1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/3569/why-the-state-celebrates-its-failures/

Why the State Celebrates Its Failures

May 8, 2005 by

Two years after the Iraq War was declared largely over, hostilities continue, spending mounts, and the very rationale for the war has been utterly and completely demolished. And yet all the major players have enjoyed promotions and pay increases, and have been lionized by the Bush adminstration for their supposed public service. The architects of the failure, and their apologists, are still the toast of the town. What a contrast with the private sector, where even errors in judgement are punished with severity. [Full Article]


Roger McKinney May 9, 2005 at 9:20 am

Nulle’s argument is so crammed with errors it’s hard to know where to start criticizing! As a whole, it reminds me of the criticism that democrats level against middle class Americans who woted for Bush: “Tax cuts for the rich hurt the middle class, but they have been brainwashed by radio talk shows into voting against their own best interest.” Maybe the middle class aren’t as stupid as Nulle and the Democrats desperately want to believe. Maybe we know more than either of them.

For example, concerning the war with Iraq, Saddam Hussein proclaimed in his own newspapers regularly that he had nuclear/chemical/bio weapons. The US wasn’t even concerned about them during the Clinton administration, although President Clinton publicly stated that Hussein possessed them, but the Europeans were hysterical that Hussein had nuclear weapons and urging us to do something. Iraqi scientists have confessed that they were afraid to tell Hussein how far they were from developing a nuclear bomb; afraid he would murder them as he had everyone else who disappointed him. So they lied to him and he believed them. So did most of the rest of the world. To write that Bush lied and duped the middle class is just childish.

As for using the nuclear weapons excuse to go to war, many of us thought it cheapened the real reasons for going to war: Hussein signed a treaty ending Gulf War I and then proceeded to break every agreement. After the mass murder of Kuwaitis, Bush 1 let go one of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century. Then, after urging Kurds and Shia to rise up against Hussein, Bush 1 stood by and let Hussein slaughter hundreds of thousands of them when they responded to Bush 1′s appeals. If for no other reason, we owed it to the Kurds and Shias to invade. Then Hussein tried to assassinate Bush 1 and plotted to blow up ten airliners over the Pacific. Hussein had agents all over the world targeting Americans and plotting terrorist attacks, regardless of whether he was involved in the 9/11 attacks. On top of all of that, two independt respected reporters have solid evidence that Timothy McVey, the Oklahoma City bomber, was trained and financed by Iraq.

If those aren’t reason enough to go to war, what reasons would Mr. Null give? Would he have fought the Japanese and Germans in WWII? He thinks democracies are so evil, should we invite Osama to set up the Caliphate in the US so he will quit targeting Americans?

Tibor R. Machan May 9, 2005 at 9:48 am

Grant M. Nülle and I agree on the essential wrongheadedness of Bush’s Iraqi war policy but we both need to contend with the argument that if there is intelligence report about WMDs and such, from several officially appointed and supposedly expert intelligence sources, the White House may have the duty to act. In retrospect WMD were not found but how does one deal with the epistemological problem of there having been officially credible evidence for their existence? Here, I think, a general theory of the unreliability of intelligence sources must enter the picture. If someone who has threatened you several times, seriously, stands around with a huge buldge in his pocket and reaches for it and you shoot, only to find out he was reaching for a massive hankerchief instead, you may still have been justified to shoot him.

Brian Moore May 9, 2005 at 10:02 am

We can debate on whether the Iraq war was a failure or not, but even if it was — it’s one of the least worst failures ever. It certainly went a great deal better than any previous similar expedition, such as Russia V. Afghanistan or America V. Viet Cong. Even compared to our great “successes” such as World War 2, the military/diplomatic side has been managed much better.

None of this justifies the war, but I’m speaking only in comparison to previous efforts of the state.

Maybe they’re just rewarding improvement. :)

Brian Moore May 9, 2005 at 10:05 am

Nor was that meant to imply there haven’t been many failures during the war, such as the WMD argument and the earlier management of the occupation, but if you look at some of the titanic failures of planning during WW2 or WW1, wars we “won,” you’ll gain an appreciation for how relatively well the Iraq campaign has gone.

