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January 11, 2005

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» Cardinal Says Bush Broke Iraq "Promise" : AP from Extreme Catholic
Here's a diplomat who violates a cardinal rule of diplomacy, to keep private conversations private. How are we to judge this "Don't worry" statement, anyway? It doesn't match any of the public statements of the President or the members of the admi... [Read More]

Comments

al

Of course, we shouldn't take Cdl. Laghi's remarks as any indication the Vatican had objections to the war. . . .

Rich Leonardi

Likewise, Bush must be a liar because he "broke his word" to the cardinal.

Donald R. McClarey

Perhaps the President can now give the cardinal advice on the proper procedures to follow in the liturgy.

RP Burke

No, Bush isn't a liar (at least not on that statement), only a fool, which at last report was not a sin. Electing a fool might be; re-electing a fool is likely to be.

Michael Tinkler

Well, Cardinal Laghi is someone speaking on behalf of an organization whose proverbial speed is measured in centuries; in comparison, it's been a pretty quick war.

c matt

Well, between a fool and Moloch worshippers, fool is the way to go.

Mark Windsor

Relatively speaking, it has been a very quick war and a success in many ways.

Curt

"it has been a very quick war"

It wasn't a "war"; it was an invasion.

TSO

We did get to Baghdad rather quickly. But we stuck around because we wanted to prevent a civil war.

Rich Leonardi

"it was an invasion"

By who, the Sunni clique that assaulted the majority Shi'a for thirty-plus years?

Ken

It being a war that began with an invasion is irrelevant. There's no moral problem with an invasion in and of itself.

Carrie

Picture Bush and Dan Rather patching up their differences and commiserating with each other over eggs benedict...ahh, the new face of Vatican diplomacy.

Mike Petrik

Let's be fair, here. TSO's assessment is quite correct, but that doesn't really undercut the valid concerns raised by the Holy See. At the same time, no fair interpretation of Bush's actions or statements suggests he is a fool; perhaps wrong, but not a fool. America's record in foreign affairs is hardly unblemished, but it is a far sight better than the Vatican's. These matters are sufficiently complex to allow all sides to come out differently without being foolish. The ultimate assessment will not be understandable for decades, and even then not with complete certainty. Both the Bush Administration and the Holy See have expressed their views vis-a-vis each other with a fair degree of nuance and patience. I suggest we bloggers should do the same.

al

Mike,
Except for the fact that the Vatican's and others (Buchanan) objections went to the "reasonable prospects of success" criterion in JWD.

2 years out, and not only has Buchanan's prediction about Iraq becoming our West Bank been fullfilled, but the brand new terrorists the invasion has spawned have figured out how to blow up Bradley's.

And we still have zero indication of whether well get a stable, nontyrannical regime out of Iraq, or another Mullahocracy at a cost of $200 Billion+ and countless dead.

Rich Leonardi

al,

First, most critics didn't highlight that concern, and frankly I'm not so sure that was at the top of the Vatican's list either.

Second, the problems we have in Iraq are limited to about 25% of the territory and 20% of the population. Most of the country is pacified.

If the Israelis' problems were limited to 20% of the "West Bank" Arabs, they'd be uncorking champagne bottles.

Todd

"There's no moral problem with an invasion in and of itself."

Actually, there is. It's the commandment, "You shall not kill." Just war theory posits that a greater good might be accomplished, but it still recognizes the inherent evil in killing. A just war, assuming such a thing exists, is a concession to human frailty and sin, not a license for immorality.

"These matters are sufficiently complex to allow all sides to come out differently without being foolish."

The matter up for discussion today was the Bush reassurance to the Vatican. By recent American standards, this war is hardly quick. Bush I tidied everything up in time to lose a presidential election. I think our current president either attempted a snow job or was indeed in the dark about realistic expectations regarding the foray into Iraq.

I'm struck by recalling the insistence that the War against Terrorists would take a long time. After 9/11, Americans were ready to hear that, and to adjust for needful sacrifices.

Two last comments:

I think Bush II is shown for being a good politician, and that doesn't necessarily imply he is a good president. He seems willing to say anything that he has to say to gain approval or to avoid criticism/defeat. In that sense, he's not a lot different from our previous president.

I don't buy the notion the Iraq situation is too complex for continuing assessment and evaluation. The Christian tradition of morality would surely suggest we not wait for the judgment of history. I don't think we can afford to sit on our hands until the definitive textbooks on the Iraq War have been written. As Catholic citizens, we are obliged to contribute to the moral assessment of what we do as a nation. And to change course when the moral demands of the situation dictate.

Celine

Rich Leonardi:

Oh, please. You sound like the people who used to claim that we were winning in Viet Nam because 90% of the countryside was pacified and we'd never lost a battle.

Our problems are mostly limited to the Sunni region of Iraq RIGHT NOW. The Shiites are waiting to take over the whole country through "democracy." When they do, or if they don't, then we shall see. Further, the Kurds are just fine for now, being left pretty much alone. They will not be left alone for long now, and things will really get nasty with Turkey and Iran if they are not contained.

Mike Petrik

Todd,
Of course we should contribute to the moral assessment of what we do as a nation. But as to the Iraq war screeds of self-righteous false certainty on both sides have not been helpful contributions. And when one is a doctrinaire pacifist moral assessments regarding war are pretty easy, aren't they?

Neil

One reading of Cardinal Laghi's remarks would suggest that they remind us that the provision of justice after war is part of the just war tradition. Cardinal Laghi can thus conclude that "Bush was wrong" simply because "the facts have demonstrated afterward that things took a different course -- not rapid and not favorable."

Recently, in Theological Studies, Fr Kenneth Himes wrote about different construals of the jus post bellum criteria -

"Michael Schuck was among the first moral theologians to write about the need to develop a set of moral norms to govern the way we end war. Schuck proposed his idea in the aftermath of the first war with Iraq. He suggested three principles as part of a jus post bellum. The principle of repentance requires a sense of humility and remorse by the victors for the suffering and death that was brought about even in a just struggle. An appropriate sense of mourning is needed when Christians kill even if the killing is judged legitimate. A principle of honorable surrender means that the terms of surrender imposed ought not demean the vanquished nor be punitive in intent. Finally, the principle of restoration completes the suggested jus post bellum. This requires, at a minimum, that the victor return to the fields of battle and remove the remaining instruments of war, e.g. land mines. A maximum reading of this principle proposes that the victorious side assist the losing nation(s) in repairing the basic infrastructure of society."

To argue that the invasion was Iraq was just, then, one has to suggest that we are presently well on the way to repentance, honorable surrender, and restoration (in Schuck's formulation). That conclusion, however, is far from obvious. Perhaps I can share a few paragraphs from a recent Newsweek article by Michael Hirsch and John Barry that suggests the possibility of a much darker path:

"What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called 'the Salvador option' — and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. 'What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,' one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. 'We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.' ... Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported 'nationalist' forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success — despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal."

