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A Twisting of History
on April 22, 2007
I agree with the thesis of unintended consequences of war pointed out in this book, but I have some gnawing questions:
1. The authors methodology seems to be to find facts that prove their thesis - but that is not how social science is done. Anyone can find selective facts to prove a thesis, while ignoring other non-confirming facts. What is critical, following philosopher Karl Popper, is to try to negate their own thesis - which they don't attempt to do. So how realiable and credible are their findings and conclusions?
2. The authors propagate a morally equivalent view of Nazism, Communism, radical Islamism and conservative Christianity/Republicanism. To them it makes no difference who wins a war? Is this valid? What about freedom?
3. The "unintended consequences" of the Korean War and WWII were that Japan, South Korea, and West Germany all became capitalist/democracies and North Korea, East Germany, and the USSR remained communist. On balance, was this a bad consequence? Does it outweight the other negative consequences? The authors don't attempt an answer.
4. An unintended consequence of WWII Pacific War was that Japan embraced rather than resisted defeat and has become one of the world's powerhouses of capitalism and a non-warring nation (see John Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII). What does this tell us about the situations we face today?
5. In their conclusion the authors state that "the word negotiation whould become synonymous with the concept of power, rather than the word war." Power implies the use of either carrots or sticks, love or coercion. But as Machiavelli cautioned, it is better to gain respect than love in international affairs. How can negotiation be powerful without the threat of coercion?
6. The authors appearance of modest tone and lack of political agenda in most of their book breaks down in the conclusion when they state about the Iraq War: "The nation has lost faith in an administration controlled by religious fanatics who have wire-tappped citizens without warrants, tortured military prisoners and violated the principles of due process and the rule of law."
True, the electorate has lost faith in the stated aims of the Iraq War. But as Machiavelli pointed out, public opinion is fickle. Will public opinion swing back the other way again?
And whatever one wants to state about the present presidential administration they are not run by religious fanatics similar to the Islamic Jihadists (see Greeley & Hout - The Truth About Conservative Christians). This kind of over-the-top statement reveals an anti-religious bias of the authors, not "religious fanaticism" on the part of the administration.
Neither is it my understanding that the administration has wire tapped citizens -- only overseas telephone taps on selected persons of interest. So this is hyperbole on the part of the authors.
And the so-called torture at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo are wildly exaggerated as anyone without a political agenda can plainly see. In the end it has been revealed that the prisoners at Guantanamo are some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, not victims of torture. This makes me question whether the authors did have an agenda in writing this subtly persuasive book.
I recommend buying and reading the book, but I do not believe it is well balanced, as the authors implied methodology only finds what they want to believe. Perhaps the authors tipped their ideological prejudice in the Introduction when they cite Leftist intellectual Hannah Arendt as their mentor on the unintended consequences of war. Arendt, in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, was the key intellectual who twisted history to read that Nazism was a conservative, not a socialist, movement (NAZI - National Socialist German Workers Party - German: Nationalsozialismus). This insidious twisting seems to have pervaded Hagan and Bickerton's book as well. That all the eminent academic endorsements cited on the book jacket have been unable to critically discern the twisting of history in this book is disturbing to say the least.