January 11, 2004

Mainstreaming the Fringe

Wesley Clark is supposed to be the alternative to Howard Dean. He's the man with a military uniform who projects an image - an image - of credibility on national security.

Here is Jay Nordlinger:

In a recent column, I attributed the following comment to [Wesley Clark]: that President Bush "is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq." The Associated Press reported that Clark had said it; Reuters reported that his spokesman, Chris Lehane, had said it. It seems that it was Lehane.

Either way, the remark is in perfect harmony with current Clarkian rhetoric.

The general has told us, "I'm one of those people who doesn't believe in occupying countries to extract their natural resources. I think you buy them on the world market."

I agree with Wesley Clark. We should never occupy countries to extract their natural resources. I mean, for crying out loud, what kind of person could support such a policy? Thank goodness I've never heard a single person say they do, never read a single column by any writer supporting anything like it.

The problem, of course, is that Wesley Clark is obviously implying that some people do think we ought to invade other countries to steal their resources. And we all know who that is. Iraq was all about ooooooil. According to Wesley Clark.

But let's not photoshop a tin-foil hat onto the general just yet.

I don't believe for a minute that Wesley Clark has bought what he's selling. This is a cynical Say-Anything-To-Get-Elected moment. He's trying to siphon votes from Howard Dean.

That's what politicians do. But he's mainstreaming the fringe while he's at it.
Try to imagine mainstream Republican candidates ranting about Satanic Darwinists on school boards and black helicopters in Montana. The moderate middle would scramble to the left as fast as you can say boo!

The 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston was really something. This was where Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan declared a fundamentalist Culture War on America. Blame Ross Perot on Bill Clinton's '92 victory if you want to. But that turkey show in Houston kept me and a lot of other people out of the GOP for a decade.

Wesley Clark and his rival Howard Dean are doing what the Republicans did twelve years ago - stirring up the fringe for votes and attention. They are letting loose forces that will not soon vanish, that cannot be accomodated, that will be their own undoing.

I know of so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats. I don't know of a single person, anywhere, who is moving the other direction.

The damage will last a long time.


UPDATE: Mithras says I took Clark's quote out of context. Here is the full context. Okay, so Clark was referring to the occupation rather than the invasion. Still, saying we are occupying Iraq to extract resources is hardly less batty than saying we invaded Iraq to extract resources. Either way, I still don't think Clark believes what he's saying. He's pandering. And he's pandering to the fringe.

Oliver Willis thinks that because I found Clark's quote from Jay Nordlinger my entire argument is invalid.

Michael Totten masters alchemy in the act of extracting the idea from stone that Democrats are becoming extremists - get this - from a National Review story...Newsmax says Tom Daschle eats baby's brains. It must be true.
The same quote can be found at clark04.com. Oliver, you may not like National Review but they aren't in the habit of making up quotes from scratch.

UPDATE: Nathan Hamm and Randal Robinson comment.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2004 10:43 PM
Comments

I suppose that's it, the Democrats have jumped the shark. Who Knew even has a graphic where Howard Dean is dressed like Fonzie http://whoknew.typepad.com/whoknew/2004/01/do_you_think_im.html

It remains to be seen how long the party will continue to pander to the politics that marginalize it. We can only hope that they don't go into the kind of slump they did after the Civil War. Our system needs two strong parties to function.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at January 11, 2004 11:20 PM

Wesley Clark and his rival Howard Dean are doing what the Republicans did twelve years ago - stirring up the fringe for votes and attention. They are letting loose forces that will not soon vanish, that cannot be accomodated, that will be their own undoing.

Crap, Michael. Comparing Dean or Clark to Buchanan is stupid. Neither are extremists, and none of their positions or rhetorical are extreme, unless by "extreme" you mean "Democratic."

I know of so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats. I don't know of a single person, anywhere, who is moving the other direction.

That's probably more of a selection bias than anything else.

The damage will last a long time.

Get over yourself.

Posted by: Mithras at January 11, 2004 11:27 PM

Indeed. Although I have been a lifelong "liberal", I find myself reflexively disbelieving things most other liberals say these days because so much of it now just sounds completely idiotic. Often I have to stop and say to myself "Just because a lefty says it, doesn't mean it's false". And this is from a lefty!

Trouble for them indeed. However, republicans hold just as little charm for me.

Posted by: Zachary Braverman at January 11, 2004 11:31 PM

Mithras,

You don't think saying we invaded Iraq to steal oil is extreme? Even Pat Buchanan has a more sensible objection than that.

And, no, by extreme I do not mean "Democratic."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2004 11:36 PM

It may be that the US invaded Iraq for reasons other than oil, but it doesn't help when Paul Wolfowitz says in a public forum: "... we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil." This from DefenseLink (DOD) website.

I'm not even sure what was meant by that. The context was a justification for different treatment between Iraq and North Korea.

Posted by: Graham at January 11, 2004 11:46 PM

Graham,

You didn't provide a link, so I can only guess at the context. But here's my guess:

North Korea can be isolated and turned into an economic basket case to bring down the regime. That is not an option with Iraq because it floats on a sea of oil.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 11, 2004 11:52 PM

I'm having an eerie premonition that the final nail in the Democratic coffin will be pounded in by the pseudo-liberal reign of president Hillary starting in 2008. 4 to 8 years of that powerful bad mojo will have some of us reminiscing over the pseudo-fringe antics of Tweedle-Dean and Tweedle-Clark. I'm starting to think I could vote for Gephardt. Many rivers to cross between now and November.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at January 11, 2004 11:55 PM

Taken in historical context, it also doesn't help when the former Secretary of State and generally immoral SOB Henry Kissinger says: "Oil is much too important a commodity to be left in the hands of the Arabs."

So, even if right-leaning Americans don't want to believe it and want to ignore even the possibility or mention of it, the possibility that Iraq was taken over militarily may have had more to do with its natural resources than weapons of mass destruction. Even a partisan group like this may be able to agree that those two issues were of equal importance in the decision to invade. Anyone who suggests that there is a link is labeled a "kook" or "conspiracy theorist".

Just to add more complexity, consider the fact that Saddam had switched the currency that Iraq did oil trades in from using the US Dollar which is the world standard to the Euro, which is an emerging threat to the dollar standard.

Posted by: Graham at January 11, 2004 11:56 PM

Who Knew even has a graphic where Howard Dean is dressed like Fonzie

That's not Fonzie, that's James Dean, the "Rebel without a cause".

Much funnier that way. Although I bet we can get Cox and Forkum to draw a Donkey on a motorcycle jumping a shark if we ask nicely :)

Posted by: Court at January 11, 2004 11:57 PM

Graham,

I completely agree that Henry Kissinger is an ass.

What I like about the neocons is that they pitch the Kissinger doctrine over the side.

Noam Chomsky once said you can find out what people really think when you listen to them talk amongst themselves. And he's right. You get their undiluted thoughts without spin.

With that in mind, I recommend checking out Commentary magazine sometime. It's the neocon "bible." I don't expect you to like everything in it. I don't like everything in it.

Thing is, they're an interesting group that writes a lot about exporting freedom, democracy, and human rights. It's a tiny magazine with a miniscule circulation. They are talking to themselves in those pages, not the public.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 12:28 AM

Just saw an ep of The Practice today, where the police tortured a confession out of an innocent man while six defense lawyers looked on in impotent rage.

It was pretty powerful stuff, and it reminds me that it doesn't fucking matter who wants to invade Iraq when; it matters who thinks that holding Americans without charges, sending folks off to Syria to get tortured, and holding people who are known to be innocent in overseas detention camps is a good idea.

The sad thing about the terrorist attacks isn't the horrific loss of life they caused -- that was awful, but it was enraging, not saddening. No, the sad thing is the way we chose to murder in our own hearts our love for freedom in this country.

I'll believe the neoconservatives when they show even the tiniest commitment to democracy and the rule of law to this country. Until then, it's all just window dressing, and I will hate them for what they've done to my beloved country and its ideals.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 12, 2004 12:36 AM

Kimmitt,

Let me say this slowly so that you understand --

That...was...a...TV...show. TV...is...not...reality. TV...is...fiction.

Posted by: Remy at January 12, 2004 12:50 AM

Graham,

http://www.chronwatch.com/editorial/contentDisplay.asp?aid=2971

(found in about 60 seconds using Google)

Posted by: Daniel at January 12, 2004 12:51 AM

Graham, you are only demonstrating that Clark's kooky comments do indeed play well with a certain type of ill-informed conspiracy theorist. No surprise there.

Why "ill-informed"? Googling "wolfowitz" and "sea of oil" brought up this correction in the Guardian on the very first hit. (I remember reading this correction when it came out. Apparently some people never got the memo.)

Even a partisan group like this may be able to agree that those two issues were of equal importance in the decision to invade.

A desire to "steal the oil" was never part of any justification for going to war that I ever heard from anyone other than leftist conspiracy theorists. Not only would it have been wrong to invade Iraq for its oil -- it would have been stupid. If all we wanted were the oil, it would have been much cheaper to simply buy it from Hussein, who was more than willing to sell it to us. An invasion and occupation is a very inefficient way to get it.

That is not to say that the question of who controls Iraq's oil is not important. Substitute "brutal dictators" for "Arabs," and it's hard not to agree with the Kissinger quotation, even for an old left-wing liberal like me.

Posted by: Browning Porter at January 12, 2004 12:59 AM

Looking at your archives Michael - Oct. 30,2003 as well as other dates, I see at the bottom of the comments LOTS of postings with links to other sites.

Posted by: Darrel at January 12, 2004 02:36 AM

The Euro conspiracy theory to which Graham alludes is detailed here. It has been debunked by Paul Krugman. Megan McArdle (aka Jane Galt) also discussed it at Calpundit.

Posted by: tm at January 12, 2004 03:09 AM

Although I have been a registered Republican since 1980 (for reasons that I won't divulge), I have never, ever voted Republican in a presidential election. That changes this year. I'll be damned if I'm going to throw my support to a party that caters to the Indymedia crowd.

Posted by: michele at January 12, 2004 03:55 AM

Michael,

In an interesting couterpoint to your thesis, I can recall the "controversy" between Charles Johnson and Anil Dash about the "nuke Mecca" type comments at LGF. The LGF commenters were condemned as racists for holding this view and Charles was deemed guilty by association. Moving forward to today, your "History and Total War" post - which essentially amounts to a nuke Mecca argument - is merging into the mainstream. The Jacksonians making the nuke Mecca arguments used to be on the fringe

Posted by: HA at January 12, 2004 04:16 AM

Of course oil is a big part of the story. Because Iraq floats on a "sea of oil", Saddam had vast potential wealth to pursue his ambitions. Because the world runs on oil, megalomaniacal psychopaths are even more dangerous in the Middle East than they are elsewhere. But it's goofy to imagine that we invaded Iraq to steal its oil. It would have been much cheaper to buy it.

Posted by: Jim Clark at January 12, 2004 04:37 AM

It is all about oil. The war was to secure access to oil for as long as we need it, not to sneak a way with barrel or two. How else to explain the emphasis on strategic importance of the Middle East from Bush's speech to the National Endowment for Democracy?

Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East -- countries of great strategic importance -- democracy has not yet taken root.
Posted by: poputonian at January 12, 2004 05:37 AM

I've never heard a single person say they do, never read a single column by any writer supporting anything like it.

Wow, sounds exactly like what I said about your "Paleoliberal" pile-on. Back then, the answer was that they were thinking it, even if they wouldn't say so. I thought it was hooey then, and it's hooey now, but if the standard of proof for existance of a movement is a mainstream representative, then you'd best admit paleoliberals don't exist.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 05:39 AM

Moving forward to today, your "History and Total War" post - which essentially amounts to a nuke Mecca argument - is merging into the mainstream. The Jacksonians making the nuke Mecca arguments used to be on the fringe.

Your argument "essentially amounts" to total BS. There is nobody in the mainstream making a "nuke Mecca" argument -- at least that I've ever heard. Nobody. Including Michael. (Is he "mainstream"?) Certainly there has never been even the slightest hint of that from the Bush administration. In fact, mainstream hawks are generally very fast to upbraid and even ridicule those who do make such intemperate suggestions. Look at Anne Coulter.

As for construing Michael's argument as "essentially amounting" to "nuke Mecca" . . . You've been reading too much Chomsky. "If you look at this policy, and then turn your head sideways and squint a little, it almost looks like a call for total genocide."

Posted by: Browning Porter at January 12, 2004 05:46 AM

Michael, one reason so many Dems can support Bush should be his high deficits -- Dems are usually tarred by Reps as the big spenders. Has Bush actually cut ANY fed programs, in real dollars, that the Dems have complained about? Yeah, tax dollars for international abortion programs. Beeg Deel. Reagan did cut, and tried for more, but Bush is doing almos nada -- which should really please Dems, but doesn't.

Bush's positions should make the real small gov't Reps unhappy; and it does, some. But THEY truly have nowhere else to go (not even to the Harry Browne Libs). Winning is more important than WHY you're running, except on maybe one or two big issues. So, heck, Bush is right against dictators. And Clark is 'one of those people' who would rather the US just keeps paying money for torture palaces than force regime change.

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 12, 2004 05:56 AM

mainstream hawks are generally very fast to upbraid and even ridicule those who do make such intemperate suggestions.

http://www.wrongwaygoback.com/wetlogarchive/archive.asp?2002_08_25_archive.html

Host: http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog
URL: http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/
Inbound Links: 1105
Inbound Unique: 975

http://instapundit.com/ and
http://michaeltotten.blogspot.com/ and
http://www.buzzmachine.com/ and
http://www.windsofchange.net/ link to:

http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/weblog.php

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 06:08 AM

The 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston was really something. This was where Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan declared a fundamentalist Culture War on America. Blame Ross Perot on Bill Clinton's '92 victory if you want to. But that turkey show in Houston kept me and a lot of other people out of the GOP for a decade.

Wesley Clark and his rival Howard Dean are doing what the Republicans did twelve years ago - stirring up the fringe for votes and attention. They are letting loose forces that will not soon vanish, that cannot be accomodated, that will be their own undoing.

I think this is unfair. Buchanan was a fringe candidate who had a small but enthusiastic following. As was then the norm, he was given convention time. But he didn't represent the party then, and certainly not George Bush the Elder.

Posted by: James Joyner at January 12, 2004 06:15 AM

tax dollars for international abortion programs

No, that's not what he cut. He cut tax dollars for family planning if the group doing the planning also provided abortion services, which were never funded by the US govt.

The federal government never funded abortion services, they funded the condom distribution and other such services. Well, used to.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 06:18 AM

i've never voted for a republican president or senator, but i may throw my lot to pres. bush for no reason other than spite.

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 06:21 AM

It is all about oil. The war was to secure access to oil for as long as we need it, not to sneak a way with barrel or two.

This argument has a grain of truth in it, although it resorts to crude, simple-minded reductionism that distorts the truth. The oil is indeed what makes the region "strategicly important." If you undo the reductionism, you get something like this:

This war was, in some part, about securing access to oil for the world of 21st century liberal democracies, but, more importantly, to do it in such a way that we no longer need to enrich and mollify aggressive dictators and fundamentalist demogogues to have that access. The oil there should belong to the free people who live there, and not to their oppressors. And this oil-related portion of the rationale is in concert with our larger long-term agenda of bringing liberal democracy to the Third World. Doing so would be not only good for the citizens of the liberal democracies, but also for the subjects of these dictators, many of whom have been begging us to help them for too long now. The poverty and resentment engendered by the old way of doing business -- buying oil from tyrants -- puts us all at risk of catastrophic terrorism, a fact that was made all too evident to us by 9-11.

Posted by: Browning Porter at January 12, 2004 06:48 AM

So, Hipocrite, that string of raw hypertext is supposed to imply that a link to LGF amounts to endorsement of a plan to nuke Mecca? Please. Come back when you have a real argument.

Posted by: Browning Porter at January 12, 2004 07:17 AM

Wow, I've just heard some great reasons to vote Bush in this thread!

It seems that none of you guys, grrls, and idjits have the guts to say you like him, so you'll just say you're doing it out of spite. A small victory indeed. Heh.

Posted by: anon at January 12, 2004 07:19 AM

In Joe Klein’s May 19th article in Time, How to build a better democrat each Democratic candidate was compared to their ‘philosophical and stylistic forebears.’ Dennis Kucinich's ‘philosophical and stylistic’ inspiration was Pat Buchanan Both are populists who appeal to a certain extreme in the population. Kucinich is Pat Buchanan lite.

Would anyone be surprised if Kucinich said that Bush “is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq?” Of course not, he says things like that all the time. Clark (and occasionally Dean) are trying to get more votes by being Kucinich lite. Just one of many reasons why the Democrats are so disappointing lately.

Posted by: mary at January 12, 2004 07:22 AM

It seems that none of you guys, grrls, and idjits have the guts to say you like him, so you'll just say you're doing it out of spite.

Hey, anon, I took the leap last week. I said it for the first time, "I like Bush. If the election was tomorrow, I'd vote for him. He's done more to promote and realize values I hold dear than my party has done for 40 years."