Thank you.

Neil

Maclin Horton

Mike Petrik--

Thank you for your comments, especially These matters are sufficiently complex to allow all sides to come out differently without being foolish, which bears repeating. And I would add without being evil.

I gave up some time ago arguing about whether the war itself is right or wrong and took up the meta-argument: that neither the proponents nor the opponents of the war are evil and/or insane, and people of both good will and good sense may honorably hold either position.

Sydney Carton

Neil: "A principle of honorable surrender means that the terms of surrender imposed ought not demean the vanquished nor be punitive in intent."

Do you mean to say that requiring unconditional surrender is a violation of Just War principles?

I think that if it's automatically assumed that the victor will allow conditions to an opponent's surrender, then the losing side will always have hope that fighting long enough will transform a mere surrender with conditions into their own victory. What this means is, ironically, unconditional surrender is a faster path to peace. There is no hope for victory if you must surrender unconditionally, so without that hope you don't fight.

Christopher Rake

"What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called 'the Salvador option' — and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. 'What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,' one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. 'We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.' ... Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported 'nationalist' forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success — despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal."

Good to see some acknowledgment, buried as it is in this Newsweek hit piece, that we cannot win by playing defense; the larger point being that we can hide behind our oceans for only so long. As regards Afghanistan and Iraq, my thinking generally is that we can fight now when we're strong, or we can fight later when we're weak. (Worst of all is to fight when our eyes are red with blood, which is the inevitable outcome if terrorists get their hands on a nuclear bomb. Much precious talk, including my own, will be obliterated along with Washington or New York. That's another reason to keep pushing for success in Iraq).

As for the Newsweek piece, putting aside its confusing reference to the Nicaraguan debacle that was Iran-Contra, Glenn Reynolds has a good discussion which among other things points to this David Brooks column:

Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign. They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places.

Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together. . .

The elections achieved something else: They undermined the insurgency. El Salvador wasn't transformed overnight. But with each succeeding election into the early 90's, the rebels on the left and the death squads on the right grew weaker, and finally peace was achieved, and the entire hemisphere felt the effects.

As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army. They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are much better equipped to win an insurgency war.

I should probably ask Neil specifically what he means by his reference to the "darker path." If he's talking about innocent civilian deaths, I understand. Otherwise there is no moral difference between a tank batallion and a smaller special-ops procedure to hunt and kill terrorists. One might as well call our infantry divisions death squads, which of course some people do.

Kevin Miller

I'd like to see the evidence that it works that way in practice. Did our demand for unconditional surrender hasten or delay Japan's surrender? In fact, it may have delayed it - and along with the (unjust) A-bombings, one of the things that finally brought surrender was our willingness to accept a condition as part of their unconditional surrender, namely, allowing Hirohito to remain untried and on his (now-symbolic) throne.

Tom Kelty

Laghi's comment was meant to reflect his low opinion on the reliability of Bush's word. GWB is nothing but a hollow drum loudly echoing the wims and ideas of those who pull his strings. He repeatedly states what he wants you to believe. Every time young soldiers die, he is on the evening news ranting about our military successes. He is consistently perverted and has no conscience, adept at posturing with a twang and a smile. Grab your ankles because he is drawing a bead on the Social Security Program, which is not broke and does not need fixing. Since the time of FDR, it has become the cornerstone of much social legislation. True Republicans have been slobbering for many years about how to dismantle our welfare system. This is the last big task before he slides into lame duck status. You will soon see the media blitz designed to promote individual savings and investment over the current SS deductions. Please remember that it is GWB who unilaterally started this war and has no clue as to how to get out of it. Laghi and many others would do well to hold his feet to the fire, loudly and often.

Sydney Carton

"I'd like to see the evidence that it works that way in practice."

Obviously, differing conditions will warrant different methods and ways of declaring victory and imposing surrender. But a blanket rule saying that conditions must be in place that exclude punitive measures (like what, the Nuremburg trials?) is ridiculous and impractical.

Neil

Dear Sydney Carton,

Requiring "unconditional surrender" is generally considered to be a violation of just war principles. Thus, the Vatican clearly opposed its demand during the Second World War; Pope Pius XII announced before the College of Cardinals in June, 1944, that he was opposed to the "alternative of complete victory or complete destruction."

Fr John Courtney Murray, SJ, later wrote -

"I think that the tendency to query the uses of the Catholic doctrine on war initially rises from the fact that it has for so long not been used, even by Catholics. That is, it has not been made the basis for a sound critique of public policies and as a means for the formation of a right public opinion. The classic example, of course, was the policy of 'unconditional surrender' during the last war. This policy clearly violated the requirement of the 'right intention' that has always been a principle in the traditional doctrine of war. Yet no sustained criticism was made of the policy by Catholic spokesmen. Nor was any substantial effort made to clarify by moral judgment the thickening mood of savage violence that made possible the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think it is true to say that the traditional doctrine was disregarded during World War II. This is no argument against the traditional doctrine. The Ten Commandments do not lose their imperative relevance by reason of the fact that they are violated. But there is place for an indictment of all of us who failed to make the tradition relevant."

One can also argue that the demand during World War II was actually counterproductive. Goebbels, of course, famously said, "I should never have been able to think up so rousing a slogan. If our Western enemies tell us, we won't deal with you, our only aim is to destroy you, how can any German, whether he likes it or not, do anything but fight on with all his strength?" Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr and a member of the German Resistance, said of the call for unconditional surrender, "I believe that the other side have now disarmed us of the last weapon with which we could have ended [the war]," meaning that, after the demand was known, no German general would work to overthrow Hitler. Thus, among the American military, both Generals Eisenhower and Marshall opposed the demand as likely to prolong the war by stiffening German determination.

Thank you.

Neil

Sydney Carton

Mr. Kelty,

"GWB is nothing but a hollow drum loudly echoing the wims and ideas of those who pull his strings."

It must really annoy you that man who you claim is so dumb still continues to succeed with the American public. Ipso Facto, you probably conclude the American public is dumb too. Thus is elitism born.

"He is consistently perverted and has no conscience..."

Ah yes, dehumanization on a Catholic website. Gotta love the irony.

"Grab your ankles because he is drawing a bead on the Social Security Program, which is not broke and does not need fixing."

Who's the one mouthing empty propoganda? Bush, or you? For a more informed analysis of why Social security is insolvent, read this: http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_luskin/luskin200501110842.asp

"True Republicans have been slobbering for many years about how to dismantle our welfare system."

Welfare was already reformed. Bush's reforms are about allowing people to invest their hard-earned cash, to get a bigger percentage of return than the mere 2% over 30 years that SS provides, a losing investment by any standard.

