May 10, 2005

Republicans Slipping

From the Washington Post.

The gender gap is now 25 years old and, according to recent polling, it is alive and well. A Democratic polling memo released yesterday found that women, who voted for President Bush last year in large numbers, have begun migrating back to their traditional home in the Democratic Party as the public's agenda has shifted from homeland security and terrorism to domestic concerns such as jobs and the economy.

There has long been a gender gap between the parties, with women tending to vote Democratic in disproportionate numbers. Bush all but closed that gap last year, losing the female vote to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) by three percentage points. But the memo pointed to a March survey that found women favoring Democrats when asked which party's candidates they would support if congressional elections were held today.
I doubt women are the only ones doing a re-think on this one. I voted for Bush last year, but I don’t expect I’ll vote for any Republicans next year. Bush won, as I’ve said before, on security issues not “moral values.” Bush isn’t up for re-election next year so the Republican national security advantage won’t likely exist. He’ll be in the White House no matter what. It will be safe to vote for the Democrats again, at least for one election. I suspect they will do well.

If the Republicans want to keep the swing voters who are willing to cross the center line they are going to have to do something for them. Having Tom DeLay throw bloody chunks of red meat to the Religious Right isn’t it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 10, 2005 09:42 AM
Comments

Michael,

Why would you care one way or the other what Tom Delay does unless he's your Congressman? Do you like your current Congressman? Do you think he's doing a good job?

If you don't like you current Congressman, or Senator, vote for the other guy obviously. But judging your vote based on the actions of somebody who doesn't even represent your district is tantamount to me voting for a Republican state governor because I don't like David Bonior.

Posted by: Mark at May 10, 2005 10:06 AM

Yes, Michael, please ignore the behavior of a party's leadership, especially that of a very disciplined, rigid, and top-down party, when making your decision in the election.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 10:11 AM

Except, Mark, that to some extent, a vote for the Republican member of congress is a vote to maintain Republican control of congress, wether that is the primary goal or not (i.e. even if the Republican candidate is simply the best of those running, and that is the sole basis of one's vote). We're don't have the parliamentary system, but there is such a thing as party discipline, even in the U.S. congress.

Posted by: Sebastian at May 10, 2005 10:13 AM

“...to domestic concerns such as jobs and the economy.”

Economic illiteracy is the central reason why the Democrats rate high on these issues. These are also issues that should favor the Republicans. Democrats focus on “sharing wealth” and other egalitarian notions. Creating wealth is of far greater importance. I’ll even go one step further: this country would be significantly wealthier today if Republicans had dominated our economic policies of the last 40 years.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 10, 2005 10:18 AM

David,

I've come across a couple of interesting things recently from Kevin Drum that deal with what you just wrote.

Take a look!

Here's one that deals with income inequality - under Democrats it tends to go down, under Republicans it tends to go up.

But! Lest you think that this is simply because Democrats are simply redistributing the wealth, check out this one that shows that under Democratic presidents, income growth is largest for the poorest, but is relatively uniform - every percentile grows about the same. Under Republican presidents, income grows fastest for the wealthiest and slower as you move down the income ladder.

Interesting stuff!

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 10:27 AM

A nation must release the forces of creative destruction if it desires a growing economy. It is that “destruction” part that bothers people. At the beginning of the 20th Century, around half of our working population earned its living on the farms. That figure is now under three percent. Food is incredibly cheap. Unfortunately, many farmers had to find new jobs---and this was often not a pleasant experience! The same thing happened to the saddle industry as automobiles became more popular. Do you want me to lie to you? I’m sorry, but jobs that are no longer relevant must be allowed to disappear.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 10, 2005 10:41 AM

Sort of like inefficient steel industry jobs?

Oh wait, it was a Republican president who decided to impose tarrifs on foreign steel!

And catfish and apples from Vietnam!

And Chinese-made bras!

If we only had a Republican running the economy instead of a Democrat. Oh, wait, never mind...

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 10:43 AM

Having Tom DeLay throw bloody chunks of red meat to the Religious Right isn’t it.

hahaha! great line.

At least you haven't stooped to the silliness of most Libs and their concern for DeLay's "ethical" problems.

Posted by: spaniard at May 10, 2005 10:49 AM

I have not noticed a great deal of support for
the president's security and foreign policies
among Democratic congressmen. If you support
the top, don't you need to support the base
as well?

Posted by: ScottM at May 10, 2005 10:58 AM

“Oh wait, it was a Republican president who decided to impose tarrifs on foreign steel!”

President Bush caused some harm with his projectionist policies. And I unhesitatingly criticized him for this nonsense. However, the Democrats are far worse. Republicans sometimes chicken out and do some dumb things---but Democrats adamantly believe in job protection!

Posted by: David Thomson at May 10, 2005 11:05 AM

Halle-f***ing-luia!!! It's so nice to hear this s*** said! I'm a registered Republican and I've never voted for a Democrat EVER, for ANYTHING. Not to say that I wouldn't, but I never seen a worthwhile candidate on my ballot. Give me a Joe Lieberman or Bob Casey, Jr. and maybe I'll think about it.

But this crap about a mandate, and winning an election on morals, in a time of WAR , is absolute crap. GWB pisses me off, I can't even stand to watch the man speak, but if you held an election tomorrow I'd vote for him again. That's b/c I know he's the guy who's more than willing to deal out a swift kick in the teeth to our enemies.

Ever since Jimmy Carter the Dems have been a party of pantywaists and until that changes, they don't have a chance. That is unless the Republicans continue to do s*** like protect and endorse the Congress's modern day version of Boss Tweed, Tom Delay. If they had any smarts they'd roll this guys head themselves and lose the baggage; that guy's a snake and everybody knows it.

Oh, and by the way, nobody want's a bunch of stump thumping, wannabe Bob Jones jerkoffs from Washington D.C. grandstanding and sticking their nose into the business of individual States and Citizens. Right, wrong or indifferent, DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT!!! Instead, do me a favor and tell me why the TSA is spending $500,000 on potted plants, while our national Airport security isn't any better than it was FOUR GOD DAMN YEARS AGO!!!!!

Sorry I had to get that off my chest

Posted by: Mike T. at May 10, 2005 11:07 AM

So when Republicans do it, it's an abberation from their dedication to the free market.

When Democrats do it, it's symptomatic of their dedication to ruining the economy in order to protect some jobs.

I see it all so clearly now. All of Bush's protectionism - over steel, textiles, catfish and apples, the Farm Bills he's signed into law - are just red herrings! It's sure good to know that so long as the Republicans say they like the free market, we don't need to judge them by their actions which are totally inconsistent with the free market or economic growth!

That's a load off my back, because now I just need to listen to the President speak and never once check up on or question his actual actions that actually impact our lives! Words speak louder than actions! Har har! Har!