I'm making it clear to people that my support of him isn't out of spite for my party, but out of conviction and the Democratic party's inability to give me a credible alternative. I may have serious issues with Bush's domestic policy, but we are in a time that foreign policy needs to play a prominent role in our politics, and there's no time to wait out a two-year learning process of failures under President Dean.

I've been a "tool" of that policy. I was happy working for Clinton, and didn't have any problems working under Bush. I wouldn't want to work for any of the Democratic candidates save Lieberman, and he's not going anywhere.

It's nice to get this out in the open. And, I guess it makes it kind of fitting that Michael linked me with the word "Republicans."

Posted by: nathan at January 12, 2004 07:50 AM

I must concur with Browning Porter that "Ha" is full of it: the suggestion that Michael Totten is one of those "nuke mecca" liberals made me laugh out loud.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at January 12, 2004 07:52 AM

I haven't voted for a Republican for President since Ford, but it looks like I'll be taking the Ed Koch position this time - I can't think of a single domestic policy of Bush's I agree with, and this administration's execution on foreign policy leaves a lot to be desired, but there doesn't appear to be any Democratic candidate with a realistic shot at the nomination who has a clue what we're up against in terms of either enemies or nominal "friends". I'd love to have the Dem nominee convince me otherwise in the next 9 months, but I don't expect it.

Posted by: VAMark at January 12, 2004 08:37 AM

Koch, VAMark--I third that! Never voted for a Rep. for prez. '04 will be the year I take the plunge.

Posted by: MOChris at January 12, 2004 08:42 AM

Not to look a gift link in the mouth, but I wouldn't describe myself as "shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats." I suppose it helps not to have many illusions to begin with, and not being a Democrat, and not paying one bit of attention to the endless pre-primary season ... but I have two issues in this election -- America's role in the world (by far the biggest of the two), and fiscal discipline -- and so far the person who alarms me the most on these counts is not a member of the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Matt Welch at January 12, 2004 08:49 AM

Matt,

Are you still closer to the Democrats than the Republicans then?

You went from supporting Ralph Nader to writing for Reason magazine, but perhaps your migration from left to center is different from mine. Sorry if I mischaracterized you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 09:08 AM

I've always been an independent who voted Democrat. So I have something of the same attitude as Matt Welch, although I come to a different conclusion. I will vote for Bush this year.

About the oil: we get less of our oil from the Gulf than most of the world, but if the Arabs play games with their oil, it has a negative effect on the world economy and everyone suffers, especially poorer countries. So if we make sure the supply of oil is secure from the whims of megalomaniac dictators, we are doing everyone a favor. Just a thought.

Posted by: Yehudit at January 12, 2004 09:10 AM

Michael,

I don't think we invaded Iraq to help Halliburton. I thought we invaded Iraq to fight al Qaeda and rid the country of WMDs.

Obviously, the Bush administration has told a few cynical stories as well.

Posted by: harry at January 12, 2004 09:13 AM

Michael -- No apologies necessary. I guess I don't really consider my generally incoherent ragbag of politic/governance beliefs to be any kind of "migration." I still describe myself, to myself, as a "liberal," but I don't expect anyone to agree with me, understand what I'm talking about, or care.

I think the divide you keep detailing (and well) comes almost totally down to where you stand/stood on the Iraq war, and by extension what you think about the projection of American power in the world. I remain ambivalent about the war, you & Jarvis & Roger Simon are/were strongly in favor. It makes sense that you would be sensitive to the flabbiest of anti-war arguments, and the accusations of heresy thrown at you. It also makes sense that someone with similar politics as yours who was nonetheless ambivalent or against the war, and worried about America's growing bilateralism & use of its power, would pay less attention to indymedia.crap and more attention to the worrying behavior of those who hold actual power. And, if you have once identified yourself strongly with one political camp (as I have never done), it makes further sense that the experience of separation from it would be particularly jarring.

To answer your question -- I have no idea what party I'm closer to. I'm strongly in favor of divided government, so I'm probably more likely to vote for Republicans in California, and for Democrats nationally, but my voting track record is a totally incoherent mess, and there's no reason to believe that will change any time soon.

Posted by: Matt Welch at January 12, 2004 09:40 AM

Micheal:

You described my situation exactly but I am still fighting for my party. If they nominate Dean, they lost me...but only on the National level. Locally I am still voting Dem.

You can not like the vacant illogical crap being spewed by the Dem. primary candidates and still vote Dem. at your local level.

There is no question that the party is being severely damaged, I don't think it is permanent anymore than Buchanan and Robertson permanently damaged the Reps. I think some of the commenters are young and may be seeing this through too little history. Anyone who thinks the damage to the Dems even approaches the post civil war reconstruction damage (one of the comments) is substantially over-stating the damage.

The only way I can see Bush losing the election is if a viable third party candidate siphons off enough right-wing support (it could happen). Bush squarely occupies the Center but is vulnerable on the right. Thanks to the Democrats pandering to the loonatic left (There has been so much more pandering this election than in past contests)the inevitable pivot to the Center for the General election will be almost impossible to pull off. Bush is sitting there on almost every issue.

Posted by: Mahatma at January 12, 2004 10:12 AM

Just my two cents worth: I consider myself an independent. Prior to the mid-term elections of 2002, I had always tended to vote Democratic or 3rd party, with the exception of presidential contests where I generally voted only 3rd party candidates (the one exception being 1984 when I voted for Mondale). In 2004 I will enthusiastically vote for Bush, and in all probability will cast a straightline ballot for the Republicans. Also, I do not see myself voting for any Democrat, at any level, in the future. As far as I am concerned, the Democrats are far too beholden to the leftist, socialist, tranzi, pc, and other fringe groups. Until or unless the Democratic party demonstrates to me, through deeds and not words, that it is more committed in advancing the interests of America than it is the EU, UN, or various special interest groups, I will not reward any of them with my vote.

Posted by: MB at January 12, 2004 10:13 AM

Anon -

oh, there will be so many reasons to vote for President Bush over the Democratic candidate. 'just for spite' was just a joke. Lighten up a bit! (I know, it's tough. you're very bitter right now)

if you haven't checked out my blog, then i'll just tell you that my thoughts on bush vs. the democratica candidates generally run in line with Totten and the others. I still hold out hope for Edwards or Lieberman. Maybe, just maybe, I would vote for one of them. I just don't see it happening. But the spite is just the icing on the cake.

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 10:14 AM

Michael,

Christine Todd Whitman echoes similar thoughts, from a moderate Republican POV.

Posted by: Ray Eckhart at January 12, 2004 10:16 AM

I agree with MB, the sour taste I have for the Democrats at this time covers more than just the presidential candidates. When Nancy Pelosi was elected to lead the democrats in the House, that showed me which way the dems were going to lean.

When the Dems dump Pelosi, and shoot towards the middle by electing a moderate like Harold Ford Jr. to lead the party, that's when I'll consider a return to my democratic roots.

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 10:45 AM

You know, Greens occasionally made the argument that Nader throwing the election to Bush would be a good thing (from the liberal perspective), because the country would be so appalled that it would ultimately make everyone more liberal. But I think that through their actions in 2000, and Dean's probable nomination and subsequent righteous spanking, they may succeed in totally destroying the relevance of the left-wing of the Democratic Party.

If anything is going to help moderate Dems at this point, it's the lefties finally getting exactly what they want (Dean as the nominee), and having their asses totally handed to them as a result. It might marginalize them once and for all, which IMO would be wonderful for those of us who are in the center but still consider ourselves Democrats.

Posted by: bonk at January 12, 2004 10:45 AM

You know, Greens occasionally made the argument that Nader throwing the election to Bush would be a good thing (from the liberal perspective), because the country would be so appalled that it would ultimately make everyone more liberal. But I think that through their actions in 2000, and Dean's probable nomination and subsequent righteous spanking, they may succeed in totally destroying the relevance of the left-wing of the Democratic Party.

If anything is going to help moderate Dems at this point, it's the lefties finally getting exactly what they want (Dean as the nominee), and having their asses totally handed to them as a result. It might marginalize them once and for all, which IMO would be wonderful for those of us who are in the center but still consider ourselves Democrats.

Posted by: bonk at January 12, 2004 10:47 AM

I'm sorry, but can we have an argument that's not a gummed-up controversy from a far-right magazine?

Next up, WorldNetDaily says that the Democratic Party is doomed to complete irrelevance, and Frontpage declares that liberalism is a greater threat to America than al-Qaeda. It must be true!

Posted by: jesse at January 12, 2004 11:03 AM

Michael, this post is just a dishonest reading of Clark's comment, and from that, a whole condemnation of Democrats is spun.

Here is the link to the statement by Clark in its entirety. It makes it pretty clear that Clark was referring to how Bush was rewarding Halliburton during the occupation, and was not referring to the motivation for the invasion.

Do facts matter to you?

Posted by: Mithras at January 12, 2004 11:10 AM

Political parties exist to pursue votes. Unless you want to disenfranchise anti-war voters, or mandate that domestic issues should be given no importance right now, there is no way that the Democratic Party will not reflect the fact that there is a large opposition to the President. It's not Dean (or Clark)'s fault that the rank-and-file members of the party support them. In any event, why is it more absurd to believe that we went to war for oil than it is to believe that we went to war to liberate the Iraqi people?

Posted by: Steve Smith at January 12, 2004 11:21 AM

jesse,

"I'm sorry, but can we have an argument that's not a gummed-up controversy from a far-right magazine?"

On your blog: yes!

On Micheal's blog: depends on what Michael wants to talk about.

I realize that the fractious and dividing nature of the current situation is unpleasant. More and more, I am reminded of the bitter situation in political thought that existed just prior to the Civil War. Regretably, the Democratic party today is taking a moral stance externally that is equivelant to the moral stance they took internally a century and a half ago. They overlooked the plight of slaves then inside the country, they are overlooking the plight of slaves outside the country now.

The good news in all of this is that the Dems are loosing traction all over the place. Which is what we are talking about here.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at January 12, 2004 11:32 AM

It wasn't about oil? Not what Paul O'Neil says....

Posted by: anon at January 12, 2004 11:46 AM

Invading Iraq is a pretty damned cost inefficient way of securing the Iraqi oil. 100 billion dollar war, 100 billion reconstruction - the boys at Big Oil are not that dumb.

On the other hand, if you look at the changes in middle east politics since Iraq fell, the neo-cons are beginning to look pretty clever. What would it have cost to bring Assad to the table or disarm Gadaffi? Much less to cut off funding to the homicide bombers?

The Deans and the Clarks are chasing Dem activists whose comprehension of geo-strategy is informed by deep thinkers like Michael Moore and Naomi Klein. To pick up the activist votes is critical in many of the primaries and that means firmly ignoring any analysis which might suggest invading Iraq was really rather clever.

The only question the American voter really has to answer is whether or not any given Democratic candidate actually believes the rubbish he is sprewing for the sake of the activists. If yes, then there is no choice but to vote for Bush, if no, then the candidate is at least cynical enough to begin to deal with international politics.

Posted by: Jay Currie at January 12, 2004 11:53 AM

"I'm sorry, but can we have an argument that's not a gummed-up controversy from a far-right magazine?"

The fact that Wesley Clark was quoted by a conservative magazine does not mean Wesley Clark did not say the words attributed to him.

Also, National Review is mainstream conservative, not far-right. The American Conservative is far-right.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 11:58 AM

Michael,

You can't go THAT far-right (The American Conservative), cuz we all know now that the far end loops around and meets back up with the far-left (a match made in heaven, right?). For these guys, NRO is the most extreme.

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 12:14 PM

Michael-
What do you think the title of Clark's 12/10/03 press release - "Latest Misguided Bush Efforts ..." - refers to? The invasion? Obviously not. It refers to the conduct of the occupation.

Nordquist took this out of context, and you are too. There may be evidence that Clark and Dean are "mainstreaming extremism", but this isn't it.

Posted by: Mithras at January 12, 2004 12:16 PM

Jay, is Chevron paying the $200B bill or are you and I? But who may reap the profits?

BTW, I like your line of reasoning, I thought myself that a $200B invasion was hardly an improvment over a $1B no fly zone with UN inspections that we now see was working just fine.

Posted by: anon at January 12, 2004 12:35 PM

I have never voted for a republican. But if Dean and Clarke are the best the democrats can do this time, I may have to make an exception.

They are both becoming media whores. Too bad.

Do you think if they ran as independents, they would feel free to be themselves, and not pander to the lunatic fringies?

Posted by: RB at January 12, 2004 12:47 PM

Michael,

I came over from Roger’s site where he mentioned that perhaps after at least this election that people will stay mostly independent. It is important to remember that party affiliation does not necessarily determine how one will vote. In North Carolina the Democrats hold a HUGE advantage in voter registration. Would you consider it a democratic leaning state? I assume that these are not primary voters (unfortunatey for the Dems) and just independent minded voters who quit voting for Democrats and started primarily voting for republican, sure most like you Michael, continued to vote for democrats in congress and Republicans for president, but what we saw happen the last midterms in Georgia and Texas is the the typical outcome after a generation of this. As for me I did feel a need to change labels, and in fact changed my party affiliation last summer to Republican for a few reasons.

1) I wanted to be the first person in my family to be known as a Republican, partly as a novelty, partly to show change doesn’t come by waiting for someone with ”your party label” to peddle what you like, and to let them know the water was safe on the other side.

2) I wanted to put my thumb in the eye of all those asses that called me a neo-con (and even in one case a “jewcon - conjew for peddling that neo-conservative trash!”).

3) I do participate in primaries and want to cast my vote and help keep pushing the republicans towards "compassionate conservatism."

4)Neo-liberalism is here to stay. I am President of a Wholesale Distributor and this is one area where the mainstream Democrats are weak anyway.

Further to those in the “head in the sand” crowd…

Read history and don't underestimate the shift. If the Republicans keep sidelining the Buchanan’s and diminishing the Trent Lott's, they will start picking up more of the center, and I want to see it happen.

The election of 2000 mirrors the election of 1960. Bush mirrors Kennedy from the election results, to his centrist policies. Bush has one added advantage. He is still alive to be reelected, and he will not lose the War like Vietnam was lost.

The lefts rising anti-Semitism and hatred of religion are becoming a greater burden than the Republican’s Civil Right’s past. The left’s is current and the right’s is past.

Since Reagan the country has still been immersed and arguing Reagan’s policies. The same was true of FDR, his policies outlived him. The Democrats have not set the agenda for years, even with Clinton they were just trying to “take the edge” off of Republican policies. If Bush continues to take away the edge himself while the Democrats stupidly go further left proving they are “different” and trying to change the definition of center, they will never convince the American’s the center is over where they are arguing, and for those that believe they can move back to the center they have one big problem, the center is being occupied by George Bush. Just keep trying to paint him as an extremist…

He is in fact only extreme on foreign policy, and for this I am grateful. He is perhaps as radical as FDR and Truman, both radicals and both Democrats. I voted for Carter and couldn’t think of a worse President to have in a moment like September 11th, and I can’t think of a better person to have in retrospect than George W. Bush.

Democrats go to the public, and tell them how bad, divisive and evil Bush is, like he created divisiveness. He started out in a divided country not through his fault. And no he did not steal the election. The Electoral College is constitutional and has been the decisive factor against the popular vote many times. No one was angrier than I was after the elections of 2000, but it is getting tiresome this “selected president” crap! You are writing your own death wish, Clinton never won the popular vote either; he won a plurality of votes. The last president to win more than 50% of the popular vote was George H. Bush and after George W. Bush wins more than 50% of the vote and, is made even more mythical for the history books, you Democrats are going to even hate history more than you already do.

On domestic issues? Democrats keep crying how he cut taxes “for the rich”, is anti-education, against prescription drugs, against immigrants, anti-minorities, etc., etc, etc.!!! And put out your hands to be handed the platter your head has been placed on by the GOP.

I don’t speak out of wishing, I speak out of prediction. I am old enough to remember some history. I remember 1972 and 1984 oh to well! You younger Democrats (and others) are getting ready for your own history lesson, I guarantee it. I have lived it. I’ve smelled it in the air before, but never on the winning side… until now. I relish in anticipation to feel in 2004 what Republicans felt in 1984, I already know how you Democrats will feel. I am about to increase my knowledge, understanding, learning and experience. I believe all that adds up to wisdom. Look up and read what Zell Miller has to say and hope against hope. There will be a blood bath in congress as well. Good Luck!!

From a former, and not alone in being former, Liberal

Posted by: Samuel at January 12, 2004 01:03 PM
I know of so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats. I don't know of a single person, anywhere, who is moving the other direction.

Really? Then let me help you.

Posted by: Greg Greene at January 12, 2004 01:14 PM

Samuel,

I appreciate your comments, but it's time to start a blog. You need to put your thoughts on your own place. I realize that you are busy and already accomplished, but you need your own place to express your beliefs. blogger.com is easy, but typepad.com is much better in a lot of ways.

Please flag me an email when you do.

Patrick S Lasswell

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at January 12, 2004 01:16 PM

I don't believe the purpose of conducting the war was soley oil, but the argument that "Invading Iraq is a pretty damned cost inefficient way of securing the Iraqi oil. 100 billion dollar war, 100 billion reconstruction - the boys at Big Oil are not that dumb," is as dumb as the arguer thinks Big Oil would have tobe.

