March 16, 2004

The Price of Appeasement

Lee Harris suggests a thought experiment in Tech Central Station.

Suppose that last week's attack had not been the work of terrorists, but the work of the United States. Suppose American jets had flown over Madrid on Thursday morning and dropped a scattering of bombs on the commuter trains, killing and maiming the exact same people who were killed and maimed in the terrorist's attack. Suppose, further, that President Bush had subsequently announced that Spain would be subjected to further attacks if the Spanish voters did not vote as he wished them to vote.

Had the Spanish people docilely obeyed such a brutal command, and voted as the United States bid them vote, the world would be left in no doubt who really ruled Spain. The election would have clearly been understood as an act of collective capitulation and an abject abandonment of all claims to national sovereignty. Henceforth Spain, with good reason, would have been looked upon as a puppet state of the USA -- in the exact same way that Soviet tanks in the streets of Prague in 1967 proved to the world who really ruled the Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia.

This is imperfect, of course. Al Qaeda did not issue a demand that Spain vote a certain way. Perhaps they didn't think they needed to.
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A document published months before national elections reveals al Qaeda planned to separate Spain from its allies by carrying out terror attacks.

A December posting on an Internet message board used by al Qaeda and its sympathizers and obtained by CNN, spells out a plan to topple the pro-U.S. government.

"We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it," the al Qaeda document says.

"If its forces remain after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed -- and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its campaign manifesto."

That prediction came to fruition in elections Sunday, with the Socialists unseating the Popular Party three days after near-simultaneous bombings of four trains killed 200 and shocked the nation.

(I'd like to add, as a post-script, that I do not agree with the conclusions drawn in Lee Harris's article. The man is often brilliant, but he's far too gloomy for me today. I still think the excerpted paragraphs are worth thinking about, however.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 16, 2004 11:39 PM
Comments

I think that a better analogy would have been if the US had said nothing after the bombing, merely claiming credit for it. After all, Al Qaeda never said in its claiming for the bombing why it did it. Perhaps because it felt no need. Perhaps because it felt to say what its goals were would hurt those goals. But if the US followed suit in this hypothetical world, and not announced its intentions, they would have been pretty clear to read. The question is, would the Spanish have done the samet thing they did this time?

Posted by: FH at March 17, 2004 12:28 AM

"Al Qaeda did not issue a demand that Spain vote a certain way. Perhaps they didn't think they needed to."

"We claim responsibility for what happened in Madrid exactly two and a half years after the attacks in New York and Washington," said the man on the video, speaking Arabic with a Moroccan accent. "This is an answer to your cooperation with the Bush criminals and their allies," he said, threatening more attacks.

Seems pretty clear to me.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at March 17, 2004 01:59 AM

I read the article, Michael, and I'm curious, what is it exactly that Harris said that you object to? He does make it sound a bit like that a vote for the Socialists is a vote for al-Qaeda, which is going too far we'd both agree, but his conclusions seem pretty solid to me.

What just happened in Spain DOES in fact speak to the flaws of democracy (irrational voters, mainly, voting irrationally). And when he speaks of insuring "terror-free" elections in the future by appeasing the political wishes of the terrorists, mainly that the politicians not cooperate with America's attempts at liberating the Middle East, what about that doesn't make sense to you?

Civilization is indeed gonna be profoundly affected by this. Terrorists now know that they can sway elections, that they can now bend entire democratic peoples to their will, with only a single act of indiscriminant mass murder. The terrorists have just discovered the forces of terror to be stronger than the forces of open society. Maybe that's a tad too "gloomy" for you but if the trend continues, it'll be the end of liberal democracy as we know it.

In the short-run: To think that Tony Blair's job and a pro-Iraqian-people majority in Britain's parliament didn't just get put in a hell of alot more jeopardy is to be kidding yourself. The same can be said for Italy's future support of democratization.

Europe is rolling over once again and once again we're probably gonna be left all alone to rescue the plight of the Western World. It's pretty frickin' gloomy but it's reality, my friend. This is really pushing me into "hold your nose and vote for Bush" territory by the way.

The stakes just got upped a little higher: This time next year we may very well be the only ally we've got left in this fight. I say, let's not screw it up. Kerry's not committed to winning the war of ideas like Bush is. I hate to admit it but it's true.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at March 17, 2004 03:07 AM

Do you really think that the Spanish electorate was so terrified by the bombings that they voted the Socialists into power specifically in order to prevent further attacks? Because that intent is a necessary component of appeasement. Otherwise, your argument is bullshit. The identity of the bombers wasn't even fully established until after the elections, so I son't see how the Spaniards could have been "appeasing" AQ by voting for the Socialists. Most reports out of Spain indicate that the deciding factor was the PPs mishandling of it, specifically their insistence on ETA involvement, even after that was no longer a tenable position. Should the voters have rewarded the PP for their dissimulation by reelecting them?

Posted by: Smokey at March 17, 2004 05:22 AM

Terrorists bomb not to influence elections scalpel-like, but to sow fear and discord. In that they have suceeded. Spanish wing voters who otherwise wouldn't have voted went to the polls and voted out the PP. Spain will be withdrawing its troops from Iraq. A large portion of the blogosphere is running around like headless chickens, granting victory to al Qaeda, cursing their erstwhile allies the Spanish, and making frightened gloomy noises about attacks on further allies.

I doubt Osama reads blogs, but if he did, he'd be rumbling with pleased belly chuckles at this one. If Spain has showed little solidarity with the US in its Iraqi endeavor, the warhawks and chicken-little editorials in the mass media have shown even less with Spain in their moment of grief.

A terrorist attack will always frighten ordinary people. Terrorists know this; this is why they're called terrorists. In a close-fought election, such as the one in Spain, this fear may tip the balance one way or another. To expect rationality from each and every voter mere days after a horrible terror attack is the epitome of irrationality itself.

The rational way to approach the Spaniards would be to offer sympathy and solidarity, to let them get over the shock, to let hem return to normalcy. To strengthen ties, to emphasize solidarity, and after the shock waves have died down, to gently get the new government to reconsider its decisions vis-a-vis foreign policy.

The irrational approach would be to brand them cowards, appeasers, traitors, the soft underbelly of Europe, the new government al-Qaeda proxies.

That sure turns a bad situation into a good one, doesn't it? In a month or two, when things have cooled down, Spaniards are sure to feel kindly to those who poured out venom on them in their moment of grief, aren't they?

I know which response Osama bin Laden would prefer to see.

Posted by: BP at March 17, 2004 06:02 AM

To hammer the point home, let me add the following:

Spain's partners have two options:

1. Show that they can work with whoever wins Spain's elections, regardless of affiliation. This will demonstrate to al-Qaeda that trying to affect elections is pointless. This also frees us from the "what would the terrorists think" shackle every time a democratic election takes place.

2. Agree with al-Qaeda that it has won.

Posted by: BP at March 17, 2004 06:09 AM

Sure, we should try to work with the Socialists in Spain as much as possible to get THEM to support OUR goals. The problem is that the Socialists were elected on a platform of not helping us achieve our goals. Indeed, they were elected to disengage with America's vigorous war on terror.

Regardless of what we do, Zapatero was elected to, at a minimum, disengage from our goals, and (if he follows the French lead) actively interfere with our war on terror.

Also regardless of what we do or say, AQ will see this as a victory (with considerable justification, IMO), and will no doubt step up the pressure on Spain and other "soft" and pliable Euro targets. Now that they have a more amenable PM in Spain, they will undoubtedly pressure Spain to back off on terror prosecutions (opening a conduit for AQ into the rest of Europe) and to begin the process of evicting the US from our bases there.

With Zapatero's political future hanging by a thread that AQ can cut whenever it wants with another attack, just who do you think Zapatero is more interested in satisfying? The US, which he ran against, or AQ, which can end his career whenever it wants?

Posted by: R C Dean at March 17, 2004 06:17 AM

I see you've given up already, Mr. Dean.

What just happened in Spain can happen in any other country in the world with closely-contested elections. Including the US.

The key to subverting al-Qaeda's aims is to demonstrate that, no matter what they do, the civilized world is cohesive and flexible enough to ensure solidarity.

The key is also to realize that, though co-operation with Zapatero may turn out impossible, rolling over and accepting defeat without even trying is tantamount to surrender.

Branding the Spanish appeasers sounds tough, feels good, but accepting defeat as a foreone concluson is ultimately nothing else but surrender.

Posted by: BP at March 17, 2004 06:35 AM

But Michael, the thought experiment is completely off the mark. Let's correct it:

Suppose that last week's attack had not been the work of terrorists, but the work of the Canada. Suppose Canadian military jets (yes, we have them) had flown over Madrid on Thursday morning and dropped a scattering of bombs (yes, we have those too) on the commuter trains, killing and maiming the exact same people who were killed and maimed in the terrorist's attack.

Let's further suppose that Europe was currently invading America to prevent attacks like the one perpetuated by Canada, even though it had been attacked by Canada in this fashion in the past.

Wouldn't it be somewhat ridiculous to continue an alliance with Europe in fighting America in order to prevent attacks by Canada? Especially as attacks were continuing? Even if people were making the somewhat debatable argument that preventing America from being able to wage war on Spain would somehow have the effect of influencing Canada not to?

Wouldn't it be better to seek another solution? Attacking Canada and capturing Prime Minister Martin, for example?

Posted by: Stu at March 17, 2004 07:47 AM

OPh, forgot to mention the CNN article. Why are you quoting an article that is using an internet chat room as its only source?

Posted by: Stu at March 17, 2004 07:52 AM

I agree with BP. (No relation.) It seems clear that Al-Q will view this as a victory, and, of course that is bad, and it will encourage them to try it again. It is clear that the Leftist advocates of appeasement -- that is, those who have said all along that we shouldn't mess with the Middle East because it will only bring more terrorism down on our heads -- will view this as as vindication of their predictions. And that is also bad.

But are either of them, Al-Q or the appeasers, correct in their interpretations? This is not so clear to me. The hawks (such as myself) can see quite clearly that the appeasers are committing a "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy. We recognize that Spain was a target regardless of their stance towards Bush and Iraq. Why shouldn't we argue the same point against the conclusion we attribute to Al-Q?

The Spanish people were 90% opposed to Spain's involvement with the invasion. As much as we might disagree with them, they have every right to vote their conscience on that issue. Another thought experiment: If I were a left-leaning Spanish voter -- if I had my own reasons to oppose the re-election of a right-wing leader -- I would not necessarily want to change my vote just to avoid giving the appearance that my country was appeasing terrorism. I might decide not to let the attacks affect my vote one way or the other. (I'm not advocating this hypothetical position. I am just saying that it is a reasonable one, and likely the position of some Spanish swing voters.)

Aznar had a shallow lead in the polls before the election. Polls are often wrong. There were other indirect factors that came into play -- the sense that Aznar was trying to trick the electorate into blaming the ETA (which, if he did so, would indeed be unconscionable) -- that may have contributed his to defeat.

I think the reasonable case can be made that Al-Q has cleverly produced an ILLUSION that they can sway an election. And I think this might be better case for hawks to adopt as well. Let's turn our voices to the business of exposing that illusion for what it is.

We concede no victory to the terrorists, especially since it isn't clear that they really won one. Which is good. And we leave more room for a rapprochement with the new regime in Spain, which is not promising, but isn't a bad thing either. We don't have to convince the anti-war factions of this leg of our argument, because they are already making it themselves. All we hawks say is "You are right. It's not clear that this was a victory for Al-Q. But Al-Q will clearly think that it is, and in that sense it is just as dangerous. We want to continue to prove them wrong. So we urge the Spanish people to make it clear that their decision was not a capitulation to terrorist demands. And we believe these events underscore the need to continue the fight this enemy."

Posted by: Browning Porter at March 17, 2004 07:55 AM

Is anyone else feeling deeply outraged at the injustice here? America has for decades spilled blood and burned (obscene) amounts of money to protect Europe and other peoples around the world. We are consistently asked to move beyond our own narrow interests and send men and women to distant, dangerous lands. Our leaders are asked to shoulder horrendous burdens, regardless of party. This amidst endless excoriation by these same peoples for not being perfect, for not doing enough.

In a single instance, the Spanish people had a simple choice to make. They could move beyond their own selfish interests- whatever complaints they could have about Aznar and his government (though it is hard to see how there could be many- he took Spain from the European backwater to a top tier country), and recognise that their decision had implications beyond their own country. The worst case would have been another set of years of the Conservative party which brought nothing but good things to the country.

Instead, their irresponsibility, fickleness and cowardice will go down in the history books as the single most cowardly act (save that of France against the Nazis?)in the West. Think about it. The choice was theirs. This is unfortunately the mentality of Europeans. They cannot see beyond their own interests, they are unrealiable allies, and, far from being multilateral, are actually quite unilateralist and provincial.

My heart goes out to the 38% who voted against the Socialists. They are the hope now. What a disgrace for the Spanish people.

Posted by: Richard at March 17, 2004 08:45 AM

Spain, this native son is ashamed of you. As a man far greater than I once said:

One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.

--Sir Winston Churchill

Posted by: David at March 17, 2004 08:48 AM

Grant McEntire: what is it exactly that Harris said that you object to?

