November 06, 2003

A Liberal Vision

The Democratic slide into oblivion is excruciating to watch. But democracy comes with anti-toxins. Good ideas beat bad ideas over time.

Yesterday George W. Bush said this:

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, he’s pitching the Kissinger doctrine over the side. “Stability,” “our bastards,” and the rest of the old right ideology is finished. We cannot and will not liberate every oppressed population at once. But we’ll do what we can when we are able.

It’s ironic that a recently isolationist Republican president has embraced this vision. It’s an old vision and its roots can be found on the left. Paul Berman articulated it best. “Freedom for others means safety for ourselves. Let us be for the freedom of others.”

George W. Bush, to my enduring astonishment, agrees. It’s the only thing that makes the Democrats’ self-destruction bearable.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2003 10:15 PM

You are aware that George W. Bush is a fucking liar, right?

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 7, 2003 12:37 AM

"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty."

I couldn't believe I was hearing this as I drove home from work -- it's what I've been telling my anti-Bush friends about Bush's 180 degree turn after 9/11. It was so good to finally hear it said.

Kimmett: you are totally priceless. Your comments never disappoint. Please don't ever change.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at November 7, 2003 01:18 AM

Heh! So, Bush agrees with the Left that the West has supported authoritarian regimes for far too long. I wonder how many pairs of knickers belonging to the anti-Bush crowd are getting themselves all in a knot right at this very moment...apart from the pair that appear to be strangling Kimmitt that is.

Posted by: suzanne at November 7, 2003 03:45 AM

I'm always enlightened by the incisive commentary offered by dem/libs like kimmit.

Posted by: TimMac at November 7, 2003 04:08 AM


GWB may indeed be a liar - and this may all be just one elaborate ploy to cater to the small wedge of voters just like Michael; but since no one on the left will even get close to touching this sort of belief and foundation for a foreign relations policy I guess we'll have to stick with him, huh?

Posted by: Roark at November 7, 2003 04:16 AM

Yeah, since when did such a progressive, liberal policy such as this become the province of the Right? Could we really imagine Clinton saying such a thing? Oh, I remember now. I'm bit by bit becoming a conservative because I am a liberal.

Posted by: anderson at November 7, 2003 04:23 AM

In the words of Spock:

"Old Earth saying: only Nixon can go to China"

If a Democrat was president, the conservatives would have gone absolutely nuts if the President even mentioned invading Iraq to impose democracy and human rights. But a Republican like Bush can do it, and instead the left goes nuts.

Posted by: Oberon at November 7, 2003 04:31 AM

I believe conversatism now means conserving liberal democracy, liberal education, and liberal economics and repudiating the chaotic, corrosive left, as well as the extreme right.

Posted by: Zacek at November 7, 2003 04:32 AM

Zacek - I agree, there has been a phase-shift. Also, it began long before 9/11.

Posted by: Stephen Meyer at November 7, 2003 05:05 AM

As a Brit, it would seem from this side of the pond that Bush is finally doing what the Left has been asking the Right to do for years and thats stop propping up/supporting/putting in place the worst kind of dictators.

Now, disagree with most of the Bush domestic platform and question the planning/ideologically wilness deception of self and the public in the build up to the war (the WMD's, the lack of post war planning), I can't help but think that this is overall a good thing.

(Hopefully the terrible construction of that sentence will dispel any lingering thoughts about us Brits been well educated)

So I take it that an awful lot of Dems and Dem voters may well vote Bush for Pres and for a Dem congress?

However, I can't help but notice that Clark or Kerry would probably make a better pres in the long run and would certainly be less beholden to special interests. They certainly wouldn't run from Iraq and I feel from a British Centre Left perspective that the international situation would be easier with a little more pragmatism and a little less ideology from the WH. (Not that Europeans are any better/worse on that front at times.

What do Americans think of Blair?


Always good to yarn


Posted by: Neil at November 7, 2003 05:20 AM

I think Tony Blair is the most courageous of the current world's power leaders. If Clinton could have kept his pants on more, avoiding THAT scandal, he might have been able to try to lead the US against Saddam in 98, when Saddam kicked out the inspectors. (Not possible w/ Rep Clinton-hate AND Monica.)

Oberon makes a good point (implied by MJT's earlier "Liberals should support Bush's War") that when the US Pres wants to do something the other party wants, he usually can. He leads his party, and he's doing what the other party wants. Bush's deficit spending to prop up the short term economy (and get reelected) comes to mind; farm pork & steel pork too.

Bush would be smart to try to claim support for Human Rights and neuter the Dem challenge, even if he also argues that Zimbabwe regime change is too expensive, for now. The US should be able to say it would be "good" to do certain things, like N. Korea regime change, which we don't do at the present time for other reasons.

Kimmitt, even liars can speak good, true words. Which candidate is it that has never lied? But it has also been unsaid that, in speaking such words, even if they are merely meant as campaign prop, the Pres. really is setting a better direction for the country to go – and if he’s making the country better so as to get reelected, the better country result is worth it.

