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RE: Rumsfeld - On Systems & The Global Condition

Today, Marvin directed readers to view and hear Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's comments today in response to a sailor's question of who the enemy is and why they are an enemy. [Special thanks to reader Maria for sharing the link with us and others.] Watching the first two-thirds of his response, I kept thinking of Marvin's own Commentary published Thursday regarding the same topic. Though Marvin is too modest to reference his own writing, his thoughts on who the enemy is - and equally important, who is not the enemy - are compelling. For readers who found value in Secretary Rumsfeld's words today, you may likely find value in Marvin's as well in Fighting The Long War.

Perhaps the most compelling part of Secretary Rumsfeld's response came about two-thirds of the way through. If you did not watch the whole 8 minutes the first time, consider revisiting the video and fast-forwarding to about the two-thirds point, beginning where he says, "The idea that the reason there are problems in the world is the United States is balogna. We are not what's wrong with the world."

While that is a powerful statement in itself, it is his explanatory analogy that is perhaps the finest concise example of spoken clarity on the issue of prosperity and poverty in the global condition. He uses North and South Korea, with the same people and the same resources. Yet one starves and the other is the 12th most prosperous economy on the planet. The difference, he points out, is not people or resources, it is the system of a free democratic government and a free and open economy on one hand, and a dictatorial regime and command economy on the other.

If you missed it, be sure to go back and watch.

6 Comments

Prosperity.
We're assuming that everyone has the same idea of prosperity. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's example of prosperity revolved around consumption of energy and capitalism. There are costs to the consumption of energy and capitalism that have to be ignored or at least accepted.
ps. consumption of energy and capitalism is very profitable.
pps. dictatorships and nukes are not good, either.

Jay:

To say that "Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s example of prosperity revolved around consumption of energy and capitalism" is to miss the greater point.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s example of prosperity revolved around something far greater:

Liberty.

What is evident and visible in South Korea is the product of that liberty.

Ask yourself why there are no Russian car dealerships on your corner - yet LukOil is springing up everywhere. Quite simply, Russian cars are a horrible product.

The reason is not unions or the lack thereof.

The reason is not technology or lack thereof.

How can the tiny South Korea do it (Kia and Hyundai) but not the once-superpower Russians?

The reason for Russia is the absence (or, in South Korea's case, the presence) of competition-driven quality inherent in a free and open market.

The answer is liberty.

Furthermore, confuse liberty with neither freedom nor democracy.

In my view, Liberty is ability to choose one's course - of travel, of career, of life.

Freedom is the power and ability to grasp onto what liberty offers without undue constraint from government.

Democracy is how a people ensures that a government siezes neither of the two.

No, Rumsfeld spoke of liberty. Without that liberty, the capitalism he referenced and upon which you have focused cannot exist.

I agree with the United States' leading role in "liberating" oppressed people from their oppressors/dictators/regimes. I agree that in the places we have liberated peoples prosperity through free and open markets has ensued.

Are free and open markets a natural choice of liberated people or is it a result of the United States that delivered that Liberty? It may be that the economies pattern after the United States not as a result of Liberty but as a result of wealthy U.S. investors seizing the opportunity provided by a new market. How long would it take under this premise for the wealthy investors to wield influence over where/when we intercede in history to deliver Liberty to a particular group of people? There are instances, most apparent in Africa, that may give insight into where/when we decide to intercede or not. Liberty can always be "why" we're interceding. But is the where/when being dictated by military contracts/wealthy investors/reconstruction contracts/energy?

If bringing Liberty to South Korea has produced economic prosperity, surely the negative social and environmental impact of an economy similiar to our own is present as well.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did a masterful job in explaining "why". I agree that Liberty, as you've described in your post Steve, is a worthy cause. But in using the examples of energy consumption and economic growth, the Secretary may have given insight into the true motivation of the decision makers as to where/when we intercede to ensure that Liberty.

With all due respect Jay, I think you give too much credence to Oliver Stone "JFK" conspiracy theories.

Free and open markets are a natural choice of those who experience liberty. Do they get a boost from others with experience investing in their upstarts? Of course they do. But to suggest that something is being robbed from them in this process (where there was previously nothing) is absurd.

As far as the negative 'social and environmental' impacts of free and open markets, this is stated in ignorance of the 'social and environmental' impacts of dictatorship. What of the social impact of being afraid to speak of certain things while simply walking down the street for fear of being arrested and tortured for anti-regime statements? This was a reality for Iraqis and is a reality for North Koreans. What of the 'environmental' impact of a dictatorship that produced little waste management (running sewage systems and effective garbage collection) in, for instance, Saddam Hussein's dictatorship? Why no cries for the plight of Shi'a Iraqis' squalid urban existance in the slums of Sadr City (formerly Saddam City)? But now, to use your comments as a guide, there will be much outcry from trhose who think as you against evil corporate environmental impact. Can you speak of the dictatorship's hazardous waste disposal practices, for instance, as a contrast to any percieved complaints some may offer in the future? I speak with relative certainty that there was no Iraqi Envirnmental Protection Agency energetically and effectively creating and policing hazardous waste disposal standards. Rotting barrels of untold chemical contents lay waste to many areas of the Iraqi desert.

Who did this? Haliburton?

But more importantly, the United States military does not engage in selective campaigns based on economic opportunity or exploit. The campaigns are selective based on threat. That, sir, is the military's job.

Why was liberty brought to South Korea? To stop the threat of an advancing communist march in the 1950's. Take a gander at the two Koreas since. Which would you choose for a homeland if forced to choose?

Why Iraq and Afghanistan? What economic opportunity motivated in Afghanistan? There was an al-Qaeda threat.

Some will (and do still) claim that Iraq was a war for the US to capture and control Iraqi oil. What evidence supports US control of their oil fields? None. Because it has not happened. You bet there is an economic security aspect to our interests in the Middle East. But we continue to BUY the oil from states in the region, not sell it to ourselves or steal it.

Rumsfeld's use of energy consumption is an example of the effects of liberty, not the cause. You continue to misunderstand the perspective, largely because your critical thinking is clouded by the assumption that there are nefarious American schemes being played out through command of the US military might.

Until you recognize that and reconsider the notion that bad things throughout the world are, at their root, nearly all caused by American foreign policy (which gives far too much credence to the global impact of American foreign policy), any debate in here will likely be meaningless.

U.S. foreign policy is definitely not to blame for the worlds ills.

The social and environmental impact of dictatorships are definately worse than that of an economy similiar to ours.

Thank you for your responses.

In re-reading this conversation, Jay, I think my responses may have been a bit aggressive. My eyes and mind focused on where we differed in considerations without giving much thought to where we agreed.

For instance, if only my responses were read, one would never believe that I was responding to a commenter who also said "Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did a masterful job in explaining “why”. I agree that Liberty, as you’ve described in your post Steve, is a worthy cause."

One would think that we were diametrically opposed, and that is unfortunate on my part.

I've been known to eagerly 'lock horns' in the past on issues that inspire a certain passion. Though I do it rarely these days, perhaps that natural incilination explains why I honed in on where it appeared to me that we differed.

I do believe that it is me who should be thanking you for the engaging comments and not the other way around.

Thank you, Jay.