Again, this is not a justification.

Lisa Casanova May 9, 2005 at 11:26 am

One of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century? When did he surpass Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot? I’m also wondering- if all the justifications you cite for war are good ones, why are we not at war with North Korea as we speak? Their regime has been starving and murdering its own citizens in a horrifically opressive Stalinist state for decades, and they make regular threats about developing and testing nuclear weapons. Why do we not take them down? Or is it that we only support these noble wars of liberation when Americans don’t think it’s costing them too much?

Sag May 9, 2005 at 1:09 pm

I’m with Lisa on this one. I guess it’s hard for people to accept that the state can commit such horrific crimes and get away with it. Just as long as it’s “their” guy or group of guys, this simply can not be. There must be some other explanation other than the most obvious one even if it’s fully consistent with the facts.

Tibor, one interesting fact is that I read a short book by former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter in October 2002. It was called “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You To Know”. I already thought Bush’s rationales for invading Iraq were absurd. But the chief rationale – WMD claims – were basically debunked by this short book. If I – someone with a full time job in finance – found the so called intelligence questionable, it seems impossible that experts whose full time job was investigating Iraqi WMDs, did not.

But if you’re talking about hypothetical scenarios, I guess it’s probably related to the calculation problem. How does the state calculate success in providing intelligence and security? About as well as it does anything else even if motives weren’t in question – which in this case they obviously were.

Mark D. Fulwiler May 9, 2005 at 1:14 pm

Professor Macahan ignores the fact that there really was no ~credible~ intelligence that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the U.S. in the run up to the current war. The “intelligence” consisted of fabrications, distortions, half-truths and outright nonsense, and this was pointed out by numerous experts at the time.

The notion that the Bush administration is a bunch of good guys who just made an unfortunate error is really not supported by the evidence.

Michael A. Clem May 9, 2005 at 2:09 pm

If someone threatens you several times, but never backs it up, how can you take him seriously? It’s like the boy who cried ‘wolf’. At some point it stops being credible.

Paul D May 9, 2005 at 2:49 pm

“should we invite Osama to set up the Caliphate in the US so he will quit targeting Americans?”

How about you quit f*****g bombing, occupying, or supporting dictators, in Muslim countries? The idea some Americans have that killing foreign civilians for “security” is mind-boggling and disgusting. Then maybe terrorists will stop hating your country so much.

“Maybe the middle class aren’t as stupid as Nulle and the Democrats desperately want to believe.”

Haven’t you seen the polls? Something like 30% of Americans think the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi because Bush kept linking them in his speeches. The middle class *are* stupid.

D. Saul Weiner May 9, 2005 at 3:08 pm


Just as the “Mission Accomplished” declaration was premature, it is altogether too early to minimize the failure in Iraq, or to try to downplay it by saying that we’ve had worse failures in other wars. Certainly the damage to Iraq and the Iraqi people has been catastrophic and (on a smaller scale) our fighting forces have suffered fatalities and bodily injuries. The use of depleted uranium weapons is likely to cause major health problems for years to come, both in Iraq and for the families of service men and women. We can also count on large numbers of veterances suffering from PTSD and substance abuse. Finally, despite the rosy rhetoric, chances are good that Iraq will degenerate into Civil War and/or Islamic Fundamentalism. So let’s not roll out that “Catastophe Avoided” banner just yet.

Roger McKinney May 9, 2005 at 3:47 pm

I’d like someone to give me an example of when you would justify war, because I get the feeling that none of you would fight an opponent under any circumstances.

For those who wonder why we don’t attack Korea and Iran immediately, the answer lies in the context. Iraq presented a unique threat and a history that we could not ignore. To equate Korea and Iran with the Iraq situation is simplistic.

D. Saul Weiner May 9, 2005 at 4:26 pm


Under what circumstances would you be willing to kill and maim others and risk your own death or disabling injury?