Clearly, Big Oil would have prefered that I just give them $5,000. However, that's not exactly a tennible political position. Probably better is to invade some country which I would be willing to pay $5,000 for, and just reap $500 of profit from it.

See, Big Oil isn't paying for the war. I am.

There were other reasons we went to war. Liberating the Iraqi people, for example, was perhaps thought of, by a junior staffer, in some department somewhere, in Washington, or just in a Federal Government Building, or possibly a right-wing think tank, or a blog. Once. At least!

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 01:21 PM

Yeah, because Lord knows the veep never talked about the prospects for Iraqi oil in a closed-door meeting. We must be loony.

Posted by: Oliver at January 12, 2004 01:35 PM

Here's the full context from when Clark made his statement. He's obviously criticizing the Halliburton no-bid contract, the gas-price scandal, and the decision to exclude European countries from bidding on reconstruction contracts. To leap from that to saying that Clark claims the motive is stealing resources is stupid and wrong.

Michael, if you want to prove Clark is mainstreaming extremism, you need to provide different evidence.

Posted by: Mithras at January 12, 2004 01:49 PM

Weighing in on "selection bias," I don’t think it’s a factor here.

During my years raising money for and writing about autism research, I was able to speak to one of the country's top epidemiologists about this issue. How much credence do you place in personal observations like Michael’s?

We were talking about anecdotal evidence that the incidence of autism was rising. Parents, teachers & pediatricians all thought autism was increasing; all the scientists said no.

The Top Epidemiologist disagreed with his peers. He said that anecdotal evidence is important, especially when the same observation crops up over and over again. He himself thought that the increase would probably turn out to be real--and he was right.

For me, the question isn’t whether Michael knows anyone who’s shifted left, but whether anyone knows anyone who’s shifted left. Personally, I don’t, and I don’t know anyone who does. That starts to cross my threshold for accuracy.

All that aside, as far as I can tell the statistical data shows that we are witnessing a nationwide shift right, and have been for a while. Fred Barnes' article on the "emerging Republican Majority" is pretty useful; it’s at http://theweeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_preview.asp?idArticle=3259&R=9CB025325 Mickey Kaus has also blogged about the shift.

As to long-term damage, I certainly saw that in my own life. I was raised in a Republican farm family in Illinois. Reacting to Nixon and the Vietnam War, my parents both voted for McGovern; when we kids were old enough all but one of us voted Democratic, too.

I began shifting back to the center during the second Clinton administration. Which means I spent 20 years as a straight-ticket Democrat voter thanks to one Republican president.

Speaking as an “n of 1,” I can tell you that Michael is right about how long it takes a political party to undo the damage done by one bad party leader or group of leaders. More than a generation in my case.

Posted by: Catherine at January 12, 2004 01:52 PM

Mithras,

Maybe you're right and Clark didn't mean anything crazy, even though it looks crazy to me and a lot of other people. Perhaps he can do what Dean does and release a clarification.

Either way, you should be able to see why it looks an awful lot like a Chomskyism, even in the in-context link you gave us.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 02:13 PM

Michael-
I can see why it could be spun as extremism, but that's hardly the same thing. It's not a fair reading of Clark's statement at all. He was not addressing the motive for the occupation, he was critcizing the conduct of the occupation. That criticism is well-founded. If you can find other examples where Clark or Dean mainstream extremism, I'll listen, but I think you ought to come right out and admit this statement doesn't support your contention.

Posted by: Mithras at January 12, 2004 02:22 PM

Clark is smart. He knows how to say, "We shouldn't show Halliburton any favoritism" in a way that will attract the it's-all-about-oil crowd he needs to get the nomination.

Posted by: Jim at January 12, 2004 02:37 PM

another Republican who's a tad concerned with Bush:

http://www.rollingstone.com/features/nationalaffairs/featuregen.asp?pid=2751

Posted by: YKS at January 12, 2004 02:42 PM

If Clark's quote looks like "Chomskyism," then what the hell should we make of Cheney intimating that Iraq could have something to do with 9/11. The Iraq/al Qaeda connections have been sold dishonestly from the start.

Posted by: harry at January 12, 2004 02:51 PM

Dunno if this (from Clark's website) qualifies as Clark demonstrating extremism, but it's certainly Clark being counterfactual to pander to an extremist audiance (what Michael's elsewhere accurately called "leftists," as opposed to "liberals"):

"I know a little something about the Balkans," Clark said. "I led an international effort in Kosovo. We ended a genocide and brought peace to a region - all without a single American life lost. In Kosovo we had a plan. We developed an international coalition. We provided leadership. The difference here is this administration has no plan, no coalition, and no leadership."

One could criticize the Bush Administration's planning for and execution of the war in Iraq and the post-war occupation. One could say that without France's and Germany's support, or that of NATO or the UN, we don't have a broad-enough coalition. One could argue that President Bush should have led in a different direction. Personally, I'd disagree with all of those statements; but rational and factual arguments to support them can be made.

But to say that there is "no plan, no coalition, and no leadership" is a load of crap that insults our armed forces, our Departments of State and Defense, our international allies, and finally, the intelligence of the average American voter. It's over-the-top hyperbole that gets applause from the Angry Left and might get the Democratic nomination — but it won't win a general election.

Posted by: Beldar at January 12, 2004 03:12 PM

YKS,

I've been reading Kevin Phillips for years. He moved left quite some time ago, at the same time I thought the left was the place to be, and for many of the same reasons.

Harry,

I don't know if Saddam had anything to do with 9/11. I doubt he did, but none of us really know. If Cheney said he did, he should either stand by the statement and back it up or retract it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 03:12 PM

Wesley Clark: In Kosovo we had a plan. We developed an international coalition. We provided leadership.

That is true.

This is also true: In Iraq we had a plan. We developed an international coalition. We provided leadership.

We didn't get "permission" from the UN for either war. Big deal. I didn't care then, and I don't care now either.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 03:15 PM

Wesley Clark and his rival Howard Dean are doing what the Republicans did twelve years ago - stirring up the fringe for votes and attention. They are letting loose forces that will not soon vanish, that cannot be accomodated, that will be their own undoing.

Since the GOP took control of Congress two years later, and since Pat Robertson remains a kingmaker within the GOP, you can hardly say that the 1992 Convention proved devastating in either the short or long term; Clinton, after all, was 20 points ahead in the polls before that convention.

I know of so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats. I don't know of a single person, anywhere, who is moving the other direction. The damage will last a long time.

Well, there's Paul O'Neill...he seems pretty disillusioned. Contrary to what you believe, the Democratic Party hasn't been taken over by some foreign conspiracy. Dean, Clark, et al. are doing better than Lieberman because more Democrats agree with them than agree with you. Although you often challenge the Right on some of its extreme statements, most of the people you link to in that sentence don't, and that's O.K., too; if they don't care about domestic politics, that's their right. The Iraq War in particular was going to create tremendous division, since the stated national security reason for fighting (WMD's=violation of Security Council resolutions) has been discredited, leaving only the philanthropic justification. Even if the latter reason was enough of a rationale, the disingenuousness of the Bush Administration in the two years leading into the war should be some reason for concern.

The Democratic Party, at least since '68, has not been hospitable to people who believe that war is the first option, even though hawks are generally popular with the public. It means we liberals lose most of the time, but we accept that burden, since the changes we make to society when we win are more lasting. Every election features a shake-out or realignment of sorts; the Dixiecrats in '48, after all, were all life-long Democrats who had never voted outside the party, but could no longer countenance the direction they thought the party was headed. This election will be no different.

Posted by: Steve Smith at January 12, 2004 03:15 PM

Steve,

The '92 convention in Houston had a huge impact on me partly because of how old I was at the time. (I was 22.) It was the first real look I got at the Republicans and I decided they were crazy and would have nothing to do with them. I know plenty of people who think the GOP is all about religious fundamentalism and reactionary cultural attitudes in general. It took a long long time before I was able to look past it and see the more reasonable arguments on that side. It wasn't until the moderates started beating up on the wingnuts - and winning - that I was willing to take the right seriously at all.

Therein lies a lesson, if you're willing to see it.

Contrary to what you believe, the Democratic Party hasn't been taken over by some foreign conspiracy.

Of course not. It isn't a conspiracy of any kind, and it certainly isn't foreign. It is activist-driven, which makes it authentic. Many people in the establishment are spooked by it, but there's only so much they can do about it right now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 04:01 PM

Steve,

"The Democratic Party, at least since '68, has not been hospitable to people who believe that war is the first option, even though hawks are generally popular with the public."

The ghosts of Vietnam are getting put to rest by the professionalism, restraint, and success of the current US military. More and more, the ritual calling of angry spirits is bringing out the spectre of genocides committed due to the weakness of strictly pacifist and appeasement multilateral policies. The bloody writing on the breathing wall now is telling the moderates to get out of the haunted party before it is carried down to hell. The sane people are leaving.

(I don't know what it is about Michael's blog that turns me into a horror writer.)

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at January 12, 2004 04:17 PM

What I find absolutely fascinating is that the Democratic candidates and a substantial portion of the Democratic Party are obsessed with an issue that has absolutely no relevance at this time. That issue is whether the Iraq War was justified. Dean, Clarke and Kerry are fighting for a finite minority of the available pool of potential voters at the expense of putting forth anything meaningful for those people who have accepted reality and moved on.

What is just as damaging to the Democratic candidates as pandering to a extremist fringe is the pandering to an irrelevant fringe. Even without the extremism Michael points to (and I'm not sure I would go as far as he does...there is only one Chomsky, thank God), the Democrats would be losing voters to the simple fact that they are not addressing the fundamental issues confronting this nation at this time in any meaningful fashion.

You can scare 'em away or bore them 'till they run...the result is the same.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at January 12, 2004 04:26 PM

In Iraq we had a plan.
Er, yes, I think you have noticed that "install Chalabi and get the oil running by Christmas" hasn't exactly worked out well.

We developed an international coalition.
Such a great coalition we made idiots like the French get the upper hand in the UN.

We provided leadership.
WMDs? "It doesn't matter". Riiiiight.

Posted by: Oliver at January 12, 2004 04:33 PM

Dennis the Peasant: What I find absolutely fascinating is that the Democratic candidates and a substantial portion of the Democratic Party are obsessed with an issue that has absolutely no relevance at this time.

I think it is extremely relevant. We have not had a presidential election since 9/11. This election will be about 9/11 and what to do about it. For that reason maybe it is good that the Democrats are coalescing into an anti-war party. We'll get a clear-cut choice on the ballot.

But I do wish the Democrats would put forward a non-Republican strategy that isn't a weak one. Maybe they will do that next time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 04:51 PM

"Er, yes, I think you have noticed that "install Chalabi and get the oil running by Christmas" hasn't exactly worked out well."

So because the plan's execution did not match your fantasies for it, it did not exist? In any case, domestic electrical power production and oil exports were up to the pre-invasion levels before Christmas. Saddam was in the clink before gifts were exchanged.

This kind of proves Michael's point. The radical left is getting more detached from reality and the people in touch with reality are getting away from the radical left. Have you noticed that people aren't talking to you very much anymore, Oliver?

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at January 12, 2004 04:53 PM

Whatever happened to "kick their ass, take their gas?"

Posted by: praktike at January 12, 2004 05:05 PM

The lefts rising anti-Semitism and hatred of religion are becoming a greater burden than the Republican’s Civil Right’s past. The left’s is current and the right’s is past.

Yes, the left's anti-Semitism is a serious problem. Everywhere I look, I see liberals doing all sorts of "anti-Semitic" stuff -- you know, stereotypes, holocausts, that kind of stuff. Howard Dean is the leader of this anti-Semitic movement. The fact that his wife and his kids are Jewish show how disturbingly far this movement has come. Paul Krugman is perhaps the prominent newspaper columnist for the anti-Semitic movement. Yeah, he's Jewish, but surely you've heard of self-hating Jews. Fortunately decent Republicans are going to protect the nation from these Hitler followers.

What absolute tripe. This is the mainstream? You guys are absolutely kidding yourselves.

Face it. You think Howard Dean and Wesley Clark are "extremists" for exactly one reason -- they're not on your Iraq war bandwagon. You see, after September 11th, you felt really scared and insecure, and the war in Afghanistan wasn't good enough to restore your confidence in America. We needed to take out a familiar bogeyman like Saddam Hussein to feel strong again. George W Bush made this happen, and you're very glad. (Don't mind my tone -- I entirely empathize with you. I too felt better about America the day we took over Baghdad. USA! USA!)

Fear is a very strong emotion, and Bush took action to help you out on this issue. You don't want no sissy crap about the UN or the idea of international peace. You want to feel strong. USA! USA! September 11th sucked big time.

That's OK. But not everyone is so dominated by fear, and the invasion of Iraq drew a lot of opposition to Bush. In the end, it seems likely that it will help him more than it hurt him, so it's a victory -- but a good 30% of the country is vehemently opposed to him. And let's not pretend that Joseph Lieberman is a conservative, or that Wesley Clark is a lunatic Communist. You don't give a damn about policy issues here; the question is, Is America strong? Winning wars makes you feel stronger. And listening to people criticize the war, listening to people who think bullshitting reasons for war should not be politically rewarded -- this makes you feel that you're surrounded by crazy hippies who hate America.

Posted by: Barbar at January 12, 2004 05:05 PM

This election will be about 9/11 and what to do about it. For that reason maybe it is good that the Democrats are coalescing into an anti-war party. We'll get a clear-cut choice on the ballot.

Totten, I love ya, but I get really frustrated to see 9/11 and "anti-war" mixed up like that. The Democratic response to 9/11 was "destroy Al Qaeda". Every major Dem. candidate strongly supported invading Afghanistan.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if Al Gore was president, and if he pulled resources away from the War on Al Qaeda in order to invade Iraq, the Republicans would have gone absolutely nuts.

Posted by: Oberon at January 12, 2004 06:46 PM

oberon - that's a wonderful rhetorical observation you've made. no doubt. but of course you assume that gore would have led the u.s. to the same war in afghanistan and won it in the same fashion. i voted for gore. i was pissed when the supreme court overruled the florida court. and i also remember being so very happy that president bush was in charge of this nation after 9-11 rather than gore as early as november 2001. i really can't say for sure what i think gore would have done. but you can already guess what the opposition gop would have complained about after gore won a war in afghanistan and then decided to fight another one in iraq.

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 06:59 PM

Oberon,

I agree.

Let me restate my point then. The election won't be about 9/11 per se. It will be about America's role in the post-9/11 world.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 07:02 PM

...and exactly which group of republicans would have gone nuts? the neocons? i thought they had all this planned out years ago?

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 07:06 PM

hmmm...what about the war profiteer republicans, you know, the ones that get greasy with halliburton, bechtel, etc. ohhh, oh yeah, maybe not. those guys would probably think twice before going 'absolutely nuts'.

who else is there?

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 07:11 PM

oberon - that's a wonderful rhetorical observation you've made. no doubt.

Thank you.

...and exactly which group of republicans would have gone nuts? the neocons? i thought they had all this planned out years ago?

good point...but the neocons are really a fairly small group. I guess I'm thinking more of the Congressional Republicans and the conservative press like Limbaugh...the ones who accused Clinton of "wagging the dog" when he lobbed a few cruise missiles

Posted by: Oberon at January 12, 2004 07:26 PM

Glenn,

Trent Lott said "give peace a chance" when Bill Clinton stomped Slobo in Belgrade.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 07:28 PM

ok, trent lott. that's one (what he doing these days, anyway?)

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 07:30 PM

It is the biggest canard in the world to say that the Democratic response to 9/11 would have been the same. I don't believe for one second that Al Gore would have invade Afghanistan. I recall perfectly well how surprised and pleased I was when Pres. Bush indicated what his course of action would be. I'm sure Gore's response would have been dramatic in terms of ratcheting up security, cutting off funding. Maybe he would have relentlessly bombed the training camps. I don't believe the Taliban would haver been overthrown and see no reason to believe that would have happened based on what I know of Gore. The Democrats in COngress that supported the Autumn 2001 action did so because they were pressed to do so by President Bush. WHether they were sincere or calculating I do not judge. But would they have called for it had a President Gore chosen a different course. I doubt it. On the other hand, I know the Republicans would have sincerely supported a President Gore in such a course because it is the course they believe in. We forget the number of liberals and lefties who opposed the invasion of Afghanistan. Read "An Autumn of War" by Victor Davis Hanson (available on Amazon.Com) and see his response to the exact same arguments repeated during 2003. Oliver Willis is such a classic leftie. Don't bother considering the thoughts of Jay Nordlinger. He is a REPUBLICAN. Therefore he is obviously a lying sack of shit. The Democratic party is intellectually bankrupt. They have no plan no program no anything. God to hear Al Sharpton slam Howard Dean in that debate and hear Dean TAKE IT! is sickening to me beyond all measure. I am a life long Democrat. In my life I have voted for Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton 2x and Gore but we need to stop the madness. I don't want a single legitimate party like in Japan. We need two parties coalescing around how to make America better not how to slam each other as traitors. (And make no mistake to accuse Bush of invading Iraq for the sake of Haliburton is to call him a traitor. To say his policies are designed to hurt the AMerican people and help only the rich is to call him a traitor to his oath. To say his policies are mistaken and will inadvertently hurt America is legitimate criticism. Get the difference?) We who harshly condemm the Democrats like Dean and Clarke are not questioning their patriotism. We are suggesting that the constant barage of criticism on not just Iraq but on the very idea of the war on terrorism is allowing the terrorists to think they have a chance of beating us. Come up with a real alternative plan that will work or lay off this issue until you (god forbid) are in office. Don't just yell "Bush lied people died" "Quagmire Quagmire". These things are lies and winning an election does not justify this sort of lie.