"Please remember that it is GWB who unilaterally started this war and has no clue as to how to get out of it."

I believe the war on Islamic terror began when the Twin Towers were destroyed, and the West woke to the realization that the Arab world was a festering swamp of pathology that needed to be drained by adding a dose of democracy. And there's a great way to get out of this war: win it.

Nancy

Mike: in avoiding responding to Todd's points and calling him "a doctrinaire pacifist", you forgot appeaser, collaborator, terrorist sympathizer, nonsupporter of our troops. It's important to get them all in as often as possible.

Curt

"'it was an invasion.'
By who?"

by the most powerful military in the history of the world against a broken down rinky dink country with no navy, no air force to speak of and an army of malcontents who needed the job.

Sydney Carton

Neil,

I think that maybe I just interpret the term "unconditional surrender" differently. I don't see it as a license to wantonly destroy by the victor, even after hostilities are supposedly over. If the term is viewed as licese to commit crimes against humanity, then of course it's a violation of Just War principles. But I see it instead as dealing with politics, not with the human condition. We would accept no political conditions to a surrender, such as requiring a certain kind of post-government order or chosing among a specific set of leaders. That doesn't mean, however, that the victor suddenly gains the conditions to do whatever he wants. Thus, even though it's called "unconditional", it really has conditions, among which are the moral law. But politics doesn't figure into that, and that's why I never thought it was a violation of just war.

"This policy clearly violated the requirement of the 'right intention' that has always been a principle in the traditional doctrine of war."

I don't understand that at all. How does the requirement of right intention disallow unconditional surrender? I believe the policy of unconditional surrender was formulated long after hostilities broke out in WW2, so it couldn't have been a part of our intention to go to war in that case.

Mike Petrik

Nancy, the reason I didn't call Todd an appeaser, collaborator, terrorist sympathizer, or a nonsupporter of our troops is because he is none of those things. He is, however, a doctrinaire pacifist. Perhaps you didn't know this.

Ray

cmatt: "Well, between a fool and Moloch worshippers, fool is the way to go."
I don't understand what you mean here. Could you please elaborate?
Acco. to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
"The chief feature of Moloch's worship among the Jews seems to have been the sacrifice of children, and the usual expression for describing that sacrifice was 'to pass through the fire', a rite carried out after the victims had been put to death. The special centre of such atrocities was just outside of Jerusalem, at a place called Tophet."

Neil

Dear Christopher Rake,

I must confess that I was confused by David Brooks' comparison between Iraq and El Salvador. The elections in El Salvador took place in March 1982, but the war only ended ten years later after 35,000 more people lost their lives and the Cold War had ended. Furthermore, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out (1.10.05), there are significant differences between Iraq and El Salvador, including the inflammatory presence of American troops (there were only 55 advisers in El Salvador) in the former, the complete lack of an Iraqi state, and the presence of an insurgency in Iraq that (unlike the FMLN) aims neither at negotiation nor international legitimacy and may not support the "broader concept of a secular state based on free and open voting." We also, as Larry Diamond has pointed out, do have examples of "when badly timed and ill-prepared elections set back the prospects for democracy, stability and ethnic accommodation." Professor Diamond mentions Angola in 1992, Bosnia in 1996, and Liberia in 1997. So I tend to think that the comparison with El Salvador is misleading.

What I meant by "darker path" would include the practice of extra-legal killings, which would constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions. But I also had in mind this paragraph from the Newsweek story:

"The insurgents, (the director of Iraq's National Intelligence Service) said, 'are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them.' He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won't turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency.' The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,' he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.'"

I really can't imagine any moral interpretation of "We have to change that equation." Perhaps it is a failure of imagination.

Thank you.

Neil

Tom Harmon

Hey, Tom Kelty: How old are you? I'm in my mid-twenties, and I'm pretty pissed off that there are people out there who think social security isn't broken. My generation's going to get the shaft. I have absolutely no hope that I'm going to get anything out of social security when I retire. The baby Boomers' selfishness in choosing to have 2-child families will see to that as the number of workers supporting seniors drawing on social security dwindles. How's that for grabbing your ankles?

Todd

Mike, being a pacifist is no disadvantage; indeed I think the world needs more of us, especially in the struggle to avoid interpersonal violence in families, churches, schools, workplaces, and other domestic arenas.

Nancy is correct that you have avoided comment on the other points I made. I most especially distrust notion such as "invasion is not inherently evil" or this one:

"I gave up some time ago arguing about whether the war itself is right or wrong and took up the meta-argument: that neither the proponents nor the opponents of the war are evil and/or insane, and people of both good will and good sense may honorably hold either position."

Which has the whiff of appeasement. People of good intent can be misled, or even choose to be misled. But once the wool has been pulled back, it is also their duty to take a stand.

Mark Windsor

I wonder if, in days gone by, people sat around the coffee houses of Paris and debated the morality of their leaders actions after, say, Dien Bien Fu; or the effects of their foreign policiy toward Germany between 1870 and 1918. I wonder if the average Brit on the street ever thought about the implications of the Maxim gun on the Doctrine of Just War. I wonder if Stalin thought twice about forcing communism on the west at the point of a bayonet in 1920 or 1945. I wonder if the Japanese considered whether their actions in Nanking were in keeping with the Doctrine's points on just actions during war. And the Germans...well, we don't even need to go there. What about His Most Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain vis South America from its descovery to, say, the end of the Napoleonic wars. I'm sure they did nothing to exploit innocents and if they had they'd've felt downright awful about it.

You folks out there who think we're such a misbegotten country should consider that it could be a heck of a lot worse. At least we're having the discussion - good, bad or otherwise. There are a great many cultures out there that wouldn't bother at the best, or at the worst would cause such dissenters to simply vanish without a trace.

I wonder if the Vatican ever sent a Cardinal Laghi to the above places, how said Cardinal would have been received, and how the press would have reacted if they'd been able to react at all.

Taking the long view, I don't think we're doing so badly as some here often suggest.

Mike Petrik

Tom Harmon,
I imagine that Mr. Kelty will remind you that there is nothing wrong with social security that increased taxes on you and me can't fix. And he would be right, more or less. Of course no one will easily accept such taxes, least of all the baby boomers whom you referenced.

Christopher Rake

What I meant by "darker path" would include the practice of extra-legal killings, which would constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

No argument there.

As for the rest of it, granted there are significant differences between El Salvador and Iraq. I think the general point that elections can lead to peace and legitimacy, even in the midst of violence, is a strong one.

There is a problem in Iraq specifically but also in the world generally among Muslims who are not actively terrorist but basically shrug their shoulders at those who are. Fish gotta swim, and that is the sea they swim in, definitely including here in the U.S.

I don't know exactly what the answer is, but I suspect that Muslims both here and abroad have not yet made some pretty crucial choices--but they should and as events unfold they probably will.

