Dealing With Dictators – Payoffs vs. Punishment – Spare the Rod, Spare the Children

(FROM 2011, discussed recently on This Is Hell!)

As the U.S. and others quickly moved to bomb Libya, I wondered why we just didn’t offer to “buy out” Qaddafi. Offer him a billion dollars and asylum and immunity from prosecution for war crimes (the sort of immunity our own leaders enjoy, de facto) if he would just get out.

If Qaddafi refuses the offer that no reasonable person could refuse, well, then, perhaps, there could be limited but escalating uses of force against him, with the offer remaining open.

This sort of deal would avoid the killing and maiming of soldiers and innocent civilians. It would also save hardworking taxpayer dollars.  It would avoid all the other disorders and destruction that military action brings. It would foster a peaceful transition to a better government.

I’m not the first person to make such a suggestion. Here’s a link to a blog that discussed, in 2007, the idea of buying out Saddam Hussein.

So, why not play Let’s Make a Deal?

Some people would object, saying that we need to “punish” Qaddafi.  My response is that we can’t punish everyone we would like to punish. “Punishing Qaddafi” means killing innocent people, including, of course, children. Who wants that?

So rather than hold our nose and make the “tough decision” to order airstrikes that will kill innocents, why not instead hold our nose and forego punishing Qaddafi? I’d rather see him walk free than see a little girl get her legs blown off.

Another objection is that this would “incentivize” other leaders to treat their people terribly, to win this “payday.” My response is that this is fatuous.  The leader who embarks on a program of oppression risks being killed by his or her own people. And such a leader might not even get approached by U.S. officials  if such a deal isn’t in the U.S. interest (read: the country has no oil).  Moreover, the sad fact is that the U.S. already has a history of “incentivizing” despots … to repress their own people.  Here, we’d be paying them not to.

Some of the objections would have the benefit of revealing the ugly nature of modern, U.S. warmaking. One would be that the various private, corporate contractors such as Halliburton and Lockheed Martin, who profit wildly from war, would not get their expected windfall (blood money).  We would see their lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for think tank mouthpieces and the craven U.S. officials who are in their pockets try to squash any deal that would promote peaceful resolution.

We’d also see mainstream, corporate media pooh-pooh talk of such a buyout as “unrealistic” — because war is much more exciting. It brings in bigger audiences and advertising dollars.

But what’s more realistic? The belief that we can bomb despots out of their own countries – and without killing innocent people, without creating disorder, without losing our own troops, and without spending a fortune? Or the belief that sleazy tyrants such as Qaddafi have their price?

Why No Process to Test Obama’s Case for Bombing Syria?

Here are three links to pieces I’ve written on how we need, internationally and nationally, to create processes for testing claims for war.  Let’s start a movement!

Here’s a downloadable article: Foley Avoiding War

I discussed this issue today on the great Chicago radio show “This Is Hell” with Chuck Mertz. Here’s the link:

cross-posted on

Biden – Ryan Debate

What a great debate. I’m mulling over each candidate’s positions. They both have lots of really good ideas for America. It will be a really tough choice. I will keep thinking about this until November 6. I will keep watching the debates and commercials and will save up to donate money to my favorite candidate.

The McDonald’s Coffee Case – Cutting Through the Lawpaganda

Here’s a documentary on the case (mis-)used by pro-corporate activists who want to limit human beings’ ability to sue companies that harm us (a.k.a. “tort reform”).  Stella Liebeck wasn’t merely crying over spilled milk (coffee) – she was severely burned.

The Power of Your Vote

I received this email from the Obama campaign yesterday:

“Brian —

“Tomorrow is the last day to make sure every single voter in Florida is ready to vote.

“So get on our Facebook app right now, and reach out to your friends to make sure they’re ready to cast their ballot.

“It’s a pretty phenomenal power we have as voters — we get the chance to shape the future of our country.

“And, as Floridians, we have a big role to play in deciding the outcome of this election …

I’ve been intrigued by discussions with fellow liberals about third party voting. They say it’s wasting your vote to vote for a third party candidate such as the Green Party’s Jill Stein.  Because it’s impossible for her to win, they say.  And even if you want to try to move the Democratic Party left by voting Green, that effort will fail, they say, because the lesson the Democrat powers-that-be will take is that the Democratic Party must move further right, to capture the middle.  And, by the way, most Americans aren’t liberal — just check out how few votes liberal third parties actually get!  Oh — and you’ll be vilified the way Ralph Nader has been.

So your vote is futile, unless it’s to support Obama.  Then the power is, as the letter from Camp Obama says, “pretty phenomenal.”

Three things: First, if a sufficient number of people voted for a particular candidate, the candidate would win. Isn’t that what voting is about? Second, if the Democrats lost a sizable number of votes to a liberal, they would be fools to think that they’d regain or replace those votes by moving right.  (And isn’t it interesting that the party will change positions to gain voters on the right but not on the left?) Third, the fact that third parties don’t get many votes may be in large part because even people who agree with those parties’ candidates ultimately don’t vote for them — because they’ve been told it’s futile. (To see which candidate most reflects your views, take this quiz.)

My thought is that Democratic Party leaders just don’t want to move left. That would make it harder for them to score corporate money, and raising small amounts from lots of regular people takes lots of work.  Democratic leaders are enjoying  power right now, and they don’t have to bother satisfying any pesky popular base. (They could use that power to advance a liberal agenda, but they’re using it to advance … their own power.)  So they scare (propagandize?) liberals into accepting that the Democratic candidate is as left wing as America can ever possibly get.  If you try to move the party further left — BAM! — you’ll have yourself a right wing president … who will move his party even further right … because, after all, he must satisfy his base. Fear fear fear.

Apparently, the thinking goes, there’s just one direction parties can move in response to voters: right.  Right?

I’m interested in readers’ thoughts on this topic.
UPDATE: I was talking with a libertarian yesterday who said he wants to vote Libertarian but heard that that will take a vote away from Romney — and he’s afraid of four more years of Obama.

Life Under Obama – Man Dies After Eating Live Roaches (Humor)

A man died after eating live roaches and other insects. This is what Americans are consigned to eating thanks to Obama and his destruction of our economy.  Obama will probably create a government program to protect cockroaches – and empty our wallets and make businesses skittish about hiring.