Sunday, January 10, 2016

Government as Agglomeration: or, why multiple people can be right at once

Good [insert time of day here], ladies and gentlemen,

So there was an email recently released via a Freedom of Information Act request from the American State Department said that a French desire for oil and gold was a factor in their support invasion of Libya, as well as the desire to gain economic and political power for France in the Mediterranean Sea. These were some (and I emphasize some) of the reasons for the 2011 intervention in Libya.

This sounds like ultimate vindication for Western conspiracy theorists and for the Russian government and its allies. I would say that they aren't wrong. However, I will also say that those who maintain that resources were the sole (and I emphasize that word for a reason) reason for entering Libya.

People like to say "the United States invaded Iraq for oil," a claim that is quite similar to the claim bolstered by text of the email. However, what is often not considered by the people making some claims is what, exactly, the "United States" is. For one, they mean the government of the United States, who made the decision to undertake the invasion. And, with that implication under that rhetoric, the government of the United States is to blame for being hungry for oil.

Now, consider what a 'government' is: a social construct of thousands of people working together to achieve various domestic and international goals. Also consider that people hardly ever see eye to eye, and that people have different motivations for doing the same thing. Governments are, in essence, agglomerations of various points of view with different intentions for said agglomeration's course of action.

Let's take the claim that the United States invaded Iraq for oil. Various proposed reasons for the invasion I have seen include the following:

  • Oil.
  • Revenge for the Gulf War.
  • Establishment of a democracy.
  • Neutralize chemical weapons.
  • Saddam Hussein's potential links to terrorist organizations
Among others. It's no secret that the US wanted to invade Iraq after 9/11; communiques from Donald Rumsfeld show him looking for a justification. However, Donald Rumsfeld is just one man, as are George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair. And, note, that these men were only four out of many that were involved in making that decision.

Colin Powell at the United Nations, talking about Anthrax and his fear of Iraqi WMDs

These many men and women that were involved in making this decision have different priorities; the State Department has different priorities from the Department of the Army, which has different priorities from the Department of the Treasury which has different priorities from the Department of Energy - and this goes to different countries' equivalents, with Britain's plethora of ministries, and those of France, Australia, and other countries that partook in the invasion.

Clearly, these people were able to agree that invading Iraq was in their best interest. However, the reasons for why they endorsed such a decision vary tremendously. Going off that, I believe all the reasons I listed above and more are reasons for the invasion. Do I think that oil was a factor in the invasion plan? Yes. Do I believe that it was the only reason? No. Do I believe that the oil companies were ecstatic upon hearing the decision? Definitely.

So nobody is wrong, I believe, about the Invasion of Iraq, to one degree or another. I feel that the intervention in Libya is much the same: different interests coming together on a course of action, a course of action in this case involved bombings and no-fly zones.

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