Neil

Dear Sydney Carton,

I should begin by suggesting that Kevin Miller or someone more up on the literature should probably answer your question. But I do not wish to evade it. The criterion of "right intention" (or "just cause") means that governments cannot wage war indiscriminately, but only for "lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed" (CCC 2308). War must only be waged for a restoration of the "peace of right order," "that order structured into human society by its divine Founder, and actualized by men as they thirst after ever greater justice" (Gaudium et Spes 78). And this order must include the enemy.

St Thomas says, answering the objection that war is always sin because it is opposed to peace, "Those who wage war justly aim at peace, and so they are not opposed to peace, except to the evil peace, which Our Lord 'came not to send upon earth' (Mt. 10:34). Hence Augustine says (Ep. ad Bonif. clxxxix): 'We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.'"

So a part of any just war must include an explicit vision of the "peace of right order" to be secured by the victory, and to which the enemy is meant to be reconciled. A war fought for an "unconditional surrender" is a conflict in which victory is not necessarily subject to the "conditions" of such a "peace of right order," and a conflict that may at least potentially aim at the destruction, not reconciliation, of the enemy. That is why even a well-meant "unconditional surrender" is not a moral demand.

Does this make sense?

Thanks.

Neil

RP Burke

Since it is fools who produce folly, at least the editors of Commonweal agree with me that we have re-elected a fool ...

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php?id_article=1065

A reply to Sidney Carton.

Dozens of economists and experts have demolished the notion, expounded in places like the National Review, that the Social Security system is in crisis requiring a radical restructuring. Today's New York Times includes one such demolition, by Princeton economist Paul Krugman, a long-time critic of the theoretically unsound Bush economic policies:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/11/opinion/11krugman.html

Mike Petrik

Todd,
Forgive me but I found your last post confusing. First, I agree that being a pacifist is no disadvantage when assessing the morality of a war, since you start from the premise that wars are always immoral, or am I wrong on this? Accordingly, from your vantage point these assessments are very straightforward.
Second, I did not respond to your various points because (i) we have had those exchanges in the past, (ii) others were responding, and (iii) I was trying to limit my involvement in this endless debate to one precise observation -- that calling either side fools or similar names neither advances the discussion nor fairly reflects the difficulties of the analyses required. When you mistook that observation to mean that we should not evaluate the morality of the war I agreed and took that opportunity to note that the assessment from your position as a pacifist is a much easier one to make than for most of us. I think that Nancy mistakenly assumed that I was insulting you, which I was not. But I do think that those folks who are quick to characterize either the Bush Administration or the Vatican as either foolish or deliberately deceitful are just being self-righteous know-it-alls, and they are not really contributing to the debate. These folks, and here I include you, Todd, are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

Mike Petrik

RP,
You aren't seriously citing Krugman, are you? Krugman is a tool of the Democratic party and lost all credibility among academic economists years ago.
That said, there is wide consensus among actuaries that the Social Security system does need to be fixed, and it can be done only by increasing the age of entitlement, decreasing benefits, increasing taxes or some combination thereof. It is, however, also true that if all of these things are done the adjustments can be farily modest, at least in the abstract. However, such "modest" adjustments may not be perceived as such by the people affected. Meanwhile, Medicare is the real elephant in the living room that no one will touch. The projected long-term deficit in that program alone is staggering. Social Security pales in comparison.

RP Burke

A reply to Mike Petrik.

It would be dereliction of our duty as citizens not to point out the absurd errors of the current administration.

It's not a matter of being "smart," but of being able and willing to think critically about our nation's (and for that matter, our church's) direction.

Bush's master schemers (Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al) have taken advantage of the large segment of the population who cannot or will not examine the administration's claims and policies. If calling out their errors implies that the people who just voted for Bush are suckers, then count me among those who say "The people who just voted for Bush are suckers."

There is nothing self-righteous about being a responsible citizen, and nothing moral about remaining silent when the nation's leaders continue to promote major disservices to its people.

Mike Petrik

Yes, RP. But the problem is that both sides on these issues include critical and independant thinkers; they just disagree. While we should be willing to take stands consistent with our assessments, we should all recognize that we could be wrong and behave with respect toward those with whom we disagree. It also does little good to assume the worst of your political opponents. For example, the notion that Bush lied about WMDs is simply not supported by the facts. It is unhelpful rhetoric. One can be critical and fair, you know. See, e.g., Woodward's rather meaty book on the decision to attack Iraq.

RP Burke

Another reply to Mike Petrik.

Attacking Krugman is argumentum ad hominem. I can just as easily argue that Donald Luskin or any number of National Review or Wall Street Journal analysts are in the bag of the Republicans.

Mike Petrik

Perhaps, but I have read enough of Krugman to know that his analyses are not objective and cannot be trusted. I do, however, trust my actuary friends who have studied the matter without an axe to grind. And of course any political commentary by Luskin or NOR should be regarded with appropriate skepticism. They also have an axe to grind.

Fr. Matthew K

We'll be happy to leave Iraq, Mr. Laghi, as soon as terrorists stop blowing people up there. Or would you rather we simply up and leave right now? The President was correct in that the conquest of Iraq and deposing of Hussein was quick. If the Holy Father or Cardinal Laghi has a quick solution to the problem of rebuilding a nation, we are all ears! Piety does not entitle one to be simplistic about war.

Sydney Carton

RP Burke: "...that the Social Security system is in crisis requiring a radical restructuring..."

Depends on your meaning of "crisis" and "radical."

"Today's New York Times includes one such demolition, by Princeton economist Paul Krugman...."

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

You have GOT to be kidding... Sorry, bub, but assertions to authority to the likes of Krugman and the NYT just aren't going to work. At a minimum, use Krugman's (flawed) arguments, which can be demolished. But citing his name will only earn you deserved rebuke.

Look, it's not rocket science, it's just plain simple math. The baby boomers are living longer, they're retiring in greater numbers, and there are less workers per retiree to sustain their benefits, which by the way are paid by current contributions (thus, it's a mere transfer of wealth and not an actual *investment* which makes money *grow*). Please. Social Security has been dying for reform since day 1, because it is ultimately unsustainable. Better to allow people to invest their own cash. Indexed mutual funds are among the most stable long-term investment vehicles, and tend to outperform individual stocks in the market in the long term. Quite frankly, I'd advise EVERYONE here to invest in them.

Quite frankly, I have a hard time understanding why I'm not allowed to take the money from my paycheck and invest it in a better way than the current toilet-bowl return of Social security.

Sydney Carton

Nick: "A war fought for an "unconditional surrender" is a conflict in which victory is not necessarily subject to the "conditions" of such a "peace of right order," and a conflict that may at least potentially aim at the destruction, not reconciliation, of the enemy."