He said this:

But once the Pax Americana is shattered, the illusion will come to an end; and European politics will rapidly become the plaything of terrorist sects bent on forcing democracies to do their will, until the point is inevitably reached when democracy will no longer be an option in Europe.

There is nothing inevitable about it. It's a possibility.

Also this:

Americans who are willing to die to bring democracy to people who lack it, must ask themselves after last Sunday what is the point of their immense sacrifice if a democracy like Spain's can be so easily intimidated by an act of catastrophic terror into betraying the cause of civilization, and rallying to the side of its enemies?

What's the point of bringing democracy to those who lack it? What a question! Democracy has flaws, just as any other system has flaws. But it has the fewest flaws. Just because Lee Harris found one doesn't mean that there is no point in bringing democracy to Iraq.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 08:52 AM

Stu: Wouldn't it be somewhat ridiculous to continue an alliance with Europe in fighting America in order to prevent attacks by Canada?

Yes.

I think what Spain did is somewhat ridiculous, to use your terminology.

It's also understandable. I understand appeasement. I wanted to appease Saddam Hussein in 1991. I opposed the Persian Gulf War and thought he should keep Kuwait. I did this partly because I thought pacifism was enlightened, but also because I was afraid.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 09:01 AM

Remember this was also the first election in Spain since Iraqi Freedom. The PP loss may have had more to do with that than the Madrid bombings... although this mayu have galvanized the illogic that says, "Please don't hurt us, Mr. Terrorist, we'll do whatever you say!"

Posted by: Bleeding heart conservative at March 17, 2004 09:07 AM

I did this partly because I thought pacifism was enlightened, but also because I was afraid.

Yes, I remember the days of my own high-minded left-leaning views. I prided myself on the state of enlightenment I had reached, and the correctness and nuance of my every position. How could I have been so blind?

Posted by: David at March 17, 2004 09:30 AM

"Yes, I remember the days of my own high-minded left-leaning views. I prided myself on the state of enlightenment I had reached, and the correctness and nuance of my every position. How could I have been so blind?"

And your current feelings about your right-leaning views? Unenlightened and incorrect? Or the opposite?

Posted by: Stu at March 17, 2004 09:36 AM

"I understand appeasement. I wanted to appease Saddam Hussein in 1991. I opposed the Persian Gulf War and thought he should keep Kuwait. I did this partly because I thought pacifism was enlightened, but also because I was afraid."

That's strange, I was all for the first Persian Gulf War, although I was disgusted by the slaughter of the Iraqi army at the end. I've never been a pacifist, and thought military action was the correct solution for that situation.

And again, this isn't appeasement. Spain hasn't said that it'll unconditionally withdraw its troops from Iraq, nor has it retreated from an aggressive stance on terrorism. If anything, Spain seems to be refocusing its efforts in areas that will MORE effectively fight terrorism, and it's taken a stance on Iraq that, while many here may disagree, would be a better guarantee of democracy in the region.

Posted by: Stu at March 17, 2004 09:56 AM

And your current feelings about your right-leaning views? Unenlightened and incorrect? Or the opposite?

I don't cosider my conservative views as necessarily highminded or enlightened--though they may be. I simply view them as factual and rational, without the pretenses of idealism which distort reality and cause more harm than good.

Posted by: David at March 17, 2004 10:13 AM

RC Dean,

The problem is that the Socialists were elected on a platform of not helping us achieve our goals. Indeed, they were elected to disengage with America's vigorous war on terror.
My, but that's a blinkered, US-centric worldview you've got there. The Socialists were elected on a multi-faceted platform, much like most political parties, one plank of which was the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq unless the UN was granted greater control. That's not exactly the same as disengaging from America's war on terror, now is it? (BTW, I thought it was everyone's war on terror? Have we trademarked it or something?) Maybe, just maybe, the Socialists (and the majority of Spaniards, europeans, hell, everyone) don't believe that Iraq is a necessary part of the War on Terror. Maybe this is because it isn't. Just something to think about.

Posted by: Smokey at March 17, 2004 10:19 AM

Suppose, further, that President Bush had subsequently announced that Spain would be subjected to further attacks if the Spanish voters did not vote as he wished them to vote...

Something is missing from this thought-experiment. I think we need to add:

"Suppose, further, that the ruling party had responded to previous U.S. attacks by invading Venezuela, while the opposition party favored focusing all efforts on fighting the U.S."

So when the opposition party wins the elections, maybe they're obeying the U.S. command, or maybe they're punishing the ruling party for not fighting the immediate enemy.

(Note to nutcases: I am NOT saying the U.S. is the real enemy. Thank you.)

Posted by: Oberon at March 17, 2004 10:37 AM

Browning,

Good post. That's one of the most reasonable analyses of the situation I've seen. I do, however, have to question this:
It is clear that the Leftist advocates of appeasement -- that is, those who have said all along that we shouldn't mess with the Middle East because it will only bring more terrorism down on our heads...
Seriously, has anyone ever actually said this? I read a lot of lefty blogs and magazines, and I've yet to see anyone suggest that we not engage with the Middle East in order to prevent terrorism. We may disagree on precisely how to engage, but nobody is advocating just throwing up our hands, walking away and holing they just leave us alone. Other than that little quibble, I mostly agree with you. If conservatives could get over their addiction to arguing with lefty strawmen instead of actual liberals, you might find that our positions on terror are not so different.

Posted by: Smokey at March 17, 2004 10:43 AM

Hey Smokey,

Thanks for the props.

"Shouldn't mess with . . .' is perhaps sloppy language. I am aware that the Left is not necessarily or universally isolationist.

However, there is an argument that I have heard over and over again from the Left in various guises that goes a little something like this:

"We are the targets of terrorism because we enact policies that people abhor, and the only way they think they can make us change those policies is by attacking us with terrorism. If we want to stop the terrorism, maybe we should amend our policies."

I'm not saying every Leftist, or every opponent to the war, makes this argument. But you have to admit that it is not exactly some strawman that I pulled out of my (ahem) back pocket. It's pretty much common currency in the anti-war movement.

This argument is one of appeasement. I don't mean that as a term of abuse, but as a statement of fact.

Posted by: Browning Porter at March 17, 2004 11:18 AM

Right on, Smokey. I've read so many bizarro opinions from right-wingers about what the left-wing position is that it makes me wonder (a) which left-wing blogs these guys read, and (b) whether they can only handle debates with imaginary foes. I, for one, have never endorsed appeasement of these fundamentalist bastard fuckwit terrorists, nor do any of the left-wing blogs I read. Hell, almost every principle the left supports are targeted by these terrorism-embracing asshats, so why would the left be soft on them?

I guess it's just easier to deal with an argument like "Hey, should we be spending $250,000,000,000 on an invasion, tying up 150,000 troops in Iraq, and destroying international unity and co-operation while Bin Laden is still on the loose?" by ignoring it and arguing with a ventriloquist-dummy leftist instead who mouths inanities about coddling terrorists.

Phew. Glad to have got that out of my system. Sorry about that.

Posted by: Stu at March 17, 2004 11:26 AM

Browning is right. I run into that argument all the time.

Pat Buchanan makes that argument, too. He says invading Iraq is like throwing rocks at a hornet's nest. Wouldn't want to piss off our enemies...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 11:27 AM

Stu,

Do you ever read The Nation? (I let my subscription lapse after 9/11)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 11:29 AM

"Do you ever read The Nation?""

Nope.

Posted by: Stu at March 17, 2004 11:32 AM

Browning - There were other indirect factors that came into play -- the sense that Aznar was trying to trick the electorate into blaming the ETA (which, if he did so, would indeed be unconscionable) -- that may have contributed his to defeat.

I think the Spanish oppositions strategy of promoting "AZNAR LIED!!" to the electorate was very successful. Perhaps anti-war leftists here could invoke it to defeat Bush.

Posted by: d-rod at March 17, 2004 11:33 AM

Pat Buchanan makes that argument, too. He says invading Iraq is like throwing rocks at a hornet's nest.

I think in Pat's case the point isn't appeasement, but just that he wants to take the opportunity to remind people that he believes Third Worlders are savages incapable of constitutional democracy.

Posted by: Jim at March 17, 2004 11:39 AM

If conservatives could get over their addiction to arguing with lefty strawmen instead of actual liberals, you might find that our positions on terror are not so different.

I agree with this observation in principle -- so much so that I think it is just as valid when viewed from the other side. For example, in my daily travels and conversations, I find that the vast majority of people who use the word "neocon" as a term of abuse have little understanding of what the neocons actually believe.

And, for the record, I am not a conservative. I may be a hawk in the WoT and the liberation of Iraq, and the connections between them, but I am also a liberal, through and through.

Posted by: Browning at March 17, 2004 11:56 AM

Browning,

Thanks for the clarification. You're right that your restated argument is one used by many on the left. Occasionally, I'm one of them. In some situations, the argument you deride is, I think, absolutely the right one. This is not to say it's always the right solution, or even the only solution to a given situation. What needs to be realized here is that terrorism is a tactic, not an entity in itself. Terrorism is used in support of diverse causes, and while terrorism in support of them can never be condoned or accepted, sometimes the cause has merit. If the targets of terror have enacted policies which are unjust, and which motivate terrorists to attack, then it seems eminently reasonable to change those policies. This is the case with Israel's settlement policy, our current policy of being less than evenhanded in the Palestinian situation, and the invasion of Iraq. These policies are often cited by terrorists as reasons for attacking us. But the key here is that those policies are all unjust, in my view. I, and most on the left, do not support changing policies which are well-considered and just simply because terrorists oppose them and might attack us. That would truly be appeasement.

If you categorically refuse this form of argument, I'm not sure where that leaves you. Terrorism is impossible to fight in a purely military manner, although that is certainly an appropriate and necessary component. Terrorism is too cheap, too easy, and too effective to combat this way. I see no way of fighting terrorism militarily and still maintaining the liberties that I cherish. I do not want to see America turned into a security state, with closed borders, random security checks, and constant surveillance of the populace. Terrorism thrives on polarization, on division. It seeks to create an us-against-them mentality, and I fail to see why we should help them out in that regard. The way to fight terror is to go after the terrorists themselves militarily, and to simultaneously seek to deny them support by reducing their rhetorical advantage. One way to do that is to address the greivances of the groups which support them, if we can do so in a manner consistent with our goals and our beliefs. This idea that if we just never do what terrorists want, even if it's the right thing to do, then they'll eventually learn that terrorism doesn't work seems hopelessly naive and wrongheaded to me.

Posted by: Smokey at March 17, 2004 12:35 PM

Browning,

Sorry, I'm usually pretty careful to use the term hawks when talking about Iraq and terror. My apologies for lumping you in with conservatives. You're absolutely right that the error of arguing against strawmen is not the exclusive province of the right (or hawks), but I do see a lot more of it from your side in the comments here. Feel free to disagree.

Posted by: Smokey at March 17, 2004 12:47 PM

I find the new Spanish PM's idea of withdrawing troops from Iraq to be entirely sensible. Clearly, Spain has a problem with terrorists in its midst. They need all the Spanish soldiers they can muster on patrol in their own streets, to root out these terrorists. They certainly don't need to be squandering their manpower on Bush's masturbatory Iraq project.

The U.S. is the U.S., and Spain is Spain. They are two separate countries, and what meets the needs of the one does not necessarily meet the needs of the other.

Posted by: Phil at March 17, 2004 01:52 PM

"Though experiment" -- This is an interesting phrase.

I've got one that continually haunts me. It goes like this. Suppose our intelligence got news (that was not lost in our beaurocracy) of the 9/11 strike before it happened. Suppose we knew that it emanated from UBL and his terrorist camps in Afghanistan. What would have been the appropriate U.S. response? Who in the international stage would have supported our military intervention as a pre-emptive strike? Wouldn't we be hearing the same level of criticism and noise as we hear today about Iraq?

Posted by: bob at March 17, 2004 02:05 PM

You're absolutely right that the error of arguing against strawmen is not the exclusive province of the right (or hawks), but I do see a lot more of it from your side in the comments here.

But, then, of course you would say that. :) I haven't been keeping score because there are too many on both sides to count. Having once stood firmly on the Left though, I will tell you that I do think they are easier to spot from the center.

I wish I had more time to take up your next to last post -- your explorations into the nuances of appeasement -- because while I am very familiar with all the argumenst you make there, I think there is an interesting philosophical problem underneath regarding whether doing the right thing, in spite of the fact that doing so might look like appeasement, is really always "doing the right thing." Aid to North Korea is a case in point. I don't know the answer there, but my intuition is that it just depends. Which isn't very aesthetically satisfying. :)

This would be a hard discussion to undertake, because obviously we would disagree at the outset on what exactly "doing the right thing" would entail. And that in itself is a conversation I bet we'd have to bang away at for a long time before either of us managed to truly surprise the other.

And I have work to do.

But I would love to know what other hawks make of my first post in this thread though. I don't know what to think about that either.

Posted by: Browning at March 17, 2004 02:10 PM

Phil: I find the new Spanish PM's idea of withdrawing troops from Iraq to be entirely sensible.

I find it curious that those who fetishize multilateralism are suddenly in favor of making the rebuilding of Iraq more unilateral than it was.

Of course, it was never unilateral in the first place. Still. I guess the anti-war left doesn't think we need allies anymore now that they're ditching their posts.