Posted by: Tom Grey at November 7, 2003 05:37 AM

I'm sorry, but I find Kimmitt's desperation uproarious, and even a good sign: a reliable negative indicator. He's scared s***less because Bush just came out and said, flat-out in impossible-to-finesse language, the very things that Kimmitt probably would believe in coming from any Democratic candidate. And so the only recourse is to call Bush a liar. Hilarious.

Kimmitt, Bush may be a "fucking liar" (the curse words make clear just how angry you are at Bush coming out and saying such a wonderful thing - he stole the fire from Olympus!), but he's committed himself and the United States openly, on the books here. If he reneges, he'll get hammered left and right.

You have no idea how happy I am to hear this speech. No idea. By golly, I think Bush really means it. What's happening to me? My politics are all topsy-turvy!

Posted by: Jeff B. at November 7, 2003 06:00 AM

"I agree, there has been a phase-shift. Also, it began long before 9/11." The demise of the USSR had something to do with it. "Our thugs" became no longer necessary, and liberal-democratization became possible. With 9/11, liberal-democratization became no longer just possible, but also necessary.

Posted by: Jim at November 7, 2003 06:06 AM

A damn good speech. And sincere, I think. But what are we going to do specifically to encourage democratic institutions to emerge, outside of rebuilding Iraq and encouraging Iranian and Saudi reformers? I want to hear some ideas. And I want to see if we cam get some of the Arabs and Persians who do want democracy, and who should be our allies, to admit that we are not always hypocrites. That means making it clear that we will lean on Israel as hard as we need to, not now, but when the time is right.

Posted by: Markus Rose at November 7, 2003 06:25 AM

Bush is just being pragmatic (a good thing!). The Kissinger docterine worked because our enemies were very powerful, and a mistake could be disasterous (nuclear war). It worked then.

In today's world we have most of the Power. We know what will work now and it also happens to also be a very moral thing as well. All we need is the Will to do it. Bush has that Will and the smarts to know it will work, the Left does not.

Which means they are both immoral and stupid.

Posted by: HalfLiberal at November 7, 2003 06:26 AM

Kissenger? Bah! Even as a practicioner of 'realpolitik' he was second rate.

Posted by: Scott Wickstein at November 7, 2003 06:32 AM

Kimmitt, I see you've gone here to try to "find the love" you couldn't get at Emperor Misha's, and rightfully got bashed for it.

Posted by: David R. Beatty at November 7, 2003 06:40 AM

Breaking News - Kimmitt ignores substance, shoots messenger.

Posted by: Stephen Meyer at November 7, 2003 08:00 AM

I have long believed that the real crime of the West (including the U.S.) was the corrupt and cynical bargain we struck with the repressive regimes of the Middle East--assure us cheap oil and we'll look the other way as you oppress your peoples.

It is the status quo ante that was a thoroughly immoral and unsustainable policy, though certain interests profited mightily from it (Total Fina Elf, for one).

I am happy that Bush and the U.S. are finally on the right side of this most fundamental issue of extending the scope of liberty regardless of geographic region. It is critical that we continue to stress the gradual enhancement of basic human rights in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.

This may be a high-stakes gamble, and it may still fail, but it is literally the only way that the Middle East will ever join its rightful place among the productive and peaceful regions of the globe. If it works, generations of Saudis and Iranians will remember the benefits issuing from the stubborn determination of the simpleton from Crawford, and will remember Blair and Aznar as well. You don't have to love Bush, or even like him, to see that being on the side of liberty is where the U.S. belongs.

It certainly beats the timid hyper-contextualizing and excuse-making which passes for foreign policymaking in much of the E.U. and the U.N. Once again, despite the barbs and our alleged macho posturing, the U.S. revaels itself as the indispensable nation it is in terms of global leadership.

I agree with Cervantes:

"Liberty is one of the most precious gifts heaven has bestowed upon Man. No treasures the earth contains or the sea conceals can be compared to it. For liberty one can rightfully risk one's life."

Posted by: Daniel Calto at November 7, 2003 08:10 AM

This is the Bush administration's policy since september 11. But this is also the struggle for liberty and democracy that is the spirit of the whole american history. WWI, WWII, fight against communism and now against islamofascism.

Posted by: e.r. at November 7, 2003 09:09 AM

Neil: What do Americans think of Blair?

I just love him. Wanna trade leaders?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 09:15 AM

Wow, this is fun. Can we get some t shirts with bush wearing a beret with a US sheild instead of the soviet star (ah la Che)? I mean this as a compliment, not a dig. We're back to being a revolutionary society spreading liberal democracy... like we should be!

Now I can call Kimmit a reactionary... I love it!

Posted by: Thomas at November 7, 2003 09:20 AM

Am I the only person worried about the Bush Doctrine?

I mean, I'm a Republican and all, so I suppose that new things are supposed to give me the willies. And I haven't really had time to make up my mind over this new policy orientation.

There's much to recommend it. For one thing, it puts us squarely against many so-called 'allies' who have mouthed the words while acting covertly against us. Such passive-aggressive friendships (eg the Saudis) have done little to help us.

From a PR standpoint, it's gold, obviously.