But seriously, check out the second Kevin Drum link, in which he demonstrates that economic growth is associated with Democrats, and not the super-pro-free-market-just-ignore-the-steel-and-textile-tarrifs-and-farm-subsidies-those-are-just-abberations Republicans.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 11:11 AM

Mark,
Is David Bonior anywhere on the American political scene any more?
Not that it undermines your point, but I thought that he fell off the map once he resigned from Congress and lost the Michigan gubernatorial primary to Granholm.
Lots 'o Lebanese in Michigan. We vote for despots there, too!: John Dingell, John Conyers, Joe Knollenberg, Spence Abraham. Okay, the latter two aren't that despotic, but Dingell and Conyers have been in office longer than pretty much everyone else in the House. I think Dingell served the longest. Conyers is in the top ten.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 10, 2005 11:12 AM

To address MJT's general point, Republicans are doing a lousy job governing Washington, and it is shows. Just what major initiative does anybody expect Dubya to pass in the next year and a half? I can't think of anything. I see little accomplishment on domestic policy, unless you consider starving the beast with long-term structural deficits an accomplishment, and very little Republican enthusiasm heading in to the mid-term elections.

Mark -- obviously you are unfamiliar with how the House of Representatives works. Members of the leadership of each party have a tremendously more power as leaders than they do as representatives of a particular district. With the majority party, these powers are even greater. They include the power to decide which bills are scheduled for a vote, and which are not. And to decide which if any amendments to a bill are allowed to be voted on. Secondly, the power to appoint the leadership of each committee. DeLay is the second most powerful Republican in Washington and has been so for many years. He single-handedly decided that Hastert was going to be speaker of the House, after the Gingrich/Livingston resignations in late 1998. (Hastert for the most part is just a figurehead.)

see Sunday's Washington Post for a discussion of this:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/08/AR2005050800835.html:

Just as British citizens are really voting for prime minister when they elect their representative to the House of Commons, so it is that individual U.S. House races are first and foremost to decide which party will be get to organize the House, that is, appoint the Speaker and the chairmanships of every House committee. It all comes down to DeLay vs. Pelosi. (Although Pelosi as Speaker would not have the power DeLay has as majority leader. Republicans are dogs, Democrats are cats when it comes to enforcing party line votes.)

Posted by: markus rose at May 10, 2005 11:13 AM

I'd be happy to vote for a Democrat who favored a muscular foreign and defenses policy, but I doubt one will be running in my district. I don't like the GOP candidates around here (Oregon) much either but until the Dems stop sucking up to Michael Moore and moveon.org, they deserve to be punished.

Posted by: MArtin Grossman at May 10, 2005 11:15 AM

“I'd be happy to vote for a Democrat who favored a muscular foreign and defenses policy, but I doubt one will be running in my district.”

The Daily Kos people and George Soros will do everything in their power to ensure that only wimpy Democrats are elected. There’s no way that a Joe Lieberman will garner their support. What does this mean in the real world? Most Democrats elected in 2006 will do their best to gut our military forces.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 10, 2005 11:24 AM

Right! Everyone knows Democrats like to gut the military, like when Clinton proposed the biggest spending increase on defense since Reagan.

Everyone knows Democrats like to oppose an aggressive foreign policy, which is why they all voted for the war in Iraq!

Everyone knows Republicans would never gut the military, like when Cheney as SecDef criticized Congress for not cutting more from the budget!

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 11:30 AM

For the record, I have no idea whether Mr. Tottens current Representative is Republican or Democrat. Nor do I care.

Tom Delay has a lot of power, I agree. He's got a lot of accusations thrown his way, some of which may be true. It's certainly true that he's the bete noir of a lot of people, though I've never heard him say anything more ridiculously stupid than the utterances out of the mouth of, say, Chuch Schumer.

But I'd still say I'd prefer that everyone vote based on the performances of the people they're voting on, rather than on the behavior of Congressional leaders. To be fair to that sentiment, active support of said leaders is obviously a criteria in deciding whether to judge their fitness.

Lebanon.Profile, I had completely forgotten Bonior was no longer in Congress. His name was just the first one to pop into my head when I was trying to come up with an objectionable Democrat.

Posted by: Mark at May 10, 2005 11:46 AM

The problem isn't that there were Dems who voted for the invasion of Iraq, it's that the entire party seems to have become captive to its angry left wing -- the ones who think hating Bush trumps clear thinking about the nature of the threat we face. As Ken Baer, a former Gore speechwriter (from back in the time before Al went mad) and Dem policy wonk, recently wrote to me, "I am afraid we [Democrats who think the middle east kaleidescope badly needed shaking] are a minority in our party." The way things are shaping up, it looks like we may be a minority for quite some time and "I ain't got no home in the world anymore."

Posted by: Martin Grossman at May 10, 2005 11:52 AM

I will make it real simple for everyone. This is the number one economic question you should ask of a candidate running for office? Do you believe in job protectionism? If the answer is in the affirmative, they are ignoramuses. These politicians are going to cause a tremendous amount of harm.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 10, 2005 11:55 AM

David,

All politicians will protect jobs when they have to. That is why we bailed out the airline industry - no politician could afford to be the one who let all those people lose their jobs, even if it meant that money was going from your wallet to the wallets of investors.

But if you really cared about this issue, you wouldn't go around saying "Republicans are good for the economy and Democrats are bad" when it was a Republican who did all those things I just mentioned - from steel to the airlines. With Bush's track record, you cannot pretend that this is just an abberation, a deviation from his true free-market passion. Let Bush be defined by his actions: he's an old-school protectionist. Defending him for partisan reasons undermines the real goal of competition.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 11:58 AM

I voted for Bush but feel no loyalty to the Republican Party. I might if they'd institute some conservative notions like border patrol, dismantling federal overregulation, & fiscal conservatism.

Republicans should look to Churchill to see just how long national security lingers in the public mind.

Posted by: beautifulatrocities at May 10, 2005 12:07 PM

“All politicians will protect jobs when they have to. That is why we bailed out the airline industry - no politician could afford to be the one who let all those people lose their jobs, even if it meant that money was going from your wallet to the wallets of investors.”

These airlines should have been allowed to fail. The rest of us are poorer because these jobs were temporarily protected. Politicians of either major party should be told to keep their hands off the necessary “destructive” aspects of economic activity.

“Republicans should look to Churchill to see just how long national security lingers in the public mind.”

Yup, the British voters opted for socialism---and paid the horrible price for their stupidity. One should never forget that fateful election. It took decades to once again turn around Great Britain's economy.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 10, 2005 12:19 PM

As long as we have a two party system, Dems will always pay lip-service to the anti-war left, and Repubs will always pay lip-service to the religious right.

It simply makes no sense for either party to do otherwise. Let's say you're the Democratic nominee in the summer of 2004. You decide to win Michael Totten and Martin Grossman's vote by denouncing Michael Moore and reendorsing the decision to invade Iraq, despite the shitty news coming out of Iraq night after night. This hereby alienates the 40-45% of Americans who thinks the war was a stupid idea. But you don't care, because you want to do the right thing. You resolve to ignore that large electoral minority and go after the red-blooded real Americans who want to take the fight to terrorists like Saadam bin-Laden. But what percentage of those voters think that Bush is doing a great job, and would never considering voting for someone else? 70%? 80%? It makes no sense for a Democratic candidate to try to persuade them to vote, to the exclusion of his more loyal base.

The same goes for the Republican strategy. It makes no sense for Bush to alienate his strongest supporters by refraining from homophobic attacks, just so Michael Totten or Andrew Sullivan can be comfortable in pulling the lever for him.

Socially liberal, pro-war Americans ought to recongnize that the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans strongly disagree with a significant portion of their views.

Posted by: Markus Rose at May 10, 2005 12:21 PM

I read some report on the CATO Institute website (I think it was one of their 'Grand Old Spending Party'reports) that stated that Bush, with his corporate welfare to the Airline industries, Tariffs for American Steel and Shrimping industries and lavish farm subsidies was the most protectionist President since Reagan.

