest of the world doesn't trust the Bush administration's motives." Finally, he signals in advance that he is going to be mighty peeved if other Americans act on their First Amendment rights if that means: "once the shooting starts, the already loud chorus that denounces any criticism as unpatriotic will become deafening."

That's it. That's his entire description of "how this war happened." No Resolution 1441. No mention of the United Nations at all, including any of the 17 Security Council resolutions. That Japan, Australia and most European governments support the United States is omitted, especially Britain's stalwart support. No mention of the inspector hide-and-seek or the damning evidence of deliberate concealment presented by Colin Powell. Not a word of the large quantities of previously discovered-but-undestroyed anthrax and nerve agents. Nothing of Iraq's prior use of such agents against Iran. Torture and human rights violations are clearly not relevant, nor any want of democracy. No discussion of the Administration's rebuttal of assertions that its evidence of nuclear programs is "flawed." Mr. Chirac's transparently disingenuous manipulations of United Nations procedures and outright defiance of NATO treaty co-defense terms in regards of innocent Turkey is ignored. No mention that one does not have to believe that Iraq and al Qaeda have been close buddies to note the al Qaeda operatives wintering in Baghdad. That the Administration has presented Iraq's cooperation with al Qaeda as likely, but supported by less conclusive evidence than the WMD charges that justify the war, warrants not a syllable. No mention that the supposedly uncooperating al Qaeda is known to be using the Iraq invasion as a recruiting tool. He willfully ignores that the entire case has been made to the public and the United Nations by both the American and British governments.

He also counsels that to determine "how this war happened" we must for some reason "bear in mind that an exasperated Clinton administration considered a bombing campaign in 1998." Interestingly, a new book asserts that Mr. Clinton was too distracted by a golf game to answer urgent calls from his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, who was desperately trying to get the commander in chief to OK critical military action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Yes, the Clinton administration was certainly big on exasperation. But Herr Doktorprofessor Krugman gives them a run for their money.

From his cornucopia of unsupported claims, unconscionable omissions and characteristically bizarre non sequitures, Herr Doktorprofessor presents his heart of darkness:

So now the administration knows that it can make unsubstantiated claims, without paying a price when those claims prove false.

If Herr Doktorprofessor Krugman had not blown all of the irony circuits in the Times computers long ago, they would surely have burned to the nub as these words passed through.

But the most striking aspect of the Krugmania de jour is its complete omission of any pretense to economic or game theoretic considerations. There's a whole list of examples of things that show that Bush Administration is not allowing the United States to "play by the rules" - although the United States didn't break any rules in connection with the acts on this list:

Remember: this administration told Europe to take a hike on global warming, told Russia to take a hike on missile defense, told developing countries to take a hike on trade in lifesaving pharmaceuticals, told Mexico to take a hike on immigration, mortally insulted the Turks and pulled out of the International Criminal Court — all in just two years.

Whatever the merits of these listed choices, each of the items on this list comes with its own serious economic and game theoretic aspects - none of which is even acknowledged by Herr Doktorprofessor Krugman. Each choice in the list involves not breaking rules but a refusal to be bound by a particular set of rules desired by other people. The United States is now the world's only economic and military superpower, which at a minimum means that every other country (and the rest of the world collectively) has an economic and political incentive to scribe rules that work to the disadvantage of the United States relative to those countries. For example, it's not surprising that France sees the United Nations in a different light than the United States does because France would like to use the United Nations to hitch a free ride on American defense expenditures. That's not always nasty: People in all walks of life would rather ride. Further, many of the world's existing international organizations and rules were created when the existence of the evil and destructive Soviet Union was of paramount consideration. Those organizations and rules must now change - they should have changed long ago. Why should a nearly bankrupt and democratic Russia be treated as if it were still the Soviet Union in the area of missile defense?

In the aftermath of the Iraq liberation, the unique position of the United States - and the incentives it creates for other nations to game against it through international organizations and international law - will be a defining consideration, especially as those organizations and rules go through their needed overhauls. As a rule an economist is supposed to understand such incentives and considerations and tell us about them. Herr Doktorprofessor Krugman says he is writing about the aftermath of the Iraq war, but he materially breaches this rule.

It is positively weird that the United States' opposition to the International Criminal Court appears on this list. We have just heard Russian President Vladimir Putin saying a military assault "without U.N. authorization" would be "illegal and harmful," even where Resolution 1441 already grants that "authorization." And U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says that the war's "legitimacy will be questioned" because yet another Security Council resolution cannot be squeezed from the likes of Angola, Cameroon, Pakistan, Syria and France. Having just witnessed such gross manipulation of the United Nations apparatus by France and like-minded countries and the United Nations itself, one can only shudder at the prospect of the International Criminal Court being used to threaten an American President with the prospect of being declared and punished as a war criminal.

Indeed, if there is one lesson this entire Iraq situation has taught us, it should be that the International Criminal Court should not be suffered to exist in anything like its current form.

Not that Paul Krugman would have a clue about any of that. He’s too busy hiding in his bomb shelter, trembling at the thought that he might be subjected to a “loud chorus” of disapproval by his fellow Americans.

MORE: From Hoy and Hogberg.

STILL MORE: Don Luskin reminds us that the Clinton administration dropped 400 cruise missiles, more than the entire Gulf War I, in 4 days without any United Nations Security Council clearance. And Tom Maguire points out: After the 4 days, Clinton declared the operation to be a success.

UPDATE: As if with the express purpose of showing just how out of it Herr Doktorprofessor has become, the Los Angeles Times runs a front-page article on how the Bush Administration's belief that all those post-WWII international rules and organizations need to be overhauled with the passing of the Soviet Union is a now major, active factor in the Iraq strategy. The Times article does not report any express understanding of how the unique position of the United States makes rule-formation tricky. That's for clever economists, game theorists and diplomatic and legal strategists to figure out - apparently those a lot cleverer than Herr Doktorprofessor. I wonder if Frank Easterbrook could take a leave of absence from the Seventh Circuit to help out on all this - the way Justice Jackson took time off for the Nuremberg trials? Judge Easterbrook could really do something with this material.

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