I think this makes sense, but I should point out that in my opinion when America demanded an unconditional surrender its peace was still subject to the "right order" since it did aim at the reconcilation of the enemy. America did not, for instance, bleed Japan and Germany dry through occupation. Nor will it in Iraq. So I think it'd be more accurate to say that an "Unconditional Surrender" MAY violate the "right order" if the victor isn't charitable to the defeated.

Implicit in your argument, though, is the continued right to fight a conflict if the peace is not subject to right order, even if peace exists. It sounds as if you're walking down the line of liberation theology.

al

Sydney,
Neil's argument, though it could probably be fleshed out some more, seems Thomistic enough to me.

"Unconditional Surrender" pressupposes the enemy has no rights, and thus the peace need not provide for any rights in the reconciliation. However even a tyrannical regime does not entirely vitiate the rights of the citizens under it. Otherwise wars of conquest (ie not of self defense) would be licit, so long as a opponent was a tyrant--his subjects could be dispossed as a a consequence of the invasion.

But this cannot be the case, and therefore the soveriegn rights of a people, even if under a tyrant must be observed in establishing the conditions for the cessation of hostilities.

On this, I suggest you look at the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on war at www.newadvent.org

RP Burke

A reply to Sydney Carton.

I have a hard time understanding why I'm not allowed to take the money from my paycheck and invest it in a better way than the current toilet-bowl return of Social security.

1. Because the Social Security system is not an investment program, but an insurance program. 2. Because the rate of return in the stock market is not guaranteed. You run a risk in the market of losing your shirt. 3. Because -- the big appeal of 'privatization' to the financial community -- you will lose a pile of money to fees. In fact, for most people (according to my graduate course in investment) the biggest source of losses in the market is fees.

Sorry, bub, but assertions to authority to the likes of Krugman and the NYT just aren't going to work.

Sorry, bub, but assertions that the likes of Krugman and the NYT just aren't going to work just aren't going to work.

terry t.

"You folks out there who think we're such a misbegotten country":

No one said anything negative about our country.

Phil

Mike Petrik and others,

Bush is obviously a fairly intelligent guy, there is no denying that. As to whether he was deceitful on Iraq, I would not be at all surprised if indeed he was deceitful. More likely, though, is that he did what many of us do when our minds are already made up: we often willfully brush-off as irrelevant (or wrong) evidence and reasonable arguments that contradict us. It is no of no great consequence when I fall into such a pattern of behavior, my decisions do not affect the lives of millions, but it's quite a different matter if you are the president of the US. And much of the criticism that we hear now cannot be categorized as Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Much of what has gone wrong was preventable because it was anticipated by many honest and well informed people--their advise was ignored.

Sydney Carton

RP Burke:

"1. Because the Social Security system is not an investment program, but an insurance program."

If so, it's a flawed insurance program, because it requires more and more people to continuously buy it in an ever-expanding pyramid scheme. Insurance programs aren't different from investment programs so much, the only distinction being when the money is paid out and by whom. The money is still invested to *GROW*. Social security doesn't even do that, it just transfers cash from one set of people to another. When you buy insurance, your insurance company invests that money. But the federal government doesn't do that, and hence the program merely stagnates. Wealth transfer and a reliance on an increasing pyramid of payors into the system is not a way to run an insurance program nor an investment program (and many Americans still think SS is an investment).

"2. Because the rate of return in the stock market is not guaranteed. You run a risk in the market of losing your shirt."

Of course it's not guaranteed. But lose your shirt? No. Long-term economic trends just don't prove that to be the case. If you start working at 21 years of age, by the time you retire at 65 years, the investment of 44 years worth will have grown phenominally (small investments at a younger age will grow compounded and faster than bigger investments at a later age). No one says that fly-by-night companies can be invested in, but indexed mutual funds or money market funds can be used.

"3. Because -- the big appeal of 'privatization' to the financial community -- you will lose a pile of money to fees. In fact, for most people (according to my graduate course in investment) the biggest source of losses in the market is fees."

As a lawyer for the mutual fund industry, I'm well aware that fees can be high in certain cases. But index funds are the lowest fee funds in the entire industry, and often outperform over the long term their competitors that charge higher fees. Vanguard 500 charges 18 basis points. Fidelity charges, for its direct managed funds, a range of 20-40 basis points. Other funds, like Ava Maria Funds (a Catholic mutual fund) are MUCH more expensive and charge as much as 200 basis points. Again, there's no reason why this would be a stumbling bloc. The market would work itself out, you'd see competition for lower fee rates, as is the case with most index funds already (since the S$P 500 doesn't change much, it's merely a matter of picking the index fund that tracks it with the lowest fee).

Government pension funds are already run better than social security. It seems that at the very least THAT system can be used instead of the current one, bub.

Mike Petrik

RP,
If you took a graduate course in investment you should know that the likelihood of a diversified investment in the stock market producing a return over one's working life that is inferior to Social Security is extremely remote, and the likelihood that one would lose one's shirt is virtually nill. The real concerns are (i) that some people will foolishly fail to diversify their investment portfolio and (ii) some people will diversify predominately in exceptionally high risk investments. You are right that Social Security is more of an insurance arrangement than an investment program, although few people would purchase such insurance if it was optional, partly for the same reason many people foolishly fail to insure themselves and partly because it is an unattractive deal for most people working today. Unlike a genuine insurance program, however, the payout is only partly related to the premium. There is a considerable disguised welfare component that favors people who paid in less over people who pay in more. It is this hidden transfer payment that is at risk if the system is overhauled or privatized. Dems never mention this because they want to continue the illusion that social security benefits are 100% earned and Repubs won't mention this because they want to maintain the illusion that all would necessarily benefit from such an overhaul. The Bush Administration recognizes the political realities of Social Security reform insomuch as significant tax increases, benefit decreases or age entitlement adjsutments are politically impossible. They are trying to untie this knot by insinuating a *partial* private investment option into the existing program that would over time boost payouts sufficiently to compensate for projected shortfalls. This proposal has its weaknesses, but frankly most of the criticism has come in the form of overblown rhetoric from parties who have not advanced alternatives that are politically acceptable.

Mike Petrik

al,
I think we are talking about different kinds of rights. An unconditional surrender simply means that the surrendering party has no special contract type rights that derive from an agreement. Such a surrender does not mean that the surrendering party may be deprived of its "rights" under natural law, or put another way, that the victorious party has carte blanche to behave as it prefers.

Mike Petrik

Phil,
No matter which course of action Bush would have taken honest and well-informed people would have criticized it both before and after the consequences play out. I am not an enthusiast of the Iraq war, but while I don't think many critics are behaving like Monday morning quarterbacks, I do believe many are behaving like back seat drivers who think they see and know more than they really do. Don't get me wrong: criticism is healthy, but it it is healthiest when accompanied by a dose of humility.