As Henry Kissinger points out, a great feature of idealism is that it provides a fortitude that realism can't match. It can keep us in an uncertain, dreary, dangerous situation (and that's what Iraq looks like to people who just watch the evening news once in a while) for far longer than simple power politics might.

Finally, and most importantly, it commits American power to something bigger than crisis-management. It's an implicit recognition that, with our European allies now working to reduce our power, that the window of American dominance will eventually close. That we only have a decade, perhaps two, to accomplish whatever we're going to accomplish, before a challenger or alliance of challengers moves to block our initiatives. An ideological crusade (which is certainly what this is) could, if successful, help turn big swaths of the world into industrialized, capitalist, liberal democracies.

If it fails, it hastens the end of our period of global domination. That period will end eventually no matter what, of course, but the way it ends and what we pull out of it are big question marks.

A key problem of this policy is "what constitutes democracy?" This isn't an academic question. The President praised movement towards democracy in many countries that have no such perceptible movement. Sooner or later, expedient allies (Pakistan?) will need to be abandoned in the name of this new policy... or the policy is reduced to the preference we've always had.

By the way, this address affects more than our Middle East and Central Asia plans. What about southeast asia? What about South America? For countries that are already paranoid about cynical American involvement in their internal affairs, this policy can sound terribly forboding. Sovereignty isn't just a convenience, it has meaning for a reason.

And what about China? Here's another case of us having to weigh what we mean about not supporting non-democracies. And a power that is already flexing its muscles regionally. Perhaps a policy that is more likely to let us confront it later is advisable... and maybe it will accelerate the pace of that confrontation to a time when we have other things to worry about.

As much as many readers talk about how evil the realists are (including Kissinger, who is as fine a foreign policy mind as America's had), realists are not ogres. We respect values like freedom, self-rule, human rights, and free markets. BUT, the world is filled with regimes that don't. To free the enslaved and feed the hungry requires the currency of history: POWER.

Even America has only so much power to spend. Some we might spend on helping others (which I realize helps us, too). But some must be invested, spent, sometimes cynically, to preserve and expand our power. It's all fine and well to ask a country to live beyond its means-- in fact you can get away with that for years, sometimes. But eventually, everyone has to pay.

OK, so with the power we have to spend, what do we do? Well, sometimes (often, actually) spending power on advancing our ideals increases our power. Win-win. With what's left (charity, though some have used that word pejoratively), I say this: spend it WISELY. A global crusade will eat up a lot of blood and treasure, to little effect. A careful, phased effort, applied against the most odious regimes that we might usefully oppose, will free more people in the short term and preserve our strength to free far more people in the long term.

Idealism often describes itself as power with a purpose. Realism could therefore be described as purposeful use of power. Policy questions don't exist so we can feel good. They present us with difficult, terrible decisions that we must answer. I'd rather feel bad but do good than hurt people with my good intentions.

Posted by: Rob at November 7, 2003 09:24 AM

Posted by Rob at November 7, 2003 09:24 AM

Rob, those are all great points. But, another way to look at this is simply that Bush is finally articulating his vision (re: we are not going to change policy much more than we already have).

This has been his weak point. The Euros spend pleanty of time attacking the US and he never responded to them...

Posted by: Thomas at November 7, 2003 09:37 AM

This statement is coming from a man who supports and excuses Putin's actions in Chechnya and his use of state power to jail his political opponents.

From a man who supports the Karimov regime, for whatever reason.

From a man whose commitment to US civil liberties is to seek rulings that give Att. Gen. Ashcroft the power to indefinitely detain, without charges or counsel, any American citizen who is designated as a "terrorist," and who has detained two such citizens, granting them counsel but not charges.

From a man who allows Guantanamo Bay, the only place on earth where no court holds jurisdiction, to house prisoners.

From a man who sanctions the assassination of American citizens on foreign soil.

From a man whose Vice President and Secretary of Defense are on record as stating that criticism of the US response to terrorism is tantamount to supporting its targets.

This is a man who is saying pretty words. This is not a man who follows them with the actions they imply.

I wish that the Bush Administration believed that the West had supported authoritarian regimes for far too long. Unfortunately, its actions make clear that we have quite a bit more "support" to look forward to, as long as those regimes are convenient.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 7, 2003 10:07 AM

Ah, Kimmett. Hysterical much? Delusional,maybe? Yes, there ARE eevil Republican death squads. Guess what?- I just mailed them your name.
Bu'bye, now.

Posted by: That guy at November 7, 2003 10:18 AM


I agree with you (stop the presses!) that Bush should critique Putin far more than he has about Chechnya and distance the U.S. from Karimov. Apparently, some Muslim lives are far more precious than others (i.e. when Hamas leaders are targeted, it's a tragedy, but when thousands of Chechens are slaughtered it hardly registers.)

I too wish the U.S. was more consistent in advocating human rights across the board; I'm not naive enough to expect perfect consistency, but we could certainly do better as a nation. Bush is one of the few leaders of the developed world, however, to even articulate such an interest. When will Chirac and Schroder (or Putin!) make speeches anything like this? Blair, to his great credit, articulated this position well before the war.