Posted by: Doug at January 12, 2004 08:13 PM

Doug,

Al Gore is a lifelong hawk. Well, at least he was until a few months ago.

Of course I can't prove that he would have overthrown the Taliban, but what I know of him tells me he would have.

I do agree with much of the rest of your post, however.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 08:19 PM

We didn't invade Iraq for oil. We invaded it because politicians know they can always get votes from any invasions. The prople of the United States like war. Especially if its against Arabs. The "brutal dictator" with WMD's has proved to be just one of many lame excuses. Why don't we attack Laos? Why did we prop up dictators all around the globe when they were anti-communists? No as I've said in other pages, if you scratch a formerly left-of-center now Bush apologist you'll probably find a Zionist. By the way here in the midwest, I find many many Conservatives who will vote for Democrats or third parties because of Bush's free trade, job exporting, illegal immigrant sheltering non-isolationism

Posted by: Jack Tindall at January 12, 2004 09:17 PM

Would someone explain to me how the reasons for the war in Iraq have been discredited? A brutal psychpopath who had WMDs, used them before, and wanted more of them refused for 12 years to comply with inspections. He was provided chance after chance to prove that he had dismantled his weapons program, and failed. Case closed. Whether he was bluffing or not is irrelevant -- we should not wait in that circumstance. I agree we must figure out what was wrong with the intelligence gathering, and correct those problems, but the bottom line is that Saddam is at fault for provoking this war, no one else (and frankly, I'm glad to see his sorry ass gone either way).

Those who will then compare Iraq to N. Korea are comparing apples to oranges -- we had to act before Iraq developed weapons, while unfortunately N. Korea now has them. Had Clinton pursued military action to prevent N. Korea's weapons development prior to completion, I would have supported it, but 9/11 demonstrated with even more urgency that countries like Iraq cannot be allowed to develop weapons like this -- ever. If that seems imperialist or unilateral, vote for Dean.

Posted by: Jerry at January 12, 2004 09:23 PM

Jack Tindall nailed it. He outed the Jews, and their zion loving friends! Wicked Awesome!!

Anyway, the liberal hawks (hm,hmm jews) are talking. Take a look.

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 09:30 PM

Glenn Asks:

"who else is there?" (who would have gone nutz over a US invasion of a country for altruistic measures if led by a democratic adminstration)

I think that:
Thad Cochran, Mike DeWine, Chuck Hagel, Orrin Hatch, Richard Lugar, Connie Mack, John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Gordon Harold Smith, Wayne Allard, John Ashcroft, Robert Bennett, Kit Bond, Sam Brownback, Jim Bunning, Conrad Burns, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Susan Collins, Paul Coverdell, Larry Craig, Michael Crapo, Pete Domenici, Michael Enzi, Peter Fitzgerald, Bill Frist, Slade Gorton, Phil Gramm, Rod Grams, Chuck Grassley, Jesse Helms, Tim Hutchinson, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Jon Kyl, Trent Lott, Don Nickles, Frank Murkowski, Pat Roberts, Rick Santorum, Jeff Sessions, Bob Smith, Ted Stevens, Craig Thomas, Fred Thompson, Strom Thurmond (RIH), George Voinovich

All said that it was not appropriate to use force in either Kosovo and/or Serbia.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 09:35 PM

Jack Tindall: Why don't we attack Laos?

Because the Joooos don't care about Laos.

(Sarcasm off)

as I've said in other pages, if you scratch a formerly left-of-center now Bush apologist you'll probably find a Zionist.

What, did those "other pages" ban you from posting? You have to come over here and post this garbage?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 09:43 PM

I know it's good for the ego to respond to the LCD, but please.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 09:47 PM

Hipocrite,

i never asked about which republicans supported the kosovo war. you guys are now making the jump that any republican who did not support clinton's decisions on kosovo would also not have supported gore if he were president, fought and won a war in afghanistan and then decided to fight one in iraq. or maybe you didnt follow the entire thread, hipocrite. this is all rhetorical fantasyland.

Posted by: Glenn at January 12, 2004 10:16 PM

Well, you gave in on Trent Lott. How many embarassing quotes need we go through before you admit that the Republicans of yore would have given Gore the Clinton Treatment? Let's go to everyone's favorite, EXTREMELY IMPORTANT REPUBLICAN TOM DELAY:
"We have a president I don't trust, who has proven my reason for not trusting him: He had no plan. We have a civil war that was falsely described as a huge humanitarian problem, when in comparison to other places, it was nothing."

How about EXTREMELY IMPORTANT REPUBLICAN RICK SANTORUM:
"President Clinton is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."

How many more do I need to go through, exactly, before you give it up?

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 10:29 PM

Stop me, before I quote again:

STUPENDOUSLY IMPORTANT REPUBLICAN DON NICKLES:
"I think he's [Clinton] gotten us into a mess. I don't think you can bomb a country into signing a peace agreement."

TREMENDOUSLY IMPORTANT REPUBLIC PHIL GRAMM:
"I don't see how we are going to save Social Security if we keep spending the surplus."

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 10:34 PM

Maybe someone has said this, but explain how Charles Johnson, who's disgusting web log I consider to be the closest thing to out and out racism, is a liberal. I don't care what he though on 9/10, he represents the worst conservative establishment. Today he railed against feminism. Surely he's no liberal. The anti-Dean blog is not a turn towards republicanism, it's a democrat with serious questions about Dean, and that's it. The others I'm not so sure about the others, but really....

Posted by: Laddy at January 12, 2004 10:36 PM

Laddy,

Ask Charles Johnson yourself about his liberalism. I do not want to put words in his mouth.

I clicked over to his site just now and searched for the word "feminism." It came up in this sentence in a quote by Mark Steyn:

[W]hen free speech, artistic expression, feminism and other totems of western pluralism clash directly with the Islamic lobby, Islam more often than not wins.

That is a defense of feminism against attacks by right-wing Islamists. It is not an attack on feminism.

The word "feminism" was not found anywhere else on his page today, so that must be what you were referring to when you said Charles "railed against" feminism.

Apparently you don't recognize liberalism when you see it. There's a lot of that going around.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 10:43 PM

Laddy,

By the way, Charles Johnson has never voted for a Republican in his life. Perhaps that information will help you sort this out.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 10:45 PM

No joke, he was. 9/11 broke him beyond repair. For some reason, he decided that agreeing with Bush on Foreign Policy (acceptable, but wrong), meant that he had to agree with him on Domestic Policy as well (disgusting and foul).

http://www.dashes.com/anil/2002/08/21/little_green_mo is the best description.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 12, 2004 10:48 PM

Michael and Hipocrite,

First, the attack on feminism came through as part of the RSS feed today. Since it wasn't a full feed I will say that I spoke too soon and I may be tottaly wrong on that. The second portion, about what I think is piling on in a way that I feel it crosses the line into racism is also my feeling from jumping to his site nearly daily. My description of Dean-o-phobe is also correct, it's not a walk away from the democratic party, but serious questions about Dean's candidacy. Let me say this since it's a pretty serious charge on my part, one could build a weblog about African-American crimes, a view that there is a view that it's in over the top in widely held (within the group) ideology etc.. everyday, pointing out that it's not the race of peace, and ridiculing moderate African Americans. It would be way over the top in my view. As someone who knows moderate Muslims, not just one or two, I'm truly disturbed by his posts and point of view. That academia hates America, having just graduated from college is far from reality, it's part of a right wing ideology that Charles is pushing. Why do I RSS feed him everyday?

It's because I'm a decently hawkish liberal myself, and it helps remind me what one part of the extreme thinks. I went through his site during 9/11 and yes, he was a liberal (the unintelligent kind), but more than me since he cut down Bush on the day after 9/11. If he is a liberal today, he's caught in an ugly echo-chamber as bad as Indymedia's and uber conservative. I can be supportive of Israel without turning to his hate.

Posted by: Laddy at January 12, 2004 11:16 PM

Hipocrite,

That's a pretty accurate description of how I see LGF. It's not that there isn't horrors with modern Islam, it's the way it's presented and the echo chamber in the comment section. Michael should hate the day everyone agrees with everything he says, even though he's moderate and Charles straddles the far right.

Posted by: Laddy at January 12, 2004 11:23 PM

Laddy,

If someone built a Web site focusing on African-American crimes, I would find that profoundly creepy and wrong.

But a Web site focusing on the crimes of terrorists and dictators is something different, more like a Web site that focused on the crimes of the Bloods and the Crips.

Charles does go over-the-top sometimes, and the comments section is much much worse. I have sympathy, though. Charles looks evil in the face every day. It would get to me too.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 12, 2004 11:25 PM

Michael,

There have been ugly rants against the "cult" of multi-cultrilism on his site. I can't imagine you agree with that stuff?

It bothers me that Roger L. Simon, a good writer, despite the fact that he doesn't feel at home with the left anymore is seen sometimes in the comment section.

Posted by: Laddy at January 12, 2004 11:28 PM

Michael,
He doesn't look at just terrorsits, his focus is muslims and Islam. If it was terrorists it'd be different, it'd be over the top all the time but it'd be like okay, terrorism is evil, it's mainly a problem that comes from close minded Islmaic societies, but let's not attack islam. He does, and there is no sister soulja from his commenters, there' no well that's over the top. You'd do that if someone agred with you and then went well beyond you'd be willing to go, Charles doesn't.

Posted by: Laddy at January 12, 2004 11:32 PM

100 billion dollar war, 100 billion reconstruction - the boys at Big Oil are not that dumb

Arguments aside about the REAL reason for going to war... but the $200 billion to go to war and reconstruct was not paid by the big oil boys. It was paid by the American taxpayer. Presumably, Iraq will turn into a flourishing liberal democratic country (at great expense no doubt) and then they will be free to buy Big Macs and use Qualcomm cellular service.

Posted by: Graham at January 12, 2004 11:40 PM

Oberon,
Every major Dem. candidate strongly supported invading Afghanistan.

Hell, even the French supported invading Afghanistan.

Posted by: Graham at January 12, 2004 11:42 PM

Charles's focus is RADICAL Islam and radical Islamists, the people who are currently giving the more moderate majority a bad name.

It's one thing to focus on terrorists who are determined to make a name for themselves, but the terrorists Charles usually focuses on are Muslim extremists. So far as I'm concerned, you can't separate their actions from the way they interpret their religion because that's what drives them to act as they do.

Posted by: Rhesa at January 12, 2004 11:45 PM

Umm... maybe I didn't make sense above. Charles doesn't disconnect from his commenters. He doesn't focus on terrorism, he focuses on Islam and Muslims. That's why it's different. It's not the crips and bloods, which were not primarily African American gangs.

He focuses on Islam, calls it degardingly the "ROP". It's beyond weird in my book it crosses the line. Even David Bernstein has at times come across LGFer's rath.

Posted by: Laddy at January 12, 2004 11:50 PM

Rhesa,

He tore apart the woman from Iran who won the Noble peace prize. I haven't seen him pat a moderate muslim on the back, he usually derides the fact that others see them as moderate. Anyhow, I'm too tired, and it's too late to have a long discussion. We may not be able to agree, but I see your point and I hope you can understand mine.

Posted by: Laddy at January 12, 2004 11:56 PM

I've gotten irritated with LGF for verbally castrating right of center bloggers because they're on different levels regarding an issue, so I can understand the feeling. However, I don't visit LGF as often as I used to, so maybe I'm not seeing the same thing as you are. Charles targets jihadists whose intents are to destroy the West, but I have yet to see him deride Muslims and Islam for the heck of it, even when he does go over the top.

Posted by: Rhesa at January 12, 2004 11:58 PM

Since the election will be more about Bush than about the Dems, whoever they are, it won't be significant like Robertson in 92 in the GOP. Bush is there now, doing GREAT in booting Saddam, OK in reconstructing Iraq, OK-poor (too much spending?) in domestic stuff.

Bush will be there after 2004; no big deal in the Dems. Will Dean and his new org challenge the Dem Clintonistas? And win? And so what?

Who saves Soc. Security? ???

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 13, 2004 03:06 AM

Browning,

You've been reading too much Chomsky.

Ouch. I've been accused of many things. Reading too much Chomsky is not one of them. I'm more accustomed to being labelled a fascist by Chomsky's disciples. This tells me I made my point to glibly.

My point is that "fringe" positions are entering the mainstream from both ends of the political spectrum. The "nuke Mecca" and "its about ooiiiiiillll" arguments are both reductive of something more complex. And when these reduced arguments are reconstititued, they both become rational.

I agree that it is absurd to say that Michael's "History and Total War" argument amounts to a call to nuke Mecca. But I don't think it is overly reductive to say his argument is that if our effort at enforced liberalization of the Middle East starting in Iraq fails, we may be confronted with the moral dilemna of destroying Arab/Muslim civilization in order to save our own. I'm sure Michael will correct me if I've misinterpreted his argument. If I haven't, then the seemingly "fringe" question of destroying a civilization has entered the mainstream debate.

Likewise when presented by Clark that our attack on Iraq was some kind of imperial advanture to extract oil, the "its about oooiiiiiilllll" argument is absurd. But it is naive to suggest that oil had nothing to do with this. Surely you would have acknowledge that part of the motivation for the '91 Gulf War was to protect Saudi Arabia and prevent Saddam or his spawn from controlling too large a proportion of the world's oil supply. And part of the motivation for the recent war was to remove the threat once on for all.

Posted by: HA at January 13, 2004 03:39 AM

Laddy,

Its easy to take cheap shots at LGF by focusing on the more extreme commenters. But the overwhelming majority of commenters are intelligent and rational. Of course my characterization is self-serving since I read LGF every day and sometimes comment there.

The thing about Charles, LGF and the commenters is that they have made judgements about the pathological nature of the Arab/Islamic world. Those on the left intoxicated by multi-culturalism and postmodernism, and whose rose-colored glasses are surgically attached may never be able to see the Arab/Islamic world for what it is. Your inability to see the world for what it is does not make Charles or LGF racist or extremist.

Posted by: HA at January 13, 2004 03:55 AM

hipocrite,

i really shouldnt have to repeat what i've already said but i will anyway:

"that's a wonderful rhetorical observation you've made. no doubt. but of course you assume that gore would have led the u.s. to the same war in afghanistan and won it in the same fashion. i voted for gore. i was pissed when the supreme court overruled the florida court. and i also remember being so very happy that president bush was in charge of this nation after 9-11 rather than gore as early as november 2001. i really can't say for sure what i think gore would have done. but you can already guess what the opposition gop would have complained about after gore won a war in afghanistan and then decided to fight another one in iraq."

list me all the reps who said something against kosovo you want, but then don't tell me that the neocons planned out the iraq war years ago or that all the reps are in bed with halliburton, bechtel and the oil co's, because if all that is true, then they surely would have gone along with an iraq war led by gore after (rhetorically) fighting and winning a war in afghanistan and then deciding (against the will of the lefties and the rest of the world) to fight another one in iraq. they stood to benefit. and lets not forget about the zionists and the jews. would the gop want to alienate their masters. wouldn't the jooos convince the gop to go along with an iraq war (led by gore) that surely would help the zionist entity?

Posted by: Glenn at January 13, 2004 05:12 AM

As a Jew, I don't respond to allegations of disgusting anti-semitism when I'm accused of such by non-semites. Let me just say to Glenn that he is an idiot and that the Senate has few Neocons.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 13, 2004 05:20 AM

i never accused you of being an anti-semite hipocrite. thats ridiculous. i'm pointing out an argument made by the anti-war crowd over and over again. gop is in bed with the oil barons and the war profiteers, the neocons planned out the war years ago, aipac has undue influence over the senate and house (particularly with the gop in the case of the iraq war). those are the anti-war memes on gop intent.

so if you ask me whether the gop would support a rhetorical iraq war led by gore, my answer is that most of them probably would (in consistent fashion with the anti-war rhetoric). of course, this is all a fantasy, which is a lot more comfortable place these days for the dems than is reality.

Posted by: Glenn at January 13, 2004 06:20 AM

"I'm accused of such by non-semites"

hipocrite, it doesn't take too long to peruse my site to figure out that i am a semite as well. sorry to bust your chops. my argument was much more general and not directed at you for any of your statements.

Posted by: Glenn at January 13, 2004 06:22 AM

Hey HA,

Sorry I accused you of reading Chomsky. :)

But I don't think it is overly reductive to say his argument is that if our effort at enforced liberalization of the Middle East starting in Iraq fails, we may be confronted with the moral dilemna of destroying Arab/Muslim civilization in order to save our own.