Oh the whole though David is correct. Protectionism is a much bigger issue in the Democratic party than in the Republican party. On the flipside though, Republican voters are still more likely to be upset about immigrants coming over the borders and taking 'American Jobs' proving their Buchananite wing isn't as dead as one might think.

Posted by: Epitome at May 10, 2005 12:23 PM

I've got a new one for you, how about we say "Screw the Republicans and the Democrats". How about we think independently and with intellectual honesty and elect the people who are going to bolster our security, enhance economic viability, and serve the greater interests of the AmericanPeople. If more of us were willing to abandon our party loyalty and vote according to the measure of the men and women seeking office, then it just might rip our present leadership's collective heads out of their a**es barely long enough to catch their attention and have them realize the they serve us, not eachother.

Posted by: Mike T. at May 10, 2005 12:32 PM

I'm a Centrist Democrat and I'll probably continue to be a rabid partisan for my party until they throw me out; but if you are concerned about such matters, you might consider, through the power of the Net, trying to forge and will a New Third Party into the political landscape.

Posted by: Epitome at May 10, 2005 12:36 PM

That's exactly the problem; it's this collectivization under "Party" rule that allows for individuals to rationlize the sacrifice of individual principles for the good of the "Party". Forget the stupid Party for a minute, whether it's two, three or whatever. If you refuse to surrender any degree of control over the one thing you are truly guaranteed in this system, your vote, then no organization of self-serving, like minded politicians will be able to kow you, and anyone else like you, into submitting to the greater "good of the Party" (i.e. "their will").

I know what you're getting, "If you think so then, get off your fat ass and do something", and I agree, but given the existence of the Electoral College, it's all but impossible to create a viable third party. Forget about Ralph Nader, just ask Ross Perot when 13 years ago he garnered 19% of the popular vote, yet not a single Electoral Vote; and that's after dropping out and re-entering the race! The responsibility is with every individual to stop buying into the same old bulls***, and start voting with your head and your heart.

I'm no Anarchist, but I'm all for rocking the boat; only then can we scare the bejeezus out of the "Washington Regulars", and force them to knock off the lip service and do what needs to be done in the best interest of the people of this country.

Posted by: Mike T. at May 10, 2005 01:27 PM

Yes, David Thompson is correct - the British certainly paid a horrible price for choosing "socialism". Just compare the awful images of starving rock stars in swinging 1960s London to the luxurious soup queues of the 1930s. All those British kids saddled with the burden of disposable income to spend on luxury items unknown to their grand-parents. The horror. In the 1950s and 60s Britains suffered the indignities of increased car ownership, economic growth, better health care, better consumer goods and public housing.
I'm exaggerating a little of course, there is a real sense in which David is right - the socialistic policies pursued by Labour did create real and lasting long-term structural issues for the British economy. But it is an argument purely from ideology to call it a "disaster." Most Britons did not pay a horrible price at all, certainly not over the short-term - ordinary Britons did fairly well under the Labour governments. That's why they stayed in power more or less until the 1970s. Great Britain as a whole probably would have done better under the Conservatives but many ordinary Englishmen wanted stable steady growth rather than rapid growth with volatility. Not at all an unnatural reaction after a horrible war, even in the US we saw a similar reaction towards socialistic paternal government. Eisenhower would be crucified by today's right wing for the high marginal tax rates of the 1950s. It really does seem that today's right is the mirror of the 1960s left - everything is ideology and politics.

Posted by: Vanya at May 10, 2005 01:50 PM

One of the reasons I've always respected Milton Friedman, the laissez-faire economist is that he never submits to the hysterical hyperbole that permeates economic matters on both sides of the fence. Whenever some Right or Libertarian economist poses a question such as

"Such and such country is raising taxes and extending entitlement benefits; do you think it will be long before the sun crashes into the ocean and Satan reigns on earth for all eternity?"

and he replies

"Nonsense!, such and such country has an extraordinarily resilient economy; they might stumble, but they will continue to grow."

It would be nice if people on both sides of the aisle would tone down the rhetoric about an Imperialist neoliberal world order every time a trade agreement is reached, and how America is a half-step from the gulags when Social Security revenues are raised.

Posted by: Epitome at May 10, 2005 02:23 PM

It will be safe to vote for the Democrats again

Great Scott! Someone who thinks voting for Democrats is safe! Why would you want to vote Democrat at all?

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 10, 2005 02:24 PM

Solomon2: Why would you want to vote Democrat at all?

The fact that I'm not a Republican (gasp) might have something to do with it.

Most Americans aren't Republicans, you know. It's not time to haul me off to the nuthouse just yet.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 10, 2005 02:27 PM

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated!

Posted by: Epitome at May 10, 2005 02:34 PM

MJT: I never mentioned the nuthouse. I asked why you would want to vote Democrat. Do you have reasons for your preferences, or is it just comfortable to resume old habits?

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 10, 2005 02:37 PM

Solomon2,

The Democrats used to be fiscally irresponsible, but the Republicans picked up where the Dems of old left off. Bush's budget is a disaster, and I think this is obvious to anyone who isn't a partisan Republican.

I'm as socially liberal as I've ever been. My only real objection to social liberalism is on the question of Political Correctness. But that isn't so much a Democrat thing as it is an activist/campus thing.

My agreement with the Republicans is on foreign policy. And midterm elections aren't about foriegn policy. So if the Republicans expect me to vote for them next year they are going to have to give me a reason. I do not expect them to do so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 10, 2005 02:50 PM

My only real objection to social liberalism is on the question of Political Correctness. But that isn't so much a Democrat thing as it is an activist/campus thing.

The two are connected. Look at the Board of Trustees of some universities and see the Democrats listed. Can you imagine such people expending political capital to fix PC issues on campus? Can you imagine a politician even acknowledging responsibility for a campus scandal of any sort?

Gore, for example, used to be on the board of the Catholic University of America. If a big problem had cropped up on his watch, would he be interested in fixing it or burying it?

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 10, 2005 03:16 PM

I'll probably vote Republican next time. The Democrats disgust me at the moment: there is nobody there I would trust with for foreign policy, the religion wedge issue is idiotic, their domestic policy is borderline racist, their PC positions are braindead, and the spoiled rich a**hats who run the party are a complete turnoff.

Aside from that, they aren't all that bad.

Posted by: chuck at May 10, 2005 04:03 PM

If mid-term elections aren't about foreign policy what are they about? Is there some general rule I am not aware of that mid-term elections are strictly about domestic issues? Michael, you assert you are in agreement with Republicans with regard to foreign policy, but won't Democratic gains in 2006 have an effect on the conduct of foreign policy as the Democrats become bolder in pushing their agenda (assuming of course, they come up with one that is coherent)? They are unlikely to interpret gains only as a mandate on domestic issues and limit themselves accordingly. Of course you can vote any way you want and if voting Dem in 2006 (which probably won't make any difference in a liberal enclave like Portland) assuages your socially liberal conscience, be my guest.

Posted by: Zacek at May 10, 2005 04:56 PM

If your only problem with the Dems is Political Correctness then you're just not looking hard enough. Either way, their hands are heavily stained with that blood.