I don't see the E.U. or the Arab League doing much better than the U.S. in condemning human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, Burma, Saddam-era-Iraq, Chechnya, or Cuba--in fact they're worse.

Bush did mention prominently in his speech: Saudi Arabia (the mother of all repressive regimes in the ME), Iran, Egypt, and China. Who else is talking about Saudi Arabia? On the one hand, Bush is criticized for "lying" about WMD, and not really giving a damn about human rights and democracy in the M.E., then when he addresses the issue he's also accused of lying. The guy can't win.

Perfect consistency is a hobgoblin of powerless people like us--typing away in the blogosphere. Surely you'd agree that any Presidnet needs to live int he real world, and I'd argue that Bush is certainly doing so (at least in foreign policy) He's worked with the Chinese to bring about multilateral talks re NK (far preferable to bilateral ones, because it makes the conseqences of cheating on any agreement far more severe to NK); he's coordinated with the perfidious Germans and French to get the U.N. involved productively in the Iranian nuclear crisis. These are simply not the actions of an idiotic unilateral tobacco-chewin' cowboy, regardless of how he's characterized.

You can still hate the guy and get behind his policies, at least in a tentative fashion; politics is the art of temporary alliances and mutual exploitation, isn't it? As much as you hate and mistrust Bush, I also sense that you're very strong on human rights.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at November 7, 2003 10:29 AM


You make several good points and I agree with the thrust and tenor of your arguments.

I would add though, that liberty is the only synergistic force that I am aware of that pays high short term as well as long term profits. And I would note that Bush identifies our actions as still the beginning of a long process. Whether the harvest will be worth the seed remains to be seen.

JFK would have been proud of that speech - in that respecct the Democrats have won. If the objective of liberalism is to advance liberty - raise a glass.

Posted by: RDB at November 7, 2003 10:29 AM

"I don't see the E.U. or the Arab League doing much better than the U.S. in condemning human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, Burma, Saddam-era-Iraq, Chechnya, or Cuba--in fact they're worse."

To be fair, many nation-states just don't have the resources to put effective pressure on the nastier regimes, which is why they like to have us do it - or at least take the lead. There's a certain force to that logic.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 10:48 AM

Michael, FYI, I use your post to kick-start a discussion over at Hope you don't mind. If you do, I'll go and remove it. Thanks!

Posted by: alanH at November 7, 2003 11:48 AM

Kimmett: I agree that it would be good to see Bush apply this vision across the board and that there is hypocrisy in turning the other way with respect to Checnya, for instance. But it would be pointless to deny that this rejection (even if incomplete) of client state imperialism is a bona-fide part of the so-called Bush doctrine. The fact that this sort of thinking has had its influence on the right is a huge triumph for the left. Being on the left ought to mean being a watchdog for liberal ideals, but it should also include recognizing our successes and wanting conservatives to accept the best of our political views and celebrating -- rather than feeling violated and angry -- on the rare occasions when that it actually happens (And, for conservatives: vice versa, I would think. I mean, there must be some culture shock in hearing liberals refer to the U.S. military as heroic defenders of freedom).

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at November 7, 2003 12:07 PM

Where have all the good and true Democrts of my staunchly Democratic Dad's era gone? FDR, Al Smith, Truman, JFD, William Fulbright, Henry Jackson, et. al.

Posted by: CoryColorado at November 7, 2003 12:15 PM

Actions, my friends, still speak louder than words. I would have to see some concrete evidence in terms of action applied to, for instance, Saudi Arabia, before I could convince myself that Bush really believes what he said.

I'm afraid that when I listen to Bush speaches, I listen first for the public relations message encrypted into the words. "Mentioning" Saudi Arabia and Egypt does not make them free.

And if the Bush administration no longer supports ugly dictators, what of Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf, for instance, newly self-declared leader for at least the next five years? Or the recently deposed Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada of Bolivia?

I think it's more than too early to declare that Bush has turned over a new doctrine.

Besides, Dick Cheney is Minister of Doctrine in this administration.

Posted by: UncleBob at November 7, 2003 12:18 PM

>>Where have all the good and true Democrts of my staunchly Democratic Dad's era gone?

The GOP. Their former associates on the Left hate them and so does the paleo-right.

Their name: THE NEOCONS.

Posted by: HalfLiberal at November 7, 2003 12:20 PM


Point taken, but this certainly does not apply to Germany's influence over Russia, for instance. Because of its geographic proximity, Russia is very substantially in Germany's economic orbit, and thus vulnerable to German pressure--and by extension, Russia has far more to lose economically by a fallout with the E.U. than with the U.S. The only substantial human rights initiative that the E.U. has taken in the past ten years was pressure on Turkey--mostly to keep a Muslim nation out of the E.U. proper.