If fact, Spain is getting applause on the American left for ditching its post. That's just one more reason I cannot trust the left to handle national security. They think running away from a fight and abandoning the Iraqis to terrorism and jihad is a good idea, or at least defensible. I haven't heard a single anti-war liberal other than Matthew Yglesias say that Spain is making a mistake by pulling out.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 02:20 PM

>I find it curious that those who fetishize multilateralism are suddenly in favor of making the rebuilding of Iraq more unilateral than it was.

There's no need for the rebuilding of Iraq to be multilateral - it should be strictly a volunteer project. Anybody who genuinely gives a hot crap about Iraq should help out. Anybody that doesn't should take care of whatever they think is important. Seems to me that Spain's case for concentrating on homeland security is a solid one.

Posted by: Phil at March 17, 2004 02:26 PM

Phil: Anybody who genuinely gives a hot crap about Iraq should help out. Anybody that doesn't should take care of whatever they think is important.

Boy is THAT a huge reversal from what the left used to say. Phil, I know you're an individual, you are not "the left." But if what you just wrote becomes left-wing conventional wisdom, politics will be turned completely on its head again.

It truly amazes me how this happens. One event can cause a 180 degree about-face in a person's worldview. This isn't necessarily good or bad, it's just amazing to watch it happen so quickly on such a huge scale.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 02:46 PM

"I find it curious that those who fetishize multilateralism are suddenly in favor of making the rebuilding of Iraq more unilateral than it was."

Wrong spin, Michael. They say that they won't be involved UNLESS it's a truly multinational force under the UN.

Just for the record, I think the US should definitely NOT leave Iraq. And I think lots of other nations should be in there too. The point is, if we're all going to risk our kid's lives and limbs and pay our tax dollars to fix this mess, we all want a say in how it's run. And that's where the UN comes in.

Yeah, yeah, I know, all the hawks hate the UN. But that's the only way out. And you better get used to the idea, because that's who's going to end up running the show, one way or another.

Posted by: Stu at March 17, 2004 02:51 PM

Al Qaeda endorses Bush.

Can we please put this sad little meme to bed?

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 17, 2004 02:53 PM

Pleeeeease don't throw me in that briar patch, Brer Kimmitt!!

Posted by: Brer rabbit at March 17, 2004 03:10 PM

And that's where the UN comes in.

Yeah, yeah, I know, all the hawks hate the UN. But that's the only way out.

..umm..we asked the UN to help. Al Qaeda bombed them, they wet themselves and they ran away. They don't want to come back and fight unless the war is made nice and safe for them.

If you think the UN should help, tell them, not us. And tell the Iraqis, too. They're not too thrilled about the UN. Maybe it was all those billions they stole from starving kids.

Posted by: mary at March 17, 2004 03:50 PM

Terrorists claim victory:

"Praise be to God who gave us this victory in the conquest of Madrid... where one of the pillars of the axis of Crusader evil was destroyed," the statement said, affirming its earlier claim for the Madrid attacks.

Posted by: David at March 17, 2004 04:50 PM

>Boy is THAT a huge reversal from what the left used to say.

I wouldn't know. 1) I'm 32 years old; 2) I'm a registered Republican.

Look, it's like this: fighting terrorism, Islamic or otherwise, is something that should be handled by each individual country, to whatever extent is necessary. That is to say, we should be fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, and Spain should be fighting the terrorists who just attacked them, etc., etc. Nobody else should bother with Iraq unless they feel like it, because that was a war that concerned the U.S. and the U.S. only, in my view. Like Tom Friedman wrote beforehand, it was a case of "You broke it, you bought it." We broke Iraq. Why are we putting the squeeze on others to help us buy it?

Posted by: phil at March 17, 2004 05:55 PM

I wouldn't know. 1) I'm 32 years old; 2) I'm a registered Republican.

Ah. That's what I expect from the right, not the left. Okay. But I've heard plenty of others who are on the left make the same point. I guess I singled you out as the wrong example.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 06:56 PM

The Middle East is a cultural cesspool that emits killers bent on destroying everyone who isn't Islamofascist. Any nation of non-Islamofascists that doesn't help clean up the cesspool is a freeloader.

Posted by: Jim at March 17, 2004 07:09 PM

One event can cause a 180 degree about-face in a person's worldview. This isn't necessarily good or bad, it's just amazing to watch it happen so quickly on such a huge scale.

I also wonder where principle ends and partisanship begins. It would be interesting to see under a hypothetical President Gore, Clinton or Kerry conducting the very same Iraq II war (not at all remote given that all three of them supported such a possibility at one time and in some form), how many Democrats and Republicans in Congress would simply switch places. Would two-time Presidential Candidate and runner up Governor George Bush be accusing the incumbent Democrat of lying to the American public? I bet you so - the Republicans would be savaging a Democrat based on results like Bush's (although I don't see the Republicans bailing). I also bet a lot of the commentators on these boards would be singing different tunes, perhaps especially those with the most ardently held positions. I'm pretty sure, Michael, you'd be right about where you are now.

One of the advantageous of having a hawkish Democrat like Clinton in power (hawkish, that is, for a Democrat) is that he could assure a good deal of Democratic support on national security to complement the pretty solid Republican support. Bottom line: interesting speculation, but I also basically don't trust the left on national security and am increasingly coming to the conclusion that the left's claptrap about human rights, etc. is more process that substance, so to speak. (Still thinking about that one.)

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at March 17, 2004 07:39 PM

I should add: I think Phil would be about where he's at now too.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at March 17, 2004 07:40 PM

Gabriel: I'm pretty sure, Michael, you'd be right about where you are now.

You're damn straight I would be. And I think you're right about the role of partisanship. I remember what the Republicans did when Clinton saved Kosovo from Slobodan Milosovic.

Where was the peacenik isolationist left then? Oh yeah, it was on the right.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2004 07:52 PM

Grant McEntire and RC Dean posted some excellent comments. Among them, McEntire notes, “The stakes just got upped a little higher.” Indeed. Let’s hope this wakes more people so they realize the upcoming election is not about “the economy,” “health care,” or “gay marriage.” We no longer have the luxury of putting such issues at the top. This is a war. The upcoming election is about the type of world we will live in for the next century. Will we continue the war? Or will we begin to back off and retreat to the failed methods of diplomacy and enticement?

RC Dean makes a very interesting, yet frightening observation: “With Zapatero's political future hanging by a thread that AQ can cut whenever it wants with another attack, just who do you think Zapatero is more interested in satisfying? The US, which he ran against, or AQ, which can end his career whenever it wants?” At first glance, this seems somewhat ridiculous. But the truth is that Zapatero’s standing could be easily damaged by the terrorists if he fails to prevent future bombings (the reason he got elected). One wonders if Spain has permanently put itself in the position of be black-mailed.

Posted by: Machine at March 17, 2004 08:01 PM

Okay, Smokey, I'm taking a break from my work to take a crack at your defense of appeasement.

First: I get what your saying. If you think that something is the right thing to do, then the fact that some terrorist organization wants you to do it is not necessarily reason not to do it. If you tell me to quit smoking or you'll kill my cat, it would be foolish for me to keep smoking JUST to avoid appeasing your violent and absurd demands.

However, in most instances it ain't that simple. Another thought experiment: If I know somebody who has a sick child and no health care, and I can afford to help that child out, that would be a fine and noble thing for me to do. But what if I am not sure I can afford to help them out, and I hesitate. What if they want the money to hire a witch doctor, instead of an MD. Or even if they don't do this -- what if they say, give the money or I will hurt your own children. Now doing the right thing has become complicated by this evil demand. Now my capitulation has consequences that that need to be taken into account. Then if this person actually poisons my dog and repeats his demand, murders my own child, etc., it becomes that much more difficult for me to comply. I don't want to encourage further demands, or more violence. I might be rather pissed off. I may feel the need to devote my resources to defense from this aggression. (Please don't try to draw direct correspondences across the board between real political situations and this thought experiment. Obviously there are ways in which this parable resembles various current political situations and ways in which it does not. I am not trying to make an argument by analogy. But the point is to demonstrate that "do the right thing in spite of terrorist demands" is not always philosophically justified.)

So, as you say, "the cause has merit" -- help a sick child -- but the capitulation to the terrorist demands has consequences that need to be weighed against the good.

Now there are few instances indeed in which a terrorists demands are purely good. In most cases the demands are absurd and unreasonable. This should not be surprising, because the means of achieving these demands -- terrorism -- are also absurd and unreasonable. Al Qaeda is a case in point. Al Qaeda does not want a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Al Qaeda does not want an end the the nuclear program of Iran. They don't desire the success of a secular student movement there. They don't want a liberal secular democracy to succeed in Iraq. Their demands are that we abandon our efforts on all these fronts. That is a demand that we will never be able to meet in good conscience. So not only will the attacks will keep coming until they are defeated, but the attacks are directly working against efforts to "do the right thing."

I agree with you that a pure militarism will never eradicate terrorism. There is also a battle for hearts and minds, and a defeat of terrorism will require that we face this. But the response of the Left has been inadequate on this front as well. You say, "Our current policy of being less than evenhanded in the Palestinian situation." Let me stipulate, just for the sake of argument, that this is so. I believe that is it so if the "we" refers to the Left as well as the the US and Israel. I believe that the Left has done a poor job of approaching the problem from the other direction. For example: why has there not been a major effort on the part of the Left to attempt to educate that Palestinians in the tactics of passive resistance. If the Palestinians could be persuaded to adopt the policies of Gandhi and MLK, I believe we would see a change in the policies of Israel. I believe we would even see then very quickly. This is a role that the Left could play that would be constructive and would balance nicely with the criticism of the Likudniks. This would be something that I personally could get behind. But I don't see it. All too often I hear excuses for suicide bombers.

The new alliance betwen liberal hawks, such as myself, and the neocons, is waging a battle for hearts and minds among out real allies in the Middle East. The Kurds. The Iranian student movement. Anyone in the region who is ready to be done with reactionary theocracy and oppression -- including the 70% of Iraqis who are optimistic about their new future. The Left has been slow and truculent in joining us in this cause. This needs to change.

This idea that if we just never do what terrorists want, even if it's the right thing to do, then they'll eventually learn that terrorism doesn't work seems hopelessly naive and wrongheaded to me.

This is a strawman argument. So we are back where we started.

Again, I am disappointed that no hawk has offered a response to my first post on this thread regarding Spain. If there is a flaw in my reasoning, I'd be eager to hear one of my hawkish comrades point it out.

Posted by: Browning Porter at March 17, 2004 08:33 PM

Browning Porter asked for comments on his first posting. He makes a good point about not conceding this as a victory for the terrorists. But ultimately, AQ will be able to decide this based upon the actions of the new Spanish gov. If it backs off the War on Terror, AQ will see this as a victory (and rightly so). I think much of the hawk’s criticism of Spain itself has a propagandistic undercurrent – in the hope of criticizing Spain so harshly, the hope is that the new gov. will back off some of its election rhetoric and still actively fight the war (while saving face by drawing their token troops out of Iraq).

Posted by: Machine at March 17, 2004 09:12 PM

Thanks for responding, Machine. You say,

If [the new Spanish gov't] backs off the War on Terror, AQ will see this as a victory (and rightly so).

I agree with this statement up until the parenthesis. My point was that a strong case can be made that the Spanish Socialists withdrawl from Iraq is not directly attributable to the bombings. So the causality is an illusion. And that the hawks are better served by pointing this out than by accusing Spain of cowardice and appeasement.

I think a propaganda campaign on our part to tar the Spanish as cowards and appeasers will be counter-productive. A less angry, more sympathetic approach can better achieve the results you want. Tell Spain, "We believe you voted your conscience, but AQ will not understand this. Help make it clear to them by helping us in the WoT in a way that you can square with your conscience."

Posted by: Browning at March 18, 2004 06:21 AM

Browning,

Okay, your thought experiment is pretty good, and I'll admit there are some dilemmas there. But allow me to try and poke some holes in it, kepping in mind your disclaimer that it isn't a perfect analogy. First off, I think the response would depend on just how sick the child is. If it's just a cold, or maybe chickenpox (something which will get better if left alone) then, sure you can deny him aid. The moral consequences of capitulating to blackmail outweigh the benefits of the help provided. But if the child has a fatal disease, the moral consequences of withholding aid are much greater. And how about we alter this thought experiment so that rather than having spare money with which to help the sick child, you possess the actual medicine which would help him. You have, however, chosen to withhold it for some reason, maybe because his parents poisoned your dog. Is it really moral to condemn the child based on the actions of the parents? The parents should certainly be arrested for dog-killing or attempted blackmail, because those are criminal actions. Certainly they should be removed from positions of authority in the child's life. But to suggest the sick child should just be ignored until his parents reform their behavior is immoral and callous. The child is simply not responsible for the misdeeds of his parents.

Your point about the demands of terrorists being unreasonable is well taken, but I wasn't really talking about the terrorists themselves, but rather the larger group from which they draw their support, both tacit and material. Without the support of a much larger body of supporters who do not engage in terrrorism, but nonetheless support such tactics, terrorists have much less power. It is obviously in our interests to drain this pool of supporters and potential recruits. Often these larger groups do have legitimate, reasonable greivances which can and should be addressed. I am not against using both military (Afghanistan) and prosecutorial means to further reduce this pool of support, but it is a mistake to rely solely on such means.

why has there not been a major effort on the part of the Left to attempt to educate that Palestinians in the tactics of passive resistance.
Come on, this is just silly. I suspect the Palestinians have heard of non-violence, and sure, that would be great if they would adopt such tactics, but to blame the left for their failure to do so is ridiculous.