I plan to vote Republican this coming election, even though Bush will still be in office. Take the recent blocking of judicial nominees, for instance. They're technically in the minority, yet they still manage to impede the political process. It is ridiculous!

No, the Democrats need to be punished further for not having learned their lesson from the last election.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at May 10, 2005 05:29 PM

My hands are stained with the blood of political correctness!

Your hands are stained with the actual blood of actual people who were actually murdered while in US custody in Afghanistan and Iraq!

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 05:38 PM

Of course the "They're" in that second paragrah refers to the Dems. I reread it, and it looks as though I'm talking about the Republicans.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at May 10, 2005 05:39 PM

Commentator,

As long as it's the blood of murderous dictators and terrorist thugs, I'll sleep comfortably at night, thank you.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at May 10, 2005 05:42 PM

Oh, Kay Hoog, I'm talking about random people caught up in drag nets and then tortured to death in US custody (and last time I checked, at least 5 deaths had been ruled homicides, with another 40 or so under investigation, and that was a month or more ago). I'm talking about the Conservative commentariat that defended this, and the President who decided that at a time when we're supposed to be winning hearts and minds, it was better to talk about some "bad apples" then to have a serious discussion about where America stands on, you know, torturing Muslims in the same prisons where Saddam tortured them.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 05:47 PM

Commenter,

We might have made a few mistakes, but they're minuscule when you compare them to the countless atrocities committed at the hands of Saddam, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda. But I guess that doesn't matter to you. You'd prefer an Iraq and Afghanistan where innocents are continuously, perpetually, and purposefully slaughtered, to an Iraq where only a few innocents are accidentally killed in sacrifice for a peaceful, FREE society.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at May 10, 2005 06:09 PM

See, that's what I don't get - the implication that I can't be critical of Bush, or one thing that he did, without being critical of the whole deal.

If Bush had shot a baby in the head, and I said "Bush, that was a bad thing to do, shooting that baby in the head", would I be getting the same routine?

Sure, Bush might have made some shooting-babies-in-the-head mistakes, but I guess that's all you care about because you hate freedom!!!!

Even setting aside the fact that this conversation was about the shameful things that each party has to own up to, it's still a bad argument.

Honestly, if you set aside all issues of partisanship (if you can do that), if you think that person X is doing something to hurt our chances of winning against our enemies, it's ok to criticise that person without hating freedom and loving dictators.

In fact, isn't that the point? Regardless of the fact that innocent people were being murdered by US forces and Conservatives were laughing it off (because suddenly torture became part of the party plank, I guess), what happened hurts our chances of winning.

We're trying to get these people to like us! Torturing them doesn't help. Neither does holding hands with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. These are things that it's ok to say: "Bush, knock it out!"

I mean, isn't that a pro-freedom thing, saying: "Hey, guys, let's not give the people who hate us more reasons to think that we're as terrible as they already think we are? Regardless of whether we're right or wrong, this makes them hate us more, and we could stop doing it without hurting ourselves, so why do we keep doing it?"

Oh, I forgot, debate and disagreement are soooooo out of style.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 06:19 PM

Commenter,

What's the point of this argument? Harp on a couple of Bush mistakes? If you side had their way, maybe that baby wouldn't get shot in the head, but 1,000 nuns would be skull f*cked to death. What's one baby getting shot in the head compared to 1,000 nuns dying in such a gruesome manner?

Last time I checked you were free to disagree and debate. That'’s what we're doing now. So I don't know what you're whining about. Try living in Iraq under Saddam's regime for a change if you want to know what REAL censorship is.

Any clear-thinking person knows that there are cases in which torture is the only acceptable alternative. Also, sometimes you have to side with an enemy to conquer another enemy. If we cut ties with Saudis abruptly you'd probably complain about that too, as you would about the inevitable oil shortage that would result. Besides, who's to say we won't take care of the Saudis eventually? This smart and we have to be smart about this. We'll take out our foes one at a time.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at May 10, 2005 06:43 PM

MJT: "The Democrats used to be fiscally irresponsible, but the Republicans picked up where the Dems of old left off. Bush's budget is a disaster, and I think this is obvious to anyone who isn't a partisan Republican. I'm as socially liberal as I've ever been. My only real objection to social liberalism is on the question of Political Correctness. But that isn't so much a Democrat thing as it is an activist/campus thing. "

Re fiscal irresponsibility - isn't the Republican mess on that score simply indicative of the fact that the whole national political spectrum has shifted to the left? (I don't really know - I'm just asking.) It seems that once an entitlement is in place, no one - left or right - can survive politically unless they continue the entitlement. Now throw in the open borders as well as the votes to be gained by continuing or increasing the entitlements to which folks have become accustomed, as well as the issue of granting the right to vote to anyone who happens to be residing within our borders, and what is the long term trend here, if not towards further and possibly irreversible fiscal irresponsibility? I have seen several articles addressing the impact of illegals on shifting the red vs blue balance in many states. E.G. - didn't CA used to be a red state? Now it's blue? Why is that? (seriously - I'm just asking.) NC is currently a red state. It may also soon be tipping to blue for the same reason. When you say you object to "political correctness" - isn't that part and parcel of the same problem? Political correctness isn't some minor problem after all. It's more like a hammer coming down on the head of anyone who might object to open borders, continuation of the Patriot Act, and denial of entitlements to an ever expanding cadre of illegal folks who can weigh in with their votes on both scores. Doesn't seem like a small problem to me. I'm not saying that currently the Republicans are in fact doing much about it but I do wonder whether the Dems would do much better or whether they might not in fact do a whole lot worse? Re the bugaboo of the religious Christian right? No matter how the NYT editorialists portray the situation, I think focusing on this issue is losing major sight of the forest for the trees. My current political instinct is to look at Europe and say – hey – whatever they’re having – no thanks. They’re eating escargots? I’ll have a steak! I just get the uneasy feeling that our democratic party still views Europe as a big sister to be emulated. That includes respect for the U.N. and wherever else George Soros might want to take the country. (Commenter – re Bush holding hands with the Saudis – what exactly did you envision with Kerry and the Dem party’s love affair with the UN in general?) Frankly, I see Europe as a screwed up crack addict. My current instinct is to avoid whatever our big sister is doing – and that most definitely includes rejecting the political correctness which appears to have taken over the continent like a serious addiction, if not an outright cancer.

Posted by: Caroline at May 10, 2005 07:10 PM

No, Kay Hoog, the point is not to harp on a couple of mistakes. The point is two-fold: to demonstrate that it is possible to be critical of x without being critical of a, b, and c, and to demonstrate that one can be critical of Bush without hating freedom!!!!

For the record, I supported the war on Iraq. I just think Bush has done a bad job of the post-war stuff. I'm not going into the why's and what's of that. I just really don't understand the hostility of people like you to any criticism, no matter if it's justified or unjustified, of Bush.

Seriously, is there anything he could do that you wouldn't support or defend? The point, in a free and open democracy such as ours, is that citizens can speak their minds in the hopes of influencing not only the minds of other people and the public debate, but also the decisions of our leaders. I honestly think that Bush has made mistakes that have made it more, not less, likely that bad things will happen in the world. And for that - for hoping that Bush will stop doing something bad and start doing something good in order to achieve the same goals that you'd like to achieve - I'm told that I'm a monster who hates freedom!!!!!