I won't even comment on the excrable record of the United Nations, where Syria (!) sits on the human rights committee and the U.S. does not. Many critique the U.S. for unilateralism re Iraq, for lack of unilateralism re NK, for bypassing the U.N.--but the U.N.'s own record regarding human rights is absolutely miserable because they regard "national soverignty" as absolute. I mean, how have the Palestinains fared as clients of U.N. relief efforts? And that's what the U.N. is actually good at. There should certainly be a very high bar to violation of soverignty, but if anyone ever deserved to have his soverignty violated it was the bloody-handed regime of Saddam. Only KJI and the Nork dictatorship come close in terms of awfulness.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at November 7, 2003 12:35 PM

Kimmet, how is a liar who engages in the activity you referred to worse than a liar who limited his behavior to acts which fall short of it?

Posted by: triticale at November 7, 2003 12:49 PM


Mentioning Saudi Arabia and Egypt won't make them free, but if the President of the United States mentions them often enough it certainly puts the issue on the world's agenda (whether the world wants it on the agenda or not). Bush (or likely one of his speechwriters) even had the grace to praise Egypt for taking the lead in making peace with Israel. Not bad for an ignorant hick.

When Bush spoke at the U.N. last fall, he made the very valid point that the U.N's credibility was at stake, given Saddam's serial violation of every toothless U.N. resolution ever passed. He very dicisively put the issue on the agenda. The Saudis are extremely uncomfortable, and feeling considerable pressure. Our troops are gone from their lands. The Saudis are mumbling reluctantly about democratic reforms. There was even a (tiny) demonstration in Riyadh a couple of weeks ago. Directly attacking the Saudis is simply impossible politically given that they control 35% of the world's oil. Merely having a substantial presence in the region, or a free or even reformist Iraq in the neighborhood, has the potential to revolutionize the political calculus of the corrupt Saudi leadership. Even now they are cracking down hard on the Al Queda fanatics in their midst. Things certainly have cahnged, and are likely to continue to do so. Why do you think the Arab League was catatonic about making any statement whatsoever prior to the war? Because the leaders were scared out of their wits.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at November 7, 2003 01:01 PM

Oh, and Neil: If there's any way you can send Blair over here as a Democratic candidate for president FOR THE LOVE OF GOD do it immediately! If only that were possible.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at November 7, 2003 01:05 PM

Bush is finally doing what the Left has been asking the Right to do for years and thats stop propping up/supporting/putting in place the worst kind of dictators.

You mean like Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe, and Daniel Ortega?


Well, at least they've got free health care, and a great educational system...

Or let's talk about ANSWER's well documented recent plea to support Al Qaida and the Fedayeen in an effort to defeat America.

D'oh! D'oh!


Posted by: Al Maviva at November 7, 2003 01:38 PM

Al Maviva,

"Fascism Means War" is an old slogan of the American left. You ever read Paul Berman or Christopher Hitchens? They embody that spirit best.

Do you remember who it was who kicked Slobodan Milosovic in the teeth four years ago? It wasn't the right. Remember who opposed it? It wasn't the left.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 01:45 PM

Funny but I don't remember any mass protests from the Right protesting Bosnia.

Posted by: no at November 7, 2003 01:59 PM

I agree that it would be good to see Bush apply this vision across the board and that there is hypocrisy in turning the other way with respect to Checnya, for instance.

I can respect this as an interpretation of Bush's actions, but it is not mine. I'm not saying that he's a hypocrite. I'm saying that he's laying out a doctrine which he has no intention of following for the purposes of justifying actions based on entirely different criteria. My interpretation is that he is lying.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 7, 2003 02:04 PM

Anyone who thinks the Right backed Clinton in the Balkans might want to read this piece from 1999 by William Saletan in Slate.

It's really something. A liberal writer blasts the right-wingers for wallowing in a drippy 1960s anti-war stew. He illuminates knee-jerk partisan idiocy with floodlights.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 02:06 PM


The Washington Times called Bush's speech "A Wilsonian Call For Freedom" in the title of their lead op-ed.

Sadly, "Wilsonian" no longer describes the "progressive" view of the world anywhere it might improve America's security interests.

Posted by: Trent Telenko at November 7, 2003 02:35 PM

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 02:06 PM

Ok, I read it. Since when were those guy's 'the right'. The real right pushed Trent Lott off the cliff when he was stumbling...

What did NR have to say about Bosnia? I remember I supported it.

Posted by: Thomas at November 7, 2003 02:53 PM

It's true the Right didn't back Clinton on Bosnia. But they didn't do what the Left has done on Iraq. They formed a rational opposition, lost the argument, and then let the issue go. They played the normal political game, that is.

There is a distinction between opposition and emnity. The Left is in emnity, and it's taking the Democratic Party into emnity; that's why so many Democrats are leaving the party.

Posted by: Michael Brazier at November 7, 2003 02:56 PM

>Do you remember who it was who kicked Slobodan
>Milosovic in the teeth four years ago? It wasn't
>the right. Remember who opposed it?


The Republicans have a national security wing to their party and Democrats do not. And it shows in terms of competing voices in the party.

You are also forgetting, as did the reporter for Slate, that Republican 1996 Presidential candidate Dole supported in words and deed arming the Bosnians in open contravention of a UN arms embargo and supported Clinton's Bosnian intervention in 1995.