I guess I wouldn't characterize Michael's "History and Total War" post as starkly as you do. I interpreted it in a way that might be paraphrased as follows: "We are not fighting a total war yet. Let's hope we never have to, because if we do, we'll face choices that will REALLY put our morality to the test (like weighing between "ethnic cleansing," genocide and our own self-destruction). I think you may be projecting "nuke Mecca" or "destroy Islamic civilization," hanging them in those hypothetic scales far before I ever would. I also think that people who are seriously weighing such "final solutions" in the balance at this point are (ahem) unbalanced. To me, such solutions would serve the role that genocide served in Benny Morris's calculations, the greater of two hypothetical evils.

But, back to the post at hand: a better, more pertinent case can be made that the right-wing "fringe" entered the mainstream some time ago with the neocons getting a chance to try out their agenda, or Ashcroft getting a chance to whittle on the Bill of Rights. (Personally, I am cautiously optimistic about the neocons. But the Patriot Act, though it does not make me as hysterical as some on the left, makes me Very Nervous Indeed).

But it is naive to suggest that oil had nothing to do with this. Surely you would have acknowledge . . .

I posted a couple of comments above that make it plain that I am not so naive. For instance, Graham quoted Kissinger as saying, "Oil is much too important a commodity to be left in the hands of the Arabs," (as evidence that Bush wantes to steal their oil) and I allowed as how, if you swap the word "dictators" for "Arabs," I don't think it's such a bad idea. Especially if those dictators are as brutal, meglomaniacal, and mercurial as Saddam was.

Also, read my post (way up around the top fifth of the thread) that contains the phrase "This argument has a grain of truth in it" (right after an italicized quote from another poster who will never let go of the "all about oil" mantra).

Those who think that Clark (who supported Nixon and Reagan) is making a serious point in his insinuation that we are occupying Iraq to take their oil would do well to go back and read an article last April from Chistopher Hitchens (who didn't support Nixon or Reagan).

Posted by: Browning at January 13, 2004 06:45 AM

Sorry for calling you a not-jew, if you are infact one.

Trying to tar everyone who opposes the war with the ANSWER-crazy brush is about as intelligent as you trying to gloss the GOP with the Neocon bush. "The anti-war crowd," is not defined by what Glenn Reynolds reports on.

I clearly don't think the senate-R's are in the pocket of the oil industry. I clearly don't think that the PNAC has undue influence over the senate and house. It's clearly FACT that the PNAC planned a war years ago - witness their letters to GB begging him to finish off Saddam years ago.

The Senate and the House are NOT the White House. That the Whitehouse is Neo-Con and the Senate is Normal-Con is a fact.

I'm glad to see you've stopped spewing your anti-semetic tripe, though.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 13, 2004 06:50 AM

Self-correction: Letter to Clinton.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 13, 2004 06:53 AM

"if you are infact one."

i sense a tinge of doubt in your words. whats up with that? anyway, i would have no problems being a "not-jew", if only it were true.

i'm sorry hipocrite, its really hard to differentiate between the lunatic left anti-war crowd and the regular liberal anti-war crowd. all i know is that they love to hang out together, and have had no problem whatsoever joining hands with the far-right. i read more sources than glenn reynolds, i can promise you. and in my daily experience, for every anti-war person who tries to defend the anti-war cause by disavowing some of the most extreme left thoughts (like Bush=Hitler), i hear from a (seemingly) similarly inclined anti-war person who embraces those very same thoughts, so i really don't know what to think about it anymore. i mean, many of you (anti-war-but-not-leftist people) still can't get over the fact that totten, whoknew, jarvis, etc. consider themselves to be liberal-minded. so how am i supposed to trust your judgment on what the rest of the anti-war crowd really thinks?

Posted by: Glenn at January 13, 2004 07:20 AM

Totten is a liberal, and here's how I know it:

Last week, he wrote a post entitled "Liberals and Leftists." I assume, and I think it's fair to assume, that Totten would stand by the Liberal position in each of those cases.

"... want higher taxes on the rich because it’s fairer to the middle and working classes."

"... want universal access to health care while leaving the system as market-driven as possible. "

If you can agree with sentiment of those two statements, then you are a liberal. So, you supported a war under the theory that GWB, even if for the wrong reasons, can do the right thing. I'm fine with that. Hell, I was that for most of the run up to the Iraq war.

I don't know whoknew, and Jarvis has decline numerous times to say anything like the above two statements.

But, you know, for every pro-war conservative out there who was a rational disagreer with Clinton's policies, there was a whole magazine focused on Drug Running to Mena and the Clinton Body Count, so so how am I supposed to trust your judgment on what the rest of the pro-war crowd really thinks?

Oh, wait, is it because the extremes just yell louder?

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 13, 2004 08:14 AM

In regards to the counterfactual question of whether or not Gore would have invaded Afghanistan, I think just about any president would have done so. One must remember that there was something on the order of 90% approval rating for such an action. No political alive, partiuclarly one who would have enjoyed massive international support for the operation, would have been able to withstand the political pressures associated with that situation.

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at January 13, 2004 08:37 AM

HA: we may be confronted with the moral dilemna of destroying Arab/Muslim civilization in order to save our own.

That was not the point of my post.

We are not going to kill a billion people even if we get dragged kicking and screaming into total war. We did not destroy German or Japanese civilization during the total war of World War II. We rebuilt them at great expense to ourselves.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 13, 2004 09:30 AM

Browning: the right-wing "fringe" entered the mainstream some time ago with the neocons getting a chance to try out their agenda

Neocons are not the fringe. They are the most liberal and moderate faction of the Republican Party. Neoconservatism has a left-wing pedigree.

The two Pats (Robertson and Buchanan) are the fringe. Next in line are Ann Coulter and Michael Savage.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 13, 2004 09:32 AM

Yes, MT, that's correct, the neocons are not the fringe.

I would note that Pat "the Gambler" Robertson, Ann "I wish death on Liberals" Coulter Mike "Savage" Wiener drive the domestic policy agenda of the Republican Party to first order.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 13, 2004 09:57 AM

I agree, Michael. It was mere metaphor trouble. I guess I see the neocons as the centermost "fringe" of Republican foreign policy, which is a little hard to visualize. :) Though certainly they are misunderstood by the many on the left as a far-right fringe.

In any case, the neocons do seem to be a previously marginalized faction who have recently been given a place in the "mainstream." As such, they might be considered a better counter-example to your post than the ludicrous notion that "nuking Mecca" is becoming mainstream meme among hawks.

Posted by: Browning at January 13, 2004 10:01 AM

I would note that Pat "the Gambler" Robertson, Ann "I wish death on Liberals" Coulter Mike "Savage" Wiener drive the domestic policy agenda of the Republican Party to first order.

If you have anything whatever to back that up, that'd be rather earthshaking.

Posted by: Joe Malik at January 13, 2004 10:30 AM

Sorry, that was me. I used that name on another thread here, purely for comic effect.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at January 13, 2004 10:31 AM

"In any case, the neocons do seem to be a previously marginalized faction who have recently been given a place in the "mainstream." As such, they might be considered a better counter-example to your post than the ludicrous notion that "nuking Mecca" is becoming mainstream meme among hawks."

But they weren't marginalized because they were fringe, they were marginalized because in their enthusiasm for nation-building and non-isolationism, they were actually too liberal for the party in which they found themselves. They found themselves in that party because of growing isolationism on the Left.

Oh by the way, they are transforming that party - see immigration, Schwarzeneggar's social views, etc...

Buchanan has been marginalized. Robertson may soon follow.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 13, 2004 10:34 AM

Okay -- it's a question of semantics then, born of complications in a linear metaphor that is becoming obsolete. To me "fringe" and "marginal" are synonymous, but I realize that this is probably an idiosyncrasy of mine. I tend to think of Andrew Sullivan, for example, as a member of the gay-friendly fringe of conservativism. You are right that in common usage, the right and the left are seen as ends of a linear spectrum, and the fringe is as far from the center as possible.

Posted by: Browning at January 13, 2004 01:05 PM

I'll agree that the problem is semantics. Specifically, many of those being labeled "conservative" are in point of fact not very conservative.

Something to think about - income is change in wealth, not wealth. Taxing income actually is the more conservative position, as it impedes social mobility. A progressive tax structure would tax property.

Many "liberal" policies also lead to higher expenses on the other side of the middle/lower-class balance sheet (car insurance, etc...), also impeding social mobility.

The foreign/domestic divide is not nearly so clear cut as if often claimed here.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 13, 2004 01:26 PM

In response to your response, David Soucher did not ban me. I noted that I reluctantly posted my thoughts, knowing that someone would immediately take me as anti-semitic and I am not. I simply take the same position as many other paleo-conservatives. I guess that's "garbage" to you. It wasn't to him and he politely E-mailed me with an assurance

Posted by: Jack Tindall at January 13, 2004 01:49 PM

knowing that someone would immediately take me as anti-semitic and I am not.

Quit Jew-baiting then. It really is that simple.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 13, 2004 02:34 PM

Jack, sort the issues out in your mind: neo-conservatism, championing liberty/democracy, Israel beleaguered lone oasis of liberty/democracy in the Middle East, etc. This line of thought will lead you to a better explanation of people's views than the the fact that they are Jews.

Posted by: Jim at January 13, 2004 02:57 PM

Michael,
I know Al Gore was a life long hawk. That's the reason I voted for him and liked him as far back as 1992. But have you listened to him in the past two years? I just don't see that he would have carried out the same policy Bush did. Especially if he was under the influence of the likes of Anthony Lake. He might have but its certainly not a given.

Posted by: Doug at January 13, 2004 05:50 PM

Like so much else in the popular media today, the term "neo-con" has gained a meaning it does not deserve. Understand that virtually every neo-con type, older the age of 45 began as either a pure leftist or a liberal. The original break with the left came over the issue of opposing communism. When the Democratic party seemed inclined to no longer fight the cold war, many stalwart Democratic hawks left the party. Others remained. Former Democrats who left for this reason include Paul Wolfowitz, William Bennett, Rudpolph Guliani, Jean Kirkpatrick. The neo-co "movement" eventually expanded to include an opposition to Democratic "identity politics" and the divisive zero sum class warfare for which the party became known in the 1970's. Some "neo-cons" who stayed Democratic include Daniel Patrick Moynahan and Ben Wattenberg. The now ever-popular Victor Davis Hanson is also a registered Democrat. The point is that so-called "neoconservatism" has nothing to do with conservatism. It has to do with a philosophy of government and geo-politics. For obvious reasons, the neo-con hawks felt more comfortable with Republicans like Ronald Reagan. They detested Nixon and Bush 41. They are pleasantly surprised at how different his son has turned out to be. Neo-Cons don't want permanent war. They believe the United States to be a force for good in the world and believe that by projecting our power against the world's bad actors, we can spread that good and make the world a better place for everyone. At one time this was known as Wilsonian Liberalism. Today it is considered far right wingism by the know it all set. The truth is that the neo-cons ahve captured the Republican party. Movement COnservatives are angry at Bush because he does not govern like a movement conservative. But 95 percent of Republicans and COnservatives of all stripes are with him on his approach to the world. (not that mistakes have not been made) More than at any time, we Democrats who subscribe to a neo-con (or neo-liberal if you will) view of foreign policy are disgusted by what has happened to this party. We will vote for Bush and hope the Dems. can somehow wise up.

Posted by: Doug at January 13, 2004 06:12 PM

Doug,

Yep, that's right. That's exactly right.

It's amazing how many people don't know what a neocon is.

I do think of myself as an Independent these days, but if you had to pin me down with a label I support Neoconservative Democrat would be okay.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 13, 2004 07:37 PM

Michael,

I also generally think of myself as an independent although I am probably more conservative than you on various domestic issues these days I will never be a Republican. (well never say never I guess afterall Lincoln and TR were Republicans) When arguing with the left, however, I like to tout my Democratic credentials for added credibility (After all I wouldn't want them to discount my words thinking I am a REPUBLICAN!!!!!)

Posted by: Doug at January 13, 2004 08:12 PM

Wow Doug - do you have a blog? That was, um, what I was trying to say only ten times better.

Now, where do neo-liberals fit into all this?

"Wise and prudent men - intelligent conservatives - have long known that in a changing world worthy institutions can be conserved only by adjusting them to the changing time."

FDR, 1936

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 13, 2004 09:06 PM

The neoliberals are with the neoconservatives.

They can be found at The New Republic magazine.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 13, 2004 09:35 PM

"They can be found at The New Republic magazine."

I'm an enthusiastic subscriber.

So all neos are one and the same?

Don't tell Agent Smith...

;-)

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 13, 2004 10:17 PM

Michael,

We are not going to kill a billion people even if we get dragged kicking and screaming into total war. We did not destroy German or Japanese civilization during the total war of World War II. We rebuilt them at great expense to ourselves.

We most certainly did destroy the pre-war German and Japanese civilizations. The civilizations we built in their place bore little resemblence to their pre-war counterparts.

You don't have to exterminate the inhabitants of a civilization to destroy it. You have to unleash enough death and destruction that the survivors repudiate the foundations of their civilization. In the case of Arab/Islamic civilization that means they repudiate Allah, hatred of infidels, gender apartheid, death for apostates, stonings, amputations, terror, suicide bombing, etc. because all these things brought them ruin. I hope we never reach that point.

That is what I mean by "total war." What does it mean to you if not this?

Posted by: HA at January 14, 2004 04:16 AM

Doug,

The point is that so-called "neoconservatism" has nothing to do with conservatism.

Never has a political movement been so misnamed. If the "neo-conservatives" resemble anything it would be classic liberalism. A more accurate name would be "paleo-liberals" which is exactly the opposite of what they have become known as. What do you call a conservative who is conserving liberalism itself?

Posted by: HA at January 14, 2004 04:23 AM

HA,

I think you are right to want to eradicate the laundry list of evils you attribute to "Islamic/Arabic civilization" (with possible the exception of Allah -- this from a devout atheist who nonetheless believes in freedom of religion). I think the problem lies in your designation of those evils as "civilization." Either that's too broad a noun, or "destroy" is too strong a verb. It's belligerently imprecise. It's the kind of language that makes us look like hot-headed bullies.

Why not say instead that we wish to reform or liberate that their civilization? Many Muslims, Arabs, Kurds, Afghans, Pakistanians and Iranians, etc, are just as eager to achieve their own versions of liberal democracy as we are to see them do so. They all have a sense of their own civilizations, and I venture that they do not wish to see them obliterated. Those people are, or should be, our dearest allies in this struggle. So try toning down the rheoric so as to include them.

Posted by: Browning at January 14, 2004 06:12 AM

HA,

"You have to unleash enough death and destruction that the survivors repudiate the foundations of their civilization. In the case of Arab/Islamic civilization that means they repudiate Allah, hatred of infidels, gender apartheid, death for apostates, stonings, amputations, terror, suicide bombing, etc. because all these things brought them ruin."

None of the items in your list, with the exception of Allah, constitute civilization at all. They are barbarism by any standard, and must be defeated, internally and externally, for civilization of any sort to emerge.

The willingness to draw this distinction is the clearest current line of demarcation between "liberal" and "left." Or, apparently, "right," for that matter.

"this from a devout atheist who nonetheless believes in freedom of religion."

Atheism is itself a religion, and, from what I can tell here, a pretty darn good one (I say this as a Christian, and a not unenthusiastic one).

See:

www.edge.org/q2004/q04_print.html

Randall's First Law

Non-existence "theorems", which state something cannot happen, are untrustworthy; they are only statements about what we have seen or thought of so far. Non-existence theorems often appear in physics. They are useful guidelines, but there are often loopholes. Sometimes you find those loopholes by looking—and sometimes you find them by accident through superficially unrelated research

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 14, 2004 06:32 AM

"What do you call a conservative who is conserving liberalism itself?"

FDR

"Our national policy is this :
First, by an impressive expression of the public will and
without regard to partisanship, we are committed to
all-inclusive national defense.
Second, by an impressive expression of the public will and
without regard to partisanship, we are committed to full
support of all those resolute people everywhere who are
resisting aggression and are thereby keeping war away from
our hemisphere. By this support we express our
determination that the democratic cause shall prevail, and
we strengthen the defense and the security of our own
nation.

Third, by an impressive expression of the public will and
without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the
proposition that principle of morality and considerations
for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a
peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers. We
know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of
other people's freedom."

Four Freedoms speech, Jan 6, 1941

http://www.libertynet.org/~edcivic/fdr.html

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 14, 2004 06:51 AM

Atheism is itself a religion

Well, that's a whole 'nother can of wrigglers that I don't want to get into in Michael's comment section, but allow me to respectfully disagree, and let's leave it at that. :)

Posted by: Browning at January 14, 2004 07:08 AM

Browning,

>let's leave it at that. :)

k.

;-)

one note of clarification: "untrustworthy theory" does not imply "untrustworthy postulate." Given the fruits of said postulate evident in this blog, I'm actually inclined to grant it a great deal of trust.

As for the wrigglers, as Mike Royko once said:

"Silence is so accurate."

Think I'll take the hint.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 14, 2004 04:45 PM

I do not have a blog for one simple reason. WIth a wife two young children and a full time job I do not have the time. So I lurk around others and ocassionally post my thoughts.

Posted by: Doug at January 14, 2004 06:16 PM

Browning,

Why not say instead that we wish to reform or liberate that their civilization?