Alternately, substitute “your children” (if you have any) for yourself, in the above question.

Roger McKinney May 9, 2005 at 4:33 pm

D. Saul Weiner,
I would have volunteered myself for the Iraq war had I not been 50 years of age. I also encouraged my 18 year old son to volunteer, but left the choice up to him, which he declined.

perrosuelto May 9, 2005 at 5:16 pm

This guy Roger is too sanguine. Fight opponent? What opponent? Saddam was a laical friend of US for long time and at your age you may remember arthritic Rumsfeld shaking hand with THIS opponent or not? Again, encourage son to volunteer i.e. license to kill or be killed “but left the choice up to him”…What generosity and freedom of choice!

jason kelly May 9, 2005 at 6:27 pm

do any of you hippies remember september 11, 2001? do any of you think that america can view or treat the middle east the same after that? hussein’s defeat was largely symbolic. he had already invaded a neighboring country and been utterly driven back, with only a very forgiving admonishment not to try anything like that again. yet he continued to thumb his nose and behave as though he had something up his sleeve. hell, he should have been toppled after the gulf war. he got a 12 year reprieve. after 9/11, he had to go if for no other reason than to send a message to others of his ilk. further, we needed a forward position in that primitive hell-hole to deter any more 9/11s. now iran, syria, et al have american forces in their backyards. it won’t take 18 months next time. you attack us today, the gps bombs rain down tomorrow. this is a long-term strategy. after 9/11 america had to take action to make fundamental changes in the middle east. it’s time to stop whining and face reality. sometimes violence is unavoidable.

to paul d- when you stop using the f*****g f-word and learn proper grammar, people might take you seriously.

scott May 9, 2005 at 10:03 pm

at the forced expense of the citizenry, right jason?

i can’t wait until we invade africa (i mean there are dictators there too) so i can have even more money stolen from me. all in the name of.. freedom!

Roy W. Wright May 9, 2005 at 10:54 pm

Heh, hippies.

Arman Demirjian May 10, 2005 at 2:14 am

To Roger.

It seems that you ignore the ever changing reasons for invading Iraq, from WMD’s to toppling Saddam, to spreading democracy, to liberating the people, all of which are bogus. There was no reason to invade Iraq. Before invading Iraq there were a grab bag of “good” reasons to invade, which by now have all been discredited. There were no WMDs. Paranoid claims that Iraq could attack the U.S. within hours was proven a lie. Hussein was not an imminent threat to the world. And there were no direct ties to al Qaeda.

Mindful that the original pretexts were weak and exposed as half truths, the political Washington overloards have now spun the web of lies to the American masses that somehow the central battle against terrorism is now in Iraq, to salvage their invasion/occupation. And based on that to call the Iraqis who object to American occupation ‘terrorists’ is a perversion of logic.

But in fact if you have paid attention you would see that this attack on Iraq was planned long ago, even before September 11th, as part of the imperial logic of think tanks like PNAC.

Vanmind May 10, 2005 at 2:31 am

Here is a synopsis for those who can’t be bothered to read the whole article:

“…because it can.”

Gorazd Podbevšek May 10, 2005 at 6:42 am

It is very interesting for me as an European to read the comments on this blog. It seems to me the Americans still do not fully understand what the rest of the world finds so shocking about the war in Iraq and why the reactions of the Americans are so hard for us to understand.