Dole did carp on Clinton's fibs on how long we would be involved in Bosnian peacekeeping in the 1996 election and connected them to Somalia and Haiti, but that was a different issue than stopping Genocide. Dole was there and he was there first.

You and the Slate reporter also both ignore the fact both future Republican Presidential candidates Sen. McCain and Governor George Bush supported Clinton's winning the war in Kosovo as well.

Delay was and is a blind partisan of the Right in the same mold as House Minority Leader Pelose (sp?) is for the Democratic left.

The problem for the Democratic Party today is two fold. The first is that Delay's blind partisanship was before 9/11/2001 and Pelose's is after. That makes all the difference in the world. Since the Democrats lack a national security wing to their party to provide competing voices for the American public. The only conclusion that the average cable TV watching American can draw of the Democratic Presidential field is that Democrats want to lose the war rather than see Bush win it.

The second is that the Democratic Party’s Congressional wing is their only national institution. The available Presidential candidates all reflect the blind partisanship of Pelose. Publicly dropping your pants at Bush for everything he does makes Democrats both irrational and easily manipulated for the 30 second attack ads that traditionally win elections. That is as much Pelose's legacy as Dean's.

Posted by: Trent Telenko at November 7, 2003 03:03 PM

What an interesting discussion.

Blogging beats watching tv by light years!

Hope you don't mind, but please read the following post of an Iraqi. It is quite relevent to the discussion.


We the Iraqis, find ourselves in the midst of a great turning point in human history. This is no dramatisation, no exaggeration. But if you make even a cursory perusal of the 6000 years or so history of Messopotamia, you will find that this, strangely, is the fate of this particular spot on the earth. Let us not get bogged in the confusing and painful details at this particular time and look at the essence of the matter.

Jolted and shocked by the events of September 11, the United States of America, the greatest and most powerful politico-economic power that humanity has ever known has realised that the advanced and rich western world can no longer ignore the plight of the poorer and underdeveloped world. Those "nation states", who have totally failed the test of self determination and self goverment, and degenerated into obscurantism, sectarianism, tribalism, and all the other isms of hell, pose a mortal danger, both to the people unfortunate to live there and to the Western civilisation itself. More so since the technical complexity of the advanced world render it particularly vulnerable. The danger is real, oh so real! Anybody doubting this is living in a fools paradise.

So Action was decided upon. Action to change the situation in this twilight zone ( c.f. George Orwel - 1984 ), action to bring the values and standards enjoyed by the prosperous world to these places, by force if necessary, by example preferably. And action was taken. this in a nutshell. Let who may tear their hair off. Let them protest until their lungs puncture and shout until their throats bleed. This is it. It is like all great movements in history, characterised by singlemindedness and overpowering impulse. The old style of european imperialism, which aimed at exploitation, cheap raw materials, and keeping people backward and in a state of peasant low existance, has gone and is no longer suitable for the world. A globalised world where every body can enjoy the freedoms and benefits taken for granted by the "advanced" world. This is liberal neo-imperialism. Is it eutopean, is it unrealisable ? I don't know the answer. But the campaign is already under way.

Years ago, in my earlier youth, had I heard somebody talking like this, my hair would have stood on end, I would have been thrown into a fit of rage enough to give me heart attack. But years of suffering, years ground to dust and wasted living under a system which had hardly anything right in it, atavism which took us back to a moral state comparable to that that existed even before the reforms of Islam fifteen centuries ago, have finally brought me to this forlorn conclusion: that perhaps it is better this way - perhaps that really, salvation lies herein.

Caution to the wind. Consider this: if the U.S. tommorrow announces that anybody willing to come to its land would be given the "Green Card" immediately with no further question, how many people do you think would stand in line? Answer this question if you dare ? Why if Western values are so bad and so terrible would you find Muslim, Hindu, Buddist, and every colour and every breed standing in that hypothetical line, in their billions ?

But America cannot take in the entire humanity, so america decides to go to them instead.

Fool, romantic, freak, say what you may. Romantics have always shaped history.

Caution to the wind, caution to the wind.

"Thus Spake the Ordinary Man" - Long Live the Blogging Revolution.

Salam Alaykum

  1. posted by Alaa

Posted by: AK at November 7, 2003 05:48 PM

One last thing...

The Goldwater wing of the party have always wanted a more idealistic foreign policy (Goldwater himself pounded JFK’s desk telling him he had to support the people performing the bay of pigs invasion because we said we would… re: we have an obligation)… We, largely, felt that our opposition to the USSR was due to idealism.

We, usually, felt (or blamed) our existing ‘realism’ policy came from the establishment liberal State Department. We still distrust everything they do and say (National Review seems to have full time people working on digging up their skeletons)…

So, you can’t have all the credit guys…

Posted by: Thomas at November 7, 2003 06:38 PM

I think Chechnya has been part of Russia longer than Texas has been part of the U.S.

Now let's get back to killing Muslims before they kill us.

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at November 8, 2003 09:28 AM

Now let's get back to killing Muslims before they kill us.