I didn't say we should cut off ties with Saudi Arabia, I said that Bush made a mistake by holding hands with Abdullah and being photographed doing it. The people of the Middle East already think America is two-faced. It should be our goal to make them think otherwise. Bush says "we will stand with freedom and against tyrants". Then he holds hands with Abdullah. The people of the Middle East say, "America is two-faced. For example, Bush says he stands against tyrants, and then holds the hand of a tyrant. Therefore, we should not trust anything he says".

This is bad. Why is it so horrible to you to point out that this is bad? I realize that you are assuming that everything someone says that's critical of Bush is said for the sole purpose of scoring partisan points, but sometimes, and I know this is crazy, but sometimes people say it because they genuinely care about the outcome.

Seriously, set partisanship aside. Has Bush done everything perfectly? No? Well, doesn't that mean we should say "Bush, you haven't done everything perfectly, and here are some suggestions on how to do things better"? Or is that a no-no?

Honestly, I believe that the more somebody desires to see freedom spread to Iraq and beyond, the more willing they should be to criticise Bush, because the more dearly they would want to see things succeed. Unless you believe that every single decision by the Bush administration and every single implementation was 100% perfect, which I doubt (hope?) anyone in the world really believes, if you cared enough about these things, you'd be like an over-protective parent, not willing to trust anyone with your baby, no matter how much you trust them. Well, freedom's my baby, baby, and I don't think anyone can take care of my baby as well as I'd like. So, I'm chock-full of advice in the hopes that the people who are watching my baby will take as good care as I'd like.

And no, not every clear-headed person believes that sometimes the only acceptable alternative is torture. I think it's a sad state of affairs when someone honestly believes that.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 07:10 PM

Commenter - To a large degree I have to say that I'm beyond the "Bush criticism"=unpatriotic thing by now. But you have to admit that during the run-up to the American election, and well before the Iraqi election, the Dem party was totally disgusting and reprehensible on that score. "Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" - from the Democratic candidate of the USA (an electoral campaign observed by the entire world) - who VOTED IN FAVOR of the war? This, while we were in the midst of heavy fighting? Come on - disgusting. Not OK. You can't toss that off as principled patriotism. I'll bet it's still costing the Dems But no doubt the extent to which it's costing the Dems is equally balanced by the number of folks disillusioned with the war for other reasons combined with the folks concerned about the deficit and other economic issues. Still - I'll bet a whole lot of people will never forget what the Dem party did during this war. I know I'll never look at the party in quite the same way again.

Posted by: Caroline at May 10, 2005 07:32 PM

Commenter,

Some people are not worth arguing with. (And I am not talking about Caroline here.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 10, 2005 07:38 PM

If we are to be moral actors, of course we have to reflect on the actions taken in our names. We have a justice system that imperfect as it may be is not paralelled by any sysyem our enemies have in place. At the same time we become paralyzed, unabale to take necessarty action if we aere too nuanced, always saying "on the other hand..." In the opening sentence of John Bath's End of the Road. his narrator says, "In a sense, I am Jacob Hoerner." He has become so addicted to "understanding all sides to every question, he no longer -- in any meaningful sense -- knows who he is. He is a tragic figure because he can no longer take action. As I recall, he is sitting in a bus or train station as the novel begins and can't even decide where to go. We will not survive as a nation unless we can take action. We only embolden our enemies when we ignore them. Europe, for example, has by and large, has explained away the threat posed by Islam-fascism to the point where they are having difficulty admitting that it exists. Things seem to be changing a bit of late, but it's an open question whether or not it's already too late. We may want to explain it all away by saying they have created their own problems, but it clearly shows what can happen when nations lose a sense of themselves and their traditions and see little in them worth fighting for and preserving. At the airport recently, I happened upon a young soldier just returned from Iraq and his mother. He was an impressive kid, not full of hatred or bravado but idealistic and thoughtful. I am glad we are still producing such men (and women). What a contrast withthe 20-somethings I meet who tell me how much they hate Bush and how he is worse than our enemies. They tell me we are to blame for attacks against us and they we have to understand "where the "insurgents" are coming from. This is madness masquerading as thoughfulness. They need to read less Chomsky and more Berman.

Posted by: Martin Grossman at May 10, 2005 07:42 PM

I know. It's the OCD in me. I know I'm an idiot for arguing with some people, I just can't help myself.

Now, with Mika, that was fun.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 10, 2005 07:43 PM

Europe, for example, has by and large, has explained away the threat posed by Islam-fascism to the point where they are having difficulty admitting that it exists.

Martin,

I copped this quote from Andrew Sullivan's site regarding an assault in Amsterdam:

Human rights organisation Human Rights Watch said the assault of Crain is the result of ethnic tension in the Netherlands. It said gays are the victim because immigrants take revenge for the injustice they encounter themselves.

This is the sort of insanely PC understanding that drives me crazy. It is ubiquitous on the left and even among American liberals. If someone in the Democratic party were to state that they consider such a statement moronic, then I might be able to vote for them. I am not holding my breath.

Posted by: chuck at May 10, 2005 07:53 PM

Chuck: "This is the sort of insanely PC understanding that drives me crazy. It is ubiquitous on the left and even among American liberals. If someone in the Democratic party were to state that they consider such a statement moronic, then I might be able to vote for them. I am not holding my breath."

YUP...

Martin Grossman: "They tell me we are to blame for attacks against us and they we have to understand "where the "insurgents" are coming from. This is madness masquerading as thoughfulness. They need to read less Chomsky and more Berman"

YUP...

PC clearly isn't some minor problem affecting campus liberals. It runs way way deeper than that. Anyone watching what's going on in Europe has got to understand haw PC is literally undermining the foundations of democracy there.

This is a good example - from the blogger fjordman:

Is Swedish Democracy Collapsing?

Like I said - if they're having escargots - I'll have steak! Now.... which party is serving steak?

Posted by: Caroline at May 10, 2005 08:24 PM

Caroline - thanks for the link. Sweden is starting to sound like the South Bronx during the 80's. Just like Holland. And France. And some neighborhoods in Britain...

PC is the worst possible response. If Europe doesn't start adopting a zero tolerance attitude towards this kind of crime, there may be an equal and opposite reaction, which is scary in many ways..

Posted by: mary at May 10, 2005 08:49 PM

That was an utterly indefensible remark by Human Rights Watch, an organization I otherwise respect even though they are peaceniks.

Personally, I'm a little skeptical of the 'PC' boogyman. I loathe campus speech codes and I don't think simply uttering an Un-PC remark is enough justification to nullify an argument. But from what I've gathered, many people are saying and doing some pretty reprehensible things and proclaim that they are bucking PC trends. To many people, 'PC' is an all encompassing block of behavioral norms, many of which used to fall under plain old Tact and Manners.

Posted by: Epitome at May 10, 2005 09:17 PM

I just think Bush has done a bad job of the post-war stuff.

Not at all.

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 10, 2005 09:20 PM

Epitome,

Personally, I'm a little skeptical of the 'PC' boogyman. I loathe campus speech codes and I don't think simply uttering an Un-PC remark is enough justification to nullify an argument.

To me, PC means thinking what you are supposed to think and saying what you are supposed to say. It is blind adherance to superstitious dogma. This is in contrast to basing ones thought on personal observation and coming to one's own conclusions. If it is true that drunken Swedes can fall into racist tirades but be properly multi-culti when sober, then I think that qualifies as advanced PC.

Because most of the liberal ideas about society strike me as unexamined dogma and often silly, but nevertheless dogma to which one is expected to conform, PC is also short hand for the nutty ideas rampant on the left.

Posted by: chuck at May 10, 2005 09:57 PM

PC is about political conformism, free republic is just as PC as any campus speech code, just in a different direction.

Anyone who thinks it's a good idea for one party (any party) to control all three parts of government (after witnessing the results) really needs to think harder. If the libertarians controlled three branches the result would be swollen government, that's how the system works. I don't expect the current situation to last unless W can stir up more security fears and go for the ChickenLittle vote (again). (Or another big round of fag bashing, that's always worked wonderfully well for the republicans).

It's pretty uncontroversial to say the that the occupation of Iraq has been handled really poorly (entirely predictable, for many reasons). In grading terms, it's at best a C- (that high only due to the one off election success that the commander in chief of the occupation forces didn't want).

Posted by: Michael Farris at May 10, 2005 10:56 PM

Quote:

Oh, I forgot, debate and disagreement are soooooo out of style.
___________________________________
Once again, disagreement with Bush's critics translates into opposition to free speech. The relationship between the two is rarely well articulated - further proof that people who assert this don't have a leg to stand on. Isn't the very sort of debate that PC's opponents offer proof of the diversity of opinions that is such an asset to the country? PC either is undermining his/her own premise or does not truly value divergence from the standard USoilstealingHalliburtonjackbootedwarmongerers narrative. Also, why the preoccupation with individuals calling one a "freedom hater?" Surely that's no more offensive than equating the U.S. military's actions with state-sanctioned, wholesale Ba'athist tyranny.
Quote:

__________________________
I'm talking about the Conservative commentariat that defended this, and the President who decided that at a time when we're supposed to be winning hearts and minds, it was better to talk about some "bad apples" then to have a serious discussion about where America stands on, you know, torturing Muslims in the same prisons where Saddam tortured them.
___________________________

By denying that it was indeed "bad apples" who were responsible PC offers tacit support for the only logical alternative interpetation - that the abuses were consistent with the United States Army's character. Perhaps it would be better for PC to explicitly articulate this instead of copping out by vaguely accusing Americans of not taking torture seriously or attacking proxies - the "commentariat", Bush, the military leadership, and others. If this accusation is intended to be some indictment of the nation's leadership and not the "grunts" themselves then it simply amounts to another patronizing denial of the latter group's moral agency.
Just in case Proud Conservative actually believes the military encourages atrocities it is interesting to point out the lack of evidence that the Army as a whole officially encouraged abuses against detainees or committed atrocities to the point where the body count and impact from their actions approached that of Saddam's leadership. Bush condemned prisoner abuse and attributed it to a minority who did not represent the Service or the United States' values as a whole; I'm not sure how this proves he is not serious about the military's comparatively minor wrongdoing.
Establishing moral equivalence between U.S. soldiers and Saddam's regime will provoke criticism, some of it (understandably) unbalanced. It is illogical to essentially call the armed forces oppressors and then wonder why there is an intense backlash. It is also illogical to expect people to be thankful that the accusation is implicit, that one does not explicitly claim to be a "freedom hater", etc.

Posted by: Samsung at May 10, 2005 11:06 PM

Human rights organisation Human Rights Watch said the assault of Crain is the result of ethnic tension in the Netherlands. It said gays are the victim because immigrants take revenge for the injustice they encounter themselves.

This is the sort of insanely PC understanding that drives me crazy. It is ubiquitous on the left and even among American liberals.

Um, it is? I don't remember ever hearing any American liberal say anything remotely along the lines of "it's okay for racial minorities to beat up gay people," so I wouldn't say such a view is ubiquitous on the left.

If someone in the Democratic party were to state that they consider such a statement moronic, then I might be able to vote for them. I am not holding my breath.

Considering that it's likely no Democratic elected official has even heard the statement, it may be hard for them to condemn it. Come on, the "will you condemn this" game is starting to get very old.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at May 10, 2005 11:20 PM

"To me, PC means thinking what you are supposed to think and saying what you are supposed to say. It is blind adherance to superstitious dogma."

I think this is at both a broad and narrow conception of PC (which makes PC diffucult to understand).

It's 'Politically Correct' if you will, to accept and espouse the consensus that Blacks (African Americans!) are an inherently disadvantaged and oppressed minority group who's dispossesed status in society is directly the result of the actions and policies of the White majority.

It's also 'Politically Correct' to accept and espouse the consensus that Blacks are the moral and intellectual equals of Whites and have the same capablity to succeed as their White counterparts.

And for the flipside, anyone challenging either consensus is being equally 'Un-PC'. Now the first consensus is debatable, but as of the second consensus, I think the majority of us consider Blacks to be the equal of Whites (or vice versa). If someone challenged the first consensus, I might disagree, but would consider the dissenter guilty of no offense other than violating the established consensus.

But if someone challenged the second consensus, aren't they not being, or not just being 'Un-PC' but also guilty of a greater, more reprehensible offense? I think so, but according to the dissenter, he's just a bold truth teller challenging the sacred cow of the PC consensus. According to David Duke, when he infers that Blacks are inherently violent and that Jews are conspiring to world domination; he is guilty of no greater offense than David Horowitz when he infers that there is no racist conspiracy keeping blacks down and that blacks are largely responsible for their own problems; Political Incorrectness.

For many culture warriors, 'PC' is an all looming and oppressive speech and thought stifler, and who's alleged totalitarian behavioral standards are all encompassing and encompass things that used to fall under plain old manners and tact. And many people seem to get a perverse thrill out of shocking others' sensibilities and making them aghast; thinking they are striking blows at the PC establishment when quite frankly, they aren't doing anything except be dickheads.

Posted by: Epitome at May 11, 2005 12:47 AM

Mary - that Wolfgang Bruno article was one of the best things I read yesterday. Melanie Phillips yesterday sounded a similar alarm about Britain in her May 10 diary entry:

The Politics of Violent Sectarianism

Posted by: Caroline at May 11, 2005 04:20 AM

You know, the thing that I don't get (at the moment, there's a lot about you people I don't understand) is the fear of political correctness.

Seriously, the Big Bad PC Monster comes to get you.

"That's not very PC!" says the Big Bad PC Monster.

"Ok", you say.

"I'm very angry at you for not being PC!" says the Big Bad PC Monster.

"Ok", you say.

"GRRR! I am the Big Bad PC Monster and I will EAT YOU!" says the Big Bad PC Monster.

"Ok", you say, and walk away.

What, suddenly Conservatives aren't the big tough alphas, but instead are quivering before a mass of unwashed college students and their professors who are balding on top but still pulling what's left of their hair into ponytails?

Seriously, grow a pair, guys. The debate is only stiffled if you get too scared to keep arguing.

Which is, I suppose, why Kay Hoog challenged the reason why I was being critical of Bush. Last time I checked, I can be critical for any reason I want, but I was for two reasons.

1) We were talking about the problems that each party is responsible for.

2) I'd like to believe that if I disagree with something, I can try to articulate why and hopefully shape public discourse so as to influence the thing I don't like.

In the latter case, I don't like some things that Bush has done, and I'd like him to change. Kay Hoog wanted to end the discussion - s(he?) implied that the only reason one could be critical of Bush is that one wanted to score cheap partisan points.

Um, no.

But anyway, I thought this was stupid, said so, and moved on. Give it a try guys.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 05:37 AM

Samsung,

I felt that I had already dealt with this issue in my comments from 7:10 PM above, but let me deal once again with the issue of "moral equivalence".

If I had said "the actions committed by the Bush administration are morally equivalent to those of Saddam", then I would be guilty of moral equivalence.

Instead, I said "the actions of the Bush administration, which are reminiscent of the actions of Saddam, are bad."

I went on to elaborate: "setting aside the issue that torture is wrong, the actions of the Bush administration are wrong because they are needlessly harming our ability to win against our enemies".

It is as if Bush had issued toy guns to all the soldiers, and I said "the Bush administration is wrong to issue toy guns to our soldiers because this needlessly makes it harder for us to win (setting aside the issue that lots of our soldiers will die, which is bad in of itself)".

Honestly, pretend that the president is John Smith, head of the Neutral Party, and I am Citizen Everyman, and I said "Bush should work harder on winning hearts and minds, because this is important, and many of his actions are hurting our ability to do so. He should change those actions, especially those which are irrelevant to other issues."

Honestly, do you think it would have hurt America all that badly if Bush had come down a little harder on the whole torture issue? If Bush had avoided being photographed holding hands with Abdullah? It would not hurt us at all. It would also help us enormously.

To argue that Bush needs to change nothing about his policies is, in my opinion, to be unserious about winning the war and, in my opinion, deeply unpatriotic. It's putting petty partisan gain before a serious and free discussion of problems and possible solutions that could result in better solutions to our problems that could ensure victory. Trying to prevent that discussion is, in every single way imaginable, bad for America and bad for freedom.

Oh, PS - the "freedom hater!!!!" thing comes from any number of people commenting here - do some google searches.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 05:47 AM

Commenter - the PC issue shows itself in a lot of ways - the blind faith in multiculturalism, unwillingness to use profiling, unwillingness to name the enemy we are fighting (Islamic jihad), unwillingness to criticize Islam (we given the Gitmo guys Korans for Pete's sake. Did we give our Nazi POW's copies of Mein Kampf?), the tendency to think we must be responsible for the attacks upon us and so on. It leads to a failure to really understand what we're fighting. Ultimately, it can break down a society's ability and willingness to defend itself. It's not a trivial thing at all.

This is where it leads:

Infiltration

Posted by: Caroline at May 11, 2005 07:21 AM

Caroline,

We almost certainly did, however, hand out copies of the Bible to German POWs.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 07:24 AM

we given the Gitmo guys Korans for Pete's sake. Did we give our Nazi POW's copies of Mein Kampf?

Koran, Mein Kampf, same difference, huh?

Posted by: Steve at May 11, 2005 08:10 AM

the actions of the Bush administration are wrong because they are needlessly harming our ability to win against our enemies".

Our enemies, the terrorist/insurgents, believe that our lives are worth less than sh*t or urine. Our enemies are recruited through the use of snuff films, which show the slow beheading of prisoners, complete with very real life torture, pain, screams and blood. They join terrorist groups because they want to inflict that same kind of pain on civilian men, women and children.

Even if we’re extra, extra nice to them, they’ll never like us.

Their religious leaders, who are also their political leaders and their lawyers, tell them that they’re doing the right thing.

In contrast, the Iraqi people, the potential victims of our enemies, spit on the dead bodies of these insurgents. They want to be able to go to work, send their children to school and elect representatives without having to be afraid of these monsters. That’s how they define ‘freedom’

If we don’t get rid of the terrorists, the Iraqi people won’t like us either.

The majority of the Iraqi population doesn’t support terrorism. The terrorists haven’t won their ‘hearts and minds’, so Abu Ghraib didn’t cause us any harm that way.

Abu Ghraib harmed us because was a pathetically stupid and ineffective way of fighting terrorism.

The Iraqi people want us to kill more terrorists, not fewer. Or they want us to teach them how to kill them – effectively. That’s how we can win their hearts and minds.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 08:15 AM

Mary,

The point isn't to make the terrorists love us, which they're obviously not. The point is to make the average Muslim in some of these places not hate us so much that he or she will tacitly support the terrorists or, at worst, be recruited by them.

When we torture innocent Muslims to death, this makes it harder to get people to like us. When our President calls the war a Crusade and holds hands with Abdullah, this makes it more likely that Americans will die.

Also, please take a look at some numbers compiled by The Brookings Institution. Between April (when the pictures were first released) and May of 2004, the estimated number of insurgents jumped from 5,000 to 15,000.

What do these numbers mean? Nothing. Correlation isn't causation*, and the estimates are very rough, meaning that US officials could have underestimated strength in April or overestimated in May, and so forth.

But that's the point: neither you nor I know how many additional Iraqis joined the insurgency or began to support it in some way as a result of something that only bolsters regional views that America is bad and out to get Muslims. Even if it's not a majority, every Iraqi who joins the insurgency who wouldn't have otherwise is a needless enemy - one that we wouldn't need to fight if things had been handled differently.

*Correlation is not causation. For example, there is a correlation between bread-eating and murder. Almost every murderer ate bread sometime in the week before committing the murder. However, so did everyone else who didn't committ a murder, the vast majority. Similarly, there is a correlation between Islamic fundamentalist terrorists and reading the Koran. Many terrorists read the Koran. However, so do the vast majority of Muslims who are not terrorists. Correlation is not causation.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 08:31 AM

Commenter – The Koran doesn’t ‘cause’ terrorism. But if you ask any Muslim terrorist what they want, they’ll tell you - Shariah law. According to their extremist interpretation of these laws, and according to the extremist preachers who support them, terrorism is justified in the eyes of Allah. Terrorists don’t spontaneously generate – they need support, money and organization to do their work.

This is a worldwide organization. Most of the insurgents are not Iraqis. Many are from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the UAE.

Here’s a report of the latest insurgent atrocities:
Four suicide bombs killed at least 66 people in Iraq on Wednesday, the latest attacks in an escalating campaign of guerrilla violence that has killed nearly 400 Iraqis since a new government was unveiled two weeks ago.

In Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle among a crowd of mainly Shi'ite migrant laborers from southern Iraq who had gathered to look for work. [Italics added.]

Do you think the terrorists murdered those Shi’ite migrant laborers because they were upset about the Abu Gharib panty thing? Do you think they did it because they’re rebelling against the Saudis who support their actions? Give me a break.

Why would the Iraqi people support the terrorists who are murdering their children, their neighbors and their families? Do you think the Iraqi people support this brutal slaughter? Do you think Iraqis want their children to die because Bush used the word “crusade” in a sentence?

Thousands of Iraqi people have marched against terrorism, millions voted in defiance of the terrorists, some have killed terrorists (although they worry about retaliation). What do they have to do to prove that they hate these murderers?

If you believe that many Iraqis support these insurgents, you don’t have a very positive view of the Iraqi people.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 08:54 AM

Michael -

You've spent a fair portion of the last year immersed in actively supporting nascent democracies - actual, physical travel and labor aimed at understanding the ground level realities of places like Libya (no, not near a nascent democracy, but in flux none the less), Lebanon, and all your work with Spirit of America and Friends of Democracy.

You have written extensively on the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.

You know better than I ever will the political and philosophical underpinnings of the American (big "L") liberal movement and their party, the Democrats.