The new alliance betwen liberal hawks, such as myself, and the neocons, is waging a battle for hearts and minds among out real allies in the Middle East. The Kurds. The Iranian student movement. Anyone in the region who is ready to be done with reactionary theocracy and oppression -- including the 70% of Iraqis who are optimistic about their new future. The Left has been slow and truculent in joining us in this cause. This needs to change.
I agree that this needs to change, and I think that the surest way to effect that change is to elect a new president in a few months. You attempt to blame the left for this disconnect, but I think it's demonstrably more the fault of the right and, mostly, the adminisntration. You speak of winning hearts and minds, but anti-americanism is at an all time high worldwide. The objections of the left are not to the lofty goals you cite, but to the absolute ineptness with which we are currently pursuing those goals. Reactionary theocracy? Good riddance! Oppression? See ya! Saddam? Glad he's gone! But Bush has gone about it in a way almost calculated to offend our allies and inflame our enemies, and to push anyone undecided into the latter column. If the ultimate goal is to reduce terror, this is counterproductive.

You say that I'm demolishing a strawman, but especially in light of your thought experiment, it seems pretty appropriate, if a bit flip. You propose that it may be appropriate to not do what is just (help a sick child) in order to teach terrorists (his parents) a lesson. I still think this is wrongheaded and naive. The parents can be dissuaded by being prosecuted for their crimes, or by your helping the sick child, but as long as they care about their child, they will not be dissuaded by your stoicism. Doing nothing about the underlying situation (the sick child)is not an answer. Even if you are successful in removing the immediate problem by imprisoning the parents, you still have a sick kid on your hands, and you're back where you started.

Posted by: Smokey at March 18, 2004 07:49 AM

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:—
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to says:—

“We never pay any one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

Posted by: TM at March 18, 2004 09:10 AM

European socialists aren't appeasing the terrorists. They are collaborating with the terrorists:

http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/print.asp?ArticleID=109235

Posted by: HA at March 18, 2004 09:50 AM

Hey Smokey,

I am not going to try to deconstruct your re-telling of my thought experiment, because my purpose was not to try to create a perfect analogy with a specific real political problem -- but merely to demonstrate that there are circumstances in which "doing the right thing" changes in relationship to violent and extortion demands that one do so. It's abstract point. The particular nuances of any given political situation are best discussed outside the realm of analogy.

I gather that we largely agree on this issue abstractly, and that we will probably disagree on the grim particulars of various real cases. For instance -- I would never advocate denying medicine to a dying child just to teach their violently coercive parents a lesson. But I think this analogy is an imperfect map of Palestine and Arafat, or North Korea and Kim Jong Il, or the Marsh Arabs and Saddam.

Browning: Why has there not been a major effort on the part of the Left to attempt to educate that Palestinians in the tactics of passive resistance. Smokey: Come on, this is just silly. I suspect the Palestinians have heard of non-violence, and sure, that would be great if they would adopt such tactics, but to blame the left for their failure to do so is ridiculous.

Here I disagree rather strongly. I am sure that the US and Israeli governments are well aware of the arguments of the Left, but this does not stop, or excuse, the Left from making them over and over until the message starts to sink in. "Suspecting that they'd heard of them" is laughably inadequate. I propose that the Left has a similar obligation to make the case for passive resistance to the Palestinians. I don't say this as a conservative trying to deflect blame from my side -- I say it as a liberal trying to encourage my liberal comrades to do the right thing -- that is something that would be in keeping with our highest ideals, and in the best interest of the people we claim to care about. I am not "blaming the Left" that Hezbollah has not yet taken a page from Gandhi's playbook, but I am exhorting the Left to make a better effort to steer the Palestinians in this direction. Say what you will about Paul Wolfowitz, but I think he is absolutely correct in saying that the Palestinians could win this fight with passive resistance (the good fight, and not the push-them-into-the sea one). They will never win it with suicide bombers. A Left that made this its mission is a Left that I could proudly be a part of.

You also seem to be saying in your next to last graf that the liberation of the Middle East is a good idea, but that the Bush administration is botching it. I don't necessarily disagree with this. I think this is actually a pretty common position among liberal hawks, e.g. Paul Berman. But that's where our agreement ends. (1) Kerry's nomination is very disappointing to a guy like me -- a reluctant swing voter. John Kerry's assertion that he would have unilaterally sent in troops to prop up Aristide, or his apparent efforts to make nice with the mullahs and failure to denounce the recent "elections" in Iran are troubling to a guy like me. (2) The battle for hearts and minds will entail our making common cause with our friends in the Middle East -- the Kurds, the Iranian Student Movement, the hopeful democratically-inclined Iraqis. It is shameful that the Left has been less willing to reinforce these alliances than the Right has. It hasn't turned me into a right-winger, but I do think I have some justification for holding my erstwhile comrades on the Left accountable for this failure. The Left is not immune from criticism. And yet the Left responds to such critiques with accusations of apostacy. This is a mistake.

You say that I'm demolishing a strawman, but especially in light of your thought experiment, it seems pretty appropriate, if a bit flip. You propose that it may be appropriate to not do what is just (help a sick child) in order to teach terrorists (his parents) a lesson. I still think this is wrongheaded and naive.

And I still think this is a flimsy effigy of my position. Well, okay . . . maybe it's a subtle distinction. The idea is not "to teach the parents a lesson" at the expense of the child. The idea is to avoid encouraging the violently coercive behavior in the future, especially when capitulation on our own right terms (send the kid to the MD) would not satisfy the parent (who insists on the witch doctor). I maintain that it is possible to try to help the child WITHOUT encouraging the violently coercive behavior -- and this is precisely what I am advocating that the Left undertake -- for example -- by encouraging the Palestinians to abandon terrorism in favor of passive resistance. Interestingly, it's what Paul Wolfowitz is advocating as well. To my eyes, your own reaction to this suggestion is an object lesson of how the Left is allowing partisanship to cloud its judgment.

If you come back with a counter-point and I don't reply, it's because I have a busy weekend ahead.

Posted by: Browning at March 18, 2004 10:37 AM

TM,

Nice. I like Kipling. How about another one of his, I think it's fitting:

They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

They shall not return to us; the strong men coldly slain
In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide--
Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour:
When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their
friends,
To conform and re-establish each career?

Their lives cannot repay us--their death could not undo--
The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
Shall we leave it unabated in its place?

It's called Mesopotamia. Like it?

Posted by: Smokey at March 18, 2004 11:19 AM

Browning,

I'm afraid I just can't buy your criticism of the left re: Palestine and non-violence. Do you really think the Palestinians have somehow missed out on the past half-century of non-violent political protest? That all it will take is some enlightened leftist to go over and explain it to them, and Arafat will smack himself on the forehead and say "Doh! If only someone had told me this sooner!" Look, I don't think anyone, left or right, has done enough to address this problem, but at least Clinton made an effort. All Bush has done has been to give Sharon carte blanche to do as he pleases. How, exactly, do you propose that the left "steer" the Palestinians to a position of non-violence? Part of the reason the situation is so intractable is that both sides refuse to be steered, and the moment one of them does, the other takes advantage of it to advance their own interests. During periods of peace on the part of the Palestinians, Israelis expand their settlements, and when the Israelis propose concessions, the Palestinians try to get even greater concessions through campaigns of violence. This is not a problem that can be solved by "the left" or "the right", but must be addressed by a concerted international effort spearheaded by someone both powerful and fair enough to be seen as an honest broker by both sides. That could be us, but Bush does not appear willing to undertake that role.

You also seem to be saying in your next to last graf that the liberation of the Middle East is a good idea, but that the Bush administration is botching it. I don't necessarily disagree with this.
But as a liberal hawk, I assume that your support for Bush derives from his involvement in the Middle East / WoT. It certainly can't be his performance on the economy, environment, or social policy. Yet you admit that he is botching the one position you do support. Remind me again why you don't like Kerry? Because he would have sent troops into Haiti? Yeah, the minute we start supporting democratically elected governments, who knows what could happen? We might even gain some credibility on the subject.

The battle for hearts and minds will entail our making common cause with our friends in the Middle East -- the Kurds, the Iranian Student Movement, the hopeful democratically-inclined Iraqis. It is shameful that the Left has been less willing to reinforce these alliances than the Right has.
How do you figure? The Kurds were enormously successful under Clinton, the Iranian student movement was born during the same period, and pretty much the entire left supports democracy in Iraq. They just don't believe that a unilateral invasion in pursuit of phantom WMDs was necessarily the best way to accomplish that. If you have specific instances of the left failing these groups, I'd like to hear them.

The Left is not immune from criticism. And yet the Left responds to such critiques with accusations of apostacy. This is a mistake.
Now who's constructing strawmen? I may have mistakenly called you a conservative, but I don't think I or anyone else has called you an apostate.

The idea is not "to teach the parents a lesson" at the expense of the child. The idea is to avoid encouraging the violently coercive behavior in the future
I'm glad you see a difference here, but to me it seems to be two sides of the same coin.

BTW, it's up to you if you want to regard Paul Wolfowitz as a Middle Eastern savant, but his record doesn't exactly give me the warm fuzzies. This is the man who predicted that Gen. Shinseki's (accurate) estimate of necessary troop strength was "wildly off the mark", that we would be greeted as liberators, that Iraq's reconstruction would pay for itself, and that the "ethnic differences in Iraq are there, but they are exaggerated." But whatever. Maybe this time he'll be right.

Posted by: Smokey at March 18, 2004 12:21 PM

I'm afraid I just can't buy your criticism of the left re: Palestine and non-violence.

Yeah, I get that. Like I said, you're an an object lesson. Do you think that passive resistance is an ineffective way to seek civil rights? Do you think the Palestinians have exhausted this road? Do you think they are fundamentally incapable of learning it? Do you think it is not the business of the Left to advocate it as policy to those who might benefit from it?

But as a liberal hawk, I assume that your support for Bush derives from his involvement in the Middle East / WoT. It certainly can't be his performance on the economy, environment, or social policy. Yet you admit that he is botching the one position you do support.

Actually, I said that was a common position for liberal hawk to take. I'd love to elect a sensible liberal in place of Bush. Too bad I won't get a chance to. So I have a dilemma. It does make life interesting. I admit Bush has made grave mistakes -- no surprise there -- but I also think things are turning out better in Iraq than the Left likes to admit. So do the majority Iraqis.

Remind me again why you don't like Kerry? Because he would have sent troops into Haiti? Yeah, the minute we start supporting democratically elected governments, who knows what could happen? We might even gain some credibility on the subject.

Heh. Please. I guess we have different definitions of 'democracy" and "credibility." Same goes with Kerry's stance towards the mullahs versus Bush's. Do you think that if Bush had sent troops into Haiti to prop up Aristide, most of the Left would have appaluded? Honestly now.

Browning: The battle for hearts and minds will entail our making common cause with our friends in the Middle East -- the Kurds, the Iranian Student Movement, the hopeful democratically-inclined Iraqis. It is shameful that the Left has been less willing to reinforce these alliances than the Right has.
Smokey: How do you figure? The Kurds were enormously successful under Clinton . . .

(A president who, by the way, has recently toured Europe, quietly defending the invasion of Iraq to our erstwhile allies, but never mind that.) Yes, the Kurds became successful under the protection of a "unilateral" military intervention on the part of the US and Britain, against the wishes of the UNSC and, (ahem) the Left.

Do a search in The Nation of the phrase "no-fly zone." Take a count of positive versus negative references to it. If there is a positive reference, was it made by someone besides Christopher Hitchens? The conventional wisdom of the Left was that the no-fly zones were a violation of international law. Look into who the Iraqi Kurds consider their ally. Is it Bush or is it the Left?

the Iranian student movement was born during the same period
. . . and they are mad as hell at John Kerry. Why do you suppose that is? You might try the search of The Nation test for Iran as well. Count how many hits are related to Iran-Contra or sneering references to "the axis of evil" versus references to the student movement. The student movement in Iran is a cause celebre of the hawks and barely makes the radar of the Left. Do a search at DailyKOS for "iranian student." Then do one at Instapundit. Go look at Indymedia right now. See anything about the current uprising? Look at the menus to the left of topics under "Ongoing Covereage" No Iran there. I Googled the site and came up with one brief posting from August, 2002. Way to take an interest.

Or am I just looking in the wrong places? Are there any leftist sites covering Iran right now that you recommend?

Browning: The Left is not immune from criticism. And yet the Left responds to such critiques with accusations of apostacy. This is a mistake.
Smokey: Now who's constructing strawmen? I may have mistakenly called you a conservative, but I don't think I or anyone else has called you an apostate.

I am not referring exclusively to myself or to you. You know as well as I do that this is a common accusation from the Left towards guys like me. It's a frequent topic in MJT's comment section as to whether he is, or was, ever a liberal. If I go to your favorite Lefty website and post a comment claiming to be a liberal hawk -- how long do you think before the pile-on begins? :)

Posted by: Browning at March 18, 2004 03:44 PM

Browning,

<iI think the reasonable case can be made that Al-Q has cleverly produced an ILLUSION that they can sway an election. And I think this might be better case for hawks to adopt as well. Let's turn our voices to the business of exposing that illusion for what it is.

There is a fatal flaw in your argument. Spanish leftists are not merely appeasing the terrorists. They support the terrorists. Sure, some of them may get upset when the crocodile bites them, but they sure love 'em when the kill Americans and Jews. Don't believe me? Just ask these two bitches:

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=4274

Posted by: HA at March 19, 2004 03:10 AM

Kimmitt,

Can we please put this sad little meme to bed?

Which meme is that? The one that Kimmitt is a dumbass?

Posted by: HA at March 19, 2004 03:17 AM

MJT,

I remember what the Republicans did when Clinton saved Kosovo from Slobodan Milosovic.

What did the Republicans do? We had a debate about Kosovo and the Republicans lost. Have they spent the last 5 years trying to undermine that effort even though it has proven to be a quagmire?

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=4604565

Is Kosovo a distraction from the war on terror? Should we withdraw all our forces? Will the left now scream that we send in more troops?

Contrast this with what the Democrats are doing WRT Iraq. The were virtually silent when we debated going to war in Iraq and most Senate Democrats voted in favor of it. They offered no debate. The only debate was between neocons and paleocons. The Democrats cowardly kept their candyass tails between their candyass legs because they remembered how badly they were burned after the first Gulf War vote. Their silence on the issue was what gave rise to Howard Dean.

And what have they done since? They have spread BOLD-FACED LIE after BOLD-FACED LIE in order to undermine the war effort that they were too cowardly to debate against when they had their chance. And some like John Kerry actually voted to send our troops to war and once they were there voted against the funding they needed to achieve victory. Kerry voted for war and defeat.

Nothing the Republicans have ever done even approaches the disgraceful treasonous behavior of today's Democratic party. The time to debate a war is before the troops are sent to battle. We have now achieved a tremendous victory in Iraq and the Democrats are trying to turn it into defeat in order to satisfy the academic and media elite who want to undermine our national sovereignty.

Posted by: HA at March 19, 2004 03:48 AM

Smokey,

The Socialists were elected on a multi-faceted platform, much like most political parties, one plank of which was the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq unless the UN was granted greater control. That's not exactly the same as disengaging from America's war on terror, now is it?

Yes it is because the UN is an instrument of the terrorists. Your constant advocacy to put the US effort in Iraq under UN control is a blatant desire to undermine our national security and sovereignty. It has nothing whatsover to do with winning the war on terror.

Posted by: HA at March 19, 2004 03:55 AM

Smokey,

Maybe, just maybe, the Socialists (and the majority of Spaniards, europeans, hell, everyone) don't believe that Iraq is a necessary part of the War on Terror. Maybe this is because it isn't. Just something to think about.

I've thought about it and discovered that you are full of shit.

Iraq is central to the WOT, and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN WE PUT THIS EFFORT UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE UN!

Here are my reasons why in my response to Violet on the other thread:

Violet,

I don't know if your still paying attention, but here's my reply anyway.

As Matt said, most of the positve suggestions you made are being done by Bush already. But there are three key problems I see in the proposals you've made. First, you fail to understand that the war in Iraq was essential. Secondly, you are overlooking the tremendous gains we've made due to the war in Iraq. Thirdly, you are profoundly naive about what it would take to secure the cooperation of the UN and hostile regimes in the war on terror.

First, the war in Iraq was essential for many reasons:
1) Saddam had been in violation of the 1991 surrender agreement even before the ink dried. He was firing on US and British jets on an almost dailiy basis.

2) He tried to assasinate Bush Sr. The fact that he is the father of the current president in no way diminishes the importance of this fact.

3) There is substantial evidence of his involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing including the facts that Ramzi Yousef had entered the US on an Iraqi passport and Abdul Rahman Yasin fled to and was given refuge in Iraq after the attack.

4) Saddam had fooled the UN from 1991 to 1995 about his WMD program. It wasn't until his son-in-law defected in 1995 that we realized that Saddam had a massive program that the UN inspectors had failed to detect.

5) He kicked out the UN inspectors in 1998 and we have been blind about his WMD efforts ever since. The WMD's he was known to be in posession of in 1998 and had been documented by the UN inspectors were the primary basis for Bush's WMD claims. Only a fool would assume he had discarded his WMD's and abandoned his programs in the years since.

6) He was a major agitator and sponsor of the Palestinians which is one cause of hostility towards America in the Arab world.

7) The containment regime was breaking down by 2001. France, Russia, China, Germany and the Arab states were leading efforts at the UN to dismantle the sanctions regime and the Bush administration was getting ready to throw in the towel prior to 9/11 (remember "Smart Sanctions?").

8) The need to station our troops in Saudi Arabia in order to contain Saddam was a major cause of hostility in the Arab world and was the original basis for the formation of Al Qaeda.

9) Saddam's presence was an impediment to the Iranians overthrowing their regime because he would always be a threat to them.

10) Saddam refused to let UN inspectors back into Iraq after 9/11 until we amassed 250,000 troops on his borders. It is not feasible to keep 250,000 troops on a war footing in the desert for another 4 years while Saddam plays another game of cheat and retreat with the UN.

11) Saddam was required under resolution 1441 to either surrender his WMD's or prove he had disposed of them. He failed to do so.

12) If the UN inspectors had announced that Saddam clean of WMD's there would have been overwhelming international pressure to end the sanctions and remove the coalition troops that were surrounding him. Then it would only have been a matter of time before he or his demon offspring successors reconsitituted his WMD programs. This is especially true given what we now know about the international nuclear black market involving Pakistian, NK, Malyasia, Libya and Iran.

13) Finally, Saddam had slaughtered 100's of thousands of his own people. Many of his victims were due to Bush Sr.'s encouragement that the Iraqis rise up against Saddam after the 1991 war. Bush Sr.'s failure to support this uprising was one of the most shameful events in American history. After Bush Sr.'s betrayal during this uprising, we owed it to the people of Iraq to liberate them from Saddam.

Any one of these reasons alone was sufficient cause to overthrow Saddam. Taken together, the case is overwhelming. Anyone who doesn't understand this should not be taken seriously. Our failure over 12 years to take out his regime was one of many factors that had undermined the deterrent effect of American military power. Saddam's continued hold on power was an open invitation by every terrorist sponsoring state and international terrorist group to wage a terror war against America with impugnity. Throw this factor in with the impression left by the Iranian hostage crisis, the Beirut Marine barracks bombing, and our withdrawal from Somolia after Mogadishu, and is it any wonder that Bin Laden was gloating that America was a paper tiger ripe for attack on its own soil? That he had already destroyed the more powerful superpower and it was time to move on to the next?

The war has been a tremendous success. We removed a terrorist sponsor who was a threat to us and the region. We slaughtered 100's if not 1000's of Al Qaeda terrorists who flocked to Iraq to oppose our invasion. We have reestablished the deterrent effect which is the reason Libya capitulated on its WMD program. Libya's capitulation and subsequent cooperation is what led us to what we know about the international nuclear black market. We have been able to remove our troops from Saudi Arabia. The regimes in Iran and Syria have be destabilized. The Palestinians have lost a sponsor. Saudi Arabia is actually killing terrorists. We've secured an intelligance bonanza. And the Iraqi people are far better off than they were under Saddam.

Finally, we uncovered the bribery scandal involving the UN Oil for Food program in which billions were siphoned off into the pockets of Kofi Annan, Chirac, Putin and their politcal and bureaucratic cronies in exchange for their diplomatic protection of Saddam at the UN. The dirt we have on the French, Germans and Russians is what enabled James Baker to force them to forgive their Iraqi debts. This betray's another of the Democrat's BOLD-FACED LIES that the war was unilateral and illegitimate without UN authorization. The UN is a corrupt, failed institution. We will never get UN authorization to act in our own defense because we would need to get the approval of our enemies in Russia and France to do so.

If you are blind to the fact that France is an enemy rather than an ally, and the events surrounding the Iraq war haven't already convinced your otherwise, surely France's war games with China on the eve of the Taiwanese elctions must make you realize this. France is using nations like Iraq, China and Iran as proxies against America. It is time for the Democrats to wake up to the fact that France is an enemy of the United States and Saddam was their proxy. There is nothing we could have done to gain the approval of the UN because of this.

Posted by: HA at March 19, 2004 04:05 AM

Stu,

"Hey, should we be spending $250,000,000,000 on an invasion, tying up 150,000 troops in Iraq, and destroying international unity and co-operation while Bin Laden is still on the loose?"

As I recall, you are Canadian. Since you Canadian socialists are so much wiser than us American cowboys, you refused to assist your long-standing ally in our Iraq folly. Of course since you socialists are so much wiser, Canada wasn't at all distracted from the real WOT and instead devoted its vast military resources to the real war.

Just to refresh my memory, could you please remind this dumb American cowboy of all the terrorists killed or captured by Canada while we were on our imperialist colonial oppressor Iraqi adventure to extract their oil?

The only "international unity" is between terrorists and their transnational socialist sympathizers and appeasers.

Posted by: HA at March 19, 2004 04:19 AM

Browning,

Do you think that passive resistance is an ineffective way to seek civil rights? Do you think the Palestinians have exhausted this road? Do you think they are fundamentally incapable of learning it? Do you think it is not the business of the Left to advocate it as policy to those who might benefit from it?
No, No, No, and...No. I think the actions of the Palestinians are the responsibility of the Palestinians, not the left. If a Palestinian leader were to arise advocating a campaign of nonviolent resistance, most leftists would rejoice. But until that happy day, I don't see what you think "the left" should be doing in any concrete way.

Heh. Please. I guess we have different definitions of 'democracy" and "credibility." Same goes with Kerry's stance towards the mullahs versus Bush's. Do you think that if Bush had sent troops into Haiti to prop up Aristide, most of the Left would have appaluded? Honestly now.
Applauded? No. Approved? Yes. I don't care how much of a bastard Aristide was, he was still an elected bastard. Do you really think that a violent coup was the best way for the Haitians to get rid of him? Shouldn't the right be doing more to advocate diplomatic solutions? Bush simply decided as a matter of expediency to allow the coup to go forward because he wanted to get rid of Aristide. Not even a nod was made to maintaining a democratic process.

Before you decried The Nation's attitude towards the no-fly zone, did you actually bother to check first? I did a search for "no-fly zone" and found 19 references. The majority were neutral, descriptive uses, and the rest were divided between positive and negative, about 3 to 5 respectively. Most of the negatives were about the southern no-fly zone and our use of Saudi Arabia as a base for patrolling it (they suggest using carriers instead). The 2 negative references to the northern, Kurdish zone were one objecting to the bombings of Mosul as being unnecessarily provocative, and another about US forces ignoring Turkish assaults on the Kurds in the no-fly zone. Not a single rant about them being in violation of international law, at most there was one reference to them being "unilaterally imposed." Take your own advice and look it up.

I read the letter from the Iranian students that you link to. Like most student groups, they seem to be given to overheated rhetoric and polemics. The letter from Kerry that they get all exercised about, and which they clearly imply is a letter from Kerry to the Iranians is nothing of the sort. It's a stock letter available on Kerry's campaign website entitled "A Letter to Democrats Abroad." It makes no specific references to Iran, the Mullahs, or the student groups. And yet the SMCCDI (and a whole lot of warbloggers and freepers) attempt to use it to imply that Kerry has a soft spot for theocracy and terrorism. In fact, if this screed is representative of the intellectual integrity of the Iranian student movement, that would go a long way to explaining why the right is so enamored of them. They see a reflection of themselves.

I don't deny that there are liberals who would consider you an apostate. My point is that nobody here has done so. I could go to FreeRepublic and arm myself with innumerable wild claims made by "the right" about liberals and then come back here and rail about them, but I try to limit my criticism to things which are said by people here, on this blog.

Posted by: Smokey at March 19, 2004 09:24 AM

HA: Yes it is because the UN is an instrument of the terrorists. Your constant advocacy to put the US effort in Iraq under UN control is a blatant desire to undermine our national security and sovereignty.
Sorry, I keep forgetting myself and revealing my true nature here. Now you'll have to excuse me while I and my Internationale singing liberal friends meet at the Fifth Column Bar and Grill to plot the overthrow of our government and the installation of Osama as our new president and Kofi Annan as VP. Viva la Revolution! Allahu Akhbar!

Your "reasons" why Iraq is central to the WoT are a joke. I've addressed many of them in previous threads, to which your response was to insist that I was guilty of treason for not agreeing with you. I'll give them a quick go-through anyways, at the risk of encouraging you.

1)Irrelevant to WoT
2)Same
3)"Substantial" according to Laurie Mylroi and who else? What is your evidence? How about one of those links you like so much? And please, not to the Weekly Standard or WorldNetDaily.
4)And where are those WMDs again? Regardless, failure to comply with UN resolutions is a UN matter, and absent any evidence of Iraqi ties to terror, is irrelevant to the WoT.
5)See above
6)Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are far worse in this regard, and are major recipients of US military aid. See a problem here?
7)Irrelevant to WoT
8)Our existing defense agreements with Kuwait and Bahrain, plus our carrier presence in the region, would have been sufficient for patrolling the suthern no-fly zone. Also, the southern zone wasn't even established until after our troops had been in SA for over a year.
9)Somewhat true, but hardly sufficient to make Iraq "central" to the WoT. Tangential seems a better description.
10)UN matter, irrelevant to WoT
11)Same
12)Irrelevant to WoT
13)Same

Please not that by simply noting that some of your claims are irrelevant to your argument and not addressing them, I am not granting those points. But we are talking about the connection (or lack thereof) between the war in Iraq and the War on Terror, not 101 Reasons Why Saddam Was a Bad Man. I won't address the remainder, because I've done so before, and my reward was an assault on my patriotism and accusations of criminality. You have admitted previously that you are a polemicist, and have no real interest in actual debate, so why don't you leave it to those of us who do? You're a caricature of a wingnut, brandishing innuendo in place of facts, using accusations of treason and disloyalty as a rhetorical club, and attempting to substitute prodigious linking and bold font usage for argument.

Browning, this is what I meant by the about the hawks here being addicted to hot strawman lovin'. I can't really blame HA, as I'm not entirely sure he's not one himself, considering most of his posts boil down to this:

I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain

Posted by: Smokey at March 19, 2004 10:50 AM

Smokey,

Browning: Do you think that passive resistance is an ineffective way to seek civil rights? Do you think the Palestinians have exhausted this road? Do you think they are fundamentally incapable of learning it? Do you think it is not the business of the Left to advocate it as policy to those who might benefit from it?

Smokey: No, No, No, and...No. I think the actions of the Palestinians are the responsibility of the Palestinians, not the left.

Again, I am not BLAMING the Left that the Palestinians are who they are. I am blaming the Left that -- while they feel, correctly, it is their job to advocate policy changes to Israel and the US -- they have failed to take a balanced stance towards the Palestinians, and advocate good policies there as well. So in sense, you are answering the last of four questions "No" out of one side of your mouth, and "Yes" out of the other. Like I said, a Left that would mount a campaign to encourage and help the Palestinians renounce terrorism and adopt passive resistance would be a Left I'd be proud to be a part of. Tell me where to sign up. I am just not seeing that though. I would love to see an idea like this get some traction among the Left. But, if everyone responds the way you do, that's not likely, is it?

If you wish to make furtther excuses for yourself and the Left on this failure, I think you will need to contradict your answers on one of more of my four questions above. Am I wrong?

Let me reverse the valence on your last statement to better demonstrate what I mean:

"If an American leader were to come along who would pressure Israel to do the right thing by the Palestinians, most leftists would rejoice. But until that happy day, I don't see what you think "the left" should be doing in any concrete way."

What's wrong with this picture?

I don't care how much of a bastard Aristide was, he was still an elected bastard.

He was elected at one time. But he was not elected to be a dictator. The grave problems with the more recent elections in Haiti, in addition to Aristide's other crimes, make it very hard for a liberal like me to take you seriously.

Do you really think that a violent coup was the best way for the Haitians to get rid of him?

Of course not. But neither do I agree with you and Kerry that it would have been a good thing to spend American blood and treasure on a lost cause to keep a corrupt, violent, clearly undemocratic regime in place. I don't see that that would have helped our credibility. And I guess that I don't buy either that the Left would have approved of this even if -- especially if -- Bush had undertaken it. Call me crazy . . .

Shouldn't the right be doing more to advocate diplomatic solutions?

It's telling, I think, that I am not sure which way you think I should answer this question. I would answer "yes." But if you think the right answer is "yes," then how does that square with your stance towards the Palestinians? To toss your own argument back at you: Wouldn't that just be silly? Do you think the Haitians have never heard of diplomacy?

Before you decried The Nation's attitude towards the no-fly zone, did you actually bother to check first? I did a search for "no-fly zone" and found 19 references.

Actually, you were more industrious than I was. :) I did a cursory check, but I didn't bother to read very many of them, because I was pretty confident in what thought I'd find. The first one kind of set the tone: " . . . the so-called no-fly zones, where US and British warplanes--with no United Nations mandate--have regularly bombed Iraq since 1998." I thought that one was pretty representative of most of the rhetoric I have heard from the Left regarding them.

Maybe I was wrong though. Maybe you have a point. I take it then that you were in favor of the no-fly zones protecting the Kurds. Then we agree about something. Do you think this position was was in keeping with the general stance toward them by the Left? (Because that has never been my impression.) If you do see this, I would ask you how such a policy is consistent with the rest of the Left's rhetoric about international law and "unilateralism" in defiance of the UN.

I read the letter from the Iranian students that you link to. Like most student groups, they seem to be given to overheated rhetoric and polemics.

I agree that the letter is overheated. I also picked up that Kerry's email makes no direct references to Iran. However, I also can understand how the student movement could become exercised over such a letter appearing in the Iranian news, especially in the context of some of Kerry's other statements about the recent "elections" there. (And of course, as you point out, the young and idealistic, across the political specturem, are often overheated in their rhetoric.) Perhaps Kerry will be a better friend to the Iranian student movement than he has yet given them (or me) reason to believe. It would be good of him to reassure us of that, rather than relying on us to accept it on faith.

But my larger point is this: I do think the Iranian student movement has a legitimate beef with the Left in general. I think this is an area in which the Left deserves criticism. It is shameful that they would ignore or downplay the movement merely because it is insufficiently anti-American, or because its a pet cause of the hawks and the freepers. I don't say this as a blanket condemnation so much as an exhortation that they mend their ways.

When you say:

In fact, if this screed is representative of the intellectual integrity of the Iranian student movement, that would go a long way to explaining why the right is so enamored of them. They see a reflection of themselves.

I think this little jibe is in very bad taste, and reflects a certain kind of callousness towards oppressed people who don't happen to fit in neatly with your partisan agenda. I DO see in the Iranian student movement a reflection of myself. It's not in the heat of their rhetoric though. It's in their fervor for democracy and human rights. Don't you?

Posted by: Browning at March 19, 2004 01:31 PM

Smokey,

You're getting a little cocky for someone who didn't actually make an argument. Given how cocky you are, I can only assume you would be up for a little challenge. Surely you wouldn't back down after all that bluster, would you? That would look awfully weak. So here is the challenge.

There are two possible explanations for your opinions. First, you are a loyal American but a complete idiot. Second, you are disloyal and your opinions are perfectly consistent with some other allegiance. In spite of the low regard I have for you, I don't think you're an idiot. So I'm leaning towards the latter explanation. But I'm willing to test the theory. Are you up for it?

To test the theory, I'll ask you a series of simple questions. You give an answer and then I'll move on to another question. After establishing a baseline, I'll provide links to news sources to test your answers. I know how much it bothers you when I provide links that support my arguments and shoot yours down, so we can save that step for last. I don't want you to get flustered.

So here is my first question. Was Saddam Hussein a terrorist?

Posted by: HA at March 19, 2004 06:40 PM

Browning,

I guess my question(s) about your indictment of the left for their failure to advocate non-violence strongly enough is: What exactly do you think the left should be doing? Who should mount a campaign? Why don't you do it, as you seem to feel so strongly about it? You're a liberal, correct, and thus technically still a part of "the left"? Get cracking, before you start talking about my failures. And on what basis do you claim that the issue is being ignored? A couple of minutes on Google gave me plenty of citations. Here's a sample:

http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0531-06.htm
http://www.prospect.org/webfeatures/2002/10/kintisch-e-10-04.html
http://www.antiwar.com/ocregister/pathtopeace.html
http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=12784
http://www.phrmg.org/articles/22dec2001.htm
http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/20020329ib.html
http://www.mediamonitors.net/michaelsladah3.html

I didn't check every link, but let me tell you, there were a whole lot more links to sites on the left than on the right. What I'm trying to figure out is why you seem to feel this is a failure specifically of the left, rather than a general failure. You speak of a failure to take a balanced stance toward the Palestinians, but I don't know what you mean. Do you think the left advocates suicide bombings? Are you under the impression that the position of the right is balanced? It's not that the left cannot be criticized, I'm just wondering why you think it has some special culpability here.

But neither do I agree with you and Kerry that it would have been a good thing to spend American blood and treasure on a lost cause to keep a corrupt, violent, clearly undemocratic regime in place.
If that were the goal, perhaps, but if the goal were to maintain a democratic process (something we profess to be interested in), then I think a moderate expenditure of treasure and a small risk of blood would be worthwhile. We are spending rather a lot of both in the name of democracy in Iraq. And it was never a simple choice between coup/Aristide. There are intermediate possibilities, and that's what diplomacy is for.
BTW, when I asked why the right wasn't doing more to advocate diplomatic solutions? That was sarcasm.

My feelings about the no-fly zones were a bit conflicted. They were clearly of dubious legality, but it's a stretch I'm willing to make. I think the implementation of them was far from perfect, but on the whole they probably provided a deterrent on Saddam. A better case can be made for the northern than the southern, in that the presence of the no-fly zone was clearly a factor in the flourishing of the Kurds. I can only speak for myself here, but my problem with the Bush administration's unilateralism and violations of international law is as much with the flagrancy as the fact of them. It may sometimes be necessary to act unilaterally, but the administration has made a fetish of it.

I think this little jibe is in very bad taste, and reflects a certain kind of callousness towards oppressed people who don't happen to fit in neatly with your partisan agenda. It's not in the heat of their rhetoric though. It's in their fervor for democracy and human rights. Don't you?
Speaking of that overheated rhetoric...
It was certainly intended as a jibe, but callous toward an oppressed people? Please. How about deservedly harsh to a shoddy hack? I don't care how oppressed the writer is, that letter is a partisan smear-job. It's accusations are so totally unsupported by any of the evidence adduced within as to be simply breathtaking. Have you read this thing? Its sole greivance, the supposed raison d'etre for it, is the Kerry "Letter to Democrats Abroad," claiming that it shows Kerry is intent on supporting the Mullahs. As the letter clearly has nothing to do with Iran and the Mullahs, the sole charge of the letter is completely bogus. It uses this false charge as a jumping off point for a collection of unsupported assertions, vague insinuations, and bald assertions of venality on the part of Kerry. It is far too vitriolic to be considered an attempt to reach out to Kerry or to effect a policy change on his part, so I ask you, to what purpose was this letter written? Could the answer have anything to do with their being a pet cause of the hawks and the freepers?

Posted by: Smokey at March 19, 2004 07:20 PM

HA,

An idiot or a traitor? Given that those are my only options, why should I take up your bold challenge? It seems a bit stacked against me, doesn't it? Predetermined, even. So how about I just answer all the questions in advance, and then you can tell me why I'm wrong, and whether I get to be an idiot or a traitor (I've got my fingers crossed for traitor!)?
Here goes:

No. Yes. Yes. No. No. No. No. No. Maybe. No. No. Yes. 47. Yes. No. Kofi Annan. No. No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. International Socialism. True. False. True. False. False. False. True.

How'd I do?

Posted by: Smokey at March 19, 2004 08:01 PM

Smokey,

It seems a bit stacked against me, doesn't it? Predetermined, even.

Facts are stubborn things. And yes, the facts are stacked against you. But you already know this. I'm surprised to see you admit it though. Maybe you are an idiot AND a traitor. Maybe you are a traitor because you are an idiot. Maybe you are a social misfit and you hate America because of your own character flaws. Some people like you just shoot up a post office. Some people like you become Noam Chomsky disciples. In the end, it really makes no difference to me why you are what you are. These are questions for your shrink.

Sadly for you, the facts aren't pre-determined by me. I only get to throw them in your face.

So how about I just answer all the questions in advance

Isn't that what you've been doing all along? That is how you got into trouble in the first place. Instead of gathering the facts, interpreting them and drawing conclusions from them based on what is in America's national interests, you start with a desire to undermine American national sovereignty out of an apparent committment to transnational socialism. You then try to spin the facts as best you can. Its called propaganda. I'm calling you out on it, but you aren't willing to give up yet. You seem to have forgotten the first rule of holes. When you're in one, stop digging.

Why do you shrink from answering a simple question? Or was that "No" at the beginning of your string the answer? Are you saying Saddam was not a terrorist? Did "No" just happen to be the starting point of your string? I don't want there to be any ambiguity where you can seek refuge. I won't give you any refuge. And I have more ammunition than the hollow bluster you've demonstrated. I'll nail your balls to the wall with facts.

Why are you afraid to answer a simple question with a simple answer? Was Saddam a terrorist? He either was or he wasn't. Yes or no will suffice.

Posted by: HA at March 20, 2004 04:05 AM

Browning,

You're wasting your time if you think you will persuade Smokey. You have conclusively shot down all of his arguments, but he will never change his opinions.

In order to persuade Smokey with facts and logic, his motivations and first principles would have to be the same as yours. They are not. You are an admirable liberal with a commitment to national security. Smokey is not a liberal and he doesn't share your commitment. He also doesn't give a shit about the Palestinians, Iranians, Iraqis or even Americans in the final analysis. All of his arguments spring from either a desire to undermine our national sovereignty and security or extreme partisanship. That would explain his policy positions which are 100% perfectly consistent with a transnational socialist.

You may not want my support. I really wouldn't blame you. Smokey is right about one thing. I am a polemicist. My polemics are motivated by the moral and intellectual rot I've seen in the Democratic party since 9/11 and especially since the rise of Dean. This rot has convinced me that the Democrats can no longer be entrusted with our national security. I no longer grant the Democratic party the presumption of a commitment to national security as their highest priority. And I no longer trust that their constant advocacy for higher taxes and expanded government is anything more than a naked power grab. It pains me to say that since I'm still a registered Democrat and I voted for Clinton twice and Gore once. This nation needs a loyal opposition and we don't have one in the Democratic party.

I suspect you don't share my perception of the rot of the Democratic party. That is why you still attempt to have a reasoned debate with people like Smokey. In the end, your admirable effort will prove fruitless. You and Smokey share no common ground.

Posted by: HA at March 20, 2004 05:15 AM

Awwww, is HA getting a little testy? Maybe you just need a nap. Here, I'll even sing you a lullaby:

Arise ye workers from your slumbers
Arise ye criminals of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
and at last ends the age of cant.
Now away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise!
We'll change forthwith the old conditions
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

Then come comrades rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale
Unites the human race. (repeat).

We peasants, artisans and others,
Enrolled amongst the sons of toil
Let's claim the earth henceforth for brothers
Drive the indolent from the soil.
On our flesh for too long has fed the raven
We've too long been the vultures prey.
But now farewell to spirit craven
The dawn brings in a brighter day.
CHORUS
No saviour from on high delivers
No trust we have in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear.
Ere the thieves will out with their booty
And to all give a happier lot.
Each at his forge must do his duty
And strike the iron while its hot.
CHORUS

C'mon, sing it with me! This time just the transnational socialists in the audience.

Posted by: Smokey at March 20, 2004 05:50 AM

Browning,

I had one more thought. If you doubt my claim that Smokey doesn't give a shit about the Palestinians the Iranians or anybody else, then try to reconcile Smokey's persistant excuses for Palestinian savagery with his reactionary condemnation of the Iranian student letter you linked to.

The only achievement of Palestinian savagery has been to bring ruin upon themselves and the slaughter of some Jews. Nothing there that Smokey can't come up with a good excuse for. The only crime of the Iranian student letter you linked to is some awkard rhetoric. For that, the student earns the condemnation in Smokey's world of being associated with the hated American right wing.

Smokey's positions cannot be reconciled under any moral framework. No matter how many verses he recites.

Posted by: HA at March 20, 2004 06:22 AM

Smokey,

Awwww, is HA getting a little testy?

You are beginning to project. Does it make you feel better?

You're getting your ass handed to you and making a fool of yourself. You should quit while you're behind.

Posted by: HA at March 20, 2004 06:27 AM

Smokey,

I guess my question(s) about your indictment of the left for their failure to advocate non-violence strongly enough is: What exactly do you think the left should be doing?

I'm glad you asked. I think the Left should be advocating non-violence to the Palestinians at every single opportunity.

Who should mount a campaign? Why don't you do it, as you seem to feel so strongly about it?

I'm one folk singer in Virginia. I've said already that I would throw my support behind such a campaign. Do you know of one? If there isn't one, I can at least advocate it to others, such as yourself, in the hopes that someone else might take an interest in it. Do you? I think the
Kantian categorical imperative
comes into play here.

Get cracking, before you start talking about my failures.

Well, this isn't personal. But one way that I can "get cracking" is to try to drum up interest in this cause, and my talking to you about it is a part of that. I am sounding out whether my erstwhile comrades have any interest the cause. And I am discovering that you, for example, don't especially.

And on what basis do you claim that the issue is being ignored?

I wouldn't say ignored completely. I'd say that it is being paid insufficient attention. Let's just say that it has captured the imaginations of the Left far less than the condemnation of Israel and the US. As I said, you yourself are an object lesson in this. This is the first time you've even acknowledged that maybe it ain't such a bad idea. (Or is this string of links offered as evidence that the Left is paying attention to an idea that you think is worthless?)

Thanks, by the way, for the list of links. Some comments:

I agree with this article whole-heartedly. The tone of it suggests that the author realizes he is proposing something that the Left has not already embraced. "Palestinian Nonviolence: Would it Work?" It's an idea he feels he needs to sell.

I agree especially with one sentence towards the end: "Nonviolence flows out of a moral vision, it can not be used as a Trojan Horse, to soften the opposition for another wave of violence." To this I would add that it can't be used merely as a means to defend the perpetrators of this violence -- which is the issue we get into with human shields. I think if the Left were to embrace this policy, it would have to repudiate violent resistance altogether. No romanticizing the suicide bombers, no apologies for them, no moral equivalency arguments on the behalf, and no using passive resistance as a mere tactic to protect the perpetrators.

The second article has the usual tone -- a kind of skepticism of the worthiness of non-violence to achieve peace with an enemy so intractable of the Jews. Look at the subtitle: "Will Palestinians embrace an end to terror? And will anyone pay attention if they do?" I venture to say that the Israelis will pay attention if they do.

One interesting thing about this article though is that the author recognizes that a point I had been making in a previous branch of our argument -- that refusal to appease terrorism can be more effective than you think. That it can serve to end the cycle of violence as much perpetuate it. He writes: "The increasing skepticism among Palestinians about suicide bombing has to be at least partially attributed to the realization that violence isn't getting them anywhere with Israel's hard-line prime minister, or the public who elected him."

The third and fourth articles raise the issue of human shields again. I have to say that idealistic Westerners putting themselves between Arafat and a bullet is not exactly what I have in mind. (That is hyperbole -- not a strawman, BTW.) And the Left is going to have to do better than Rachel Corrie to pull this off. The cause is not in need of more martyrs. What the Palestinians really need are not human shields, and not just Western witnesses to Israeli crimes. They need a Palestinian Gandhi who might try to unite them behind a repudiation of terrorism. I think the Left should be calling for this as well, consistently and with as much fervor as they bring to their condemnations of the other side. If Mubarak Awad is the kind of person we are looking for, that's great. I think it's telling that the author of the first article you linked had never heard of him. It means that the Left has not done a good enough job yet of promoting his ideas amongst their own ranks.

The fifth link I couldn't get to load. The sixth and seventh I generally agree with -- at least insofar as they embrace non-violence as the best strategy for the Palestinians. So my question is -- don't you?

You speak of a failure to take a balanced stance toward the Palestinians, but I don't know what you mean. Do you think the left advocates suicide bombings?

No. But elements of the Left serve as apologists for the tactic and some even romanticize it. I assume you would agree with me that this is contemptible, and I am not trying to tar you with the same brush. What I mean is that the Left should work the problem from the other end more. Instead of focussing attention predominantly on the crimes of Likudism, put more pressure on the Palestinians to adopt the policies that will best serve them.

Are you under the impression that the position of the right is balanced?

Of course not. But I don't belong to the Right.

It's not that the left cannot be criticized, I'm just wondering why you think it has some special culpability here.

I think that non-violent passive resistance is more a tactic of liberalism than conservativism. I also think that the Left is more the ally of the Palestinians than the Right. I also think that non-violent passive resistance will go a long way towards solving the Palestinian's problems, and that terrorism never will go anywhere. Taken together, these beliefs lead me to conclude that the Left should devote itself to encouraging and training the Palestinians to adopt such a policy. It should be as high a priority for them as the criticism of the policies of the Israel and the US. To the extent that the Left fails to do so, the Left is failing the Palestinians, and its own best ideals.

I would like to say more about Ariside and the Iranian student movement, but, as I said, it's a busy weekend. I will ask you this though: Do you think it is a good thing that the Iranian student movement seems to have more friends among hawks and conservatives that they do among the Left?

Posted by: Browning Porter at March 20, 2004 09:07 AM

HA,

So let me get this straight. You want to "nail my balls to the wall" and "hand my ass to me"? And what was that about my behind? I don't know if you really want to be the one starting on the psychoanalysis here...

And, no, I don't think I'm projecting. I am, obviously, having fun with this. You're the one getting all huffy and self-righteous. If you really think that your harangues about transnational socialism and disloyalty are making me look the fool, please, continue. You were saying something about holes and the digging thereof?

Look, here's how this works: You posted a list of reasons why Iraq was central to the WoT. I responded to that list, and you failed to offer a rebuttal of my points, instead choosing to opine that I was either an idiot or a traitor ( maybe both! Jackpot!). If you want to respond to my points and insult me, go ahead, I really don't mind. But only choosing the latter and then attempting to change the subject doesn't say much for your ability to debate.You apparently didn't like the way things were going with that whole Top Ten Saddam's Sins list, and decided you'd rather switch to nice, safe "do you still beat your wife?" type questions instead.

BTW, If you think the problem with that Iranian student letter is just some "awkward rhetoric," that simply shows how uncritical of your own side you are. It would be forgiveable if it were simply a matter of awkward rhetoric on top af a solid foundation of evidence and argument. But it's completely devoid of those. Aside from citing Kerry's (unrelated)letter, the entire piece only mentions him to chide him for some position they impute to him but do nothing to suggest he actually holds.

Posted by: Smokey at March 20, 2004 09:29 AM

Browning,

Okay, in the interests of reducing the amount of blogspace we're taking up here, I'll concede the point that the left should be doing more to actively advocate non-violence on the part of the Palestinians. But it seems like, at least a bit, you're faulting the rest of us for not sharing exactly the same priorities as you. Personally, I think it makes sense to pressure the Israelis to make changes in their policies because we have more leverage against them. It's a democratic government and is one of the largest recipients of US aid. Somebody has to move first, and our lever is bigger with Israel. In order to get the Palestinians to accept a policy of non-violence, they will first have to have some confidence that it would be rewarded. I think we have a responsibility to use our influence to provide them that assurance, and that will require concessions on the part of the hard-liners in Israel.

...refusal to appease terrorism can be more effective than you think. That it can serve to end the cycle of violence as much perpetuate it. He writes: "The increasing skepticism among Palestinians about suicide bombing has to be at least partially attributed to the realization that violence isn't getting them anywhere with Israel's hard-line prime minister, or the public who elected him."
I saw that same line in the article, and I agree up to a point. When you consider that the same policy was responsible in part for the escalation of the violence, however, its success in then reducing the violence somewhat from that elevated level looks less impressive. What we would need to know in order to assess the effectiveness of Sharon's policies is whether they have reduced violence to or below baseline (that level early in the intifada, perhaps). I don't know the answer to that, but it'd be interesting one way or the other.

But elements of the Left serve as apologists for the tactic and some even romanticize it.(Terrorism)
This may be true in a limited sense, but to be a legitimate criticism of the left, it would have to be a mainstream position. I think you know it's not. Not even close, absent a substantial redefinition of the word apologist.

Do you think it is a good thing that the Iranian student movement seems to have more friends among hawks and conservatives that they do among the Left?
Maybe not, but they really might want to reconsider their outreach program. How to Win Friends and Influence People, it's not.

Posted by: Smokey at March 20, 2004 10:32 AM

Smokey,

I responded to that list, and you failed to offer a rebuttal of my points

You didn't offer a rebuttal. You offered a few terse unsubstantiated assertions. My original post and your response are still on this thread for all to read and draw their own conclusions.

So far, I've trashed your position on Iraq and exposed your moral hypocrisy with respect to the Palestinians and Iranians. Time to move on to your Haiti postions.

If that were the goal, perhaps, but if the goal were to maintain a democratic process (something we profess to be interested in), then I think a moderate expenditure of treasure and a small risk of blood would be worthwhile.

You are willing to risk American blood and treasure to prop up a thug like Aristide while leaving Saddam in power. You advocate this position in the interest of maintaining a "democratic process." And you couldn't resist the impulse to make the kind of gratuitous innuendo of American hypocrisy one expects from a leftist who deep down hates America. Let's put your position to the test and see if it fits the facts. Are you up for it?

Here is what Human Rights Watch had to say about the your "democratic process" in Haiti:

http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/americas/haiti.html

So we can dismiss any claim that Aristide was democratically elected. Unless of course Aristide's "election" in 2000 meets your standards for being democratic. That would be a stunning position for a liberal to take.

But who would benefit from this risk of American blood and treasure that you are advocating? Certainly not the Haitians. Certainly not the American general public. Certainly not the American troops sent into harms way. So who would benefit from propping up Smokey's lovely democratically elected dictator? Let's follow the money and see where it leads:

http://www.suntimes.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak11.html

Oooops. Now I know why you hate it when I provide links that support my arguments. Doesn't look good for your argument Smokey. Doesn't look good for the Democrats either.

It turns out Aristide was plundering millions from the already poverty stricken people of Haiti and using that money to grease the wheels of the Democratic machine in Washington. Those millions of dollars that were directed into pockets of the Kennedy clan, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic lobby establishment.

And who is the biggest lobbyist for Haiti in Washington. None other than former Democratic representative Ron Dellums. What is so special about Ron Dellums? Let's have a look:

http://www.salon.com/news/col/horo/1999/06/07/scott/print.html

Oooops again. Dellums has an extensive record of collaboration with the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro and also committed what can only be decribed as a criminal act of treason by collaborating with the Communist regime in Grenada in 1983. And his successor Barbara Lee carries on his tradition today. And John Kerry has adopted Dellums' position on Haiti word for word.

Now we know why ANSWER has suddenly taken to the streets in support of Aristide. It is because ANSWER is working on behalf of the Democratic party. ANSWER is the militant wing of the Democratic party. And the Democrats have sent their street thugs into the street to protest the collapse of their gravy train. That is why John Kerry's wife funds ANSWER via the Tides Foundation:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12187

The shocking thing about the Democrats is not that they can get bought, but they can be bought so cheap. It only took a few million for them to advocate sending our troops into harms way in Haiti. That's chump change compared to the billions it cost Saddam to buy the protection of France, Russia and your beloved UN whose hands you want to place American security and sovereignty in.

So I ask you, are your policy positions those of a patriot? Are these the policy positions of a liberal? WHY IS IT THAT YOUR ARGUMENTS ALWAYS SUPPORT LEAVING A DICTATOR IN POWER TO TERRORIZE HIS OWN PEOPLE AND/OR THREATEN AMERICA?

You see Smokey, this is what an argument looks like. You gather the facts, analyse them and draw a conclusion. All supported by links to supporting material. In order to rebut an argument, you have to provide countering facts, analyse them and draw an alternative conclusion. It is quite easy to do when the facts are on your side and your highest motivation is what is in the America's best interests. It must be much harder for you.

You should try making an argument. Maybe you'd have some credibility if you did. Reciting socialist verse is not an argument.

This is what getting your ass handed to you looks like. Maybe you should crawl back to Indymedia before you get embarassed any further. You won't get challenged there because they hate America just like you do.

Posted by: HA at March 21, 2004 05:30 AM

HA, awesome. Do you have a job? LoL.

Posted by: mnm at March 21, 2004 07:03 AM

HA,

You didn't offer a rebuttal. You offered a few terse unsubstantiated assertions. My original post and your response are still on this thread for all to read and draw their own conclusions.

I encourage you to take your own advice about going back and reading the thread. I'll go you one further and provide a short synopsis. Here's how it goes:

I posted, saying that many people, myself included, simply don't buy the argument that Iraq is a central part of the WoT.

You replied to say that I was "full of shit", and appended a list of reasons why, in your own words, "Iraq is central to the WoT".

I replied that you seemed to have a head stuffed full of straw, and that this list in no way proved the proposition "Iraq is central to the WoT." That in fact it was largely a list of reasons why Saddam was an evil, evil man. This proposition, even if it may be true, is irrelevant to the WoT until you provide any evidence to the contrary. In cases where your points did have relevance, I either addressed them or requested that you provide some citations to support them. Was I terse? Sure. I use what it takes, and in your case, it didn't take much. How was I to rebut you in any depth when the original list consisted of, as you say, "unsubstantiated assertions"? If you were interested in debate, you would have replied to either provide evidence for these assertions (as requested), or attempted to show why those points which I said were irrelevant actually were relevant. But no:

You replied to assert that my opinions showed me to be either a traitor or an idiot, and to propose some idiotic "20 Questions" style game to prove this to be so. You did not, however, address any of my objections to your original reasons why "Iraq is central to the WoT." Do you now disavow this list? You wish to concede that it does nothing to prove your position? If so, and you want to move on to other arguments that's fine, but please have the intellectual courage to admit that you were unable or unwilling to support your original argument.

I replied to mock you for your inconsistency.

You got huffy, said that now I was an idiot and a traitor, and then had the gall to claim that I was ducking the question. Ironic, no? In a another post at about the same time, you made the frankly bizarre accusation that I was a "transnational socialist."

I mocked you some more.

You huffed and puffed some more, and expressed an unseemly interest in my ass.

I continued my mockery, and pointed out that perhaps the one ducking the question was not me, but you.

You responded to repeat your desire to handle my ass, and also to make the following apparently unironic statement:
[T]his is what an argument looks like. You gather the facts, analyse them and draw a conclusion. All supported by links to supporting material. In order to rebut an argument, you have to provide countering facts, analyse them and draw an alternative conclusion.
Please note the utter lack of these qualities (facts, links, support)in your original argument that Iraq is central to the WoT. Exactly how was I to provide countering facts when you offered no facts to counter?
You also attempted to change the subject to Haiti. I will take that as further evidence of your desire to abandon your original line of reasoning, if I can call it that, regarding Iraq and the WoT.

And now we're at the present.

I'm not sure I should reward (appease?) your penchant for changing the subject by addressing your claims about the Haiti-Fidel Castro-Soviet Union-Kerry family Axis of Innuendo. Not to mention your inability to distiguish sarcasm from "the kind of gratuitous innuendo of American hypocrisy one expects from a leftist who deep down hates America." Whatever. But I'll see if I can find a few minutes later today. Maybe after the Sopranos.

Posted by: Smokey at March 21, 2004 10:13 AM

mnm,

HA, awesome. Do you have a job? LoL.

Thanks. I do have a job, but Smokey is such an easy target I can trash him in my spare time.

Posted by: HA at March 22, 2004 03:26 AM

Smokey,

Do yourself a favor. Give it up. If you weren't so loathesome, I'd start to feel pity for you.

Posted by: HA at March 22, 2004 03:32 AM

HA:

Smokey is such an easy target I can trash him in my spare time.
Do yourself a favor. Give it up. If you weren't so loathesome, I'd start to feel pity for you.

Once again, a substantive response. You know, someone who actually was winning an argument probably would not feel the need to constantly assert this to be so.

It looks like I won't have to give it up, as you seem to have beaten me to it. Every time I point out the deficiencies in your "argument," you respond with some variety of insult or accusation. Again, this would be okay (nobody takes you or your insults seriously) if you would also address the substance of my posts. You can do it! Or maybe you can't. I Guess we'll never know.

Posted by: Smokey at March 22, 2004 07:20 AM

Okay, in the interests of reducing the amount of blogspace we're taking up here, I'll concede the point that the left should be doing more to actively advocate non-violence on the part of the Palestinians.

Pshew. After a long, hard slog through the swamps of rhetoric and logic, I manage to secure a grudging endorsement of non-violence from a Leftist.

But it seems like, at least a bit, you're faulting the rest of us for not sharing exactly the same priorities as you.

Well, yeah. That's what arguments are about. Otherwise, we'd say, "Like, whatever. It's all good, dude." But you and I both have convictions, and so we argue them with each other, perhaps to persuade, or, failing that, to sound out the rational basis of our own political intuitions.

Personally, I think it makes sense to pressure the Israelis to make changes in their policies because we have more leverage against them. In order to get the Palestinians to accept a policy of non-violence, they will first have to have some confidence that it would be rewarded.

As Tom Waits says, "The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away." So your "concession" comes with some argumentative riders attached. Fair enough. They are arguments worth coinsidering. Let me take your two sentences above in reverse order.

1. The Israelis are in as much need of assurances as the Palestinians. My sense is that Sharon and the hardliners came to power as a result of Palestinian obstructionism. When Israelis got the sense after Oslo that the Palestinians were never going to negotiate in good faith, the Likud party's stock rose. The wall, the bulldozings, the assasinations, the checkpoints -- these are all responses to a very real fear of terrorism that the the Palestinian "activists" have gone to a great deal of trouble to cultivate. If the Israelis are to back down from their hardline position, they will need assurances that their fears are no longer warranted.

2. It is true that the US has more leverage with Israel than with the Palestinians. It is also true that the US government is elected by an American populace who tend to sypathize more with the victims of terrorism than the perpetrators, more with Western democracies that their Islamicist enemies.

Also, the hard Left surely has more influence over their putative allies -- the Palestinian people -- than they do over conservative or even center-Left American policy-makers. When the Left holds a march and waves Palestinian flags and carries signs with the word Israel spelled with a swastika instead of an S, they are doing nothing to influence American or Israeli policies. They are merely fanning the flames of resentment on both sides. The Left is viewed with complete contempt by the majority of Israelis, and doesn't seem to be doing much to change that. To use your own contemptuous language with regards to the Iranian Student Movement, if the Left wants to influence Israelis and American swing voters (like me), "they really might want to reconsider their outreach program. How to Win Friends and Influence People, it's not."

If on the other hand, the Left were to say to Palestinians "We sympathize with you. We know your pain. Let us show you a way out of this mess. It worked for us in India. It worked for us the American South." who knows what might happen. Has it really ever been tried? Has the Left ever put its back into an effort like that? I'm not saying that the Palestinians would be able to hear that message. But neither am I defeatist about it. And I also think that no one but the Left is in a position to try to deliver that message to them.

Posted by: Browning Porter at March 23, 2004 06:20 AM

Also, I guess I fail to see how the Left is justified in more or less ignoring a pro-Democracy student movement in a theocratic and violently oppressive Middle Eastern country. Again, its a little bit sickening to hear you chastise them for being insufficiently polite to GWB's foremost political opponent. Do you hold anti-Bush rhetoric from other middle Eastern countries to the same standard?

Posted by: Browning Porter at March 23, 2004 07:03 AM

Browning,

Good to hear from you. I thought it was just me and HA left on here. And apparently even he has fled the field.

Well, yeah. That's what arguments are about. Otherwise, we'd say, "Like, whatever. It's all good, dude." But you and I both have convictions, and so we argue them with each other, perhaps to persuade, or, failing that, to sound out the rational basis of our own political intuitions.

Touche. I suppose what I was trying to say was that our disagreement here was primarily a matter of emphasis, and not indicative of a gaping chasm between our positions. In the context in which you brought this up, you indicated that you thought that the failure of the left to advocate non-violence indicated a lack of balance toward the Palestinians on their part. Absent any evidence that the left as an entity acts as an apologist for terrorist tactics, I still disagree on this point. I do agree that non-violence is a good policy, and that it would be more benificial to the Palestinians than their current policy. And of course my concession comes with caveats. You didn't think after all this I'd give up that easily? I like the Tom Waits quote, btw. Which album is that from?

1. The Israelis are in as much need of assurances as the Palestinians.

I don't disagree. In fact, I think your reading of the situation from the Israeli perspective is spot on. My point is that we have no (or very little) ability to provide those assurances, as our influence among the Palestinians is minimal relative to our influence upon Israel. Further, our current policies are causing the Palestinians to distrust us as an arbiter, which lessens that influence even more. (I think that was my original point that got this argument started. It's been so long, I've almost forgotten.)

2. It is true that the US has more leverage with Israel than with the Palestinians. It is also true that the US government is elected by an American populace who tend to sypathize more with the victims of terrorism than the perpetrators, more with Western democracies that their Islamicist enemies.

I think this is true, and is largely why our policy is slanted against the Palestinians. It's difficult to sympathize with the Palestinians. It's easy to sympathize with the Israelis. But if we wish to actually do anything about the situation, we'll need to be able to put aside those biases and preferences and at least pretend to be impartial.

I'm not at all sure you're right that the left, even the hard left, has any significant influence among the Palestinians. Arafat is not a lefty. We may not have much more influence on conservatives, but we do have an influence on American politics. I can't change the minds of administration policy makers, but I can help to vote them out of office and elect someone who will listen to me.

When the Left holds a march and waves Palestinian flags and carries signs with the word Israel spelled with a swastika instead of an S, they are doing nothing to influence American or Israeli policies. They are merely fanning the flames of resentment on both sides.

I agree, except for the part about "the left." I don't see how this is an indictment of anyone except those who make and carry such signs (check out the thread about the anti-war protests for a further examination of this point.) Part of the problem here is the use of the phrase "the left." Anytime we refer to "the left" (or "the right") we are engaging in an abstraction. The positions of many people across the globe can be abstracted as belonging to the left or the right, but the wider we cast our nets, the greater the abstraction. If we then reify that abstracted concept, it leads to a host of problems, not least of which is that the entity being referred to does not really exist, and thus any attempts to pretend that it has a unified position are doomed to failure. Just because some jackass whose politics fit more neatly under the rubric of the left makes use of offensive and inflammatory symbology, it in no way makes me or any other lefty/liberal culpable for his misdeeds.

The Left is viewed with complete contempt by the majority of Israelis

I think I'd like to see some support for that claim. If your point is that the Israeli population has become radicalized regarding the Palestinians, well, yes, that's kind of the problem. The right regards the solutions of the left with contempt, and vice versa. That's why I don't really think this is any issue to be solved by the right or the left, as any action or suggestion will be met with suspicion and scorn by the other side. Which brings us back to my original point about our policy needing more balance. I'm not saying that the right should be more balanced, but that our government should.

[I]ts a little bit sickening to hear you chastise them for being insufficiently polite to GWB's foremost political opponent. Do you hold anti-Bush rhetoric from other middle Eastern countries to the same standard?

I don't know, I don't seek out anti-Bush rhetoric from other countries. You brought that letter from the SMCCDI into the discussion, so I think it is incumbent on you to explain why you think it has merit. I fully admit to being contemptuous towards it, because contempt is exactly what it deserves. I am not chastising them for "impoliteness", but for outright dishonesty. The letter makes a host of charges and implications regarding Kerry's policies and positions towards Iran, but does absolutely nothing of any substance to support these allegations. I challenge you to reread the letter and come to the conclusion that it has any foundation whatsoever. Put aside your feelings towards the Iranian student movement and John Kerry for a moment, and tell me that it is anything but a vacuous polemic intended to paint Kerry as a friend of the Mullahs (and therefore an enemy of democracy) during a political campaign.

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