Watch it, Theo. I have Muslim friends and co-workers. (Yes, really.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 8, 2003 01:44 PM

I have to agree with Michael, the right was against saving the balkens from the start. I gave up being a conseritive republican over Bosina and Kosovo. I gave up on the repulican's for not helping their fellow humans out. (I think their rejection was mostlly about a liberal president using the US military for something.) I am replused by their stance to this day. If you can save lives, you should. If you can free the oppressed you should. There is no high calling, than helping your fellow human. Weither it be next door, or in Iraq, the priciple is the same.


P.S. Like Michael I nolonger know what to call myself...

Posted by: Derek at November 8, 2003 08:45 PM

>>Like Michael I nolonger know what to call myself...

how about a free-thinking individualist?

oops, guess that would make you right-wing.

Posted by: nobody at November 8, 2003 09:47 PM

What is so nuts about this world is that I used to be a hard leftist (anarcho-communist) in the 60s and early 70s ('till the boat people).

I moved to the Libertarian persuasion until 9/11 when I found out they had no foreign policy. Well not exactly no. More like a communist understanding of the world situation and a commensurate foreign policy. The very reasons I left the communists (not walking the walk) made me leave the Libertarians (not even talking the talk).

I consider myself more of an independent now (I can't stomach the drug war and a few other points dear to cultural conservatives). But the Bush foreign policy vision is a very 60s leftist one (minus the communism/socialism). Democracy for all. The end of dictatorship. The end of tyrants. All the things I became a leftist for.

And now the right has put me right back into my old framework (minus the communism/socialism - a good subtraction).

Life is just so damn interesting.

Posted by: M. Simon at November 8, 2003 10:53 PM

BTW I predicted that the Democrats were a dying breed. And that the new alignment would be libertarian on the left and cultural conservatives on the right. In May. The issues of foreign policy and economics are settled (for now). That leaves the civil liberty issues. Which the current Republican Party is not too good at. Well the Democrats have Reno. Whatever Ashcroft has done it hasn't included mass murder of women and children. So in a way so far he is a step up.

If the Libertarians were sensible about foreign policy they would be a major party by now.

Something will come to take it's place. Nature abhors a vacuum.

When it does come I'm going to join in a heartbeat. I look forward to being a liberal again.

Posted by: M. Simon at November 8, 2003 11:15 PM

Get out of the sad little echo chamber, fellas. The Democrats, who still consistently pull 45-55% of the vote in contested elections, are hardly dying as a Party. They certainly are not collapsing in favor of a completely fringe Libertarian Party.

Here's a clue for you -- a Party with twenty city council seats and ten state Reps is not going to supplant a Party with roughly half of the elected offices in the United States any time soon.

Seriously. Get lives.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 9, 2003 12:45 AM

Tony Blair gives me a woody!

Kerry or Clark not beholden to special interests! Ha! HAHA -- oh, that's rich.

Posted by: Robert at November 9, 2003 05:44 AM

Kimmitt, you've said some very stupid things here, but this blows me away:

"From a man who allows Guantanamo Bay, the only place on earth where no court holds jurisdiction, to house prisoners."

Aside from the inaccuracy of the premise, do you REALLY think there are no places on earth where "no court holds jurisdiction"?

If so, your disconnect from reality (as well as your spouting of reactionary tripe) makes it impossible to take you seriously.

Posted by: Tom at November 9, 2003 08:42 AM

My statement was not quite that literal -- one basic tenet of international law that there is no part of the earth which is not under the authority of some state's legal system. Whether or not said state implements a good one is a side issue; the point is that Guantanamo Bay has been held to be the only area on earth in which no state's legal system holds sway -- neither Cuba's nor the US's, and therefore no one's.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 9, 2003 12:09 PM

ok, just look at this picture for a moment:


then talk to me about 'accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East' - ok?

let's talk about facts - GWB's dad and the same gang of fools that surround (Rumsfeld in particular) were the archetects of this 'accommidation' - period.

back to reality, PUHleeezee!!

Posted by: a patriot against this war at November 9, 2003 04:39 PM

"the point is that Guantanamo Bay has been held to be the only area on earth in which no state's legal system holds sway --"

Held by whom?

Since all U.S. military reservations are "not under the authority of some state's legal system", your pedantic explanation could apply to all of them.

Posted by: Tom at November 9, 2003 06:03 PM

Geez Kimmitt, you couldn't have timed this any better. From today's news:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will hear its first case arising from the government's anti-terrorism campaign following the Sept. 11 attacks, agreeing Monday to consider whether foreigners held at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba should have access to American courts.

LOL, so much for "not under the authority of some state's legal system".

Posted by: Tom at November 10, 2003 09:22 AM

I would like you to explain to me how the fact that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal against the Bush Administration's policy changes the Bush Administration's attitudes toward the rights of the accused.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 10, 2003 10:01 AM

Since all U.S. military reservations are "not under the authority of some state's legal system",

All US military reservations are under the authority of the civilian legal system of the Constitution of the United States. "The Constitution follows the flag." The UCMJ may have some significant variances from civilian courts, but the final court of appeals is always the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 10, 2003 10:04 AM

Good grief. We invaded Panama just to arrest Noriega for violation of US criminal statutes and tried him in a civilian court. Bad move IMHO, but a spectacular precedent.