The reasons for this are simple:
1. Iraq was under international supervision. The weapons inspections were effective and they, not the American invasion disarmed Iraq.
2. Proof of WMD presented to the UN was to say the least shaky. It was streched to the point of absurd (remember the “African uranium deal” comedy?). This is the reason the Security Council did not approve the military intervention, not the corruption (which does exist), uslesness, or inaction of the UN.
3. The war was a complete violation of international law and was not approved by the UN. Yes we believe in internation law for everbody. Even the great Americans. I know many Americans (and sadly the American politicians) regard it as an usless obsticle on the road to American interests. But you see, the law is always a restraint of the strong. Beacause the weak are the ones that need protection from opression. And you should be very carefull not to get carried away and become to self absorbed and arrogant in yor greatness. Beacause that is the path to becoming the very eveil I truelly believe you are trying to fight.
4. Violence causes violence. You can not win a war on terror with weapons. You will only create more desperate, poor people that will turn to extreme (or even worse) relegios leaders for guidance. And they will hate you. And they will kill you and destroy your property. You can give up all your freedom and liberties but you will not stop somebody who is crazed with hate to the point of self destruction. You should strive (or at least appear to, like we do in Europe :)) for a just and dignified life for everybody. But do not force it on those who are not willig to do something themselfs. If a nation is not ready for your social and economic models forcing them will only create opposition.
5. When somebody disagrees do not start disrespecting them. That is not appropriate for private live, yet alone for diplomacy. The way you handeled European opposition (especially the French and German, since many of us sold out) is shameful. Friends are allowed to disagree. Calling them ungreatful, irelevant, old, scared, corrupt, etc. is harmful to you too.

All of this is written with best intentions, so you would understand European possitions a little better. I’m sorry for the typos (I’m not a native English speaker).

Vache Folle May 10, 2005 at 8:16 am

The hippie epithet was pretty hilarious.

Anyway, I thought I might cite an example of the reward the state gains from failure. I was part of the Child Welfare system in Florida. On numerous occasions, the system would fail spectacularly, often involving the gruesome death of a child. Public outcry would rarely focus on the incompetence and ineptitude of the agency (although a social worker or two were prosecuted as sacrificial lambs in some cases), and the solution would be to increase the authority and funding of the agency that was responsible for the failure in the first place. The same bureaucrats, same system, same mentality, only bigger. No functionary other than the lowest level was ever held accountable, and responsibility was plausibly avoided by claiming lack of resources. It was the public’s fault and the public’s failure to pony up more money and surrender more rights.

I recall the social workers’ complaining that higher pay was wanted to improve the system. I would ask whether they meant that they were holding back on effort due to inadequate motivation or whether they expected to be replaced by someone competent. They stopped talking to me.

Rolf May 10, 2005 at 8:31 am

Allen Ginsberg among others from the beat generation saw clearly years ago though the vast majority of Americans do not read, much less understand poetry.
Hippies, dropouts and burnouts for the most part ended their times on the American human garbage pile. Americas’ gettos just continue sinking into the earth.

Allen published his major collection of work in 1984 titled “Collected Poems 1947-1980.” Some of which are wonderfully humorous. I have posted this particular poem of Allens before though perhaps some will enjoy it again particularly those over 50 years of age.

Capitol Air

I don’t like the government where I live
I don’t like dictatorship of the Rich
I don’t like bureaucrats telling me what to eat
I don’t like Police dogs sniffing round my feet

I don’t like Communist censorship of my books
I don’t like Marxists complaining about my looks
I don’t like Castro insulting members of my sex
Leftists insisting we got the mystic Fix

I don’t like capitalists selling me gasoline Coke
Multinationals burning Amazon Trees to smoke
Big Corporation takeover media mind
I don’t like the Top-bananas that’re robbing Guatemala banks blind

I don’t like K.G.B. Gulag concentration camps
I don’t like the Maiosts’ Cambodian Death Dance
15 Million were killed by Stalin Secretary of Terror
He has killed our old Red Revolution for ever

I don’t like Anarchists screaming Love Is Free
I don’t like the C.I.A. they killed John Kennedy
Paranoiac tanks sit in Prague and Hungary
But I don’t like counterrevolution paid for by the C.I.A.