We can't reform their civilization for them, they have to do it for themselves. All we can do is provide the opportunity by removing barriers such as Saddam. But the liberal elements of Islamic socieity have to seize the opportunity. If they fail, they should be under no illusion as to what the future holds for them. The belligerent rhetoric tells them what's at stake. Rather than toning down the rhetoric, we should be ratcheting it up - regardless of the discomfort such rhetoric causes.

Posted by: HA at January 15, 2004 04:04 AM

Ged,

None of the items in your list, with the exception of Allah

Why except Allah? All of the barbarisms follow directly or indirectly from their perception of Allah. If you with to dispute this, show me the fatwa's against Bin Laden or Arafat. Its a big world and you may scrounge up one or two, but these will pale in comparison to the widespread worship of these murderous savages in the Arab/Islamic world.

Take a look at these resources before excepting Allah:

http://www.faithfreedom.org/
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0879759844/qid=1074168799/sr=1-3/ref=sr_1_3/102-6159006-0074556?v=glance&s=books

Posted by: HA at January 15, 2004 04:16 AM

to brownibg porter, re. "sea of oil"

Wolfowitz's misspeak is more commonly known as a slip of the tongue. Iraq was going to have their oil developed by mainly the French and Russians. There are studies out there showing how the Oil Minstry divied up the contracts. The US was conspcuously absent. Enter Cheney's energy meetings to rectify this unacceptable development. Why do you think there were sanction allduring the 90's - it kept those contracts from being honored. Why do you think the French and Russians didn't back us at the UN - we refused to honor those contracts. Folks like you said before the war that Iraq only produced 3% of the worlds oil. Hello, a country sitting on a quarter of the known reserves only producing a pittance was another real problem that had to be settled to our satisfacion. Iraqi oil was going to be sold with the Euro as the monetary base, a disaster for the dollar if OPEC followed suit.

To dismiss oil out of hand in any Iraq invasion discourse is beyond negligent. But good moral people could never be so jaded.

Posted by: ev at January 15, 2004 08:47 AM

HA,

"Why except Allah?"

Thanks for asking.

Simple answer: politics is the art of the possible. We can get sufficient consensus that the other items on the list constitute barbarism to accomplish important objectives. Only the in-denial Left will dissent For now. Actually, some have already moved to anger, and a few even to despair. What's the next stage again?

Complicated answer: the Middle East is going through a period roughly equivalent to American history 1880-1920. Lots of corruption, with reform coming from groups motivated largely by religion. In our case, it was called the "social gospel," also known as the progressive movement. Yes, there were, and are, significant secular elements as well. The point, however, is that this period also featured lots of burning crosses. Blaming the KKK on Christianity would not only have been inaccurate, it would also have taken a lot of the wind out of the sails of the reform movements.

I've agreed not to pick on atheists (this isn't hard, y'all are damn good at it - stronger faith than most Christians I know), I hope you'll trust me if I tell you that there is more to religion than is dreamt of in your philosophy. Or mine, for that matter.

"Religion cannot pass away. The burning of a little straw may hide the stars of the sky, but the stars are there, and will reappear."

- Carlyle

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 15, 2004 09:53 AM

Ged,

Simple answer: politics is the art of the possible.

I take your point. Along those lines, I would your expand your equivalent American time frame to 1864-1964. In 1864, we knew we would win the Civil War and slavery would end. In 1865, we achieved the possible. But in the post war period, it would not have been possible to enforce civil rights or equal protection under the 14th Amendment in the South. The nation was spent. So we got Jim Crow - an improvment over slavery, but not by much. It took another century to get rid of that scourge.

Likewise, we have removed the scourge of Saddam. We won't achieve anything like a Jeffersonian Democracy in Iraq any time soon. Hopefully what we achieve won't be as flawed as Jim Crow. But I hope that what we do achieve will be suffucient to avert a "total war" between civilizations which can only have one outcome - the violent destruction of Islamic civilation.

Blaming the KKK on Christianity is not the same as blaming the ills of the Arab/Islamic world on Islam. Mabye the Klan attempted to justify their beliefs through Christianity. I really don't know if they did or not. What I do know is that the Abolishonist movment was a Christian movment. I'm no theologian, but there appears to be an abundant basis for a Bin Laden in Islam, but little basis for something comparable to an abolition movement. I don't see how that can change as long as it is held that the Koran is Allah's final, complete, unchanging, literal and perfect revelation. If that view ever changes, Islam will no longer be Islam.

I hope you'll trust me if I tell you that there is more to religion than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

Yes, I do.

What's the next stage again?

Denial.
Anger.
Bargaining.
Depression.
Acceptance.

We have along way to get until "acceptance."

Posted by: HA at January 16, 2004 04:05 AM

HA,

Thx for your very thoughtful, and, well, kind reply. Funny just how little there is of that floating around the web. Wonder why that is...

As to your comments, the "southern" question as a whole does offer a useful analogue to the WoT, especially in Iraq. Good source of humility, perspective, and, ultimately, hope for the endeavor.

Here's to a Middle East too busy to hate!

"I'm no theologian, but there appears to be an abundant basis for a Bin Laden in Islam, but little basis for something comparable to an abolition movement. I don't see how that can change as long as it is held that the Koran is Allah's final, complete, unchanging, literal and perfect revelation. If that view ever changes, Islam will no longer be Islam."

Well, I do happen to be a theologian, not that I think that should be a requirement to discuss these issues. Let me ask you this - is Christianity still Christianity without inerrancy? Most of the Christians behind the Civil Rights movement were not inerrantists, while most Abolitionists were - doesn't seem to be the deciding factor.

Many of the organizations we perceive, rightly, to be terrorist organizations are seen by many in their own countries as the only hope for reform. Is that indeed the case? All I have to go on is the experience of my own county, suggesting that there may be many babies in the bathwater of religion you have suggested we consider throwing out.

It was the relative political and economic liberty of the Renaissance that made the Protestant Reformation possible and indeed drew it forward. Would it not be precipitous to rule out a similar dynamic working on Islam in Iraq, and, we hope, Iran?

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 16, 2004 01:42 PM

Ged,

Thx for your very thoughtful, and, well, kind reply. Funny just how little there is of that floating around the web. Wonder why that is...

Likewise, thanks for your thought provoking comments. I think this is rare because people on the web are looking for affirmation rather than provocation. In this context I use the term "provocation" in a positive sense as in something that makes one reconsider his position.

The comments/questions you raise require a worthy response that will take little time to compose. Unfortunately, I burned up this morning's blog time reading this rather long essay which paints a sorry - perhaps hopeless - picture of Saudi Arabia:

http://www.lawrencewright.com/art-saudi.html

I'll try to reply to your comments tomorrow. In the meantime, I'd be interested in hearing how you think this article fits in with your view of the prospects for reform in the Islamic world.

Posted by: HA at January 17, 2004 05:24 AM

Very interesting, Ged and HA. Would you mind a query? Thanks for that link, by the way, HA, as I was able to find a complete translation of the Bukhari hadith.

Ged: Let me ask you this - is Christianity still Christianity without inerrancy?

But can Islamofascism be plausibly discredited by Muslims rejecting fundamentalism? The scriptures of Islam are so full of that which would need to be discredited or interpreted metaphorically, that the task would appear to be logically impossible to me. There are "babies in the bathwater," but there are also scriptural monsters in such plenitude and literality (resistance to metaphorical interpretation) that I despair where you hope. How is a non-Muslim like you or me to be optimistic about reform when a key doctrine in the texts is that unbelievers and apostates should be forced to convert or killed? Politics is the art of the possible, but even the most cunning politicians cannot make texts say other than what they say. Of course, there are movements for reform and many decent Muslims aspiring to a moderate Islam. But the scriptures militate against this.

Please disabuse me of any error I'm making here. But suggesting faith in the power of religion won't work. Whether faith in religious reform is reasonable depends on the religion, and in particular on its texts.

(Off-topic: By the way, Ged, having read your many posts, I think you might get a kick out of my peculiarity: I'm an atheist with a graduate degree in religion; I adore religion.)

Posted by: Jim at January 17, 2004 06:54 PM

>But can Islamofascism be plausibly discredited >by Muslims rejecting fundamentalism?

Ah, plausibility. Slippery word, that. Currently writing a paper on this book:

Fidelity With Plausibility: Modest Christologies in the Twentieth Century
by Wesley J. Wildman

The book argues that Christians need to give up the belief that Christ is the only means of salvation because it is no longer plausible. I argue that plausibility is in the eye of the beholder and is correlated with imagination.

I think that Islamofacism can be plausibly discredited by anyone. Even atheists.

;-)

The human race can do better, with or without God's help. I obviously prefer the former.

>The scriptures of Islam are so full of that >which would need to be discredited or >interpreted metaphorically, that the task would >appear to be logically impossible to me.

Um, check out I Samuel 15, among many examples. Logic never stopped Christians from leaving behind the genocidal depictions of God in our very own scripture. BTW, if MJT ever wants to come back to Jeesus, he can find plenty of fodder for the "better us than them" theory in the OT...

>there are also scriptural monsters in such >plenitude and literality (resistance to >metaphorical interpretation) that I despair >where you hope

Well, my hope, strangely enough, is in Christ, not Mohammed. I'm just saying, there's lots of folks who don't quite see things that way. And I'm a little wary of connecting too many dots too fast, in case someone wants to connect my dots for me. For me, there's a distinction between wrong belief - I have no warrant to coerce change here - and wrong action - if someone is blowing someone else up, hello coercion!

>How is a non-Muslim like you or me to be >optimistic about reform

I'm not so much optimistic as wary of being too pessimistic, given all the variables in play.

>a key doctrine in the texts is that unbelievers >and apostates should be forced to convert or >killed?

Well, maybe no one expected the Spanish Inquistion, but it did, regrettably, happen. Would it be imprudent to expect the Islamic Inquisition to meet a similar end to the Spanish?

>even the most cunning politicians cannot make >texts say other than what they say

See Roe. Also Wade. Would that what you say were so!

>Of course, there are movements for reform and >many decent Muslims aspiring to a moderate >Islam. But the scriptures militate against this.

How many divisions do the scriptures have, again? Yeah, I know, the Pope handed Stalin his ass. The Pope also happened to have truth on his side. It will out.

>Please disabuse me of any error I'm making here. >But suggesting faith in the power of religion >won't work. Whether faith in religious reform is >reasonable depends on the religion, and in >particular on its texts.

I don't think "error" is the right category here. I have little faith in Islamic reform per se, but, given my experience, I also have little faith in the power of Islamic texts to impede it once liberalizing forces enter play.

>Off-topic: By the way, Ged, having read your >many posts, I think you might get a kick out of >my peculiarity: I'm an atheist with a graduate >degree in religion; I adore religion.)

Cool. I'm pretty much an atheist by temperment, but I had sort of a shotgun wedding with Christianity there awhile back, and the old broad has grown on me. Thx for the nice note.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 18, 2004 12:12 AM

Ged,

Let me preface my comments by stating that I am an athiest, perhaps a doubting one at times, but in balance an athiest nonetheless. Until a few years ago, I never really gave religion much thought. I was more or less indifferent to it, but in general, viewed religion as something that played a positive role in people’s lives and society as whole even if held little attraction for me personally. I never felt the hostility towards religion that many athiests do - and that Michael has expressed at times.

Since 9/11, I’ve become much more interested in the role religion plays in society. Initially, I was focused on Islam because I wanted to undertstand “why they hate us” to use the cliché. I’ve taken an empirical view because, as I’ve said, I’m no theologian. Rather than studying the religion of Islam and and theorizing what might be, I’ve observed current and historical events in the Islamic world and looked for interpretations of Islam that explain these events. I reject the interpretations of Islam that fail to explain real world events, and accept the interpretations that succesfully explain real world events. Needless to say, I’ve come to reject the interpetation that says Islam is a religion of “peace and tolerance.” It just doesn’t fit the facts.

I think that a civilization’s religion is probably the single greatest determinant of the nature of that civilization. This is because religion is the primary source/repository of the rules of human interaction and the characteristics of a civilization are nothing more than the net results of countless human interactions. I also think the empirical approach is superior to the theological approach to understanding the role of a religion in a civilization. The problem with religious texts is that within them you can find a theological basis for just about anything. This is as true for Islam as Christinianity and Judaism. But regardless of the interpretations, certain characteristics of a religion come to pre-dominate their civilizations. The characterization of Islam that I’ve come to accept is that it is a parasitic religion. It is based on conquest and it draws sustenance from the carcasses of the civilizations it has defeated – most prominently the Byzantine and Persian empires. Islamic civilization has demonstrated almost no capacity to create progress on its own. Consequently, once Western/Judeo-Christian civilization achieved military parity with Islamic civilization, Islamic civilization stagnated and declined because it was no longer capable of conquest. The decline has progressed to the state of failure that we can see today. I see the growth of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism as the last gasp of a dying religion and civilization unable to come to terms with modernity.

In contrast, I view Judeo-Christian civilization as being creative. No one can dispute that Judeo-Christian world has produced a nearly miraculous explosion in human creativity. In my opinion, there is something about the Judeo-Christian rules of human interaction that fosters the creativity that has propelled Western civilization to dominance in the world.

This creativity also has a downside because we don’t always know whether what we have created may be destructive. The seeds of decline of Western civilization are planted in the fertile soil in which it flourished. The very rationalism and reason that led to the technological advances of Western civilization have also led to the creation of ideologies (specifically Marxism and Secularism) based on the concept that we can design a society better than what exists. Because of this, I largely agree with your statement that athiesm (i.e. Secularism) is a religion because Secularism is a design for society that inolves a set of rules for human interaction. The only difference is that Secularists would create a civilization designed by Man instead of one designed by God or evolved through nature. I would disagree to the extent that an athiest does not necessarily want to re-design society.

Let me ask you this - is Christianity still Christianity without inerrancy? Most of the Christians behind the Civil Rights movement were not inerrantists, while most Abolitionists were - doesn't seem to be the deciding factor.

First of all, today’s Christinianity is surely not our great-great-great grandparent’s Christianity. Further, I think you dismiss inerrency as a deciding factor too easily. Sure, there may have been an Abolition movement among non-inerrantists, but would it have been successful? Unlike the Civil Rights movement, Abolition required the tremendous blood-shed of the Civil War to succeed. Would the non-inerrantists have been as willing to shed blood as the inerrantists in order to defeat an evil like slavery? Would there have been a non-inerrantist John Brown? I’m not so sure.

Secondly, I detect the seeds of an equivalency argument here. Our ancesters were inerrents and we tend not to be. By analogy, contemporary Muslims tend to be inerrents but their successors don’t have to be. And if they can become non-inerrents, perhaps they can reject the barbaric elements of their civilization. The problem I have with this argument is that Islam has a “Mohammed problem.” Even by Islamic accounts, the Prophet Mohammed led a life of barbarism. To reject barbarism, Muslims would have to reject Mohammed or at least accept him as flawed. I just don’t see that happening, although I suppose anything is possible. Christians have no analogous problem. I don’t think Christ can be accused of barbarism.

It was the relative political and economic liberty of the Renaissance that made the Protestant Reformation possible and indeed drew it forward. Would it not be precipitous to rule out a similar dynamic working on Islam in Iraq, and, we hope, Iran?

Maybe, but do we have time for this to run its course? During the Reformtion, did we live in a world with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? Did we have jets and everyday international travel? Did we have massive trade with millions of shpping containers going in and out of ports every year? Did we have massive immigration? If it would take 100 years for an Islamic reformation to evolve, what are the odds of losing an American city first? The odds are unacceptably high in my view. I’ve pretty much resigned myself that we may lose an American city within my lifetime. And if we do lose an American city, the clock will have run out for the Islamic world to reform.

Posted by: HA at January 18, 2004 08:24 AM

Thanks to you both again. I always learn so much from your posts.

Ged, the problem with your Roe-Wade point is that they didn't make the Bible say other than it says; they only seemed to do so. As for the power of free, liberal thinking social life: yes, it has that power. But it cannot make the Koran and hadiths say other than they say. I didn't understand your Pope-Stalin point. If you don't mind clarifying, I'd appreciate it. Anyway, when I add HA's empirical case to my textual despair, I descend into gloom.

Atheism as religion (and HA, check spelling of our creed): I've always been well served by thinking of religion as a system of myth and ritual. Atheism lacks these, so I don't take it as a religion.

Posted by: Jim at January 18, 2004 10:34 AM

Wow, all kinds of good stuff there - how'd we get that far off topic?

= )

One nice irony, a thread that started discussing the angry fringe ends with some of the friendliests interchanges I've encountered in blogland. It'll take me a while to respond to all that. As for Stalin and the Pope, see:

http://www.bartleby.com/66/30/55130.html

Basically, someone asked Stalin if he was worried about the Pope and he replied, "The Pope, how many divisions (of troops) has he got?"

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 18, 2004 05:35 PM

No one can dispute that Judeo-Christian world has produced a nearly miraculous explosion in human creativity.

I will! It was the successful rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints brought on my the horrors of the wars surrounding the Protestant Reformation which produced the miraculous explosion in human creativity. It was when we stopped taking the Church's (or the Bible's, or the King's) word for how the world was made and who we should go out and kill that the Western tradition of scientific inquiry, human rights, and democratic governance came into being.