Mark Windsor

Al,

I'd like to see something that says unconditional surrender deprives those that surrender of all rights.

A condition of surrender might be something so simple as "all officers get to keep their ceremonial swords." Unconditinional simply means without such conditions.

Phil

Mike, it's inevitable that a president will be criticized unfairly (it happened to Clinton, too.) But sometimes it is evident when the critics are right. Many of the things that we were warned against before the war have come to pass (and some of those predictions came from within the US military and the State Department.) You write about humility. Too bad Bush does not have enough of it. He's loathe to admit mistakes (more so than other presidents, it seems.) I think that to admit to a mistake is not always a sign of presidential weakness.

al

Mike, Mark,
Well, take property rights. Those aren't rights of natural law, they are conventional. Yet if those were not preserved in conditions, then a conquering nation might redistribute property as it saw fit, even though the population was subject to a tyranny. This has happened countless times, yet I think we can say it is not just to go to war to redistribute the private property of a populace (lets say, in a country where there was some degree of inequity in property distribution), and so such rights ought to be preserved in agreement, and not left to the largesse of the victors.

Tom Kelty

Sidney,
You sound like one of those many people in the investment field who are filing their teeth, getting ready to get rish on the small investors who will stumble into your lair by the thousands. Sir, have you sold your soul? And for how much? Another one asks my age...74 and no secret. But there were bumps along the road with Social Security. During the omnibus reconciliation process, as a federal employee already qualified for a minimum benefit, 60% of it was taken away. Reagan called us double dippers. He was into six retirement plans. Ho-hum...Boring isn't it? People like me survive somehow. It is a great country and that is why I get excited when GWB uses deceit to gut a program like Social Security. It has survived the machinations of various idiots over the years. It rankles the Republicans because of FDR's role in its early history. Sidney, make a good confession and go find honest work. There may be hope for you yet.

Maclin Horton

Back on the subject of the war, or rather the debate about the war, for a moment:

Todd's post Mike, being a pacifist... and RP Burke's post A reply to Mike Petrik... exemplify the reasons why I gave up on the debate. What exactly would be the point of my engaging in an exchange of views which begins with the premise that I'm wrong: a "sucker", "misled, or even choos[ing] to be misled", etc?

By the way, Todd, the "appeasement" stuff you quoted was me, not Mike Petrik, and it was a statement about the the debate, not about the war itself.

I'm out of this one.

Mike Petrik

al,
Are you seriously saying that any surrender agreement must incorporate all such terms and conditions? If that is the standard I seriously doubt any surrender in history has satisfied it, and it would impede one's ability to even consider acceptance of surrender as an option.

Mike Petrik

Tom Kelty,
I think you just beat your own record for stupid posts. Congratulations.

Sydney Carton

Tom,

You really are a piece of work, aren't you? 74 and no secret, huh? Well, it sounds as if your entire life is twisted with envy and hate. I make no apologies for the work that I do, which is to provide guidance to companies that regulate the strange bureaucracy of the federal securities laws. They do this to allow people like you and me to invest in companies in a diversified portfolio. This is not a crime nor is it a sin by any means. In fact, it's quite a privilege to be able to represent these clients. I am an agent of the American economy and if this didn't happen, probably no one would have jobs for much longer.

That you regard it as necessary for confession tells me how derranged and twisted you are.

You might not understand how social security works, so I'll tell you that the money being paid to you RIGHT NOW is not yours at all. It is merely transferred from hard working people like ME, to people like you, out of MY paycheck. Fine. But all I want is to be able to take home a little more from the 75 hours a week that I work and plan for my retirement. And the difference will still be paid to you, financed by loans or other taxes. And maybe in time younger people will be able to invest their own money fully, allowing the entire economy to grow as a result.

But I think you're too corrupted by envy to understand that. Too bad. I thought you could be reasoned with.

Sydney Carton

al: "Thas happened countless times, yet I think we can say it is not just to go to war to redistribute the private property of a populace (lets say, in a country where there was some degree of inequity in property distribution), and so such rights ought to be preserved in agreement, and not left to the largesse of the victors."

You seem to confuse the terms of the surrender with the reasons war was declared in the first instance. Japan underwent a radical postwar restructuring, with a Constitution and the entire reworking of its social and political order. But the reason we went to war with them was because of their attack on Pearl Harbor. Often, the terms of surrender may have little to do with the reason for the declaration of war.

Of course it wouldn't be just to go to war for the redistribution of property rights. But who's to say that what happens in the unconditional terms of a surrender are the main reasons for going to war? We went to war with Japan to defend ourselves against further attack and to justly retaliate for their action in Pearl Harbor - in effect, to end their war-making operations on the United States. The conditions of surrender do not provide an excuse to impute such conditions as reasons for the declaration of hostilities. Such logic in a "look back" approach can be inconsistent with basic common sense and historical truths. It would lead to fundamentally absurd results, such as conclusions that Reconstruction made the Civil War unjust, or that Nuremburg made WW2 unjust. While surrender conditions MAY mirror the reasons for the declaration of war, that is not always the case. You logic contains a fundamental fallacy and thus does not stand.

al

Sydney, Mike,
Again I would stress that you read the Catholic Encyclopedia article on War at www.newadvent.org.

It describes fully the title to war, the rights which appertain to the participants, and the limitations on prosecution, and remedy to be expected concerning which it says "The proper purpose of war is indicated by the title, and war conducted for a purpose beyond that contained in a just title is a moral wrong.". It also emphasizes the persisting soveriegn character of a people at war, as I said above, which is the impediment to the demand of unconditional surrender "Just war theory generally rejects as unjust any demand for unconditional surrender as being violative of the political sovereignty of a people. Except against a Nazi-like nation, the just goals of war must be more modest. See Walzer’s excellent discussion, Just and Unjust Wars, esp. pp. 110-17, 266-68."

For example, the article observes "In the terms of readjustment after victory, the victorious state, if its cause was just, may exact full reparation of the original injustice suffered, full compensation for all its own losses by reason of the war, proportionate penalty to secure the future not only against the conquered state, but, through fear of such penalty, even against other possibly hostile states."

Evidently, then, the cessation of hostilities is to be related to the satisfaction of the original title, part of which can be comprised under the aspect of "submission." Nevertheless, as the entry makes clear, that submission is directly related to the title of the original injury.

BA

I think Bush should congratulate Cardinal Laghi and the Pope on the "springtime" that "liturgical renewal" brought about lightning quick after VII. That would be a just and proportionate response.

Victor Morton

Al:

The very article you link practically begins with the discussion of the bases for the state's right to wage war. Two of them mentioned are "offensive ... where it finds it necessary to take the initiative in the application of force" (not technically relevant to this discussions, but certainly others) and "punitive ... the infliction of punishment for evil done against itself or, in some determined cases, against others."

Which pretty much knocks out your point about "title" as something narrowly legalistic (which is just absurd on its face given historical practice and Church actions therein anyway). And that's even before you get the actual discussion of title in the Catholic Encyclopedia article, which says "thirdly, the need of punishing the threatening or infringing power for the security of the future."

Rick

In fact, for most people (according to my graduate course in investment) the biggest source of losses in the market is fees.

Actually, in the past several years, I susepct the biggest source of losses for mutual fund investors stemmed from this: Mutual fund managers allowing hedge funds - for a handsome fee - to buy and sell shares after hours, when the price of the shares were fixed but their net asset value had already changed because of trading in Asia.

In effect, mutual fund managers sold hedge funds shares for $x, when their market value was $x+y...directly harming mutual fund investors for their own benefit and for the benefit of wealthy hedge funds.

The amount of money that was funnelled from ordinary mutual fund investors to rich speculators and hedge funds through such schemes is STAGGERING...but is largely invisible to the ordinary investor.

Victor Morton

I just see that you acknowledge it.

In which case, the original wrong is a detail, if there's a right to "punish for the sake of future security" ... one important historical example given (and in a war that any "just war" understanding that fails is ipso facto nuts). Other examples available on request.

Tom Kelty

Sidney, So you have a role in this charade and you are gullible enough to believe it in spite of your academic preparation. Very sad. You and GWB are going to force low and middle income people to play the market shoulder to shoulder with the high income sophisticates. This is lunacy and no one will convince me that GWB is acting in good faith. He is way off target just as he was when he invaded Iraq, not even criticizing the 19 royal saudi families whose sons actually flew the planes. We have killed over 100,000 Iraqi civilians to date by a conservative CIA estimate. How does W seduce so many? It is a great puzzle. Or do you see this as the vindication for some economic theory. The math does not justify the cockamamie shenanigans this snake oil salesman is hawking. How do you sleep knowing the harm you are perpetrating on the unwary young taxpayers. BTW whose money is it? I worked under SS from age 12 to 41 with two military hitches to boot. I know very well how it does and does not work. I repeat that support for W is matter for confession and this covers the doltish bishops who shilled for him last November.

Victor Morton

"not even criticizing the 19 royal saudi families whose sons actually flew the planes."

Dude, contemptible as the House of Saud might be ... that is absolutely positively 100-percent no-ifs-ands-or-buts-about-it bovine scatology.

Of the 19 hijackers, only 15 were Saudis of any description and none were sons of the royal family.

Joseph R. Wilson

"I repeat that support for W is matter for confession and this covers the doltish bishops who shilled for him last November."--Tom Kelty

Tom, you seem to have passionate beliefs. Why not take the time to learn how to respectfully make an argument? Sadly, your style is not likely to be persuasive, though you have some good things to say.

George

The same Vatican that dislikes Bush's war and his unilaterism was happy, on balance, to see him reelected. Funny how that works for them.

Sydney Carton

"You and GWB are going to force low and middle income people to play the market shoulder to shoulder with the high income sophisticates."

Over 150,000,000 people in America invest in mutual funds, and it is a 7 trillion dollar industry. This is not for high income sophisticates. Instead, it is the democratization of the economy.

You said: "I repeat that support for W is matter for confession and this covers the doltish bishops who shilled for him last November."

Who made you Pope? Nobody. So kindly stop trolling here.

Christopher Rake

Tom, I think you forgot to use the word "minions." An innocent oversight.

Rick

This is not for high income sophisticates. Instead, it is the democratization of the economy

Sydney, if this is true why did so many fund families allow favored clients to buy and sell staticly-priced shares after hours...when their value had changed based on overseas trading?

Economists estimate that such favored clients reaped up to $5 billion through after hours trading in the past several years...and cost a typical family $3,740 in savings.

Unfortunately, most mutual fund investors still don't realize that this money was in effect stolen from them.

I love the stock market. But let's not kid ourselves about the potential for abuse and conflicts of interest once financial service firms get control of 1/6th of annual Social Security contributions.

Victor Morton

"Over 150,000,000 people in America invest in mutual funds, and it is a 7 trillion dollar industry."

"Economists estimate that such favored clients reaped up to $5 billion through after hours trading in the past several years...and cost a typical family $3,740 in savings."


$5 billion worth of crime in a $7 trillion industry? Seems about as clean to me as any other enterprise run by fallible sinners.

RP Burke

Another article about the fraudulent Bush administration, from today's Washington Post...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2304-2005Jan11.html

al

Victor,
Maybe if the inclusion of the "right to "punish for the sake of future security"" was to be taken as an open ended license for any kind of subjective assessment of security "needs" (which the article notes is more circumscribed under recent conditions of natural law).

But obviously its not, and there's nothing "legalistic" about it. Its simply related to the original right the country has to its security, which an antagonist can infringe, and therefore, for which there needs to be a due remedy.

The assessement of such infringement belongs to right reason, not conjecture or surmise, and so if a country has demonstrated hostility, and intent, then that suffices (prescinding here, from any specific circumstances). What that goes to is that, contrary to your implication that its off to the races on this title, because virtually anything can be construed, via a "prudential" assessement as belonging to the sake of future security, the punishing for the sake of the future security must be limited, via right reason, to the original assault or infringement of said security.

Rick

Victor,

Point taken, but $3700 lost to fraud /scandalous practices by families with average retirement savings of $160,000 or so is nothing to sneeze at.

Here's another "scandalous practice" that is almost sure to occur, imo, if a portion of SS is diverted to managed or indexed stock funds: "Frontrunning" by insiders or experienced speculators.

If someone can determine, either by sophisticated stock screens or inside information, that $x in SS contributions will flow into a particular stock or stock fund on a certain date, he or she can buy the stock or fund in advance — then flip it for a profit, at the direct expense of SS stakeholders.

This process will be invisible to the average SS stakeholder. How many Americans even understand it? But it could produce a drag on returns even greater than fees, imo...and greatly enrich the sophisticated few.

Even with such scandals indexed stock funds are almost certain to outperform Treasuries given a long enough time horizon. But we shouldn't be complacent about such practices, and voters should carefully consider them as part of the SS privatization debate.

One more link: Here's a Newsweek article that explains in plain English how many mutual funds skimmed money from shareholders through late trading, etc.

Rick

Victor,

Point taken, but $3700 lost to fraud /scandalous practices by families with average retirement savings of $160,000 or so is nothing to sneeze at.

Here's another "scandalous practice" that is almost sure to occur, imo, if a portion of SS is diverted to managed or indexed stock funds: "Frontrunning" by insiders or experienced speculators.