Tyranny in Turkey or Korea Nineteen Eighty
I don’t like Right Wing Death Squad Democracy
Police State Iran Nicaragua yesterday
Laissez-faire please Government keep your secret police offa me

I don’t like Nationalist Supremacy White or Black
I don’t like Narcs & Mafia marketing Smack
The Generals bulling Congress in his tweed vest
The President building up his Arimies in the East & West

I don’t like Argentine police Jail torture Truths
Government terrorist takeover Salvador news
I don’t like Zionists acting Nazi Storm Troop
Palestine Liberation cooking Israel into Moslem soup

I don’t like the Crown’s Official Secrets Act
You can get away with murder in the Government that’s a fact
Security cops teargassing radical kids
In Switzerland or Czechoslovakia God Forbids

In America it’s Attica in Russia it’s Lubianka Wall
In China if you disappear you wouldn’t know yourself at all
Arise Arise you citizens of the world use your lungs
Talk back to the Tyrants all they’re afraid of is your tongues

Two hundred Billion dollars inflates World War
In United States every year hey’re asking for more
Russia’s got as much in tanks and laser planes
Give or take Fifty Billion we can blow out everbody’s brains

School’s broken down ’cause History changes every night
Half the Free World nations are Dicatorships of the Right
The only place socialism worked was in Gdansk, Bud
The Communist world’s stuck together with prisoners’ blood

The Generals say they know something worth fighting for
They never say what till they start an unjust war
Iranian hostage Media Hysteria sucked
The Shah ran away with 9 Billion Iranian bucks

Dermit Roosevelt and his U.S. dollars overthrew Mossadegh
They wanted his oil then they got Ayatollah’s dreck
They put in the Shah and they trained his police the Savak
All Iran was our hostage quarter-century That’s right Jack

Bishop Romero wrote President Carter to stop
Sending guns to El Salvador’s junta so he got shot
Ambassador White blew the whistle on the White House lies
Reagan called him home cause he looked in the dead nuns’ eyes

Half the voters didn’t vote they know it was too late
Newspaper headlines called it a big Mandate
Some people voted for Reagan eyes open wide
3 out of 4 didn’t vote for him That’s a landslide

Truth may be hard to find but Falsehood’s easy
Read between the lines our Imperialism is sleazy

But if you think the People’s State is your Heart’s Desire
Jump right back in the frying pan from the fire

The System the System in Russia & China the same
Criticize the System in Budapest lose your name
Coca Cola Pepsi Cola in Russia & China come true
Khrushchev yelled in Hollywood “We will bury You”

America and Russia want to bomb themselves Okay
Everybody dead on both sides Everybody pray
All except the Generals in caves where they can hide
and fuck each other in the ass waiting for the next free ride

No hope Communism no hope Capitalism Yeah
Everybody’s lying on both sides Nyeah nyeah nyeah
The bloody iron curtain of American military Power
Is a mirror image of Russia’s red Babel-Tower

Jesus Christ was spotless but was Crucified by the Mob
Law & Order Herod’s hired soldiers did the job
Flowerpower’s fine but innocence has got no Protection
The man who shot John Lennon had a Hero-worshipper’s connection

The moral of this song is that the world is in a horrible place
Scientific Industry devours the human race
Police in every country armed with tear Gas & TV
Secret Masters everywhere bureaucratize for you and me

Terrorists and police together build a lowerclass Rage
Propaganda murder manipulates the upperclass Stage
Can’t tell the difference ‘tween a turkey & a provacateur
If you’re feeling confused the Government’s in there for sure

Aware Aware wherever you are. No Fear
Trust your heart Don’t ride your Paranoia dear
Breathe together with an ordinary mind
Armed with Humor Feed & Help Enlighten Woe Mankind

Frankfurt-New York, December 15, 1980 By Allen Ginsberg

Artisan May 10, 2005 at 2:56 pm

Thanks for the poem, I liked it. Picasso said Art was meant to catalyze our fears. I think thus it was posted at the right place here. The war discussion, even among “Austrians” seems still very much alive.

The conflicting emotions that war brings about are part of the war process though… and no, I don’t think any human can tell you who or what exactly causes a war.

I want to give another “European” point of view, still. More compassionate perhaps.
Even though I would NEVER have betted a cent on Bush’s re-election, I understand it. I’m still not even sure if, to the American liberal people, an outspoken yet fairly unknown “interventionist” like Gore would be better than a “disguised” liberal which they already knew. I kept saying to the Bush haters: – So what? That’s only 53% of voters convinced!
Do I care if Chirac or Jospin get elected in France with such a small advantage? It’s hardly relevant for liberalism.