If the elected soverign of a foreign nation can be held to terms in a US civilian court for violation of US civilian law, then anybody anywhere can be under the authority of the federal legal system and the Constitution.

Posted by: Fred at November 10, 2003 11:27 AM

That's my point -- Bush 43 has very different attitudes toward the rule of law and the rights of the accused compared to, among others, Bush 41.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 10, 2003 11:52 AM

Hmm, If I remember correctly, the Left in earlier days, wanted the Right to chuck their Right-wing dictators, so that those countries could be taken over by the Left-wing dictators. Not much different from resident Jihadis demanding that their civil right to overthrow other people's civil rights be honored.

Anyone remember any Leftist denunciations of Castro? North Vietnam? Red China? The Soviet Union?

Didn't think so..

Posted by: Ptah at November 10, 2003 01:11 PM

You have to get pretty damn far Left before you don't see denunciations of dictators of all stripes (Castro being the one odd blind spot, but there are reasons for that, too). Certainly, you won't find many Leftist politicians who are not on record as attacking the human rights and other records of those governments at various points. If you consider Clinton to be a standard-bearer of the Left, you're going to be even more disappointed . . .

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 10, 2003 02:02 PM

Anyone remember any Leftist denunciations of Castro? North Vietnam? Red China? The Soviet Union?

Didn't think so..

Don't answer your own question so fast.

Ever heard of Trotskyists or democratic socialists or run-of-the-mill liberals? Apparently not. Or do you really think people like Christopher Hitchens, Ralph Nader, John F. Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton swoon over Stalin and Mao?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 10, 2003 09:08 PM

My interpretation is that he is lying.

That's always your interpretation, Michael. We expect nothing...else.

Posted by: David Perron at November 11, 2003 08:43 AM

" I would like you to explain to me how the fact that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal against the Bush Administration's policy changes the Bush Administration's attitudes toward the rights of the accused."

I'm not sure what "attitudes" have to do with anything. Your statement "that Guantanamo Bay has been held to be the only area on earth in which no state's legal system holds sway --" is proven to be wrong simply by the fact the Supreme Court has agreed to hear their case.

Posted by: Tom at November 11, 2003 09:53 AM

This is the President's liberal vision. This is his commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Every one of you supports President Bush and John Ashcroft, every single one of you supports this. It's time to decide if what you get is worth what you're giving up.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 11, 2003 11:34 AM

Wow. President Bush did all that?

You know, just this morning I was thinking to myself: "That Kimmitt guy is probably a lot smarter than I ever thought I was. Maybe I should just tell him that even though I disagree with him on nearly everything, I think he's a pretty smart guy." But then you posted that last bit, and changed my mind.

Not only is this a testimonial by a guy of unknown credentials, but, sorry, anecdote != policy. Unconfirmed anecdote doesn't equate to evidence of wrongdoing. But if it turns out to be the truth, then Mr. Arar needs to name names and get those responsible brought into the light. Much, much more effective than publishing an article in some Canadian newspaper, out of the view of most Americans.

But that's beside the point. If you can actually point to something Bush or Ashcroft did to ensure that this chain of events happened, feel free to post it. Otherwise, what you said is complete horseshit.

Posted by: David Perron at November 11, 2003 12:37 PM

1) Bush nominated and stands behind Ashcroft.

2) Ashcroft has both ordered and had implemented a series of reductions of due process for immigrants and other non-citizens. Mr. Arar's treatment is entirely consistent with those reductions in due process; his denial of an opportunity to contest his status is standard. His deportation to Syria is part of a pattern of sending terrorist suspects to places where they may be tortured out of the sight of US courts.

If you're in an omelette/eggbreaking place, Bush and Ashcroft may be your guys. But if you believe that we are in a war to promulgate the fundamental goods which are freedom and democracy . . . you may wish to seek different standard bearers. These guys don't share your beliefs, and they're willing to lie to you in order to fool you into thinking that they do.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 12, 2003 01:31 AM

I do thank you for the abortive compliment, however.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 12, 2003 01:31 AM

So, which of these Ashcroftian actions pertain to Mr. Arar's case? According to his account, he wasn't even brought before a judge. This seems to be inconsistent with stated policy.

Again, if you know of policy that allows summary deportation without a hearing, denies access to consulates and representation, and generally dispenses with everything resembling due process (not that non-citizens should have all of the same rights as citizens, but neither should they have no rights at all), please let me know what exact policy of Ashcroft was enacted here.

We could argue that the President is responsible for any and all actions taken by the AG, but I think you'd find that an uncomfortable position to take. I do think that if Ashcroft has defined policy that's contrary to law, or if he's otherwise demonstrated incompetency, he ought to be shown the door. But as we've seen in the past, that rarely happens.

Posted by: David Perron at November 12, 2003 09:42 AM

I do think that if Ashcroft has defined policy that's contrary to law, or if he's otherwise demonstrated incompetency, he ought to be shown the door.

I'm on it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 12, 2003 12:11 PM

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