Overthowing the Taliban

Carl Remick carlremick at hotmail.com
Thu Oct 4 21:25:56 PDT 2001

>From: Michael Pollak <mpollak at panix.com>
>There were originally three options on Afghanistan:
>1. Do nothing;
>2. Attempt to overthrow the Taliban and replace it with something better;
>3. Make a limited intervention that only tries to ferret out Osama Bin
>I've defended option two.

And spoken very eloquently, too, Nathan. This post is the most reasonable and rational case I've seen for the interventionist position.

I can only sound a cautionary note and point to an interesting piece in the Guardian -- "History Lessons," by Richard Shannon, a biographer of William Gladstone (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4269924,00.html) -- that highlights the perils of the interventionist course:

"Gladstone's record in foreign affairs was a complex, not a simple, matter. As a young man he denounced imperial coercion of the Chinese. Then he denounced Palmerston's coercion of the Greeks. He denounced counter-revolutionary oppression of the Neapolitans. But he was a willing goer to war against Russia in 1854. He extolled the struggle of the Italian people for freedom (but not, as it happened, for unification).

"He denounced what he thought was President Lincoln's bloodthirsty and futile insistence on overcoming the Southern Confederacy. He advocated keeping out of European broils in the 1860s and 1870. But only the veto of his colleagues prevented his making a formal protest against German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. He famously denounced Disraeli-Beaconsfield's Eastern policy in the 1870s as immoral. What he was saying here, though, it is worth recalling, was that Britain should not intervene militarily in the Balkans. His argument was that Disraeli's threats of intervention should be thwarted. Let Russia get on with the job of liberating the Bulgarians. He denounced Beaconsfield and Salisbury at Berlin in 1878 for having behaved like Metternich when they ought to have behaved like Canning. Once in office again in 1880, Gladstone set about withdrawing from Beaconsfield's forward imperial positions in Afghanistan and South Africa. (He failed for various good reasons to do the same in Cyprus.)

"So far, a mixed picture, but on the whole, by his own 1879 standards, reasonably good. But then came, in 1882, Gladstone's conquest and occupation of Egypt. Worse, as John Bright put it bitterly, than any thing Dizzy ever did. Why? Gladstone stubbornly, to the end of his life, insisted that he had acted for international morality and in the interests of the Egyptian people. The story is long and intricate; but its consequences were fatal for the reputation of the 1879 doctrine. Liberalism never recovered the élan of those evangelist times. Many a Liberal lived to say that that was why a Liberal government was willing to enter the European war in 1914.

"... the great lesson of Gladstone was that his one big moralistic interventionist adventure to put down the terrorism of Arabi Pasha was the biggest error in foreign policy of his career."


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