One thing is sure: war destroys wealth. Vietnam killed Bretton Woods, right? Come on, war is never right! (Yet sometimes it feels “necessary”, and you might even get away with it!)

Dewaine May 11, 2005 at 1:03 am

The failure of the Iraq military invasion was that there were survivors. Like some famous guy said once: one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is just a statistic.

Rolf May 11, 2005 at 4:18 am


Wrote: “One thing is sure: war destroys wealth, Vietnam killed Bretton Woods, right? Come on, war is never right! (Yet sometimes it feels “necessary”, and you might even get away with it!)”

Very well said Artisan and that is about as close to the truth as it is possible to get.

jason kelly May 11, 2005 at 9:37 am


I guess France should have let the American Revolution die, and America should have alowed Hitler to reign in France. After all, war is never right, right?

Vache Folle May 11, 2005 at 1:41 pm

War is never right, Mr Jason Kelly, as you aptly observe. Some may have been led to believe that it was necessary in the cases you mention, but I am glad to see that you are open minded about it. Too many people just spout the conventional “wisdom” about the justice or necessity of various wars, and your willingness to entertain alternative viewpoints is refreshing.

averros May 12, 2005 at 6:35 am

Actually, the only way to defeat terrorism and use of WMDs as effective war tactics is to abolish states.

Terrorists attack civilian citizens of a state precisely because they are material contributors to the power of the state. Civilians are valid targets, and killing them causes far more damage to the state than it costs terrorists to mount an attack. Most of the damage is caused by the reaction of the state, not by the attack itself.

Similarly, WMDs primarily kill civilians.

When noncombatants do not direclty feed an enemy force, there is no reason to spend resources (and create more enemies in the process) on attacking them. Thus abolishing a state removes the reason for attacking civilians other than plain and simple robbery – which is not a morally defensible conduct under any ideology (note that it is always covered up with some claptrap about common good, protection of some vague ideals, etc).

Siegfried Haberl May 16, 2005 at 9:26 pm

The only ‘reason’ for invading Iraq was, that Saddam Hussein wanted that Iraq’s crude oil be paid in EUROS and no longer in DOLLARS. This made Bush and his cronies crazy… Don’t forget that Bush’s grandfather already financed Adolf Hitler; Hitler and his Nazi-party were bankrupt in the early 30′s; Harriman and Thyssen made it possible for Prescott Bush to bring Hitler to power in 1933! Many thanks to the Bush family for so much death toll – now and then…
Siegfried Haberl

raul May 17, 2005 at 7:09 am

Too much testosterone
Too short memory
Too selective memory
What ifs?
Word War One? World War Two?
If Wilson? So Hitler?
No Revolution? Which evolution?
No War between the States?
Creatures turn on Creator
Breeding monsters
Hussein friend of US against Iran
Ousama friend of US against URSS
Chasing the Golden Fleece?
Trudging through bloody mud
To end of the rainbow?
Gold into dust. Gold into mud.
Fear and anger
Frustration, frustrations
Vicarious warrior
Kicking vicarious dog
Real blood. Real cripples. Real dead
Good father
Leaves choice to kid
Wise kid
‘Roger and out’

R.J. Moore II October 8, 2010 at 2:32 am

Um, depleted Uranium is not likely to cause serious health problems (well, unless it blows a hole in you). It’s about as toxic as lead, less so than mercury. It’s radioactivity levels are low enough to be irrelevant.

I want to blame the government for everything, too, but the effects of DU (which is nothing more than naturally occuring Uranium-238) were pretty well known before anyone ever thought of putting them in weapons. People were exposed to it for thousands of years, it’s all around us, it’s on ceramic plates, people even intentionally eat and drink it.

Bad science will just make us look silly. Please check facts before repeating conspiracy theories.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: