December 02, 2004

How to Save Liberalism and America

Peter Beinart’s latest article in The New Republic has already made the rounds in the blogosphere. I probably don’t need to link to it. I’m going to anyway, though, because there is one point he makes, his very first point, that isn’t getting enough attention.

First, however, a letter to Andrew Sullivan:
Beinart is almost completely right, and I do think part of the problem this election year was John Kerry personally, which is another way of saying that as de facto leader of the Democratic Party he was unwilling to use the words "Iraq" and "democracy" or "Arab" and "democracy" in the same sentence, and tell the peacenik wing of the party to sit down and shut up. But I'm just plain sick and tired of trying to convince other liberals that America is now engaged in a multi-decade struggle against Islamo-fascism, and that this struggle will be the central organizing principle in American politics for years to come. Sadly, the central post-election narrative that "values" rather national security cost Democrats this election, combined with ridiculous and childish allegations of massive voter fraud in Ohio, has allowed Democrats the luxury of avoiding and denying what ails them.

But whatever.

If liberals are determined to play the role of Taft Republicans during the 1930s and 1940s, denying the threat posed by European fascism and Japanese nationalism, obsessing about freedoms lost at home during wartime, and as such remaining in the political wilderness for most of the next three decades, who am I to stop them? In fact as far as I can tell Democrats would rather watch the New Deal and Great Society pissed down the drain, and a hard right Supreme Court roll back the 1960s, than stepping up to the plate and committing themselves to the realization of liberty and democracy in the Muslim world. The peaceniks were allowed to destroy the party once before in the late 60s and early 70s. Will they be allowed to do it again? So far it looks like the answer is yes." [Emphasis added by me.]
Now let’s take a look at the Beinart column. Here’s his first paragraph:
On January 4, 1947, 130 men and women met at Washington's Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that "the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction." Liberals, they argued, "consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West." Unless that changed, "In the spasm of terror which will seize this country ... it is the right--the very extreme right--which is most likely to gain victory."
Exactly. The liberals pulled it together in 1947 and faced down Communism. If they had not McCarthyism would surely have ruled over the nation much more ferociously than it did. (Communists would have been dealt with harshly in any case.)

So here’s my advice to American liberals: If you want to win elections against the Republicans, strike the Islamists. Kill two birds with one proverbial stone. What could be easier? The Islamists are your real enemy anyway. They are far and away the most illiberal people on Earth.

But as long as the Terror War rages, if you keep lashing out at Republicans they will continue to beat you. In a time of war, your enemy is not the larger half of your country.

Do you want a liberal hawk in the White House? Or a conservative hawk? Decide.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 2, 2004 10:59 PM
Comments

"W]hile an updated Marshall Plan and an expanded Peace Corps for the Muslim world are more naturally liberal than conservative ideas, they have not resonated among post-September 11 liberal activists. A new Peace Corps requires faith in America's ability to improve the world"

(From Beinart)

It requires more than faith. It requires a miracle. Another Marshall Plan is simply fantasy. This is not Europe '45 - the political and economic circumstances are very different.

And 2004 is the era of economic neo-liberalism, one must remember. The US is already spending $100 billion (plus) on the invasion/occupation/transition. Thus the agenda is to privatize, buy, sell, private profits at the earliest opportunity.

No need for Marshall Plans in that agenda, and I doubt it would have been significantly different had Democrats been running the show.

Further thoughts:

The comparison with the Cold War is a stretch.

A call for yet more DLC style triangulation on the foreign policy front is no rallying cry. It won't win elections, for starters. Voters won't make the distinction, such as it exists, and will plump for the Republicans. See what happened to Kerry. Better the devil you know.

The distinction between "soft" and "hard" liberals is jejune, so tiresome. Yet more labels.

Posted by: Benjamin at December 2, 2004 11:39 PM

BTW a Marshall Plan is unrealistic for other reasons.

The US is running a huge deficit at the moment, partly due to the cost of the war. Can you add a Marshall Plan to that?

The US dollar is in free fall. I am a Brit in Hong Kong. I can now get over 15 HK dollars to the British pound (the HK dollar is pegged to the US dollar.) TWO DAYS ago it was justy over 14. A while back it hovered around 11, pretty consistently.

The US is in relative economic decline, compared to the Far East. It still holds many of the cards, but China's rise to power is just a matter of time.

That's just another radical new reality.

This manifesto has a distinctly nostalgic feel. It simply ignores the real politik.

Posted by: Benjamin at December 2, 2004 11:57 PM

Benjamin: The distinction between "soft" and "hard" liberals is jejune, so tiresome. Yet more labels.

You say that is if there's no daylight between a bad-ass like Christopher Hitchens and a squish like Nancy Pelosi.

A call for yet more DLC style triangulation on the foreign policy front is no rallying cry. It won't win elections, for starters.

Well, pacifism isn't working too well. Or do you think if Kerry had ramped up the pacifism he would have received even more votes?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 3, 2004 12:07 AM

Benjamin, did you actually read the whole article? You keep saying we couldn't afford it. I remember one of the major points of the article being that, in order to beef up our military, we'd have to raise taxes and that that should have been THE Democratic selling point in 2004...that Bush and the Republicans aren't to be trusted to try and do great things in the world because they prioritize tax cuts over fully funding our military. And, you know, I think if you could ever talk the American people into higher taxes that would be the way to do it.

The article points out at least four or five ways the Democrats could instantly gain credibility on national defense, and they're not at all the biproducts of triangulation. Apparently, you missed those. Kennedy and Truman and other Cold War Liberals morally favored a strong and assertive American stance in the world. It didn't make them any less liberal. It just made them better liberals.

It doesn't take an idiot to see how this kind of thinking could pay off big for the Dems. I could name you three things off the top of my head that would go an extremely long way in changing people's minds:

1. The Dems challenge China on Taiwan.
2. The Dems call for Kofi Annan to step down.
3. The Dems denounce Michael Moore, relentlessly.

These are all moves that I, a Democrat and a liberal, would enthusiastically endorse. The first reclaims the "global democratic revolution" mantle for liberalism, where it naturally belongs. The second would open the door to a whole slew of long overdue reforms at the United Nations. It would say, "We wholeheartedly believe in the spirit of the UN, are sick of what it has become, and are finally going to try and do something about it." Republicans don't believe in multilateralism anyway, so it'd be a perfect fit. And the third would finally bring about the civil war the left badly needs. Let the "softs" leave the party. Fuck 'em. Good riddance.

John Kerry wasn't the reason we lost this last election, he was the symptom of a much larger problem. The differences between the "softs" and the "hards" that the article mentions are utterly fundamental and irreconcilable. Because the modern Dems have such irreconcilable differences, we ended up with a candidate who was irreconcilable to himself. The Democrats right now define themselves in opposition to the vision of the Republicans. That is to say, they define themselves as the Party of Other. It can't go on like this. The Dems need a vision of their own and this vision of an Anti-Totalitarian Liberalism is it. It's time tested and it worked wonderfully before.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 3, 2004 12:38 AM

And isn't this pretty much the argument that Paul Berman makes in Terror and Liberalism? I think enough people on the left have been thinking along these lines for quite some time, now. We just need a champion...someone besides Joe Lieberman, for Christ's sake! A person who actually is liberal on some other issues, as well. Anyone know if Obama has read that book, yet?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 3, 2004 12:47 AM

Michael Totten

Well there may be differences, as you suggest.

However, the Democrats, if they were to follow your advice, would simply fall into a trap they will never get out of. Its a tactical ploy by the Republicans, to use that frame.

The Democrats need neither to follow their hard left, nor the War on Terror one issue people.

They need to be distinctive. It IS about values. That's the territory the Democrats should engage and win, because that and the economy are what people vote on.

The economy was not bad enough for people to vote Democratic, and Bush won on values issues.

Its essentially the values debate the Democrats must win, if the party going to gain power again.

Posted by: Benjamin at December 3, 2004 12:47 AM

Grant

"The Dems challenge China on Taiwan."

On what? How? That perplexes me.

Posted by: Benjamin at December 3, 2004 12:54 AM

Yes, Joe Lieberman is not exactly... inspiring? :-)

Posted by: Benjamin at December 3, 2004 12:55 AM

So, Benjamin, you suggest Dems have to win the debate on values to win the White House, aye?

Well, given a choice between a socially liberal hawk and a socially conservative dove...a gay-friendly ass-kicker and a reactionary isolationist in this day and age...do I even have to answer that one? Funny thing is, something tells me the American people would side with me on this one.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 3, 2004 12:56 AM

How would we challenge China on Taiwan? Um, how about publicly changing our foreign policy and endorsing Taiwan's independence if they choose to break away? Staring China in the face and saying, "Go ahead, attack them if you want. But you'll be starting World War 3 because we got their back." Telling them to stick their "One China" bullshit up their asses.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 3, 2004 01:00 AM

Obama vocally opposed the Iraq war. If that's a dealbreaker, he's not your guy. If it's not a dealbreaker--you are inaccurately convincing a lot of people otherwise.

I would urge you guys NOT to make it a dealbreaker, or to condescend to and denounce everyone who opposed the Iraq War as not serious about terrorism. It's helping to drive decent people who ought to know better into the arms of jerks like Michael Moore.

If you want to marginalize Michael Moore, you have to realize that someone like Howard Dean or Wesley Clark has very little in common with Moore (despite Clark's unfortunate decision to campaign with him), and that it is people like Dean and Clark and Obama, and not people like Lieberman and Berman, who can convince much of the anti-Iraq-war people to retain or regain their sanity, and marginalize that wackos.

People in these comments talk as if it's Beinart & Totten & Lieberman & Bush, or else it's Moore and Rall. In fact, there is a great deal of space between those extremes--and that's where most of the Democratic party lies.

Read this piece, for instance. Tell me: am I in the Michael Moore camp or the Joe Lieberman camp? Do I need to be expelled from the Democratic party for its own good?

Posted by: Katherine at December 3, 2004 01:13 AM

Katherine seems to be on the right lines. I don't dig purges. Its perfectly possible to build a decent rational case against the Iraq war, and Democrats should not be hounded by the more "fundamentalist" pro-war Democrats for making that case, even if they disagree.

If the Democrats just talk about war and terror and security all the time, they will lose. The Republicans are always be better at that anyway.

Mainstream poltics is about alliances. The Republicans have a powerful one:

Christian right + economic conservatives + social conservatives.

The Democrats need to build one too.

Just my thoughts from Hong Kong! :-)

Posted by: Benjamin at December 3, 2004 02:10 AM

"Do I need to be expelled from the Democratic party for its own good--Katherine

Objectively speaking ---- YES .But since I want the party to fade away,absolutely not. Just remember that the ship is still afloat, and that the mantra must continue to be " What me worry?We have only stopped to take on some ice"

Posted by: dougf at December 3, 2004 04:39 AM

Catherine:

"It's helping to drive decent people who ought to know better into the arms of jerks like Michael Moore."

Catherine, these decent people have an individual responsibility to deconstruct Moore's tissue of half-truths, distortions, and propaganda as surely as the "decent right" has an obligation to denounce such haters and ideologues as Tom DeLay, Ann Coulter, and her ilk, who say that disagreement amounts to treason. You can't blame liberals voluntarily making themselves tangential to the primary foreign policy issue of the day on conservatives! These people marginalized themselves, as did the Democratic party in the last election, and did so with eyes wide open. They have no one but themselves to blame for it.

That said, I certainly agree with you that the Republican caricature of all Dems as Michael Moore wannabees is ridiculous, and a gross oversimplification--but so is Bush=Hitler. This is part of the political landscape and not even difficult to parry with proper strategy and tactics, two factors so utterly lacking in the Kerry campaign. I want to see a hawkish, or at least realistic, Democratic party emerge from the ashes of 2004 because I think it would be good for the country and indeed for the world. The "doughfaces" (great word) of the party need to be pushed aside if the Dems are ever to have real credibility on this essential issue. I agree with Micheal that there is a substantial difference between say, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi or Jimmy Carter. In the current context, the limp noodle approach will go nowhere and guarantee Republican majorities as far as the eye can see.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at December 3, 2004 06:07 AM

"f they had not McCarthyism would surely have ruled over the nation much more ferociously than it did."

Bcause "McCarthyism" was evil, correct? There really were not Communists in the State Department and Defense Department? It was all a "witch hunt" -- is this what you are saying?

Too bad you are taken in by this 1960s Leftist propaganda piece of garbage. Or are you just using this "article of faith" that "McCarthyism was evil" to score points with your anti-war comrades and win them over to your cause?

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 06:22 AM

Another curious piece of propganda that seems to be an "article of faith" around here --- that the Marshall Plan actually helped the European economy. Here is a hint - it didn't.

You really want to reform "liberalism" (whatever that means nowadays!) or the Democrats, how about dropping all the liberal/leftist mythology from the 1930s - 1960s and get with the times?

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 06:27 AM

They don't want a conservative hawk or a liberal hawk.

They want a dove-- but not because they believe in dovishness as an end to itself, but rather because they want capitalism either brought down (a large portion of the left) or severely reigned in (a smaller portion of the left) and they believe that will never happen with a muscular United States.

They do not agree with you that the Islamists are their real enemy. They see them as an ally in the battle against the capitalist meatgrinder. Liberalism is not about liberalism any longer. It is about anticapitalism.

And the traditional liberals will find their political home where those who are concerned with the traditional always do-- the conservative movement. And us within that movement will debate if the way to liberty is the freedom to practice religion even in public service or if it is to keep religion out of public service, if freedom is the right to abort or the right to be protected from being aborted, where the boundary is between essential and inessential freedom and what is temporary or permanent security, and all of those debates which are healthy and true to America's traditions.

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 06:35 AM

"The US is in relative economic decline, compared to the Far East. It still holds many of the cards, but China's rise to power is just a matter of time."

I remember well hearing the same foreboding warnings back decades ago, with Japan in the role of China. The United States was in relative economic decline, and it was only a matter of time yada yada.

See the movie Gung Ho for the tenor.

There is little evidence that I see to indicate that the United States is in some sort of eceonimic decline. But if so, that would not be shocking. In a capitalist system, there will be ebbs and flows, periods of growth and periods of stagnation and periods of contraction/consolidation. The anarchy of it can be unsettling, but history has shown the system works in the long term. No need to panic.

Which brings us to the Chinese. Is their rise to power merely a matter of time? The fact is that we have anticipated that for decades, but the arrival of that day has been delayed due to their ongoing affair with communism. Only recently, as they have begun to move towards a more capitalist society, have they begun to realize some of their country's economic potential.

The paradox is that for them to reach their full potential, they will have to embrace capitalism. If they do, they will be trading partners and competitors, not foes. If they do not embrace capitalism, then they will never reach their potential.

Either way, they do not end up being an equal foe. They either end up a friendly economic power, or a less-than-friendly second tier nation. Their choice, but not something that fills me with fear in either case.

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 06:44 AM

"and that's where most of the Democratic party lies."

I am interested in seeing the evidence that supports this contention. I have not seen this evidence from your primaries, I have not seen it from the composition of your congressional representatives or Senators, I have not seen it from who was raising the money for the Democrats, I have not seen it from who was flocking to see Fahrenheit 9/11.

I think the Democrats would be in a significantly stronger state of being as a party, and our nation would be significantly better off, if your assertion was true. But if I had to make estimates, I would venture that two-thirds of your party are closer to Moore and Rall than they are to you, and the hawkish side is even smaller than your faction. You are only in the middle of the ideological spectrum within your party. When it is weighted by the percentage of adherents, you are off on the right, and badly outnumbered.

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 06:51 AM

McCarthy was vastly more right than wrong. The Venola Files have vindicated him. The transcripts, published two years ago, detail the entire history of Soviet espionage and penetration, and named names...It was conveniently overloked by the liberal media. McCarthy's style was his downfall, not the substance of his accusations. The Dems jumped on his bandwagon then, and they should do it now. If they don't, they'll keep losing. I'd gladly see the Dems recover and overtake the GOP if only this country could unite behind the war on terror.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 07:34 AM

Despite my nitpicking I still support Totten's point. If it comes down to a liberal hawk vs a liberal dove, I would vastly prefer a liberal hawk. Though I am still unclear what he means by "liberalism" I support greater hawkishness by Democrats.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 07:46 AM

That's Verona Files.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 08:04 AM

Question for Michael (and Peter Beinart): not that it should matter one whit, if it's the right position to take policy-wise and morally, but what makes you think liberal hawks would be more able than liberal 'doves' to win elections against conservative hawks?

While not purely a liberal hawk, I certainly lean in that direction. (The collection of essays in "The Fight is for Democracy", edited by George Packer, comes closest to articulating my foreign policy views.) So I would have been happy if the Democrats had nominated a liberal hawk in 2004. I would have quit my job to work for a Howard Dean that had Joe Biden-like instincts on foreign and military policy.

I notice, however, that almost all 'hawks', who post here at Michael's site are vociferous supporters of Bush's conservativism on other matters, or are only opposed to a few items of it, such as his line on abortion or gay marriage. And it seems that what really animates most people who were anti-Bush this year was opposition to not just the Iraq war, but much of what would be included in a "liberal hawk" agenda.

So just how many liberal hawks are there? It seems to be a distinctly minority position, even an eccentric one.

Posted by: Markus Rose at December 3, 2004 08:07 AM

Gerry -- in what sense have the Chinese not embraced capitalism?

Posted by: Markus Rose at December 3, 2004 08:10 AM

I'm getting really sick of the meme that the left is soft on terrorism or that they're pacifists. I was and still am a strong supporter of the overthrow of the brutal and psychopathic Taliban by military force. I'm for increased funding of our military, for the upgrade and improvement of equipment and personnel. The most leftwing member of my family, a former communist party member, served in the military for years, and is anything but a pacifist. I've encouraged my eldest child to enlist in the armed forces. I'm for the apprehension and trial of terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

I don't get how any of this is pacifist or soft on terror.

Maybe I should be more in favour of useless and misguided thrashing about in a tinpot dictatorship that were on the verge of collapse anyway. It is a distraction, after all, from the fact that the current administration is an enthusiastic supporter of dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and of the most dangerous dictatorship of all, the nuclear-weapon-equipped and Taliban-riddled government of Pakistan.

It sucks when substance is forced to take a back seat to marketing in discussions about how to "save" a political movement. It's either ignorant, misguided, or deeply cynical.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 08:16 AM

There aren't as many Liberal Hawks as there are anti-War anti-Tax Cuts, anti-Abortion Catholics. But Bush won 52% of the Catholic vote -- and will be winning ever more.
US Catholic Bishops will be publicly rebuking "Catholic" public figures who support abortion -- in the next 18 months.

The Dems becoming equally Hawkish help them with the pro-War, anti-Tax Cuts, anti-God (pro-choice) folk. But it will become easier to be pro-War as Bush's policies start pushing the ME into democratic adjustments.

The anti-War folk should leave the Dems, go with Dean and take over the Greens.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 3, 2004 08:20 AM

MT,

Welcome back, a good return post. I do think that the Dems are dominated by folks like Katherine. They prioritize Abu Graib and extraordinary rendition over winning the war on Islamic Terror, they prioritize the environment over economic growth, they prioritize peace over justice, they priorotize the approval of the world over traditional American values etc. Of course the things they believe are problems are problems, just not the most important ones we face.

As long as they represent the majority of the party, at least in the primaries, Dems are screwed. Can someone like Evan Bayh, who could get my vote, make it through the primaries? I doubt it. If Howard Dean is put in charge of the DNC, we're gonna have our answer. No liberal hawk is going to appear. Hillary will be as close as we get.

Posted by: spc67 at December 3, 2004 08:50 AM

The problem with all of this, I think, is that politics has moved beyond basically everything except branding. The Republicans have become remarkably good at branding themselves, while the Democrats are terrible at it.

Take, for example, Abu Ghraib, which spc67 accuses Katherine of "prioritizing", whatever that means. Abu Ghraib is important not just because of the moral dimension, but because it was a national security issue. The struggle of ideas, the "War for Hearts and Minds", is meaningless if our military then hands our enemies ready-made, factually true anti-American propaganda.

Can you see how frustrating it is to be told, in the same breath, that Democrats are both unserious about defeating Islamic fanaticism, and that they should just shut up about Abu Ghraib?

But because so many people have accepted the Republican "brand" as part of their identity, and have rejected the Democratic "brand", when the Democrats criticize the Republicans for their mishandling of Abu Ghraib, then suddenly the issue of Abu Ghraib is disconnected from the war as a whole.

If people are serious about national security, then they have to be willing to be as utterly critical of everything as possible. Knee-jerk attacks or defense of a policy, theory, person, whatever - these are utterly worthless and betray a complete lack of seriousness about national security.

But the Republican brand depends mightily on the notion that they are more serious then the Democrats. So when the Republicans screw up, rather than receiving legitimate criticism that could then lead to a better solution than the one previously tried, they are defended.

It should not be up to the Democrats to be critical of the administration's handling of the war, it should be up to everyone.

Posted by: Blogtheism at December 3, 2004 09:13 AM

Hm. Did people actually read what I wrote? Not so much, it looks like.

"Prioritizing Abu Ghraib over winning the war on terror" implies strongly that we need Abu Ghraibs to win the war on terror. Most Democrats--really just about every Democrat--think it's not only unnecessary, but actively harmful to the cause. If I had to choose between allowing Abu Ghraib and seeing my family murdered I suppose I would choose the latter. But that's not a choice I have to make; one only makes the other more likely.

"Priotorizing the environment over economic growth" implies that Bush's environmental policies are good for the economy. They're not. There is absolutely no economic reason to subsidize coal companies or let them write your energy policy. There is no economic reason to give away public resources to timber companies and lose money on the sale. Global warming is real and will do real economic harm. So does air pollution. So will future oil shocks if we don't start conserving and moving to renewables.

Also, real economists have heard of externalities. I know--I'm married to one. He's about to get a PhD from a very, very good program. Where the faculty ranges from liberal to conservative, but they're all committed capitalists and almost all committed free traders--and universally agree that Bush's economic policy is a joke. The liberal nobel laureates have denounced him before Congress, one of the leading conservatives just turned down a post as the chair of the council of economic advisers (he cited family reasons, but people tend to think it wasn't only that.)

Michael--I am telling you right now: you are honestly interested in moving the Democratic party to a more serious, more hawkish foreign policy so you feel you can support them again.

Most of your commenters are not. They come to this site because they hate most liberals and Democrats and you make them feel good about that. They want to move the Democrats to the right--but they have no intention of voting for them, ever. They would prefer the party fall apart.

Posted by: Katherine at December 3, 2004 09:16 AM

(and I've written about Abu Ghraib some and a lot about extraordinary rendition, but those aren't the worst things Bush has done. The worst thing is his disaster of a nuclear proliferation policy. As I said, I'm appalled by the torture of prisoners, but I'm even more appalled by the prospect of my family dying in a nuclear attack that a competent President might have prevented.)

Posted by: Katherine at December 3, 2004 09:20 AM

Other examples of political branding:

President Bush is a real down-to-earth man of the people, despite the fact that he was born rich in Connecticut.

The Republicans represent "Real Americans" while the Democrats are the party of elitists, despite the fact that the Democrats won among the poorest and Republicans among the wealthiest.

The Republicans are the party of religion, despite the fact that in 2000 the Democrats fielded a seminary graduate and an Orthodox Jew, and in 2004 they fielded a former choir boy.

And so on. The problem is less that the Democrats are unserious about national security and more that they are unbelieveably bad at talking to people about their seriousness. The leadership of the Republican Party, however, through their behavior, has demonstrated what I can only call an utter lack of seriousness about national security, yet they are considered stronger on this issue. This is, in my mind, pure marketing.

Posted by: Blogtheist at December 3, 2004 09:20 AM

Abu Ghraib is important not just because of the moral dimension, but because it was a national security issue.

That's a novel spin. The media obsession with Abu Graib was about "national security"! Geez, you Dems are indeed TERRIBLE at "branding" then because the whole time we thought the Abu Graib obsession was about bringing down Bush and winning an election, even if it meant inciting the world against us. And it did WONDERS for national security, this obsession, if you consider inciting world hatred against the U.S. as furthering "national security."

Because it wasn't enough that the military was doing it's own internal investigation, no. You had to make it headline news all over the globe in order to win the "hearts and minds" of all our friends and enemies. And you did it all for "national security", and for "hearts and minds", so that people would like us more and so that we'd be safer.

You probably really truly honestly believe that tripe, and that's the most frightening thing about it.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 09:26 AM

"Gerry -- in what sense have the Chinese not embraced capitalism?"

About 1/3 of their industrial production still is from state owned enterprises, employing about 2/3 of urban workers. Predictably, more than half of these SOEs are sinkholes. They have said they want to sell, merge, or close most of them, but so far...

2) their banking system is not exactly what one would call free-market. The beir banks are 100% state owned.

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 09:27 AM

"The beir banks " = their banks, when typed in during a coughing fit and somehow not noticed before clicking post.

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 09:28 AM

They want to move the Democrats to the right--but they have no intention of voting for them, ever. They would prefer the party fall apart.

Katherine,

I few years back I told myself that I'd vote GOP when hell froze over. Well, hell must have frozen over because Bush is the first Republican I've ever voted for. And if hell can freeze over once, it can happen again, regardless of my present state of mind.

I've voted Dem since the early 80s, and in 2000 I voted for Nader. So you may be correct about our present state of mind, but that changes as our choices change.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 09:36 AM

This goes way beyond marketing and branding. The FACT is that the GOP is currently the party of ideas (spreadling liberalism in the mid-east, expanding markets, owership society, etc), even if they often fail at acomplishing them. The Dems are the party of reaction -- no ideas but retreaded, crackpot 1930s and 1960s leftism, but mostly "against" the GOP's ideas (but without any alternatives). Too bad for the Dems that the GOP's ideas are actually popular policies.

If the Dems were smart they would pick up the GOP's ball and run with it and hopefully do it better - that would be the ticket to electoral success (witness Clintion in the 1990s). But sadly they seem more interested in "proving" the voters are idiots. Telling voters what they should want is called shitty marketing (sorry Katherine).

Either come up with some new ideas and try to sell them to the public (as the conservatives have done over the last thirty years) or co-opt the ideas and do a better job at implementation. That would be better for the Democratic Party and better for America.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 09:47 AM

David,

Please allow me to explain why Abu Ghraib was a national security issue.

Background: I work for a part of the government that deals with outreach and "winning hearts and minds".

The security implications of Abu Ghraib is precisely this: even if the obsessed media had not reported it (I wonder what they are supposed to do, if not report events that occur), then the Iraqis who had been tortured would have still told other Iraqis. The systematic torture of multiple prisoners over a long period of time by Americans was not going to be hidden for long.

If American media did not cover it, then you can be assured that foreign media, especially Arab media, would cover it and place the US in an even worse light than American media would. To believe that Abu Ghraib was a scandal because American media dared to cover something that might reflect poorly on the Bush administration is a fantasy. It was a scandal because Americans tortured Iraqis. Someone was going to pick up on it eventually.

So, let's put that aside for now. Right now we are fighting an insurgency in Iraq that consists of foreign fighters, former Baathists, and most importantly, disaffected Sunnis. This last is probably the largest group and therefore the most important. The Bush administration has made it explicit that a political, and not military, solution is necessary to defeat this insurgency. Hence, winning hearts and minds (this, of course, goes way beyond just Iraq to the War on Terror as a whole, and the world in general, but never mind that for now).

Winning hearts and minds becomes much more difficult if American soldiers, who we are trying our hardest to portray as liberators and not conquerors, are torturing Iraqis in a prison Saddam used to torture Iraqis. What Abu Ghraib did was turn more Iraqis against us than would have otherwise. Certainly, the insurgency seized upon this as a propaganda tool, and almost certainly some Iraqis joined the insurgency who wouldn't have otherwise. Almost certainly, some of them have killed American soldiers and their Iraqi allies.

But just as bad was the fact that not only did the Bush administration know about this before the investigation even took place, it was internal Department of Justice and Defense memos, written by White House insiders, that argued torture wasn't that bad after all, and the president somehow magically had the power to ignore the law. When the investigation began and soldiers began facing courts martial, the only heads that rolled were those of a few "bad apples". No important officials lost their jobs. That would have been a symbolic acknowledgement of taking responsibility.

This was not done. The Bush administration handed our enemies a propaganda victory that has very likely led to the deaths of Americans, and then did nothing significant to counteract that propaganda victory. This is why Abu Ghraib was a national security issue, and how the Bush administration dropped the ball on it.

But I have to wonder: is any criticism of Bush's handling of the war an "obsession [with] bringing down Bush"? Isn't a willingness to challenge decisions, even if made by your side, a truer mark of patriotism? Isn't it even conceiveable that Bush has made some mistake, sometime, that could have been rectified?

But then, I also wonder how pointing out that it is morally wrong to torture people can be construed as "inciting world hatred against the U.S." I suppose that if you really believe that any criticism, even if justified, is bad, then, well...I don't know what to say.

Posted by: Blogtheist at December 3, 2004 10:16 AM

Abu Ghraib: Tempest in a teapot.

You are better off with "Free Mumia" as your cause celebre of month.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 10:19 AM

Figures that a fan of Joseph McCarthy would call Abu Ghraib a tempest in a teapot. You're about as fun as Michael Moore.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 3, 2004 10:23 AM

As with McCarthy, let history* judge.

  • as in six months from now)
Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 10:26 AM

Blogtheist,

if you really want to win the "hearts and minds" of the world, try covering some good news in Iraq for a change. There's plenty of it, but you'd never know because the media is being so helpful to national security covering and amplifying all the bad news.

Forgive me if your explanation still sounds like so much rationalization.

Abu Graib wasn't a tempest in a teapot, but the coverage of it certainly was.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 10:34 AM

"Abu Graib wasn't a tempest in a teapot, but the coverage of it certainly was."

Whatever - same thing really.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 10:39 AM

I'm appalled that some people are writing off the Abu Ghraib scandal as simple partisan politics. If it were, I'd imagine that people like Hersch and Moore would have done more with the information they have regarding that prison, and that they withheld as being damaging to the coalition efforts in Iraq.

It's also worth noting that the Abu Ghraib tortures and rapes and the murders of Iraqis by US forces elsewhere were being reported by Iraqi bloggers months before the photos got out. Iraqis knew what was going on there.

I'm starting to think that the more extreme right-wing commenters on this board are more interested in their "brand" of partisanship being seen as victorious than in serious discussion of freedom and democracy in the middle east.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 10:40 AM

"I'm appalled that some people are writing off the Abu Ghraib scandal as simple partisan politics."

Nope...but nice try. I am discussing the story within the context, you are trying to demonize.

But it is cute you think I am the boogie man (i.e. "EXTREEM right wing").

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 10:44 AM

If Liberals want to win the White House, and the War on Terror, they need to formally announce their intention to stop the threat of Islamism, once and for all. I don't think we are going to see that anytime soon.

Thomas Barnett's Core/Gap thesis provides a plan for eventually eliminating the threat of Islamist terror, but I doubt we will ever see it become the centerpiece of liberal foreign policy. The far-Left will never accept some of its contentions. It will take someone of considerable backbone and moral strength to fix the Democratic Party.

Of course, the GOP could always run a terrible candidate in '08. But hoping for that isn't a good strategy.

Posted by: FH at December 3, 2004 10:51 AM

Nope...but nice try. I am discussing the story within the context, you are trying to demonize.

But it is cute you think I am the boogie man (i.e. "EXTREEM right wing").

And the intelligence quotient of the discussion falls another 50%. Where have all your erudite right wing posters gone, Michael? There used to be quite a few here who were interested in actual discussion. The comment section is devolving into something I'd expect on a washroom wall.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 10:56 AM

DPU:

Maybe I should be more in favour of useless and misguided thrashing about in a tinpot dictatorship that were on the verge of collapse anyway. It is a distraction, after all, from the fact that the current administration is an enthusiastic supporter of dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and of the most dangerous dictatorship of all, the nuclear-weapon-equipped and Taliban-riddled government of Pakistan.

Considering the staying power of basket cases like NKorea, Cuba, and pretty much all of Africa, your faith in the self-destruction of pathological states comes across as wishful thinking.

These "tin-pot dictatorships" not only represent the most likely point-of-origins for the next major attack on some Enlightenment-culture city, but also cause a huge amount of human misery within their own borders. About the only thing the Marxists got right is that repressive governments are stable over time and can only be replaced by violent means. So which side are you on, the side of Repression or the side of Revolution?

The Left isn't liberal anymore. It just has tenure.

Posted by: Mark Poling at December 3, 2004 10:59 AM

I see you have sunk into Ad Hominem. Most uncool.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:00 AM

Two things.

One: the media are not a part of the Democratic Party. Last time I checked, they were a group of free market enterprises, free to report what they wanted, while people were free to purchase or not purchase the products they were selling. The Democratic Party does not dictate to the media what they will or will not report - it's not up to them. This is a discussion about the Democratic Party, not private corporations. To say "to win the "hearts and minds" of the world, try covering some good news in Iraq for a change" only means something if I, and the Democratic Party, controls those private corporations. Neither I nor the Party do.

Two: imagine that the president was taped, with his knowledge, saying something along the lines of "I hate Arabs. I want to conquer their lands, steal their oil, rape their women, and destroy their religion". If this tape were somehow to be released, would this not be a tremendous propaganda success for our enemies? Even if US media said nothing about it, do you think the rest of the world would say nothing? Wouldn't this be grossly irresponsible for the president to do? Wouldn't this warrant legitimate criticism on national security grounds?

Acting as if Abu Ghraib is only an issue because of the media is like saying that September 11 wouldn't have been a problem if only the media hadn't focused on it. Would you have preferred that the only ones talking about Abu Ghraib be al Jazeera? Would they have ignored Abu Ghraib if American media had said nothing?

Posted by: Blogtheist at December 3, 2004 11:01 AM

WOW, Karnak returns!

They come to this site because they hate most liberals and Democrats and you make them feel good about that.

Er, my family is primarily liberal and Democrat (growing up Irish Catholic in Mass. will do that to ya). Hate? Hardly. I save that emotion for those that really deserve it, terrorists for example. Heck I don't even hate Michael Moore or Howard Dean. I do have contempt for them though.

They want to move the Democrats to the right--but they have no intention of voting for them, ever.

Many of us have voted for Dems in the past. Heck I even voted for a Dem downticket this year. But keep up the rhetoric, it's been demonstrated to be HIGHLY effective!

They would prefer the party fall apart.

Actually, I'd prefer the grown ups take over. Folks like Lieberman, Bayh, Biden etc. and that a new Scoop Jackson approach dominate the party. Failing that? I hope the Dems fall apart on the way to renewed strength and vigor. Competition in politics and ideas breeds superior results. The Dems aren't currently holding up their end.

Posted by: spc67 at December 3, 2004 11:05 AM

Blogtheist: Please. Nobody disputes your first point, why even bring it up?

On your second point, let's keep in mind context. Was Abu Ghraib the "most important thing" going on in the Iraq story? I would disagree (as would most of the viewing public, according to the ratings drop among left-leaning MSM outlets). I have no problem with reporting the story, but I do have a problem with hyping one. In six months even true believers will see through the hype. Hence it was a tempest in a teapot.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:08 AM

Mark: Considering the staying power of basket cases like NKorea, Cuba, and pretty much all of Africa, your faith in the self-destruction of pathological states comes across as wishful thinking.

Phew, a tone of discussion that rises above "nyah nyah". Thanks Mark.

I didn't express any faith in self-destruction. While Iraq was near collapse because of years of sanctions, and I wanted to point that out, I was more interested in pointring out that the calls for freedom and democracy in the middle east ring hollow when you consider that the administration not only tolerates a number of brutal dictatorships in the middle east, but actively supports them.

So which side are you on, the side of Repression or the side of Revolution?

I'm am for the democracy in the Middle East, and everywhere else, for that matter. Have been for years, even when it was an unpopular concept among right wingers. Why is the US administration not encouraging democracy in Saudia Arabia and Pakistan? It has far more influence in those nations than it does in the others you mentioned.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 11:09 AM

I don't hate Michael Moore or Howard Dean or liberals or leftists or Democrats. I just think they are wrong on the important issues.

I don't hate someone who tells me 2+2=5, but I will argue the math. I think Katherine is either suffering from projection or mistaken in her assumption.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:11 AM

Abu Ghraib was bad. But it is far from the Worst Thing Possible.

It seems that there is more delight in exposing the failures of America - of which there are many - than in delighting in the successes of America - of which there are many more.

No one should sweep bad things under a rug - but Abu Ghraib was discovered and the process of justice was started before the media explosion.

Bad things happen because bad people do things outside of the law. And they get discovered and punished.

Unless, of course, the radio signals tell you that BusHitler and HalliburtonCheney and Rumsfeld had some Wannasee Conference to discuss how to kill and torture Iraqis to the delight of Western Christian Civilization. If that's the case, then there's no sense talking.

Posted by: steve miller at December 3, 2004 11:14 AM

Blog,

I disagree with you on point one. And you'll excuse me for this if Dan Rather's memogate only confirmed that opinion. The handling of Abu Graib was pure Liberal Mainstream Media. Some people even go so far as calling the MSM a "wing" of the Democratic party. I think it's a colorful description, but not entirely untrue.

I fail to understand how point two relates to Abu Graib. Yes, such a tape would be a propaganda coup, and we'd be forced to cover it. But it's the not coverage of Abu Graib that we object to. It's the level of coverage, the amount of coverage, the length of coverage regarding bad news which gives the MSM away. It was an election year, so no amount of spin, negative emphasis, and even FRAUD was spared to bring this president down. You failed, and you hurt this country in the process.

But now you, and others present, will misrepresent what I said as minimizing the gravity of Abu Graib, or as saying we should have covered it up. Those would be your words, not mine. I'm simply saying that we can easily recognize when you folks pick the ball up and run with it.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 11:14 AM

David,

What is the good news from Iraq? On a daily basis, which is the framework within which the media operates, there is no good news. Even Fox News doesn't pretend there is - they mostly just ignore Iraq. If you take 3 steps back you can see the outlines of a better story - no Saddam, the possibility of upcoming free elections, a large Arab population repelled by the jihadist ideology now making their lives miserable on a daily basis. So maybe the larger story is not so bad but the details are pretty miserable - no security, still no reliable electricity in the capital city 18 months after "Mission Accomplished," cell phones failing to work because the insurgents keep destroying the towers, oil production also disrupted constantly by attacks, Americans still taking casualties at a Vietnam-like pace, a brain-drain of the country's intelligentsia to the West, Jordan, Turkey, etc. And all of this directly the fault of the Bush Administration's failure before the invasion to make any serious efforts for post-war planning. It's not just Democrats who need to rethink things. The election is over. It's fine to vote for a vision you agree with but now it's time for serious conservatives to hold Bush accountable for actual results. If they don't you're going to see a lot of movement back toward the isolationist wing of the GOP.

Posted by: Vanya at December 3, 2004 11:22 AM

DPU is all for spreading democracy, EXCEPT when Bush spreads democracy, because Bush has not spread democracy enough. So DPU actually supports less democracy. See how it works?

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:23 AM

Steve: Unless, of course, the radio signals tell you that BusHitler and HalliburtonCheney and Rumsfeld had some Wannasee Conference to discuss how to kill and torture Iraqis to the delight of Western Christian Civilization. If that's the case, then there's no sense talking.

There's a difference between conspiracy theories and critisism of events that damage the proliferation of democracy. As they say, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. That means policing your own to a greater degree than others.

When the Rathergate memos were released, I made a number of postings on my own blog and other comment sections about why I thought they were bogus, and several individuals pointed out that I was hurting the anti-Bush campaign. I disagreed, and said it was essential to be more critical of fraud on one's own side than the other in order to maintain credibility. That's why I cringe whenever I hear Abu Ghraib excused as a tempest in a teapot, or as being not as bad as what Hussein did. In order to maintain any credibility, it's necessary to shine a spotlight on it, and dig this kind of thing out by the roots.

Lastly, there's this item in today's news:
U.S. OKs Evidence Gained Through Torture

WASHINGTON - Evidence gained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in deciding whether to imprison a foreigner indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant, the government says.

Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday.

If that's not a green light for torture, I don't know what is. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 11:29 AM

Vanya: You got the Mission Accomplished" banner in there (Tempest in the Teapot #2), along with a Vietnam reference.

But ignoring those annoying tidbits, are not the IMPORTANT results the bigger story which you described and not the day-to-day details the media hypes up?

And I agree that conservatives should hold Bush accountable to getting the real result. So should liberals and Democrats and everyone else....if they really do believe in the end result.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:29 AM

Winger,

Actually, someone did dispute the point, which is why I made it in the first place. David wrote
if [sic] you really want to win the "hearts and minds" of the world, try covering some good news in Iraq for a change.
The implication is that negative coverage of Iraq is somehow the responsibility of people like me.

And I certainly never said that Abu Ghraib was even remotely the most important issue. What I did say was that Abu Ghraib was a security issue, and tried to explain why I thought it was a security issue.

The reason I discussed Abu Ghraib in the first place was the implication, made by someone else, that Democrats somehow "prioritize" Abu Ghraib over "winning the war on terror". I was trying to argue that dealing with Abu Ghraib was, in fact, actually part of winning the war on terror. If someone were serious about national security, regardless of their party affiliation or their personal feelings towards Bush, then they would be critical of the administration's handling of Abu Ghraib. If someone cared more about the country than personal loyalty to Bush, conservative ideology, or the Republican Party, then they would have done the same.

But this is exactly what I mean when I talk about "branding". We place cognitive filters over everything that we learn. If facts challenge our beliefs, if they are entrenched enough, we typically reject the facts. A political brand is one such set of filters. Bush mishandled Abu Ghraib (among other things - this was just the example someone else used).

If Bush mishandles national security issue X, we have a couple of choices. We can say "I am critical of Bush's handling of X because it makes us less safe". Or we can let our cognitive filters, our brand loyalty, affect what we believe, and say "criticism of Bush for X is bad, even if his handling of X was also bad, and so we should not criticize Bush".

It is possible to like a President and still think he makes mistakes. No one is perfect. But the fact that Bush can make mistakes on national security and never be called on them by almost anyone on his side signals to me that the brand, and not objective reality, is at work here.

Posted by: Blogtheist at December 3, 2004 11:29 AM

Winger: DPU is all for spreading democracy, EXCEPT when Bush spreads democracy, because Bush has not spread democracy enough.

I notice that you ignored the question of why the Bush administration has not promoted democracy in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Is it because you don't know the answer, or because you reach an incovenient conclusion, or because you just like making sarcastic remarks rather than discussing the issue?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 11:33 AM

Vanya,

there is so much distortion in your post I hardly know where to begin. And I should be studying for the bar instead of wasting my time convincing the unconvinsable.

Fox doesn't "ignore" Iraq. I watch it, so I should know. Americans aren't taking casualties at a "Vietnamesque" pace. Ridiculous. You've come to believe your own propaganda. It's called being brainwashed.

Good news isn't that hard to find:

http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/sep2004/a091504c.html

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=40844

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/part9.html

http://www.operationiraqichildren.org/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/part5.html

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/ad983156332a819185256cb600677af3/8ffe890149cf558585256f15004b9526?OpenDocument

I could go on, but there was too much good news, and I have to study.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 11:33 AM

"I cringe whenever I hear Abu Ghraib excused as a tempest in a teapot, or as being not as bad as what Hussein did."

Which of course I did not do. I said nothing about the morality of the actual acts. Despite what you may believe, I am against murder and rape.

I only commented that the hyped coverage and actual impact of the events were a tempest in a teapot. But keep up the demonization, it is fun to watch!

And I see how quick you are to hype up the Gitmo story as "US licensing torture" without any other reasearch or evidence. We can debate if this is right or wrong all day (personally I think this is wrong to torture) but to hype it up as "US licensing torture" is incorrect. There is more to this story I am sure.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:36 AM

But the fact that Bush can make mistakes on national security and never be called on them by almost anyone on his side signals to me that the brand, and not objective reality, is at work here.

Bush has made lots of mistakes on national Security and elsewhere; here's a brief incomplete list

1) Endorsing 9/11 commission's horrendous recomendations
2) Not increasing the size of our military
3) Not firing George Tenet fast enough

other mistakes, steel tarriffs, not cutting domestic spending, not moving fast enough on SS, new Medicare bill, not vetoing MCCain Feingold.

But we don't get to compare W to perfection, only to our available choice. John Kerry? Get serious.

Posted by: spc67 at December 3, 2004 11:37 AM

"I notice that you ignored the question of why the Bush administration has not promoted democracy in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan."

I notice that Bush has not cured cancer either. Clearly he is against curing cancer.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:39 AM

Which of course I did not do. I said nothing about the morality of the actual acts. Despite what you may believe, I am against murder and rape.

I was responding to Mark's post, not yours, Winger, and I'm not sure why you think you were mentioned in any regard. And I did not express or imply that you or any other poster, especially Mark, said those things in this discussion. But I have heard them expressed, and they do make me cringe.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 11:41 AM

I notice that Bush has not cured cancer either. Clearly he is against curing cancer.

And again you have no answer to the question except a sarcastic remark

Sarcasm is cheap and easy, Winger. Not using sarcasm is hard.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 11:42 AM

"If someone were serious about national security, regardless of their party affiliation or their personal feelings towards Bush, then they would be critical of the administration's handling of Abu Ghraib."

But what if I believe that HE DID HANDLE IT as good as it needed handling. Who is it to say that it isn't YOU who seeing this incorrectly through a cognitive filters? You make good points, but still...

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:43 AM

Blogthiest, that was a fantastic post, most of all because of the exchange that it set off. I like it when liberals are the tough-love patriots and conservatives are squalling Neanderthals. It very nearly makes me glad that I voted for Kerry.

Unfortunately for the Democratic party, exchanges like that are far rarer than they should be. More typical is the comments section for Matt Yglesias' response to Beinert's article. Even the readers of one of the most sensible liberals out there seem to be largely people who are driven mad with hatred at the mention of the idea that we're at war with Islamofascism.

Are there at least as many right-wingers who are just as hateful and non-sensical? Of course-- probably more, and frequently worse. When someone like Ann Coulter says that liberals are traitors, though, it's hard to argue persuasively against her when so very many liberals reacted to the election by talking semi-seriously about leaving the country.

As much as I'd like to say that the Democrats' road back to relevance on the national level consists of adopting exactly the policy positions that I'd like, the bottom line is that the problem's rhetorical. There is a small but loud minority of the American center-left that really does instinctively side with our enemies, and that really does have nothing but contempt for red-state America. I meet them all of the time. Many of them voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 if they voted at all. Michael Moore is the classic example of this group, and rather than denounce him like Bill Clinton denounced Sister Souljah in 1992, the Democratic party embraced him this time around-- and did worse than in 2000 almost everywhere in the country, against a president whose approval rating hardly broke 50% during the campaign.

According to every poll I've ever seen, self-described conservatives make up 10-20% more of the electorate than liberals do. That means that the Democrats have to win moderates overwhelmingly-- by more than the 10% that Kerry managed. Take it from this moderate-- the price of that is going to be alienating some of the extreme elements of your base.

Posted by: Townleybomb at December 3, 2004 11:47 AM

DPU: OK, I am sure it was just coincidence that you called out the "tempest in a teapot" comment. It was wrong of me to assume you were talking about me, but I am sure you can see why it looked that way to me.

"And again you have no answer to the question except a sarcastic remark"

I was illustrating a flaw in your logic. How about trying to fix?

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 11:48 AM

DPU, you say that the Iraqi regime was near collapse, but again I've not seen much evidence presented that this was the case. (As a matter of fact, I saw a news article a month or so ago lamenting that infant mortality was up since Saddam was toppled, which made my brain hurt a bit because I also distinctly remember baby coffins carried through the streets of Baghdad, denouncing Western sanctions.) As the UN Oil-for-Food scandal evolves, it looks pretty clear the only people hurting during the sanctions regime were ordinary Iraqis, especially those outside the current "triangle of death".

As for the US encouraging democracy in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan:

A. The US, last I heard, had pulled troops totally out of The Kingdom, and were advising Americans to avoid living, working, or visiting there. Not all pressure has to come from the point of a gun, and I don't believe all of it is.

B. The US is also working with Pakistan to ensure the saftey and security of Pakistans nuclear arsenal. (Which of course we now know what they actually have, a distinct improvement from cough the Clinton years cough before.) That may be taking precedence over pushing Democracy. Presidents for Life come and go, Uranium 238 has a half-life of 4.5×10^9 years.

C. The Bush Doctrine has been in effect going on 3 years now. Change takes time. Problems have to be prioritized. Saudi Arabia isn't going to nuke us. Iraq given half a chance would have. (Just a conviction I have, but better backed by historical record than your assetation about Iraq's instability.)

D. The next most immediate threat, and the one where we have least leverage, would seem to be Iran. What's the Democratic consensus on dealing with Iran? Edward's statements before the election were frankly frightening (not that the Europeans are currently doing any better).

My domestic policy preferences are Libertarian, but on foeign policy I'm pure Jacksonian; in the end I don't give a rat's gluteus who's President as long as I agree with whatever core principals seem to be guiding policy. I think the Bush Doctrine beats the "prostrate ourselves before the UN" doctrine that was the only identifiable position I could discern from the Kerry campaign. And on domestic issues it was the purest of washes. So I supported Bush and will continue to do so until somebody presents a better vision.

P.S. As a side note, Blogtheism, I look forward to your inside scoops about how Condi handles the State Department.

Posted by: Mark Poling at December 3, 2004 11:53 AM

Sarcasm is cheap and easy, Winger. Not using sarcasm is hard.

double,

LOL. It happens to be your specialty! Watching you get some of your own medicine warms my cockles ;-)

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 11:56 AM

I was illustrating a flaw in your logic. How about trying to fix?

I didn't see any illustration of a flaw in any logic. I saw a sarcastic comment, which is usually intended to provoke an emotional response rather than an intellectual one.

However, let me see if I can replicate what you think the flaw is. You say that Bush has not cured cancer, and that this should not be extrapolated to mean that Bush is in favor of cancer. But supposing there was an easy and cheap way to cure cancer, and yet Bush chose another path that was both expensive and uncertain of success. What would that imply?

And one would still have to ask why the cheap and easy method was not used.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 11:57 AM

LOL. It happens to be your specialty! Watching you get some of your own medicine warms my cockles ;-)

Example please?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 11:58 AM

double,

now I've placed you in the situation you placed me in yesterday of having to prove I wasn't uncivil. How does it feel?

;-)

Suck it up, it'll pass.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 12:01 PM

Winger,

OF COURSE I am seeing things through cognitive filters.

I just think mine are better than yours, natch.

And Mark - inside scoop. Back before Condi was NSA, DoD used to bring her over to State for briefings and such. She used to get into screaming matches in the briefing rooms with staff.

State hates Condi and Condi hates State. Should be fun.

Posted by: Blogtheist at December 3, 2004 12:03 PM

State hates Condi and Condi hates State. Should be fun.

Indeed. And watching the purge at CIA is fun too.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 12:06 PM

State hates Condi and Condi hates State. Should be fun.

Well that's a start. Two broken institutions, CIA and State, now have chiefs who are willing to break glass on the way to better gov't. Cool.

Posted by: spc67 at December 3, 2004 12:06 PM

"But supposing there was an easy and cheap way to cure cancer, and yet Bush chose another path that was both expensive and uncertain of success"

But this is an incorrect assumption as curing cancer (like spreading democracy) is expensive and uncertain of success. Assuming other methods are "cheap and easy" is a dangerous assumption.

Further, if one is already committed to one path as expensive and uncertain as the others, and this path leads to the same result with the same cost and risks, what is the use about whining about the other paths? Unless of course, you are not in favor in reaching the end result.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 12:06 PM

Geez, David. Have you even looked at some of the places you're linking to for "good news"? Here's one of the top 10 improvements in the lives of Iraqi Children according to the U.S. Government: "Nearly 3,000 soccer balls were shipped on May 30 and another 60,000 balls on their way to Iraq through a private/public partnership and the U.S. soccer community."
Here's another one: "Nearly all Iraqi children have finished their exams from last year and are ready to start a new school year in the fall. All universities are reopened." After 2 years that's the best we can do? Restore the status quo ante?

That reads like a Michael Moore parody. And seriously David, people like you who refuse to take their heads out of the sand are doing just as much to undermine our troops as all the Michael Moores and Susan Sarandons of the world.

And as far as it being a wild distortion to compare casualty rates in Iraq to Vietnam: to date in Iraq in less than 2 years we've lost 1200 men and had another 9300 wounded, official Pentagon figures. There would be a lot more dead without the advances in medical technology over the last 30 years so I don't think our soldiers are having a much easier time of it than our fathers did in Nam. In fact it's kind of insulting to the soldiers now in Iraq to imply that they are not facing real combat. Ask the Marines in Fallujah whether or not we are still at war. In fact I'm sure it was a hell of a lot more fun to be stationed in Saigon in 1967 than Baghdad in 2004.

If you had actually read my post you'd realize that I see lots of reasons why Iraq may be succesful over the next 20 years. But I see very little good today and the media's job is to look at today's news. I'll say it again - the election is over, there is nothing to be gained at this point by mindlessly defending Bush on every single point, the Democrats aren't taking over.

Posted by: Vanya at December 3, 2004 12:12 PM

Mark: A. The US, last I heard, had pulled troops totally out of The Kingdom, and were advising Americans to avoid living, working, or visiting there. Not all pressure has to come from the point of a gun, and I don't believe all of it is.

I'm not sure how you think that is influencing the Saudis toward democracy. Surely that was more a reaction to the extremists inside Saudi Arabia who were targetting western technicians in an attempt to drive them out of the country in order to destabilize the government without damaging the oil-producing infrastructure?

B. The US is also working with Pakistan to ensure the saftey and security of Pakistans nuclear arsenal. (Which of course we now know what they actually have, a distinct improvement from cough the Clinton years cough before.) That may be taking precedence over pushing Democracy. Presidents for Life come and go, Uranium 238 has a half-life of 4.5×10^9 years.

That is hardly promoting democracy, is it? And if you're correct, surely that's a message to other dictatorships in the region that the US will not attempt to promote democracy in your nation if you have nukes.

Besides, Pakistan is hardly stable right now, and that in part is certainly due to the lack of democracy in the country.

C. The Bush Doctrine has been in effect going on 3 years now. Change takes time. Problems have to be prioritized. Saudi Arabia isn't going to nuke us. Iraq given half a chance would have. (Just a conviction I have, but better backed by historical record than your assetation about Iraq's instability.)

Nuke you with what? Pakistan is more likely to nuke your troops in the Gulf than Iraq was, and Pakistan has been the greatest source of unregulated prolfieration of nuclear technology in the region than any other nation or organization. Why wasn't the founder, promoter, and supplier of the Taliban next on the list after Afghanistan?

D. The next most immediate threat, and the one where we have least leverage, would seem to be Iran. What's the Democratic consensus on dealing with Iran? Edward's statements before the election were frankly frightening (not that the Europeans are currently doing any better).

I agree that proliferation of nukes to Iran is the most frightening development in the region. I'm not sure what could be done to prevent it. What's the Republican consensus on dealing with Iran? I'm pretty sure there's a lot of head-scratching going on in Washington right now. But promoting democracy in Iran seems unlikely if they're invaded, and invasion to effect regime change in Iran is unfeasible.

So I'm still not sure why democracy has not been promoted in Egypt, Jordan, The Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. All would have been easier than Iraq.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 12:15 PM

David: now I've placed you in the situation you placed me in yesterday of having to prove I wasn't uncivil. How does it feel?

I wasn't getting you to prove that you were uncivil, I was making an unkind speculation about your personality. And taking a shot is called banter, not sarcasm.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 12:17 PM

Vanya: How do the cascualty rates compare with the Spanish-American War? The Hundred Years War? The Philippines Insurrection? WHO CARES?

"there is nothing to be gained at this point by mindlessly defending Bush on every single point"

Way to beg the question.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 12:17 PM

oh but Vanya,

isn't this news found in the links I gave you also good news?:

As of July 21, estimated crude oil export revenue had reached $9.2 billion for 2004. While the unemployment rate in the country is high by U.S. standards at 28 percent, far more people are working than just six months ago. According to a recent survey, average household income had risen from $124 a month to $214. Nearly 3,000 loans totaling more than $6 million have been disbursed to micro-enterprises and small businesses throughout the country. And the New Iraq Dinar has been relatively stable for more than six months at around 1,425-1,460 to the U.S. dollar.

The report says there have been major breakthroughs in water supply and sanitation. Some 12 million people are being served by new projects across Iraq. A poor area of Baghdad with nearly 1 million people is now getting water from a rehabilitated water treatment plant. Some 30-40 percent of the marshlands deliberately drained by Saddam Hussein in his genocidal campaign against the marsh Arabs have been reflooded. A program last year cleared more than 17,000 kilometers of Iraqi waterways to improve water flow and irrigation. Another program is set to clear some 20,000 kilometers and employ around 100,000 Iraqis.

Health care for Iraqis has been greatly improved as well, according to the report. It is estimated that 85 percent of children have been immunized and rates are increasing with ongoing programs. More than 240 hospitals are operating along with 1,200 preventive health clinics.

There are now nearly 2,500 schools in operation across the country with 4,500 new ones planned. Another 1,200 will be rehabilitated. Some 32,000 secondary school teachers and administrators have been trained. More than 8.7 million textbooks have been printed and distributed, along with large amounts of equipment including student desks, chairs, cabinets, chalkboards and teacher kits.

Power supplies to civilians at 120,000 megawatt hours are now higher than pre-war levels of 95,600 MHP.

The security front is also greatly improved, according to the declassified report. There are now 88,500 police on the job with a goal of 94,400. There are 18,200 border enforcement officers with a goal of 20,400. The Iraqi national guard is up to 37,400 strong reaching toward a goal of 41,100 and there are some 11,200 Iraqi army regulars with a goal of 35,200.

U.S.-led coalition forces have also been buoyed by last week's news that the rebel Shiite Muslim militia led by Moqtada al-Sadr has pledged to disarm in what could be a major advance for efforts to calm violence in Iraq ahead of elections due in January.

So you see, it boils down to what you choose to emphasize, just as you choose to emphasize "soccer balls." And isn't that my very point anyway? Emphasis? You've proven it.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 12:20 PM

Sigh. I tried to bow out on a cheerful, comedic note. But I just can't resist!

From Kevin Drum:
Consider:

9/11 was the biggest CIA failure in history. No one was fired for this.

The CIA's assessment of Iraq's WMD program turned out to be completely wrong. George Tenet reportedly called it a "slam dunk." No one was fired for this.

The Senate Intelligence Committee reported that the CIA didn't have a clue about the likely extent of the postwar insurgency. No one was fired for this.

During the presidential campaign, several CIA sources leaked material to the press that was damaging to President Bush. Shortly after the election, people started getting fired.
I love all this talk about how exciting it is to watch the shake up of this or that "broken institution". And by "love" I mean "am made to vomit in disgust by". Posted by: Blogtheist at December 3, 2004 12:21 PM

I wasn't getting you to prove that you were uncivil, I was making an unkind speculation about your personality.

uhmmmyeah. ok double. My bad.

;-)

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 12:23 PM

Gee, it couldn't be a combination of above that got people fired, could it? Gotta be something sinister!

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 12:23 PM

Winger: Further, if one is already committed to one path as expensive and uncertain as the others, and this path leads to the same result with the same cost and risks, what is the use about whining about the other paths? Unless of course, you are not in favor in reaching the end result.

Sooner or later, one has to look at a situation and realize the end result cannot be reached. Many of those who opposed the war in Iraq did so because we thought it was ill-conceived adventurism that would not only fail to meet its professed goals, but would damage efforts to meet those goals. I personally do not believe that we have reached a point where we can say that regime change in Iraq has succeeded or failed, but it's not looking very good to me. Now, are you saying that unless I have something nice to say about the Iraqi situation, I should just keep quiet about it? Or that any negative discussion of Iraq policy is just "whining?"

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 12:26 PM

"Now, are you saying that unless I have something nice to say about the Iraqi situation, I should just keep quiet about it?"

Nope.

"Or that any negative discussion of Iraq policy is just "whining?""

Nope.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 12:29 PM

winger,

LOL. Just as all strawmen should be handled.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 12:34 PM

Winger: Nope

Excellent. Something you and I can agree on, and no sarcasm is involved.

David: LOL. Just as all strawmen should be handled.

A direct question is not a strawman. Now if I had said "Fascist right wingers just want to shut up anyone that doesn't agree with administration policy," or "In typical conservative fashion, any credible discussion of Iraq policy is dismissed as 'whining'," that would be your strawman.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 12:44 PM

I think a lot of above (sadly) proves my point on how most "liberals" define their positions as being against Bush and the GOP (i.e. reacting) instead of being for something.

This is really too bad and ironically shows how much power Bush the man has over them. For me, Bush the man is mostly inconsquential. I support the Iraq strategy because it is a correct approach to the end of a safer America and more free world. Supporting Bush's support of this strategy is just a means to an end.

We see a lot of "critical thought" about the intentions or sentiments of Bush the man instead of new ideas or approaches for the problem at hand. Very little of "We should be doing this" or "Why not try this..." And whenver these words are said it is usually in REACTION to Bush "We should be doing this INSTEAD of the way Bush is doing it" or "We are not trying this BECAUSE Bush is stupid/evil/fascist etc"

This approach is bad for the Dems and bad for America, and for the latter's sake I wish they would wake up and realize it.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 12:48 PM

I think a lot of above (sadly) proves my point on how most "liberals" define their positions as being against Bush and the GOP (i.e. reacting) instead of being for something.

First of all, where?

Second, as far as defining one's position as being agaisnt the other side instead of being for something:

Winger: Too bad you are taken in by this 1960s Leftist propaganda piece of garbage.

Winger: You really want to reform "liberalism" (whatever that means nowadays!) or the Democrats, how about dropping all the liberal/leftist mythology from the 1930s - 1960s and get with the times?

Winger: If the Dems were smart they would pick up the GOP's ball and run with it and hopefully do it better - that would be the ticket to electoral success (witness Clintion in the 1990s). But sadly they seem more interested in "proving" the voters are idiots.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 12:57 PM

Winger,

let me just give you a heads up here. You'll never have the last word with double.

;-)

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 01:03 PM

Hey, I gave you the last word yesterday.

Ungrateful right-wing wretch.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 01:05 PM

"First of all, where?"

Mostly your posts on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

"Second, as far as defining one's position as being agaisnt the other side instead of being for something"

But I am FOR Democrats becoming a Party of Ideas again (such as what Totten suggests), those were suggestions. Like I said before, I have nothing against Democrats as people.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 01:05 PM

double,

quite right. You did. I should give you more positive reinforcement. My bad.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 01:08 PM

Winger: Mostly your posts on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Because I'm critical of what Bush has not done to promote democracy and defeat islamic fundamentalist terrorism as a political force as opposed to the poor job he has done, that means I'm defining my political stance purely as anti-Bush?

I posted earlier that I supported the administration's regime change in Afghanistan. How does that make me into a anti-Bush automoton? And I've asked what I think are some legitimate questions that still haven't been answered satisfactorily. I hardly think that makes me merely anti-Bush.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 01:12 PM

"I'm just plain sick and tired of trying to convince other liberals that America is now engaged in a multi-decade struggle against Islamo-fascism, and that this struggle will be the central organizing principle in American politics for years to come."

Reasonably enough. Nobody believes it, in their bones. It's just a slogan, something for people to use to help them be proud of flexing american muscles.

If we believed we were in a multi-decade struggle we'd set up a great big program to teach arabic to americans. We'd get enough arabic-speakers to teach arabic in the public schools. Trying to fight islamo-fascism without knowing the language is fighting with one hand tied behind your back and your feet hobbled. But it appears our budget for teaching arabic -- apart from teaching it to current military officers -- is zero.

If we believed we were in a multi-decade struggle we'd be inviting moderate muslims to talk to us. Put them on the radios, invite them to churches to explain their religion, etc. They are our essential allies against islamo-fascism, and it's absurd to ignore them. We need to know our enemy and know our friends. But from all I've heard our budget for that is -- zero.

If we want democracies in muslim countries, we should look at examples where dictators have successfully stepped down and survived, and look for ways to promote similar plans to egypt, syria, etc.

In jordan the king apparently has a lot of support, he could set up a constitutional monarchy and step back until the democratic government made such a mess of things that people insisted he intervene.

In syria the top guy is new at the job and mostly doesn't have bloody hands, though many of his supporters do. Could they get a transition without much retribution?

In egypt the despotic regime probably couldn't hold on without US aid. We can't expect them to give up peacefully if they'd be killed for it, but there might be a way to get them off the hook. Much more likely we could work out a smooth transition someplace we're already in control than places we have to fight our way in. Clearly egypt is the best place to start for bringing democracy to muslim nations. But there's no evidence that we've made any start at all in egypt or jordan, much less syria.

If we're going to be in a multi-decade struggle against islamo-fascists, we really ought to proclaim an ultimatum. It would say what they have to do to get us to lay off. I'm not clear what the ultimatum should include. Do they have to give up islam? Probably not. Do they have to give up international terrorism? Probably. Do they have to accept that we will keep israel/palestine, iraq, iran, and kuwait in perpetuity or until the oil runs out? Do they have to become materialist consumer cultures where people spend their money at malls for trinkets they hope will establish their status? I'm real unclear what our victory conditions are, and until we decide that how will we know when we've won?

So here's how it looks to me:

Nobody is acting like they believe we're in a multi-decade struggle with islamo-fascism. The people who say that's what we've got aren't at all acting serious about it. Why should I take them seriously when they don't take themselves seriously?

Posted by: J Thomas at December 3, 2004 01:14 PM

"that means I'm defining my political stance purely as anti-Bush"

First of all, I didn't say this...

"How does that make me into a anti-Bush automoton?"

...or this.

"And I've asked what I think are some legitimate questions that still haven't been answered satisfactorily"

Questions for me? Please ask again, this is a long thread.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 01:16 PM

"Nobody is acting like they believe we're in a multi-decade struggle with islamo-fascism."

Well not according to your arbitrary and unreasonable standards.

"Why should I take them seriously when they don't take themselves seriously?"

Actually we are wondering the same thing about you.

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 01:18 PM

If we believed we were in a multi-decade struggle we'd set up a great big program to teach arabic to americans.

No we wouldn't. We'd be teaching english to Arabs, and spreading the good news of democracy and the American way of life, just as we are doing this very day.

We would not be learning about islam (because we don't care about islam, nor should we have to care), but we'd be talking to muslims about democracy and pluralism, just as we are doing. Just tune in to Al-Hura, the Free One.

We didn't turn into Germans and Nazis and Japs to defeat fascism. But given the upside world you live in, it's no surprise you think we should turn into Arabs and muslims to defeat islamofascism.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 01:22 PM

J Thomas: Is your point that everyone but you is delusional or that they are lying?

Posted by: Winger at December 3, 2004 01:26 PM

Learning english all the rage in Iraq:

http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=42199&SelectRegion=Iraq_Crisis&SelectCountry=IRAQ

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 01:33 PM

DEAR EVERYONE YOU ARE MAKING ME VERY SAD :(

J Thomas: Believe it or not, it is possible to believe that you are engaged in a multi-decade fight with Islamofascism and also to believe that that fight will consist largely of actual physical fighting. It is also possible to point out the very many, very real, and very dangerous mistakes that the Bush administration has made in that fight in a way that is persuasive to those of us who are at least somewhat sympathetic to the administration, but you have to make them listen to you first. The way to do that is must assuredly NOT using smug phraseology like, "materialist consumer cultures where people spend their money at malls for trinkets they hope will establish their status". Stuff like that makes you sound like an art student rather than a concerned citizen, and no one likes art students. Not even other art students.

David: Believe it or not, it is actually useful, when fighting an enemy, to be able to understand them. One of the many failures of the Clinton administration was not ensuring that there were enough Arabic speakers in the government to find out what Al Qaeda was up to. One of the reasons for this is that very few native-born Americans study Arabic, and that most of those who do so learn it from people who absolutely detest the U.S. government. To my knowledge, the Bush administration has so far done almost nothing to rectify this. It's pretty obvious from your comment that you don't have a whole lot of experience dealing with people from other cultures, so you're going to have to trust me on this, but learning about and living in a foreign culture is not the same thing as joining it. On the contrary-- my experience of living and working in Japan made me MUCH more concious of how lucky I am to be an American. And again, you'll have to trust me on this, but it is simply impossible to persuade foreigners of ANYTHING without knowing how they think and speaking your language.

Posted by: Townleybomb at December 3, 2004 01:52 PM

Townleybob:

"Stuff like that makes you sound like an art student rather than a concerned citizen, and no one likes art students. Not even other art students."

Priceless.

Posted by: Mark Poling at December 3, 2004 02:16 PM

Townley,

I grew up overseas, in Africa and Latin America, so I'm more cross-culturally literate than most. I then came to the U.S. for college. I don't disagree that we need to understand our adversaries, and that we need more arabic speakers. But I don't see J Thomas's total transformation of our society (for example, arabic in public schools) as required proof that Bush is serious about this multi-decade war on islamic fascism. That was my basic point. I see far more evidence of this multi-decade struggle in our efforts to transform the middle east however. But to people like J Thomas, who believe what they need and want to believe, transforming the middle east is just an exercise in making mallrats out of them.

Posted by: David at December 3, 2004 02:19 PM

"If we believed we were in a multi-decade struggle we'd set up a great big program to teach arabic to americans."

No. That is what we would do if we were anticipating losing that multi-decade struggle, or thinking we could have sit ins and talk them to death.

Fortunately, most Americans understand you cannot negotiate or reason with people who think their religion compells them to kill non-believers, or who think their religion permits wife beating, or other indications of a general lack of civility and rationality.

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 02:38 PM

"Stuff like that makes you sound like an art student rather than a concerned citizen, and no one likes art students. Not even other art students."

My wife, an art teacher, protests that art students do not sound like that, idiots do. FWIW

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 02:45 PM

Thomas Barnett's Core/Gap thesis provides a plan for eventually eliminating the threat of Islamist terror, but I doubt we will ever see it become the centerpiece of liberal foreign policy.

Well not specifically about Islamist terror, but it's been the centerpiece of liberal foreign policy since the 90s.

Posted by: Toadmonster at December 3, 2004 02:54 PM

David, the idea that you should learn about your enemy because you shouldn't have to care, is an idea for arrogant losers.

We had plenty of german-speakers in WWII and it helped us a whole lot. It helped a whole lot during the occupation too.

We had fewer japanese-speakers and that cost us during the war. It was far harder to arrange surrenders etc. There were a few examples of japanese bodies getting booby-trapped and fake surrenders where the surrendering troops opened fire, and we didn't get them straightened out, and so we wound up having to kill a whole lot of people who would have preferred to surrender -- and some of them killed some of us in the process. And of course our tactical intelligence was weaker than it was on the german side.

It also got in our way a lot during the occupation, things weren't as smooth as they might have been, but since the japanese were utterly defeated we slid by.

If we're going to be fighting a thirty years' war in muslim countries, the more recruits who already know some arabic, the better. Our children need spanish, and if we're going to be fighting muslims for decades they need arabic. Sure, we can try to depend on local muslims to translate for us. We did a lot of that in vietnam, and it could be argued we got by OK. But when you already know what you're heading into, it's stupid not to get a whole lot of young translators.

Similarly, you aren't going to defeat islamo-fascism without learning about islam -- unless you hope to do it mostly with nukes. You have to find out what moderate islamists think, and what converts them into islamo-fascists. Otherwise you're very likely to convert a whole lot of moderate islamists into your enemy, for no reason except your own ignorance. And being intentionally ignorant is a kind of stupidity, right?

If it's going to be a significant multi-decade conflict, then it's worth having the language in the public schools, at least as an elective. It's unserious not to do that, if the prediction of the extent of the conflict are for real.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 3, 2004 03:05 PM

In my judgment, to win Kerry needed to say convincingly and consistently that (1) totalitarian Islam is the enemy of the 21st century and the U.S. needs to confront it on every front, (2) the war in Iraq was not the next logical step in the battle against totalitarian Islam and, it was a mistake to invade, (3) but now that we are in Iraq, we must see it through and we must build a stable Iraq. He was pretty good about (3), but inconsistent about (2) and relatively silent about (1). As a result, just enough swing voters decided to go with the devil they knew.

toddpearson.blogspot.com

Posted by: Todd Pearson at December 3, 2004 03:08 PM

Winger, not everybody but me. Lots of people don't believe in the multi-decade war on islam. Lots of people believe that it's hype, that a bunch of guys are all nostalgic for the lost USSR threat and are desperately casting about for some other threat that can be made to seem like a replacement.

I tend to think the people who haven't actually looked seriously at the islamic threat are delusional, and the ones who've given it a careful look and who still say it's a great big threat are the ones who're lying.

To make it into a serious threat we must postulate that they get nukes and that they're willing to use them. When we made this claim about the USSR, it was based mostly on the idea that they were dedicated communists who cared more about getting rid of capitalists than they did about the survival of the russian people. The scenarios worked out like, they started a massive nuclear war that kills 99.9% of us and 99% of them, and then they come out of the shelters and feel like they're ahead of the game. It took that sort of thinking to seriously consider them starting such a war. Now we're looking for ways to imagine muslims starting a nuclear war against a tremendously unfavorable ratio of warheads. It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't need to make sense -- we can simply start out with the assumption that they're completely batshit crazy and then we can add any further assumptions we like.

It actually makes more sense to worry about fundamentalist christians getting their hands on nukes. They're the ones who have the beliefs about the End Times. They're the ones who don't mind 90% of their own population getting martyred before the Rapture.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 3, 2004 03:35 PM

David and Gerry,

While I frequently concurr with your viewpoints, on the issue of learning Arabic I think you are mistaken. Should we be bringing English to the Muslim world? Absolutely. But we should also be providing college scholarships to those who major in Arab/Muslim studies and demonstrate proficiency in Arabic. They are not mutually exclusive. Why? Because we are going to be engaged in a war with elements of the Muslim world for the rest of my life and we need to remember that most basic of war tenets.

Know Thy Enemy!

The more of us who are proficient in Arabic, the more rapidly we will kill them, break their stuff and defeat them. In addition, the better we can make our case in their language, the faster we can swing moderates to join us in ridding the Muslim world of their loonies.

Posted by: spc67 at December 3, 2004 03:39 PM

J Thomas - I disagree. Strategists in the west realized that the USSR would be less likely to use nukes if they were guaranteed an overwhelming response, and startegists in the USSR realized the same thing, and the mutually assured destruction strategy was born. Both sides agreed to treaties the actually banned defensive systems like ABMs and inward-looking radar systems and the like.

What prevented use was a known enemy assets that you were guaranteed to destroy in a response. There is no such deterrence with terrorists, and it's actually to their strategic advantage if the other side causes massive amounts of casualties. So I look on the nuclear terrorist threat as an extremely serious issue, whether by Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalists, American right-wing anti-government whackos, or European stalinist loonies.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 3, 2004 03:54 PM

Townleybomb, "Believe it or not, it is possible to believe that you are engaged in a multi-decade fight with Islamofascism and also to believe that that fight will consist largely of actual physical fighting."

Well, yes. It's possible to believe that it will be like a video game, the poorly-armed muslims show up in groups and you shoot them and the bodies disappear and get replaced with more targets. It's even possible to believe that we're in the End Times and the game will be called on account of Armageddon.

"....you have to make them listen to you first. The way to do that is must assuredly NOT using smug phraseology like, "materialist consumer cultures where people spend their money at malls for trinkets they hope will establish their status"."

Yes. Sorry about that. I was feeling frustrated. I have seen absolutely no discussion about what we would consider an acceptable end to our proposed multi-decade war on islam. If they were to get organised enough to surrender, what could they expect? We've provided no clue. We talk about turning them into democracies, but that's clearly not the issue -- our CIA has done indirect attacks on democracies in greece, iran, chile, nicaragua, etc, while we have propped up a collection of dictatorships when we thought that democracy might give a result against us.

I've seen the claim that we need to -- and will -- convert muslim societies into consumer societies and that will destroy their muslim identity and all will to resist. This seems unlikely to me. The more oil that gets burned to create, distribute, and operate consumer goods for foreign muslims, the less oil is left for consumer goods for us. Unless we somehow transform our own culture we must arrange to keep muslim countries poor. Turning their citizens into mall rats would be self-defeating. I didn't intend to imply that it was or should be our goal. I meant to point out that we haven't stated our goals beyond a bit of vague blather on that level.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 3, 2004 04:31 PM

DPU, I agree with you about the US and USSR, and it worked to the point that in later years serious american analysts discounted the belief that the USSR would attempt a first strike.

The same logic applies to a lesser extent to most nations that can produce nukes. They don't want their nukes going to anybody who might use the things and turn them into targets. So the russians didn't give nukes to cuba, they put nukes in cuba that were managed only by USSR troops. And the USA didn't give even tactical nukes to NATO, we kept them under strict US control. Similarly for other nations.

Most of the threat is that nukes might be stolen and sold by short-sighted individuals in a time of government breakdown. If Saddam had had nukes or significant materials they could have been sold by people who needed significant money to get out of the country. If you believe the Bush administration that didn't happen. But if you believe they'd lie to put the best face on whatever happened, it would look even worse for the nukes to get sold to terrorists or whoever while we were looking for them, than for there to have never been any in the first place.

The other way it can happen is a nation getting so cdesperate they feel they have nothing to lose. Most government leaders, however insane, still have some feeling for their own people and try to keep their people from getting genocided. So even when they're losing a war they do better than to use nukes on a nation like the USA which could do quite effective nuclear genocide. But there are exceptions. For example, if israelis were losing a war in which they thought the result of a loss was to get pushed into the sea, what would they have to lose by nuking the USA and blaming it on arab terrorists? They'd die if it didn't work, but they'd die if they didn't try.

Most terrorists have the goal of regime change. Al qaeda may have a more grandiose goal, mass regime change across the muslim-predominant areas. But even for them, mass casualties are not a strategic advantage. Put it this way -- 3000 9/11 casualties were a giant strategic advantage for Bush. We may never find out whether he planned it, but that result is clear. But 30,000,000 casualties would not have been a strategic advantage for him at all. Similarly, bin Ladin would be unlikely to feel he benefitted by 2 million or 5 million saudi deaths. He may be a terrorist but he probably still thinks of them as his people and he doesn't win by getting 10% of them killed.

But of course, we can assume that terrorists are crazy. They don't care if their mothers get killed, they're crazy fanatics who don't care about anything except killing us. It's sad when we don't know what our enemy wants. It just naturally feels safest to assume the worst, which leads to the natural next assumption that they're such fanatical fanatics that no coexistence can be possible, that there can be no alternative whatsoever but to kill and be killed until either they're all gone or we're all gone.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 3, 2004 05:20 PM

"But we should also be providing college scholarships to those who major in Arab/Muslim studies and demonstrate proficiency in Arabic."

On this I do not disagree, and upon reflection that is probably what I should have read into the original comment I replied to. I did not-- I took it that the suggestion was to teach it like we teach Spanish or French or German in our public schools--- not just developing some specialized fluency in our ranks.

Posted by: Gerry at December 3, 2004 06:10 PM

“Well, pacifism isn't working too well. Or do you think if Kerry had ramped up the pacifism he would have received even more votes?”

I will respond in a more thorough manner tomorrow. This is Friday evening and I’ve drunk a bit too much Australian red wine (a coalition partner) to drink. But I will leave everyone with this reminder: the national Democrat Party died on November 2, 2004. It’s over. The late Helen Kubler-Ross said that the acceptance of death involves five stages:

1.) denial and isolation
2.) anger,
3.) bargaining
4.) depression
5.) acceptance.

Hey, it’s time to get over it. The national Democratic Party is deceased. Sniff, sniff, I’m sorry for your loss. But you need to move forward. Life does go on. Where should I send the flowers? They are only dandelions, but it’s the thought that counts.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 3, 2004 06:13 PM

"I have seen absolutely no discussion about what we would consider an acceptable end to our proposed multi-decade war on ISLAM."

Note how the discussion has slipped from defeat of "Islamofascism" to defeat of "Islam".

Apparently there's an elephant in the room that is being ignored. And PC or not - given demographic trends in Europe - and quite possibly here in the US, although its difficult to tell at this point - is it reasonable to ask whether even moderate Islam is compatible with western liberalism as we know it?

At some risk of being vilified - I will state that what I would consider an "end-goal" in this decades battle - is a sufficient economic transformation of the ME so that Muslims would want to stay home, rather than emigrate en masse to the west where I think violent confrontation between westerners and even moderate Muslims is inevitable. At least in the foreseeable future.

There - I've gone and said it.......

Posted by: Caroline at December 3, 2004 06:47 PM

....and possibly spoiled an otherwise lovely dinner party......

Posted by: Caroline at December 3, 2004 06:52 PM

A thought that's been bugging me is that in this thread we've seen comments about "triangulating", "marketing and branding", "moving to the center", etc. The whole tenor of one side of the conversation smacks of a strong preference for style over substance. (Sorry Virginia Postrel, but there are places where I still think style needs to take a back seat.)

It's all well and good to talk about promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia, but will somebody please take the time to lay out some nuts-and-bolts proposals about how to do it? Do you propose CentCom occupy Mecca and Medina? I mean bottom line, what leverage do we have there? Leverage will have to be built. (Wonder what's happening next door to The Kindom right now?)

Same question for Pakistan. What exactly are we going to do to promote Democracy there? Get sanctions passed in the U.N.? Hell, I wish the U.N. would sanction me, I could use the income opportunities. What leverage did we have? (Wonder what's happening next door to Pakistan right now?)

Bush's Mideast policy vision produces either grim smiles or anguished wails in anyone who thinks about it. You might not agree on what the policy is or what its effects will be, but nobody doubts the existence of a Bush Doctrine.

Come on folks, the problem with the Democrats isn't that they don't talk tough enough; the problem is no one believes anyone on that side of the aisle could even draw up a game plan.

(Joementum Lieberman is the exception to this broad brush treatment of the Democrats, of course; the fact that party activists could imagine Joe with a plan pretty much doomed his candidacy, I think.)

Please note that the affection America feels for Donald Rumsfeld seems to come from his lack of diplomatic artfulness. So you folks in the Reality Based Community who would work from the proposition that we begin by talking purty to France and Germany, please be aware that this won't necessarily play well in Peoria. Speaking in purely marekting terms.

Sound bites without substance lose elections. Contrary to what the folks in the ivory tower think, Americans in the aggregate are not stupid. Bush was "Plan A" against Islamofascism in this election. There was no "Plan B". Those not interested in returning to a Clintonian status quo chose Plan A. Get a "Plan B" that isn't "TBD" and you Dems will have a chance in '08. You might even mop up.

Posted by: Mark Poling at December 3, 2004 07:28 PM

Maybe a topic for a different thread but any serious discussion of "How to Save Liberalism - and America" will have to address this:

From Commentary: "The Islamization of Europe?"

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=11805031_1

It goes without saying that I would welcome a bona fide link from anyone who knows how to make it. Otherwise cut and paste will have to do.

Posted by: Caroline at December 3, 2004 07:59 PM

Do you want a liberal hawk in the White House? Or a conservative hawk? Decide.

That presumes that there are liberal hawks to put in the White House. Sorry, but the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democrats is all but extinct, and I don't see much interest in reviving it.

Posted by: rosignol at December 3, 2004 08:15 PM

Regarding "If that's not a green light for torture, I don't know what is."

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=542&e=4&u=/ap/guantanamo_detainees

[...]

Boyle replied that the United States never would adopt a policy that would have barred it from acting on evidence that could have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks even if the data came from questionable practices like torture by a foreign power.

[...]

It's interesting what you decide to leave out, ++ungood. The part you quoted, along with your comment, strongly implies that what the story was about was torture committed by the US.

If you care about credibility, you might want to consider not doing that sort of thing.

Posted by: rosignol at December 3, 2004 08:56 PM

Caroline, I don't see that arab/other violence in western nations is particularly worse than that for other disadvantaged immigrants. The USA had considerable violence between irish and others for a generation or two, and it died down as the irish started getting established. Now it isn't particularly an issue whether somebody is a papist or not. Similarly with italians, hispanics, koreans, vietnamese, etc. I'm a little concerned that our iranian immigrants haven't gone through that cycle; they are congregating in big groups and not having that much contact with other ethnicities.

Note the way the irish gangs, the italian mafia, the chinese tongs, the vietnamese mafia etc have each flourished for a time and then died back -- as each disadvantaged group gets its chance at middle-class jobs, the advantages of lower-class crime look less inviting and it cedes those niches to a newer group.

So at least in the USA it's unlikely to be a long-term problem any more than the irish were. Provided the economy keeps growing and keeps providing room for immigrants to become successfully middle-class. I believe however that will require a successful alternate energy program, which the current administration has not made a priority.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 3, 2004 11:37 PM

can't we just all agree to disagree?

Posted by: a 14-year-old named timmy at December 4, 2004 02:34 AM

Wait, so your solution to McCarthyism is to make sure HUAC is staffed with our guys?

Posted by: Kimmitt at December 4, 2004 02:36 AM

“Do you want a liberal hawk in the White House? Or a conservative hawk? Decide.”

You will only be able to go along with the conservative hawk. There is simply no way that a liberal hawk can survive the Democratic Party’s nomination process. By the way, why does anyone persist on implying that the national entity is still alive? It past away on November 2, 2004. What can you do with a dead corpse?

Posted by: David Thomson at December 4, 2004 07:37 AM

J Thomas - I'm not talking about gang violence among unassimilated Arab immigrants. I'm talking about the lack of separation between law/politics and religion in Islam and the long term consequence of Muslims as a significant voting bloc in western democracies if the current demographic trends continue. E.g. in Canada - the Muslims are calling for Sharia courts to mediate civil disputes, claiming that they cannot effectively practice their religion unless they are able to follow Sharia law.

Well - the fact is that Europe is on a rapid trajectory in this direction. We'll have our answer to the question of compatibility between western liberalism and even moderate Islam soon enough.

Posted by: Caroline at December 4, 2004 08:24 AM

'Put it this way -- 3000 9/11 casualties were a giant strategic advantage for Bush. We may never find out whether he planned it, but that result is clear.'--- J.Thomas

I really try to stay out of these frays nowadays,due to my new found belief in two over-riding values,namely:
A. Succinctness &
B.The belief that these arguments are totally without end as no-one will ever be convinced.
But invariably some totally ridiculous and/or vile comment makes an appearance and into the lists I am drawn.
Did you really mean to state,JT,that you are postulating that GWB may have had a hand in the planning of 9-11?Because that is how I read this sentence.I thought I should give you an opportunity to clarify before I indicated in what degree of contempt I held such a thought.
So waiting I am.

Posted by: dougf at December 4, 2004 08:32 AM

Kimmitt: Wait, so your solution to McCarthyism is to make sure HUAC is staffed with our guys?

You sure know how to miss a point.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 4, 2004 08:43 AM

It actually makes more sense to worry about fundamentalist christians getting their hands on nukes. They're the ones who have the beliefs about the End Times. They're the ones who don't mind 90% of their own population getting martyred before the Rapture.

J Thomas,

I think that statement alone pretty much closes the case on the issue of your mental capacity for sound judgment.

Essentially what you've just said is that you'd rather Osama have a nuke than George Bush. (Unless of course you'd now like to reverse yourself on four years of Leftist conventional wisdom regarding Bush's religious beliefs).

And how seriously can someone with such a cartoonish view of christian conservatives, or "fundamentalists" as you rhetorically refer to them, be taken on any topic really, let alone the islamic threat. Not very.

Posted by: David at December 4, 2004 08:58 AM

can't we just all agree to disagree?

Sorry 14 year old Timmy. I doubt we can even agree on that. And what fun would that be anyway?

Posted by: David at December 4, 2004 09:01 AM

"can't we just all agree to disagree?"

"I doubt we can even agree on that."

By disagreeing with his proposal, you imply that you are agreeing to disagree with him. Clever bastard, the way he did that...

Posted by: Gerry at December 4, 2004 10:24 AM

You sure know how to miss a point.

Sorry, I'll be more clear.

The continuing assertion that Islamic terror is anything other than a minor ongoing threat that only managed to get off one lucky shot because of the patent incompetence of our current Administration is akin to the red scare hysteria which was the basis of McCarthyism. That is, there is a real threat which needs to be dealt with, but it has been inflated and distorted for the political gain of a set of policians.

You are a willing participant in this, going so far as to suggest that those of the Left should totally abandon our principles in favor of ever-more-strident distortion of an enemy who has power only because of our foolishness. Thank you, but we already have one group of Americans who are devoted to emotionally supporting policies which feel good but are ultimately counter to the long-term security interests of this nation.

I got your point. I disagreed with it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at December 4, 2004 02:56 PM

Kimmitt,

McCarthy surely exagerrated the extent of Communist infiltration in the American government. But very few people can be plausibly accused of exaggerating the menace of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. The bigger problem at the time was downplaying it, pretending that the Terror Famine, for example, was really only a food shortage.

Islamists have already killed millions of people in the Middle East and Africa. (Millions in Sudan all by itself, in fact.) It is easy for us to forget this, and to count only our own dead.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 4, 2004 03:23 PM

Dougf, of course Bush may have had a hand in 9/11. How could anyone say otherwise? But there's absolutely no proof that he did.

Consider other such conspiracy theories. The Maine blew up in a foreign harbor, at precisely the time and place to start a war the administration wanted to start. After generations of historians have sorted through the data they're fairly sure that it wasn't our foreign potential enemies who did it. But it could easily have been coincidence. While very few of our warships have blown up in harbor by complete accident, it isn't at all impossible for that one to have done so.

Many people have accused FDR of complicity in Pearl Harbor. The broken codes were in DC for him to see. When we officially lost track of the japanese fleet there was every reason to think they were going to attack somewhere, just the best bet was that they'd attack Manila instead. Well, but did anybody warn Manila? (McArthur lost most of his planes on the ground.) Pearl Harbor worked out pretty much optimally for FDR, we lost expendable ships and 2400 dead, very small losses considering. But there's no proof that any element of the US government intended this result. It could have been all coincidence and incompetence.

Pearh Harbor conspiracy theory

Consider now the bombing of the USS Liberty. The israelis had given prior warning that if we sent that ship in they would sink it. The warning did not get to the Liberty. The israelis sent a second warning when the Liberty was already in the area, and that warning also did not get to the Liberty. Later there were claims of eight (8) distinct orders to the Liberty to exit fast, and none of them got through. They were sent low-priority, or relayed through the south pacific, etc. When the Liberty was hit and got a report out using nn improvised antenna, orders to intervene also failed to get through. It's of course tempting to suppose some kind of conspiracy but there's neither evidence nor obvious motive. The israeli navy had no particular glory in 1967 to match the air force and army; they could have waged a bluffing match with the US navy merely in hope of accomplishing something, no need for some secet the Liberty might pick up. The US Navy might easily have failed to get the message through. And the 7 extra orders to leave would naturally have been inserted into the record later by seven different naval officers playing CYA. Johnson had nothing to gain to send the Liberty into danger or to delay the rescue. The whole thing was a giant embarrassment to the US military and to US politicians.

Then there's 9/11. Clearly the big winners were Bush, whose lackluster reign suddenly had a purpose and one that the american people were solidly behind, and the israelis who got the US army occupying iraq and threatening syria and iran. And in third place bin Ladin, who got a degree of useful media exposure. But once we discount all the conspiracy witnesses who provide things that aren't official documentation, everything remaining could be simple coincidence and incompetence.

I tend to think that Bush was not involved in 9/11 at all except to do what his advisors told him about getting into planes and flying around and such. Given his general level of competence before and after, why would anybody think he could plan 9/11 and pull it off? Much less keep his involvement a secret afterward....

Posted by: J Thomas at December 4, 2004 08:02 PM

David, I have no particular evidence about Bush's religious beliefs. He doesn't attend any church. I've seen nothing to indicate that he actually has ny particular religious belief, beyond his politically-motivated claims. He might believe we're in the End Times or he might not.

You talk about a cartoonish view of christian conservatives, but this is no more cartoonish than the claims commonly made about muslims. I certainly don't say that most christian conservative voters hold these wacko views. These people are extremists, in the same way bin Ladin is an extremist muslim -- except that they haven't committed such splashy violence. Yet.

Think about it. The parallel is pretty clear. And on theological grounds the wacko christians have more reason to set off nukes than the wacko muslims do. Would you disagree? If so, on what grounds would you disagree?

Posted by: J Thomas at December 4, 2004 08:18 PM

Caroline, we'll have to find out how the cultural things go. Some cultural patterns are more compatible than others, and a desire to get along can smooth things over a whole lot when it's present on both sides.

About the laws, I dunno. The USA already has two idiosyncratic state legal systems in louisiana and utah, and we get by with them. But in both cases the populations practicing them were already in place before statehood. We already allow plaintiffs and defendants to accept binding arbitration in place of the usual court system, and that might work for muslims who want to sue each other. Or for others, if people get the impression the trials would be fair for them. I can imagine some women who can prove they've been raped preferring Sharia.

Of course there are problems, but we've managed with a whole lot of other immigrants and it isn't impossible it will work with these too.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 4, 2004 08:28 PM

Think about it. The parallel is pretty clear. And on theological grounds the wacko christians have more reason to set off nukes than the wacko muslims do. Would you disagree? If so, on what grounds would you disagree?

J Thomas,

No, I wouldn't agree. Because on theological grounds God's prophecies don't need man's help to fulfill themselves. Also, the prophecies speak of "Armageddon" as a day that no man should look forward to, but should fear. I don't know any fundamentalist christian drooling at the mouth in anticipation of such events. And I know far more of these religious christian wackos than you do.

So what's the parrallel? That all religious people are violent and that secular peaple are peaceful?

That's another Leftist conventional wisdom you've swallowed hook line and sinker because it suits your worldview; but history has proven nobody more violent than the atheists; not "fundamentalist" christians, that's for sure. These christian wackos made the headlines when one of them killed an abortion doctor once, but that's about it. Aside from that, they make damn fine soldiers in the U.S. military defending the likes of you and your Leftist Quislings from your real enemies.

So no, I don't agree that because islamic fundamentalists are ready to set off a nuke in NYCity that christian fundamentalists are therefore also ready to set off a nuke in Mecca; no more willing than anybody else is who recognizes islamic fascism for the threat it is.

one word: Cartoon

Posted by: David at December 4, 2004 09:47 PM

Islamists have already killed millions of people in the Middle East and Africa. (Millions in Sudan all by itself, in fact.)

And your solution to this is to, again, abandon liberal principles in favor of cheerleading idiocy and failure.

Or, to put it another way, measles and malaria have done far more damage in Africa and the Middle East than the Islamists dream could of. Yet, I don't see you calling for liberals to ditch their commitment to sensible immunization and containment policies in favor of invading every country with a government lousy enough that it doesn't provide appropriate public health measures. This isn't about dealing with threats. It's about finding excuses to abandon any response to the threat other than mindless lashing out.

Posted by: Kimmitt at December 4, 2004 10:14 PM

As I read over all these posts, one overarching pattern is really starting to annoy me...

The Democrats moving to embrace the "new liberalism" the article suggests wouldn't neccessarily mean they'd be moving to the Right! I would love to see the day we witness such a move, but I wouldn't call it a move to the Right in a thousand years. It's got nothing to do with Right and Left, it's got to do with the fear of American power in the world. There is a great liberal tradition dating all the way back to Woodrow Wilson in this country that is uber-interventionist, hawkish, and bold.

In alot of ways, I'd ideally actually like to see the Democrats move to the left: On Foreign Aid and Development; On the War on Drugs; On the Separation of Church and State; On Same-Sex Marriage; Even on Taxes. All of those issues are right vs. left issues. Espousing an interventionist foreign policy is not, by definition, a conservative declaration in spirit.

Please, everybody try and remember that. Just because the Democratic Party came down with a bad case of the "Vietnam Syndrome" 30 or 40 years ago doesn't necessarily mean the Party moved to the left. It didn't move to the left, it just merely moved to embrace a kind of liberalism that says America can't and shouldn't try to do great things in the world. It's still liberalism, it's just a rotten strain.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 4, 2004 11:03 PM

PS...

And to better define what I believe "liberalism" to be: It's the fundamental belief in doing great things via the means of collective action.

I think that fundamentally sums up a definition of political ideology for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING at all left-of-center, from Joe Lieberman to Karl Marx. The further you stretch the limits of the definition into absurdity, the further you move to the left. And, sure, even this definition isn't a pure catch-all, but it's damn close.

In real-world terms, that means it's liberal in my view to fight tyranny abroad and misery at home with the same fervor. THAT IS LIBERALISM IN A NUTSHELL. Well, that and believing in tolerance when dealing with everyday affairs.

I hope that clears up a little where I might be coming from. Today's liberals prioritize the collective action aspect of it over the part that says, "Fascism Means War" (an expression born of the left if there ever was one). When the article talks about "hards" and "softs", I think that is the fundamental split: One group says fighting tyranny is more important and the other says collective action is.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 4, 2004 11:19 PM

And, one last thought...

Yes. Art students are indeed intolerable. But art school chicks are easy and fantastic in bed. ;)

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 4, 2004 11:23 PM

Shorter Michael Totten: Embrace the same stupid foreign policy as the Republicans (Pretend to fight terrorism without actually doing it). Give up on all it means to be a liberal. Get no reward from the American people (why buy diet when you can buy the original). Wash, repeat, lose again.

Posted by: Oliver at December 4, 2004 11:50 PM

Oliver: Give up on all it means to be a liberal.

You obviously don't know the history of your own political movement. See Wilson, FDR, Truman, Johnson, and Clinton. Forget McGovern, Carter, and Kerry. They're losers.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 5, 2004 12:00 AM

The idea that you see Kerry as some sort of pacifist proves that the mind control works. See my latest post for why your argument doesn't make any sense. Preview: just because Bush claims he can walk on water, doesn't make it true.

Posted by: Oliver at December 5, 2004 01:13 AM

And to better define what I believe "liberalism" to be: It's the fundamental belief in doing great things via the means of collective action.

Grant,

Collective action, rather than the courts, would mean they end of your gay agenda, unless you consider ramming it down the country's throats via the courts as "collective action.

Posted by: David at December 5, 2004 07:09 AM

David: Perhaps he is saying that staying true to his liberal principle of collective action would mean attempting to achieve social change through collective action. I believe that is different than deciding between either a quicker victory through the courts or giving up all together.

Sorry to have nothing more constructive.

Posted by: alec truist at December 5, 2004 04:38 PM

I'm not a libertarian and I don't speak for any libertarians, but sometimes I like to try out their ideas.

It seems to me that the primary way that liberal collective action used to get expressed was with government bureaucracies. This is widely recognised as inefficient, but for the things they do, no one has come up with a better approach. I suppose you could do things like allow anybody to collect pollution data about big companies and then sue them in the courts, but....

Many republicans and libertarians look at the inefficiency of government and argue that anything which can't be done with private free enterprise is better not done at all. And yet the Pentagon is a classic example of a giant government bureaucracy, and I don't hear calls to replace it with a bunch of competing private companies. Similarly the CIA. Instead of a bunch of independent agencies doing free competition we're talking about organising them into a bigger more centralised bureaucracy.

I would like to see some new approaches to collective action. It might involve:

Part-time employees who perhaps can get commissions etc so that great success results in more-than-full-time pay. But they don't depend on this job for their pensions.

Payment by the project, not continuing funding for organisations. Create a new organisation for each project, modeled in general on organisations that achieved similar goals in the past.

Fund competing organisations for important projects. Find ways to get them to cooperate on the big things that need cooperation; reward them in various ways for their individual successes. Punish them if you catch them sabotaging each other.

Etc. Robert Townsend pointed out that for 2000 years the main models we had for organisations were the roman army and the catholic church. A few smart people at the top making decisions and everybody else training for their set roles and following orders. When most people were illiterate that was about the best you could do. But now we have lots of smart people using sophisticated communication networks, and it seems perverse for al qaeda to be the main group that's trying something new.

If there's a large literature describing the relative success of attempts at this sort of thing and I'm just out of the loop, I'd very much like some links or citations or whatever. And the people who're doing that sort of thing are probably worth careful observation.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 5, 2004 05:49 PM

David, you have demonstrated my point. I doubt I can add much to your confirmation, so I'll stop here.

Cartoon is as cartoon does.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 5, 2004 05:52 PM

"Would you disagree? If so, on what grounds would you disagree?"

I would disagree, on the basis of that it is completely cuckoo. Further, there is nothing in the Christian Bible that says to kill non-believers. There is, however, and admonition to not murder. On the other hand, in the Koran (depending on translation) there are passages that say that if an infidel refuses to come around, that they should be smited.

Posted by: Gerry at December 5, 2004 06:41 PM

Gerry, you have the right to select the scriptures you want to pay attention to, when it's you that we're discussing. But you aren't the particular wacko christian movement under consideration here.

There are plenty of scriptures for both christians and muslims to incite religious war. The difference I'm particularly pointing to is that for christians it's OK for the world to end. It isn't a bad thing. The corresponding muslim scriptures are denounced as forgeries, although of course people could still believe them.

Note that the koran has strict injunctions against slaughter of the innocent. 9/11 was widely denounced on that basis. While the pentagon was a valid target, the WTC was not. But of course wacko muslims can ignore their scriptures just as wacko christians can.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 5, 2004 07:27 PM

Further, there is nothing in the Christian Bible that says to kill non-believers.

Not killing so much, but there is some good enslaving text...

However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-45, NLT)

Posted by: Kimmitt at December 5, 2004 07:41 PM

David, you have demonstrated my point. I doubt I can add much to your confirmation, so I'll stop here.

J Thomas,

I doubt very much that you can, because you're talking about people I know and spend time with. They happen to be gentle as lambs; so when you talk about them in the abstract, you only demonstrate your ignorance. But don't censor yourself on my account. I'm a firm believer in the Left outing itself. It's how you continue lose.

Posted by: David at December 5, 2004 08:17 PM

David, you continue to utterly miss the point. I'm not talking about your sheepish friends. I'm talking about a tiny minority of nutcase christians, just as when you talk about islamofascists you're talking about a tiny minority of nutcase muslims.

Pick a random muslim and ask him about his friends and he'll tell you none of them are islamofascists, the same way you deny it. But they're there, and the claim is that this tiny minority is a lethal threat to our entire nation -- or perhaps that they'll persuade the rest....

But I can't expect you to see it. There's no obvious way it would be to your advantage to see it, except that you might influence the public and the government to take up a more survivable strategy. No short-term competitive advantage for you in that.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 5, 2004 09:40 PM

Kimmit, what does Leviticus have to do with whether Christians are dangerous to others?

In your world, do Christians follow all the Jewish dietary laws?

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at December 5, 2004 10:55 PM

I'm just backing up the general point that both traditions have a rich enough library of Scripture that more or less any action can be justified by someone who is looking to justify him/herself, rather than seeking counsel.

Posted by: Kimmitt at December 6, 2004 01:17 AM

When was the last time a Chirstian enslaved a foreigner? When was the last time a Muslim killed an infidel?

Posted by: Court at December 6, 2004 06:42 AM

I'm talking about a tiny minority of nutcase christians, just as when you talk about islamofascists you're talking about a tiny minority of nutcase muslims.

J Thomas,

You're dancing. Christian fundamentalists aren't that tiny a group, by the way, and you slandered all of them by indicting their "theology".

Nonetheless, where's your evidence that they're dangeous? (here's where you start talking about "theology" and undermining your own point that it's only a "tiny group", but not my friends).

And by the way, if somebody was indescriminately blowing up thousands of innocent people in the name of Jesus, my christian fundie friends would be out en masse to protest it. To my christian fundie friends that would be HIGHLY OFFENSIVE. Contrast that with muslim silence.

Your highminded attitude and passive condescension is simply cover for childish and simplistic moral equivalencies.

Posted by: David at December 6, 2004 07:19 AM

David, wait and see.

These guys are dangerous. And if your gentle friends talk about how bad they are, I doubt they'll be too upset about that.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 6, 2004 07:37 AM

J Thomas,

everything's possible, including getting struck by a meteor when I walk out the door. But isn't it more valid to pontificate about the here and now rather than making predictions that time more than likely will never tell? Blogging is already so much mental masturbation without having to go that road.

Posted by: David at December 6, 2004 08:06 AM

OK, David. Nutcase muslims have made zero (0) attacks on the USA in the last year, except on our people who are occupying iraq.

Nutcase muslims made zero (0) attacks on the USA last year either, except on our people who were occupying iraq.

Nutcase muslims made zero (0) attacks on the USA year before last, except on our people who were occupying iraq.

If you're interested in the here-and-now, it's pretty quiet in the USA.

Three years ago there were three attacks, a serious one that caused a whole lot of damage and also one guy who tried to get on a plane with explosive shoes, who presumably wanted to blow up the plane, and somebody who got shot by an israeli security guard at an airport.

By the latest figures I've seen, at the time al qaeda had perhaps 12,000 members who'd gotten infantry training who were roughly equivalent individually to US marines (but their training was shorter). And they had perhaps 1000 people who'd completed an espionage and sabotage course. How many of those were knowing participants of the WTC bombing? Apparently there was one on each plane, that makes 4. Plus whoever gave the order, that makes 5. Whoever came up with the hypothetical idea, 6. The guy with the money who approved it, 7. The engineers who checked the likely results, maybe 10. Everybody else could have been just doing their jobs, not knowing what result to expect. Call it 10 to 50 people. Or be real liberal and call it 100. (This doesn't include any israeli and american spies who knew about it and who may have triggered the attack prematurely.)

What would it take for christians to do something similar? Mostly funding. Fund a christian militia, train a few dozen guys in the techniques, make the secret plans, and start them. One guy on each squad needs to know enough about the mission to improvise.

So far the score is muslim-nutcase 1: christian nutcase 0. The muslim nutcases are ahead by 1.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 6, 2004 08:42 AM

So far the score is muslim-nutcase 1: christian nutcase 0. The muslim nutcases are ahead by 1.

LOL !

Keep speaking truth to power J Thomas!

and keep losing elections. I love it ;-)

Posted by: David at December 6, 2004 09:00 AM

OK, David. Nutcase muslims have made zero (0) attacks on the USA in the last year, except on our people who are occupying iraq.

Yeah, like all those foreign aid workers who were "occupying" Iraq by means of having their heads attached to their bodies.

Also I was unaware that the US was the world's only nation that contained Christians.

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at December 6, 2004 09:13 AM

J Thomas,

A Newsweek poll of 1,009 adults found that 79 percent believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. The poll also found 67 percent affirm as historically accurate the entire Christmas story and 82 percent believe Jesus Christ is God and/or the Son of God. Along a different track of questions, 62 percent said they would prefer public schools teach creation science alongside evolutionary theory; 43 percent would approve the replacement of evolutionary theory with creation science.

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6650997/site/newsweek/

You're in great danger! Run for you life!

Posted by: David at December 6, 2004 10:20 AM

David, I am a christian. I think it's silly to mix creation science into biology, they're utterly different fields -- you might as well mix astrology with astronomy or economics with ecology. But selah. Russia had their lysenkoism and maybe now it's our turn.

Speaking as a christian evolutionary ecologist, I say that christianity's diversity is one of our greatest strengths. If a sect with political ambitions manages to cut that diversity it's a bad thing, but we've survived that before and we'll survive it again.

For that matter, as a population and a faith we'll survive terrorists with nukes. We likely wouldn't survive a full nuclear exchange, but with the grace of god that may be avoided.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 6, 2004 12:23 PM

J Thomas,

did you factor the massacre of Beslan into your equation? If you had, you'd see that muslim nutcases are actually up by 2, not 1. Not to mention the first attack on the Twin Towers in '93, which would put them up by 3 points. If you count the embassy bombings, that would put them up by 6 points. Then add Madrid, 7. And if you add all the failed attempts and all the decapitations and suicide bombings, only God knows how many points muslim fundies would be winning by. 20? 30? Personally, I think 9/11 counts for about 10-15 points. That would put muslim fundies up by 40-55 points over the christian fundies don't you think?

That's fine if you believe in evolution. The point is you're surrounded by people who don't, which means you should be in mortal fear for your life. You never know when they could just snap!

Posted by: David at December 6, 2004 12:41 PM

Until reading these comments, I have had no clue as to why my beloved Democratic Party has been losing so badly for the past ten years. But I'm starting to understand. The world is changing, most people see it, but certain powerful people have dug themselves so deeply into entrenched positions, that they seem unaware of the reality outside their bunkers. Voters are deeply concerned about certain issues, but not the issues that interest the intellectual leaders of the Democratic party. The divide seems to be growing. More people are asking themselves each election, "is this where I get off?" Reading these comments, I see that I can't avoid the question any longer.

Posted by: Munster at December 6, 2004 04:43 PM

Is this really a liberal blog?

The ad to the right really makes me wonder. I don't see how kissing the GOP's ass is going to help us - we tried that from 2001-2003 and the repub's just walked all over us.

I do believe going after the Islamic Extremists that attacked us but I have a real problem with this idea of embracing a war based on lies and faulty intel. There IS a difference.

Anyone that actually thinks things are going to go well should go lookup Lebanon 1982.

Posted by: sgilman at December 6, 2004 05:04 PM

Anyone that actually thinks things are going to go well should go lookup Lebanon 1982--sgilman

This comment is so typical of the current 'soft'liberal-left.All negativity;all the time.
No solutions to the problems,no alternatives,no HOPE,just constant,defeatist,self-reinforcing,negativity 24-7.No wonder you guys are getting hammered.No-one likes negativity,especially in the total absence of a viable alternative.
Every time I read this stuff,it reminds me of a line from a Clint Eastwood WW2 movie.I can't recall the title but Donald Sutherland also starred,and he had a great line when his buddy kept bringing up all the potential problems in their path.

Again with the negative waves,Moriarty!!

Now I know exactly how he felt.

Posted by: dougf at December 6, 2004 05:30 PM

dougf - Ah, its good to see you have been able to determine my political background based on selective and limited information. That's how we ended up in Iraq. I'm not a soft liberal, I'm was an independent until I seen the real face of the repulican party.

I supported the Iraq war until I found out that we were deliberately miss lead on what evidence actually existed. The anodized coated tubs are a great example – The anodized coating would have to be milled off before even thinking about proceeding with uranium enrichment. I have a real problem with starting a war based on bogus technology.

Alternatives – How about going after the people that ACTUALLY attacked us with the same zeal used to remove Saddam. As for Iraq, we have to get the target off our soldiers, we are seen as occupiers and our presence serves as a rallying cry for insurgence. Of course since bush told most of our allies to stick it were the sun doesn’t shine after the initial fall of Baghdad we are left with at tuff road to hoe.

You’ve got to hand it to bush – he has figured out a way to make us safer be creating more terrorists. I would love to see the logic behind that gem.

Our party will never win if we are seen as Repub light. If we are seen as the same then why change course?

Posted by: sgilman at December 6, 2004 08:11 PM

David, if you want to count all the atrocities in the world committed by muslims versus all those committed by christians, you're going to have a couple of long lists to deal with. Lebanese christians certainly have their share, and serbs, etc.

It's a mug's game. Instead, I'm counting recent significant attacks on american civilians. That makes it 1:0. Would the Waco guys have done an atrocity if they'd been left alone? I dunno, no way to tell, they got atrocitied by the government first. The guyana thing too, apparently the christians killed themselves before the marines could get there. Those guys probably wouldn't have done an atrocity on somebody else. The christian KKK is not doing much at all. And the newer organisations haven't done much yet.

http://users.frii.com/gosplow/
http://www.soldierofthelord.4t.com/

They talk a good line but they haven't actually succeeded in a single major terrorist incident unless they were involved in the Oklahoma City bombing and failed to take credit for it.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 7, 2004 03:28 AM

Sailman, no, this is not a liberal blog. What gave you the impression it was?

Give it a year or two and Bush will look like a combination of Harding and Hoover. Harding's financial scams were very popular until people noticed they were losing money on them.

But when Bush is discredited that won't necessarily throw it to the democrats. A lot of republicans will get upset about their party being hijacked and they'll take it back -- or they'll think they're taking it back. I'm not clear what politicies democrats can champion that republicans can't take over. Republicans have already taken over the democrat stand that it's OK to do massive deficit spending.

Regardless who takes it on, though I hope that two policies will get popular:

1. Big search for effective alternate energy.

2. Actual homeland security, involving some way to secure our ports. (One way to do that would be to import a lot less -- the less we import the less there is to inspect.)

Trying to control the oil supply is a fool's game in the medium run. There's less oil in the world every day, and at some point we'll be burning more to keep control than we pump. We'll have to research alternate energy soon (unless we depend on other countries to license it to us), why not now?

It's no good to just go after the terrorists who hit us, when we're open to any terrorist who decides to hit us later. We need better security at our chemical plants etc, and especially we need to stop nukes from getting in. I doubt terrorists would be interested in the more subtle potent WMDs, nukes are the big issue there.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 7, 2004 03:50 AM

David, if you want to count all the atrocities in the world committed by muslims versus all those committed by christians, you're going to have a couple of long lists to deal with. Lebanese christians certainly have their share, and serbs, etc.

J Thomas,

very true. But when you said:

It actually makes more sense to worry about fundamentalist christians getting their hands on nukes. They're the ones who have the beliefs about the End Times. They're the ones who don't mind 90% of their own population getting martyred before the Rapture.

I suspect you were actually talking about American evangelical fundies, not Lebanese Greek Orthodox christians.

If you've modified your position, then that's fine with me and I commend you for that.

Posted by: David at December 7, 2004 01:13 PM

David, I was talking about insane american christians. I gave you a couple of typical links. One of them argued that christian militiamen would be fighting a modern army but would not have the advantage of artillery or air support, so they suggest heavy rifles that can be accurate a long distance, and sparing use of automatic fire since it's hard to carry a whole lot of ammo.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 7, 2004 02:12 PM

J Thomas,

do militia types talk about nuking American cities? Answer: No. Do they talk about killing innocent American civilians? Answer: No.

Does this make any difference to you? Answer: No.

Posted by: David at December 7, 2004 04:40 PM

David, all I can say about that is wait and see.

You appear to have made up your mind on the basis of utterly inadequate evidence. For myself, I don't want nukes in the hands of either foreign muslim terrorists or american christian terrorists. The differences between the two are not as large as you seem to think, and what differences there are don't particularly favor the christians.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 7, 2004 05:54 PM

You appear to have made up your mind on the basis of utterly inadequate evidence.

J Thomas,

what "inadequate evidence" are you referring to? I've reminded you of the islamic track record, and you've countered with militia guys talking about guns.

Who are the American people more afraid of?

Like Michael Moore said, the GOP won because they had a better story to tell. Well, you'd better hope the Libs have a better narrative for 2008, because this one is a non-starter.

Posted by: David at December 7, 2004 06:29 PM

David, as usual you're talking about how good the story is as propaganda.

This is like judging technology companies by how good their stories are for pulling in gullible investors.

Beset wishes, but Homey don't play that.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 7, 2004 07:41 PM

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