The fact that secularism happened to arise in the Christian world first does not make the Christian viewpoint better, except insofar as it implies that it was the one best suited for getting the hell out of the way.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 18, 2004 08:45 PM

"The fact that secularism happened to arise in the Christian world first does not make the Christian viewpoint better, except insofar as it implies that it was the one best suited for getting the hell out of the way."

We underestimate that particular implication at our great peril. Secularism shows little evidence of developing this very virtue...

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 18, 2004 09:50 PM

Ged: Yes, I knew that Stalin line. I just didn't get your quip about "handing ass"! By the way, I've given years of thought to the topic on which your thesis is: "Plausibility is in the eye of the beholder and is correlated with imagination." Just as in science, where imagination plays a vital role in hypothesis formulation but is limited by the hard facts in the world, so, too, I think is religious imagination limited by what scripture says. Six-day creation may be reconciled with evolution by the canny non-fundamentalist Jew or Christian. And "I am the only way" may be ameliorated into metaphor by the sophisticated Christian. But I can't see how a gentle Islam can be drawn out of the Muslim texts by any but the most fevered imagination. And that is not the stable and clear stuff on which religion can be based. But I'm sure your paper goes into greater depths than I can imagine at the moment.

Kimmitt, what are you doing? Does it make sense to strike up a conversation about history with someone whom one has just upbraided as a pathological liar? Are you going to scream your F-word at me?

Posted by: Jim at January 18, 2004 10:10 PM

There's actually a lot of agreement between where I'm coming from and where ya'll are - even Kimmitt!

Might want to cut the poor guy a little slack, electronic communication is easily misinterpreted.

>your quip about "handing ass"!

I'm just saying Walesa proved a more able general on the field of battle that ultimately mattered than Jaruselski. That Wojtyla's a tough cookie.

"Six-day creation may be reconciled with evolution by the canny non-fundamentalist Jew or Christian. And "I am the only way" may be ameliorated into metaphor by the sophisticated Christian."

Yeah, I mean nowhere does it say the six days are consecutive, for instance. The assumptions you bring to the table play a big part. I do happen to believe that Jesus is the only way, but I also believed the Eagles would win last night. I healthy dose of epistemelogical humility goes a long way.

"But I'm sure your paper goes into greater depths than I can imagine at the moment."

Example of a belief you hold that has doubtful correspondence with reality.

;-)

Substantive reply coming around Tuesdayish. MJT - sorry about turning your comments section into a chat room. These things happen. Glad to see you going after Hannity, BTW.

"It is certainly not the least charm of a theory that it is refutable."

- Nietzsche

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 19, 2004 12:48 AM

Jim,

Atheism as religion (and HA, check spelling of our creed): I've always been well served by thinking of religion as a system of myth and ritual. Atheism lacks these, so I don't take it as a religion.

I guess your spell checker is bigger than mine! ;-)

I view atheism and secularism as two distinct concepts. I view atheism narrowly (yes, for once I use a word in a narrow sense) as the non-belief in the existance of God. Atheism doesn't stake any claim for the ordering of society and the rules of human interaction. Secularism starts with atheism, but then goes on to design society based on the assertion that God doesn't exist. I also closely associate extreme Secularism with Marxism. Marxism and its variants are certainly overflowing with myth and ritual.

Of course, there are degrees of Secularism just as there are degrees of socialism, fascism, liberalism etc. I support Secularism to the extent of seperating temporal power from organized religion. I oppose Secularism that attempts to purge all religion from public life.

Posted by: HA at January 19, 2004 04:07 AM

Kimmitt,

I will! It was the successful rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints brought on my the horrors of the wars surrounding the Protestant Reformation which produced the miraculous explosion in human creativity.

They don't call it the Protestant Reformation for nothing. They absolutely don't call it the Secular Reformation. The Protestent Reformation rejected the temporal power of the Catholic church but is firmly rooted in the Judeo-Christian world view. Perhaps even more so than the Catholic church was.

The fact that secularism happened to arise in the Christian world first does not make the Christian viewpoint better, except insofar as it implies that it was the one best suited for getting the hell out of the way.

Its no accident that Christianity is compatible with the seperation of the Church from temporal power. As Jesus said - "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s." Temporal power is as corrupting for those of faith as it is for the secular. Islam has no record of being compatible with the seperation of mosque and state.

The rejection of the Judeo Christian world view in the West really begins with Marx, not with the Reformation. The horrors of the 20th century all derived from secular world view, not from the Judeo Christian world view. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao and all the rest Marxist/socialist/fascist monsters were without exception committed secularists.

Posted by: HA at January 19, 2004 04:39 AM

Could we say "Greco-Judeo-Christian," please? The Greeks gave us democracy, separation of religion and state, separation of executive from military, freedom of thought and speech, science, hardcore philosophy, etc.

Ged: "Six days" = metaphor for six hundred million years. "I am the only way" = metaphor for "the religious values I'm speaking of, or some set closely resembling them, is the only way."

HA: Marxism and its variants are certainly overflowing with myth and ritual.

How so?

Posted by: Jim at January 19, 2004 06:36 AM
We should never occupy countries to extract their natural resources. I mean, for crying out loud, what kind of person could support such a policy? Thank goodness I've never heard a single person say they do, never read a single column by any writer supporting anything like it.

I pointed out last November a CATO paper that identified a list of advocates for such a policy in both the press and Washington regarding the US response to OPEC embargos, among them: Henry Kissinger, James R. Schlesinger, Robert Rucker, and one anonymous "Miles Ignotus". On January 1st declassified British intelligence revealed that in 1973, during an oil embargo, that the US designed plans for just such an operation in response and put US military forces on global nuclear alert. The USG has been prepared and willing to occupy the middle east to extract natural resources since at least 1973: the remaining debate has been the question of feasibility.

Posted by: buermann at January 21, 2004 01:15 PM

Gang,

Sorry for the tardiness - real life, etc...

Re: my atheism credentials, my moniker is taken from the most powerful critique of the Chrisitan worldview I've come across - Ursula LeGuin's Wizard of Earthsea series, specifically the third book, The Farthest Shore.

I'm Chrisitan primarily because I recognize how crucial the Christian traditon has been to the ideals we, especially atheists ironically, hold dear and I'm working (not alone, BTW) to Reform the tradition to keep it fruitful. I capitalize "Reform" because the part of the tradition I'm from is called the "Reformed Tradition". It's done it before, it can do it again.

Finally slogged through this article:

http://www.lawrencewright.com/art-saudi.html

Led me to refine my theory somewhat, while keeping in mind that the New Yorker itself is just the sort of publication the robber-barons would have read, so I would expect to see little understanding of the social gospel there and thus little recogniztion if something similar was arising in other cultures.

The other pertinent thing about the article is that it focuses on Saudi Arabia. I think its more than coincidence that the Wahabbis arose primarily there. Drawing the parallel with the American experience further, the Shi'a tradition in Islam lines up with the Puritan/Dissenter tradition here, out of which the social gospel emerged, while the Sunni lines up with the Episcopalian tradition in the southern part of the U.S. out of which the Klan arose.

Just as the Puritan/Dissenters split between theocrats and those who stressed relgious tolerance (as a minority in Europe, the two coincided), I recognize a similar split with Shi'a - with Khomeni on the theocrat said and Sistani on the tolerance side (Sistani is feeling domestic pressure from more theocratic elements, but his own record is distinctively tolerant).

Just as sweatshops in third-world countries don't look like progress to us but certainly do to those with only worse alternatives, Shi'a reform movements don't look particularly liberating to us (especially re: women), but again to those whose only alternative is a corrupt dictatorship that also opporesses women, the view may be much different. Just something to keep in mind if we advocate completely wiping out the religion upon which these movements perceived by many in country as reforming ar based.

I of course believe that the Christian tradition is more suited to liberation than the Islamic, that's why I support policies to create a more open and tolerant atmosphere in which these questions can be explored. In the mean time, we've got the list of barbarisms provided above upon which we can work together to combat.

"Ged, the problem with your Roe-Wade point is that they didn't make the Bible say other than it says; they only seemed to do so."

Not sure I understand your point here. My point was that the justices made the Constitution say other than what it says. We may want to amend the constition to put a right to privacy in it, but it wasn't there when they found it.

"It was the successful rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints brought on my the horrors of the wars surrounding the Protestant Reformation which produced the miraculous explosion in human creativity."

There is a great deal of truth in this, but it presupposes the existence of those truths from which to react. A society that disallows truth claims altogether sacrifices the very engine of that creativity.

Put another way, many of our great secular heroes such as Ben Franklin didn't spend a whole lot of time in church. They did, however, benefit from a religious upbringing (even only if to react against it!). They're own children are famously less productive. Secularism is a sterile creed on its own.

"Could we say "Greco-Judeo-Christian," please? The Greeks gave us democracy, separation of religion and state, separation of executive from military, freedom of thought and speech, science, hardcore philosophy, etc."

The tradition goes way back before the Greeks, to times before such labels. In a billion years on a million worlds it will be called the "logos" tradition, in which the emergence of language and coming of Christ will be associated with the seminal event of all history: the opening of the seed of life, Earth. The previous sentence is of the type formerly known as "prophecy."

;-)

"Ged: 'Six days' = metaphor for six hundred million years. 'I am the only way' = metaphor for 'the religious values I'm speaking of, or some set closely resembling them, is the only way.'"

Well, that's an example of the phenomenon I was claiming in regard to the reading of the Koran - people tend to interpret texts in the ways they want to interpret them. I don't say this is right. I try to find literal meaning before metaphorical, although both can have value. The former keeps me more honest.

Let me know if I've missed anything - thanks again for the good conversation!

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 22, 2004 03:58 AM

Gang,

Sorry about the spelling errors, et. al., hope they don't reflect to horribly on the intellgence of the views expressed. Other comments:

"I’ve taken an empirical view because, as I’ve said, I’m no theologian."

Um, the two are far from mutually exclusive. I empirically observed how prevalent relgion was, and so sought out to explore it.

"I reject the interpretations of Islam that fail to explain real world events, and accept the interpretations that succesfully explain real world events."

Fair enough, just mind your sample size.

"I also think the empirical approach is superior to the theological approach to understanding the role of a religion in a civilization."

Remind me why it is empirically rigorous to ignore the expressed beliefs of said civilzation?

"The problem with religious texts is that within them you can find a theological basis for just about anything."

This is true of texts and x-logical interpretation in general. Theological traditions often include doctrine that mediate this inclination, however. Others may not.

"I see the growth of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism as the last gasp of a dying religion and civilization unable to come to terms with modernity."

Do you see the emergence of fundamentalist Christianity and the KKK as the last gasp of a dying relgion and civilization as well? How to account forthe evangelization of Africa then? The spread of Islamic belief?

"In contrast, I view Judeo-Christian civilization as being creative."

19th Century Judeo-Christian civ. in Europe (see 1848 illiberal Syllabus of Errors, for instance) was not, hence the secularization reaction there in the 20th. It can be creative - see U.S., but is not inherently so.

"The very rationalism and reason that led to the technological advances of Western civilization have also led to the creation of ideologies (specifically Marxism and Secularism) based on the concept that we can design a society better than what exists."

But history shows that we can, just not alone. And not with 100% chance of success every try, sometimes we'll go down blind alleys. But tradition itself is nothing more than a history of changes that worked.

"The only difference is that Secularists would create a civilization designed by Man instead of one designed by God or evolved through nature."

That's the thing though - Christianity confesses that God became man, and anyone can see that man is a part of nature. The dichotomies are false.

"today’s Christinianity is surely not our great-great-great grandparent’s Christianity."

One of us is sure of that, and its not me. They were the ones with the faith (and balls!) to come all the way to a new continent to worship that particular Christianity freely. I hope my faith is as true as their's!

"Would the non-inerrantists have been as willing to shed blood as the inerrantists in order to defeat an evil like slavery?"

Let me tell you, the non-inerrantists are as unyielding in their belief, if not more so, than the inerrantists. They're the new fundamentalists. You try arguing with them.

;-)

"I don’t think Christ can be accused of barbarism."

But he can be accused of blasphemy. Most Jews would agree, if pressed, and for good reason. Contemporary Christians have found ways to deal without massacres of Jews.

BTW, Jesus can be accused of pacifism. I don't see this bothering too many Christian soldiers...

"If it would take 100 years for an Islamic reformation to evolve, what are the odds of losing an American city first? The odds are unacceptably high in my view."

All I'm saying is that pulling up Islam by the roots dramatically increases the odds, it doesn't lessen them.

"Anyway, when I add HA's empirical case to my textual despair, I descend into gloom."

Hope you don't stay there. My empirical observations tell me that people have an amazing capacity to make texts say what they want them to. Our president is doing his best to make sure they don't want their texts to say, "Blow up Americans!"

"Just as in science, where imagination plays a vital role in hypothesis formulation but is limited by the hard facts in the world"

No, experimentation is limited by the hard facts of the world. Hypothesis formation opens up new areas of observation in which these facts are found.

"Islam has no record of being compatible with the seperation of mosque and state."

Except in, you know, the "secular" west, where its growing by leaps and bounds. Why is this?

"The rejection of the Judeo Christian world view in the West really begins with Marx, not with the Reformation."

Begins? It begins well before Marx, though it didn't gain a heck of a lot of traction until Voltaire, Rousseau, and friends. Napoleon empirically discovered religion's enduring importance and made great use of it.

"We should never occupy countries to extract their natural resources. I mean, for crying out loud, what kind of person could support such a policy? Thank goodness I've never heard a single person say they do, never read a single column by any writer supporting anything like it."

This is one of those "sausage making" issues, as was, formerly, the doctrine of preemption. I don't think the policy is actually as stark as its laid out above, but it is there. The argument is usually made in terms ofthe world economy, not just the U.S. Not saying I agree with it, but its an old pillar of realpolitik...

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 22, 2004 06:34 AM

Ged: Hypothesis formation opens up new areas of observation in which these facts are found.

But the facts won't be found if they are not there. We can use our imagination to hypothesize that jihad in the Muslim scriptures is peaceful, but the texts will falsify this interpretation just as the physical world falsifies certain theories in science. Or so I say. I could be wrong. But the point is that we cannot assume that a peaceful interpretation will fly.

I try to find literal meaning before metaphorical, although both can have value. The former keeps me more honest.

Yes, of course. That's the interpretive strategy that leads me to despair when I'm reading Muslim scripture.

Posted by: Jim at January 24, 2004 09:37 AM

Jim,

HA: Marxism and its variants are certainly overflowing with myth and ritual.

How so?

I think you would agree that the tenets of Marxism proved to be more myth than reality:

"The proletariat, after becoming the ruling class, was “to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state” and to increase productive forces at a rapid rate. Once the bourgeoisie had been defeated, there would be no more class divisions, since the means of production would not be owned by any group. The coercive state, formerly a weapon of class oppression, would be replaced by a rational structure of economic and social cooperation and integration. Such bourgeois institutions as the family and religion, which had served to perpetuate bourgeois dominance, would vanish, and each individual would find true fulfillment. Thus social and economic utopia would be achieved, although its exact form could not be predicted."

http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/section/Marxism_TenetsofMarxism.asp

I also see the street theater found at anti-globalization and "peace" protests as a ritualized version of the revolutionary street violence that propelled communists and fascists to power.

Posted by: HA at January 25, 2004 04:44 AM

Ged,

"It was the successful rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints brought on my the horrors of the wars surrounding the Protestant Reformation which produced the miraculous explosion in human creativity."

There is a great deal of truth in this

There isn't even a grain of truth in this.

"The rejection of the Judeo Christian world view in the West really begins with Marx, not with the Reformation."

Begins? It begins well before Marx, though it didn't gain a heck of a lot of traction until Voltaire, Rousseau, and friends. Napoleon empirically discovered religion's enduring importance and made great use of it.

The writings of a handfull of intellectuals are not to be confused with the organizing principles of a society. A few elites pondering secularism does not mean society has rejected Judeo-Christian values as the organizing princples of society. The rejection of Judeo-Christian principles didn't gain any traction until the 20th century. America still hasn't rejected Judeo-Christian values even if the process is under way. It is no coincidence that America is the most creative nation in the world today.

19th Century Judeo-Christian civ. in Europe (see 1848 illiberal Syllabus of Errors, for instance) was not, hence the secularization reaction there in the 20th.

Is it only coincidence that the Syllabus of Errors was released the same year as the Communist Manifesto? I think you are confirming my assertion that it was with Marx, not the Reformation that the West begins the process of rejecting Judeo-Christian values as the primary organizing principles of society. Secularization became the dominant organizing principle of society in Europe in the 20th Century. I think you would agree that the 20th Century was not a shining moment in European history.

But tradition itself is nothing more than a history of changes that worked.

Exactly. That is why we shouldn't recklessly discard our traditions. Not that would shouldn't evolve, but we shouldn't reject tradition blindly.

You try arguing with them.

Forehead encounters brick wall. Ouch.

Except in, you know, the "secular" west, where its growing by leaps and bounds. Why is this?

Because they don't dominate. The muslims in France don't seem to be embracing secularism. What would France look like with a muslim majority?

That's the thing though - Christianity confesses that God became man, and anyone can see that man is a part of nature. The dichotomies are false.