If someone can determine, either by sophisticated stock screens or inside information, that $x in SS contributions will flow into a particular stock or stock fund on a certain date, he or she can buy the stock or fund in advance — then flip it for a profit, at the direct expense of SS stakeholders.

This process will be invisible to the average SS stakeholder. How many Americans even understand it? But it could produce a drag on returns even greater than fees, imo...and greatly enrich the sophisticated few.

Even with such scandals indexed stock funds are almost certain to outperform Treasuries given a long enough time horizon. But we shouldn't be complacent about such practices, and voters should carefully consider them as part of the SS privatization debate.

One more link: Here's a Newsweek article that explains in plain English how many mutual funds skimmed money from shareholders through late trading, etc.

Ken

Please, let's not call the Bush administration "fraudulent." It's a settled matter duly certified.

RP Burke

In calling the administration "fradulent," I was not referring to the two elections, but rather to its policies and the manner in which they promote them. Perhaps the word choice was not perfect, since I intended to say that the Bush administration has and continues to perpetrate frauds.

Mark Windsor

Al,

When eventually you surrender to me - and surrender you will - don't expect to keep your sword. (I'm gonna beat it into a plowshare and give it to Victor. He can hang it over the chair opposite his desk to threaten unwarry CBS executives that apply to him for gainful employment. Thus, the sword of Damocles becomes the plowshare of Victor.)

Resistance is futile, Al. Resistance is futile.

(And by the way, how did this get turned into something about the stock market?)

Oh, and I think the idea behind putting a limit on unconditional surrender has more to do with the attitudes of the combatants than anything else. The doomed party is likely to fight to the bitter end if they know they have no chance of quarter, thus lengthening the war and the number of people killed as a result.

Cheeky Lawyer

An honest set of questions for Mr. Kelty and others who think this war was absolutely unjustified and a unilateral show of arrogant force on our part (I have never been convinced one way or the other of the justice or injustice of this war):

What should we have done with Saddam? Should we have said nothing to him, given him no ultimatum to come clean on WMDs, put no pressure on him to conform to UN Resolutions and to be a good actor in the global community? I want to prescind from moral questions for a moment. After 9/11 wasn't it right for Bush to demand that Saddam get his act together? Hadn't Saddam had enough time to flout UN resoultions and international will? Hadn't deadly and disgusting sanctions demonstrated that they were not working? Wasn't it then proper to put demands on Saddam? And if not, what should we have done? (This is a question to which you must have an answer.) Again, I am not talking about a grand plan to rebuild the Middle East. I am talking about bringing a ruthless dictator into line so that he would no longer pose the threat he did to the global community. I ask these questions because I really wonder what are options were to bring Saddam into line (I assume that this was a worthy goal regardless of large geopolictical concerns about building up Middle Eastern democracy) unless of course we shouldn't have put any pressure on Saddam which I don't consider a real option. Again, this question comes before any of the moral questions or the questions of what proper goals of this war are. I take it that the first and foremost reason for this war was the WMD question that was magnified by the at least loose links between al Qaeda and Iraq. But again we need to ask the question, "What was to have been done with Saddam, believing what we believed then about his possession of WMDs and his great recalcitrance?"

What do we answer to these questions?

al

Mark,
"Oh, and I think the idea behind putting a limit on unconditional surrender has more to do with the attitudes of the combatants than anything else."

Absolutely right, I think

Cheeky,
Reduce the sanctions, keep up the inspections.

jtbf

"What should we have done with Saddam?"

Continued the inspections. Maintained a regular schedule of inspections. Ended the sanctions.

"After 9/11 wasn't it right for Bush to demand that Saddam get his act together?"

It was time to get OUR act together by removing unnecessary provocations:
1.remove troops and bases from Saudi Arabia (we've quietly done that since 9/11)
2.insist that Israel abide by international law by removing the settlements of civilians in lands they did not control prior to the 1967 war. If Israel responded by immediately negotiating a peace with the Palestinians that allowed for the settlements, fine.

Sydney Carton

jtbf,

How did Israel have anything to do with September 11th?

I find it ridiculous that, in response to September 11th, the President would END SANCTIONS on Iraq. If they weren't working, then the answer was to make them work. If that couldn't happen in the event of massive international corruption by the French and Russians, then the answer was to pull out of corrupted systems and engage the problem unilaterally. Which is exactly what Bush did.

Cheeky Lawyer

Continue the inspections? Is that really all you have to offer?

I agree that we should have reduced the sanctions.

But what of Saddam's and Iraq's obligations to comply with international resolutions and law? Even Hans Blix said they were not fully complying with inspections. "Well, Saddam you aren't comply with the international community's demands, but we will give you more time to do so."

Cheeky Lawyer

"comply" should be "complying" above...

jtbf

How did Israel have anything to do with September 11th?

"BY his own account, KSM's animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel." The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 147
KSM is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks." p.145

jtbf

"I find it ridiculous that, in response to September 11th, the President would END SANCTIONS on Iraq."

The sanctions were in place because of supposed WMDs.
Inspections would have found no WMDs.
I didn't say remove sanctions prior to establishing that there were no WMDs.

jtbf

"But what of Saddam's and Iraq's obligations to comply with international resolutions and law?"

If we are going to enforce international law and UN resolutions against Iraq, we have to do so with their neighbor 700 miles away.
If we don't, after 35+ years of saying one thing and doing another, people such as KSM ("the principal architect of the 9\11 attacks") regard us as unfair, untrustworthy and deceitful.

J. Girone

"BY his own account, KSM's animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel." The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 147
KSM is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks." p.145

Yow! I didn't read the report and I didn't see that in the newspapers.

Cheeky Lawyer

The sanctions were not in place because of supposed WMDs. They were in place, in part, because of actual WMDs. And weren't the sanctions imposed because of the invasion of Kuwait not primarily because of WMDs. (I may be wrong on that but this timeline http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/page/0,12438,793802,00.html suggests that the sanctions were originally imposed after the invasion of Kuwait).

jtbf

The main sanctions were imposed because, during the Kuwait/Gulf War conflicts, Iraq had threatened use of WMDs and had violated other provisions of weapons use, in addition to violating the sovereign borders of Kuwait. Resolution 687 was adopted on April 2, 1991 and can be read by copying and pasting the link below.

http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/sres/sres0687.htm

Sydney Carton

jtbf,

Here's an idea. The United States should declare war on Israel, invade it, kill every Jew living there, and then every Jew on the planet, and erase Israel from history.

What, a little extreme? But it'd get us on the side of people like KSM. To placade him, THAT is what our "foreign policy" would have to look like.

Israel had nothing to do with September 11th. It had everything to do with fanatical dreams by murderous terrorists. You do not accomodate their fantasies.

al

Sydney,
That was a ludicrous and hysterical response to jtbf's legitimate point. No one is talking about placating KSM. We're talking about removing his recruitment tools.

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