Not at all. Man didn't conciously design society. Successful societies evolved and our traditions and institutions came to dominance without our understanding why. There is no blank slate, only an invisible hand.

All I'm saying is that pulling up Islam by the roots dramatically increases the odds, it doesn't lessen them.

One of those roots is Mohammed. You didn't tell me how Islam overcomes the example set by Mohammed.

Posted by: HA at January 25, 2004 06:01 AM

"We can use our imagination to hypothesize that jihad in the Muslim scriptures is peaceful, but the texts will falsify this interpretation just as the physical world falsifies certain theories in science. Or so I say. I could be wrong. But the point is that we cannot assume that a peaceful interpretation will fly."

I don't make that assumption. I do, however, question making the assumption that it necesarily will not, given the record of fallen humanity's habit of twisting texts to fit our wishes.

"We" are not the relevant hypothesizers here, it is the Muslims themselves that will do so.

"The proletariat, after becoming the ruling class, was “to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state”

see CALPERS

"to increase productive forces at a rapid rate."

see http://www.bls.gov/news.release/prod2.nr0.htm

"the means of production would not be owned by any group."

see: http://www.ici.org/stats/mf/2003_factbook.pdf

"The coercive state, formerly a weapon of class oppression, would be replaced by a rational structure of economic and social cooperation and integration."

see: um, Adam Smith, et. al.

"Such bourgeois institutions as the family and religion, which had served to perpetuate bourgeois dominance, would vanish, and each individual would find true fulfillment."

See: contemporary Democratic Party raison d'etre. I admit, this is an exaggeration, though I wish it were more so.

The point: I'm no Marxist, but the guy wasn't as crazy as we'd like to think.

"It was the successful rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints brought on my the horrors of the wars surrounding the Protestant Reformation which produced the miraculous explosion in human creativity."

A. The rejection of a certain set of Judeochristian viewpoints, replaced by another set truer to the traditon, would fit the above statement. That's part of what happened.

B. The rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints altogether was also productive, in the short term, of human creativity, while in the long-term proven barren. The tradition itself seems to embrace this very acceptance/rejection dynamic, acting as a sort of information pump.

"The writings of a handfull of intellectuals are not to be confused with the organizing principles of a society. A few elites pondering secularism does not mean society has rejected Judeo-Christian values as the organizing princples of society. The rejection of Judeo-Christian principles didn't gain any traction until the 20th century."

The Cult of Reason was more than a handful of intellectuals. The reactionary bent of the European church (caused perhaps by the exodus of its progressive elements to the New World?), led to the radical rejection of the church that culminated in Marx, but did not begin with him. The liberals follwed the radicals in the 20th century.

"America still hasn't rejected Judeo-Christian values even if the process is under way. It is no coincidence that America is the most creative nation in the world today."

Amen. Such a process is underway, though there are other processes also underway which run counter to it. I know where my bets are.

= )

Hint: African evangelization - the missionaries are coming to our shores this time!

"Secularization became the dominant organizing principle of society in Europe in the 20th Century. I think you would agree that the 20th Century was not a shining moment in European history."

Yes, but see:

Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848-1914
by Hugh McLeod

The social gospellers in Europe, especially France, had already left the church, unlike in America.

"What would France look like with a muslim majority?"

We may soon find out. The Judeochristian traditon as I read it lost France long, long ago. Say, around August 24, 1572. See:

http://www.reformation.org/bart.html

"Not at all. Man didn't conciously design society. Successful societies evolved and our traditions and institutions came to dominance without our understanding why. There is no blank slate, only an invisible hand."

Yes, but if one accpets that evolution is a theory with great expanatory power, why not also expect that evolution itself would evolve, incorporating within itself elements of conscious design as they emerge?

The hand works both visibly and invisibly.

"One of those roots is Mohammed. You didn't tell me how Islam overcomes the example set by Mohammed."

I would assume by the same method that Christianity overcomes, to its great detriment, the example of Christ.

;-)

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 25, 2004 11:44 AM

Ged,

"The coercive state, formerly a weapon of class oppression, would be replaced by a rational structure of economic and social cooperation and integration."

see: um, Adam Smith, et. al.

Smith was a Marxist? Don't you think you stretched that point a wee bit too far?

See: contemporary Democratic Party raison d'etre. I admit, this is an exaggeration, though I wish it were more so.

The point: I'm no Marxist, but the guy wasn't as crazy as we'd like to think.

Contemporary Democrats are certainly secular and moderately socialist. They did manage to skip over that whole dictatorship of the proletariat thing. They didn't follow Marx's path to where they are today. Secularism and socialism are not the same phenomenon even if there is significant overlap.

A. The rejection of a certain set of Judeochristian viewpoints, replaced by another set truer to the traditon, would fit the above statement. That's part of what happened.

B. The rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints altogether was also productive, in the short term, of human creativity, while in the long-term proven barren. The tradition itself seems to embrace this very acceptance/rejection dynamic, acting as a sort of information pump.

Point A seems to agree with my points about the Reformation. I would say that point B describes the process that I claim began with Marx. Are we agreeing or disagreeing?

The reactionary bent of the European church (caused perhaps by the exodus of its progressive elements to the New World?), led to the radical rejection of the church that culminated in Marx, but did not begin with him. The liberals follwed the radicals in the 20th century.

So Marx was merely describing a process that had already completed? Was Marx an historian or theorist whose ideas were implemented by others? I'd say the latter.

Hint: African evangelization - the missionaries are coming to our shores this time!

How did the Africans become Christian in the first place? Those Victorian era missionaries were not secularists. You don’t presume Dr. Livingstone was a secularist?

Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848-1914
by Hugh McLeod

The social gospellers in Europe, especially France, had already left the church, unlike in America.

From the Amazon review of this book:

"Beginning with politics, Hugh McLeod asseses the French Third Republic, the classic example of the systematic secularization of public institutions."

Here is a discussion of the Third Republic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Republic

Looks like more data points supporting my secularization time line. Overall, I’d say your data points support my thesis better than your own.

We may soon find out. The Judeochristian traditon as I read it lost France long, long ago. Say, around August 24, 1572

The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre was part of a conflict between two Christian movements, not between Christians and secularists. It doesn’t fit your thesis. Are you equating the Reform movement with secularism?

Yes, but if one accpets that evolution is a theory with great expanatory power, why not also expect that evolution itself would evolve, incorporating within itself elements of conscious design as they emerge?

If you’re talking about genetic evolution, I don’t incorporate conscious design. If you’re talking about societal evolution, then yes, I would incorporate conscious design. The question is whether conciously a designed society will survive in its environment. Those western nations that have most consciously structured their socieities have not fared well. The anglosphere nations that have least consciously structured their societies and retained traditional institutions have fared best.

I would assume by the same method that Christianity overcomes, to its great detriment, the example of Christ.

Cop out! ;-)

Posted by: HA at January 26, 2004 06:06 AM

"Smith was a Marxist? Don't you think you stretched that point a wee bit too far?"

Are you falling into the same trap as those who, hearing that Bush breathes, hold their breath, evidently thereby cutting off all oxygen to the brain?

Smith need not be a Marxist for some of Marx's statements to find unexpected echoes within the libertarian tradition. I was just pointing out this oddity.

"Contemporary Democrats are certainly secular and moderately socialist. They did manage to skip over that whole dictatorship of the proletariat thing."

The leftist takeover of labor union leadership (especially in the government sector) casts doubt on your assurance here.

"Secularism and socialism are not the same phenomenon even if there is significant overlap."

This is beside the point. I'm saying that current leftist policy tilts against the traditional family and religion and that these policies are finding increasing traction within the Democratic party, not decreasing. Hence Marx wasn't obviously off-base here.

"Point A seems to agree with my points about the Reformation. I would say that point B describes the process that I claim began with Marx. Are we agreeing or disagreeing?"

We're agreeing as we have been all along, but my point was that your analysis was not necessaily at odds with Kimmitt's. My points A and B were illustrations of interpretations consistent with both your views. Hence my claim that there was great truth in what he said. A and B were more explicit explications of those truths.

"So Marx was merely describing a process that had already completed? Was Marx an historian or theorist whose ideas were implemented by others? I'd say the latter."

I say Marx was the culmination of a process that predated him - the radical departure from the European church. The liberals followed in the next century. Marx was an integrative theorist, a metatheorist.

"How did the Africans become Christian in the first place? Those Victorian era missionaries were not secularists. You don’t presume Dr. Livingstone was a secularist?"

Not at all. As I said, it was the emigration of progressive elements that left the European church reactionary and thus doomed to the dustbin. Contemporary Islam may follow, but the American experience offers an alternative path. As does the African.

"the French Third Republic, the classic example of the systematic secularization of public institutions...Looks like more data points supporting my secularization time line. Overall, I’d say your data points support my thesis better than your own."

The dogmatic ever precedes the systematic. Right teaching proceeds from right belief. The belief went off the rails well before the 20th Century.

The Ferry Laws (1905) were the big break, and they didn't arise out of a vacuum.

"The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre was part of a conflict between two Christian movements, not between Christians and secularists. It doesn’t fit your thesis. Are you equating the Reform movement with secularism?"

No, I'm saying the barbarous slaughter of 100,000 unarmed innocents fits no definition of "Christian" that I would recognize. I'm saying that the French church was far more French than church, and thus primarily secular, since at least the 16th century.

"If you’re talking about genetic evolution, I don’t incorporate conscious design."

I'm talking about the process. If an adjective, such as "genetic", is not longer optimal for survival, it is left behind.

"The anglosphere nations that have least consciously structured their societies and retained traditional institutions have fared best."

They have thrived by consciously structuring their societies in such a way that new structures are encouraged to emerge. France and friends choose stagnant coercive monopoly, the anglosphere chooses dynamic consenual pluaralism. The argument could be made that the latter is actually more conscious than the former that deludes itself into thinking it somehow upholds the rights of man by consistently trampling upon them.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Unconsciousness is not conducive to this duty....

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 26, 2004 01:38 PM

Evidently, the anglosphere has regrettably forgotten how to spell. That should be "consensual pluralism".

= )

BTW, I wish that recognizing the fallenness of man were merely a cop-out. Most cop-outs I'm familiar with do the exact opposite.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 26, 2004 01:45 PM

Ged,

The leftist takeover of labor union leadership (especially in the government sector) casts doubt on your assurance here.
...
I'm saying that current leftist policy tilts against the traditional family and religion and that these policies are finding increasing traction within the Democratic party, not decreasing. Hence Marx wasn't obviously off-base here.

Let's assume for the moment that Marx may have been wrong about means but right about ends. Let's assume that here in America, the Democrats bring Marx's prophecies to fruition. Then what? Is that the end of history? Or is Marx's end state unstable?

IMO, even if we reach a moment in history that the state of society looks like something what Marx predicted it will only be temporary. At some point, society will either revert to a more classically liberal structure or we will descend into another dark age. This process is further along in France than any where else. France is the canary in the coal mine of Western Civilization. That bird is already getting wobbly.

The Ferry Laws (1905)

I always spend a lot of time on Google after reading your posts! ;-)

"Are you equating the Reform movement with secularism?"

No, I'm saying the barbarous slaughter of 100,000 unarmed innocents fits no definition of "Christian" that I would recognize.

So the Reformation would best be described as return to Christianity rather than a rejection of Christianity?

They have thrived by consciously structuring their societies in such a way that new structures are encouraged to emerge.

If the UK consciously structured their society, why don't they have a constitution? Their society wasn't consciously structured. It arose and evolved in response conflict between competing interests until reaching a point of equilibrium. There was no conscious plan. Even the American Constitution could best be described as consciously unstructured. The institutions for determining the structure of society were consciously structured, but the actual ordering of society was not specified. For contrast, compare the American Constitution with the proposed EU Constitution. The Europeans have proposed a consciously ordered society and it looks like it won't get off the ground.

P.S. My broadband seems to have died. I'm on dialup until I figure out what happened. I may be slow to reply until then.

Posted by: HA at January 28, 2004 04:18 AM

"Let's assume for the moment that Marx may have been wrong about means but right about ends. Let's assume that here in America, the Democrats bring Marx's prophecies to fruition. Then what? Is that the end of history? Or is Marx's end state unstable?"

It's not just the Democrats, and it's not all bad. Marx could have gotten the spirit (resentment) wrong, but some of the general contours right. I'm just disagreeing with this thing you said:

"I think you would agree that the tenets of Marxism proved to be more myth than reality:"

Marx was a theorist, not a theologian, and his theories, as theories, are not the problem. The problem is those who treat Marxism as a religion.

"France is the canary in the coal mine of Western Civilization. That bird is already getting wobbly."

Whatever. France is the red-headed stepchild of Western Civilization. The Greco-Judeo-Christian civilization that first arose in the West is not inherently geographic. The values upon which it was based are universal and preceed "the West". Other birds on other continents are just now taking wing...

"So the Reformation would best be described as return to Christianity rather than a rejection of Christianity?"

My theology's not real big on returning to anything - the Holy Spirit draws us forward toward the New Creation. I'll leave the yearn to return to the Bin Ladens of this world. That said, the reformation could be described as:

"The rejection of a certain set of Judeochristian viewpoints, replaced by another set truer to the traditon."

Which fits both your and Kimmit's formulation.

"If the UK consciously structured their society, why don't they have a constitution?"

Because they have consciously decided not to?

"Magna Charta is such a fellow as will have no sovereign."

- Edward Coke, debate in the Commons, 1628

"Their society wasn't consciously structured. It arose and evolved in response conflict between competing interests until reaching a point of equilibrium. There was no conscious plan."

Not to decide is to decide.

"Even the American Constitution could best be described as consciously unstructured."

Exactly my point. France, for one, is unconscious of this prerogative.

Thx for the convo.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 30, 2004 01:40 PM

Ged,

Which fits both your and Kimmit's formulation.

Kimmitt's formulation was that the Judeo-Christian viewpoint was rejected. His comment has just enough ambiguity to be open to interpretation, but there is no mention of the Judeo-Christian viewpoint being "replaced by another set truer to the traditon." Your comments don't fit his at all. Your comments seem to imply that the Judeo-Christian viewpoint had reached full fruition with the Reformation as opposed to being rejected. Your formulations are diametrically opposed. I'll copy and paste his full comments so you can revisit your assessment:

I will! It was the successful rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints brought on my the horrors of the wars surrounding the Protestant Reformation which produced the miraculous explosion in human creativity. It was when we stopped taking the Church's (or the Bible's, or the King's) word for how the world was made and who we should go out and kill that the Western tradition of scientific inquiry, human rights, and democratic governance came into being.

The fact that secularism happened to arise in the Christian world first does not make the Christian viewpoint better, except insofar as it implies that it was the one best suited for getting the hell out of the way.

Getting back to your thoughts:

Not to decide is to decide ... to accept that which evolved unconsciously because conscious design would yield nothing better.

Posted by: HA at February 2, 2004 04:30 AM

Some strange feeling seized me when I read your comment, HA.
Does HA's post look strange here?
No. So HA, what is the point in your comment?
There always has to be some point.
Nothing personal tho.
regards,
Anderson

Posted by: Anderson.J. at February 2, 2004 01:33 PM

HA,

What I was doing (I unfortunately no longer can as Kimmitt has left us) is called evangelism. I believe there is some validity in his insights, but there is potential for a wider view that encompasses his insights while also affirming the tradition.

"It was the successful rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints brought on my the horrors of the wars surrounding the Protestant Reformation which produced the miraculous explosion in human creativity."

A. The rejection of a certain set of Judeochristian viewpoints, replaced by another set truer to the traditon, would fit the above statement. That's part of what happened.

B. The rejection of Judeochristian viewpoints altogether was also productive, in the short term, of human creativity, while in the long-term proven barren. The tradition itself seems to embrace this very acceptance/rejection dynamic, acting as a sort of information pump.

Point B. is more along the lines of where Kimmitt was heading. When he goes here:

"The fact that secularism happened to arise in the Christian world first does not make the Christian viewpoint better, except insofar as it implies that it was the one best suited for getting the hell out of the way."

I can come back to point out that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the only one we know of so far that demonstrates an ability to get the hell out of the way, when appropriate. The secularism it makes way for has proven itself incapable of doing likewise, and also incapable of propagating itself across generations, so I'm not too worried about civilization straying too far from the living water of Christ. Those who drink from other fountains eventually find their thirst unquenched.

"To accept that which evolved unconsciously because conscious design would yield nothing better."

I would say "evolved freely" from the process of interacting consciousnesses, including consciousnesses joined across space and time by the Holy Spirit.

Coercive monopoly of design is the enemy.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 4, 2004 12:54 PM

"Your comments seem to imply that the Judeo-Christian viewpoint had reached full fruition with the Reformation as opposed to being rejected."

It will not reach its full fruition until Kingdom Come or the reversal of the second Law of Thermdynamics, whichever comes first.

;-)

Rejection is an essential part of the process that leads to that fruition...

The stone that has been rejected is the chief cornerstone.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 4, 2004 12:57 PM

Ged,

but there is potential for a wider view that encompasses his insights while also affirming the tradition

If you widen your view too much, it will collapse under the inevitable contradictions.

I won't be monitoring this thread any longer, but thanks for interesting discussion.

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Posted by: usr at November 22, 2007 01:53 AM
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