And you can tell me that you don't have a problem supporting them, based on domestic politics?

Just what level of compartmentalization do you practice to arrive at that position? The Republicans are doing a poor job in the Congress. They aren't governing like a majority.

They may not do well in midterms - and they don't deserve to. But make no mistake: it won't be because they've let down moderates, but because they have failed to honor the commitments they made to conservatives. Border security, fiscal responsibility, smaller government - all those issues are a part of what has driven the shift to Republican majorities that has occurred the last three decades.

And the Party people, again, still, haven't figured out that winning by running as a conservative is an ephemeral thing if they don't govern conservatively. It's frustrating to watch.

I am not talking about the implementation of Baptist prayer in schools or work camps for welfare mothers or gulags for gays or an oil well in every nature preserve and national park - those are the cliched, obstructionist (sp?) stalking horses of failed liberal populists. I'm talking about social security reform that acknowledges the impossibility of sustaining the current system and is crafted in good faith to arrive at a workable solution. I'm talking about environmental regulation that is based on engineering realities and not driven by agenda politics. I'm talking about seating judges that are committed to interpeting our Constitution, not modifying it to reflect a jurist's political agenda. I'm talking about electing good men and women who go to represent me, not rule me.

The Republicans in congress are fucking things up nicely, yes, and they should pay for it by losing some seats. I agree with some of your other posters that the time may be coming when "party" fades enough as a consideration to see the rise of true independents in numbers large enough to affect the course of politics in D.C.

But think it through, Michael. What's the future of Iraq or Lebanon or Afghanistan with a return to "it's all America's fault" based foreign policy?

Our elections distill the will of the people into government action. The layers of beauracracy and the fiefdoms of party and incumbency make the process less than efficient, but the process still works.

I predict that the GWOT will fall off the edge of the world (outside of the random spectacular terrorist attack or embarassing coalition scandal) by the end of this summer. The campaigns for 2006 will begin in earnest by then, and media will still be running on their old playbook.

The Democrats haven't failed to restrain the growth of government - it's a goal of the party. They have a lock on the income redistribution and regulation of individual lives title. They won't touch social security even though it's going to fail. They proclaim America a nation of victims and oppressors. They do not believe in American exceptionalism, nor are they interested in defense beyond what it means as a social laboratory.

They are not the lesser of two evils, for real conservatives. They are not an option. They are not safe, emphatically, in positions of responsibility, much less in power, which is what they are really after in the end.

Think it through.

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 11, 2005 09:20 AM

Mary,

Brookings, using the numbers that the US government itself released, pegs the number of foreign insurgents around 1,000. The total number of insurgents is pegged around 20,000. So, if they're not foreign, then they must be Iraqis, right?

Also, if you read the words that I wrote, you would see that I stated something along the lines of: the fact that a majority of Iraqis oppose the insurgency is irrelevant to the discussion. The point is that, if Bush does something that increases the insurgency from X to X+1, this is a bad thing and Bush should stop doing whatever it is that caused X to increase to X+1. That's not, and listen up people, that's not saying that all Iraqis are pro-insurgents, and that's not saying I hate freedom and want the good guys to lose, that's saying I want the good guys to win and won't tolerate stupid, unnecessary bullshit from anyone, including Bush, that makes winning harder. Freedom, baby. Join the bandwagon.

As for the Koran thing, the point was that Caroline compared the Koran to Mein Kampf, which I think is silly.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 09:34 AM

The Koran should be compared with the Bible. Sayyid Qutb's "In the Shade of the Koran" is what ought to be compared with Mein Kampf.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2005 09:47 AM

What has Bush done to increase the insurgency from X to X+1? What causes an insurgency to grow, what are the insurgent/terrorists' goals and what's the best way to stop them?

I agree that Bush has made mistakes, but if you can't answer those questions, your criticism is ineffective at best.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 09:47 AM

oops - my comment above should start: Commenter - What has Bush done to increase the insurgency from X to X+1?

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 09:56 AM

Mary,

I thought I had already dealt with those issues, but let's take one in particular.

Bush says he wants to bring freedom to the Middle East.

Middle Easterners feel that the US is two-faced and that its talk of promoting democracy is empty rhetoric.

Bush holds hands with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

People in the Middle East feel justified in their belief.

Whether or not that belief is really justified is utterly irrelevent to the discussion. All that matters is: will Action X help or hurt America? And what does it cost to do it or stop doing it?

When people we are trying to win over don't trust us, they are less likely to cooperate (as when we try to recruit translators, informants, and the like) and more likely to help our enemies. This hurts us. What would it cost us to stop doing it? Nothing - Bush just has to make sure the cameras are off when he makes with the kissy-kissy with dictators.

What causes an insurgency to grow? I don't know, and nobody else on the planet does either. We can make our best guesses, but when we're dealing with the motivations of lots of people, theorizing and making predictions gets difficult. I do have a feeling, however, that torturing Muslims in the same prison where Saddam tortured them doesn't win us any friends.

In this discussion, it does not matter that Saddam was worse. I am not engaging in moral equivalency. In fact, set aside all questions of morals. What are our goals?

Winning friends is our goal. We could have predicted, and now know, that Abu Ghraib makes people dislike us more or dislike us just as much as before. It does not, however, make people like us more, which is the goal. Making people like us is a national security goal - set everything else aside. I'm making a guess here - that even if not a single person started helping the insurgency because of Abu Ghraib (which I doubt), then we at least know that people are less likely to help us. Which is bad. Right? It's bad. Our goal is to make people like us and we're doing stupid, pointless things that do the opposite. So, we should stop doing those stupid things.

If we put up giant posters that said "Hey, Muslim - You Suck!", and I said "um, don't you think we should take down those posters?" - would we be having this discussion?

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 09:58 AM

Oh, a quick word on the issue of knowing versus not knowing the causes for a growing insurgency.

Obviously, we can't do polls and ask the insurgents if anything Bush did "caused" them to join the insurgency.

We can make guesses.

Now, if I said "one person joined the insurgency because of Bush", that's a guess.

If someone else said "10,000 people joined the insurgency because some guy offered them a pack of gum to do so", that is also a guess.

However, I feel that my guess has a greater probability, based on what we know of how people in the region view the US, and the justifications given by some people for why they committ violence (not just Iraq, obviously, but in the region as a whole).

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 10:03 AM

LOL I'm not sure Republicans need to do anything but step aside and watch Democrats self-destruct. The seemingly intractable insanity and plain nastiness of Reid, Pelosi, Kerry, Kennedy and etc. is pushing a lot of people like me who agree with a lot of progressive ideas further and further away from the Democratic Party in disgust over their rhetoric and tactics.

This is reflected all the way down to the local level. In Wisconsin people are becoming angry that the Democrats not only apparently committed massive vote fraud in 2004, but brazenly refuse to do anything about it.

Posted by: TallDave at May 11, 2005 11:22 AM

Oh, btw, the insurgency is not growing. Relative to the Free Iraq forces, they are several times smaller, weaker and less popular than they were a year ago.

The FREs (former regime elements) sowed an alliance of convenience with Al Qaeda, and have now reaped a bitter harvest: the suicide bombs are causing even Sunnis to turn against them (as Chrenkoff notes today) where before they might have been more sympathetic to the FRE's cause. Now Sunnis are lining up to join the free democratic forces of New Iraq, and one suspects they will vote far more enthusiastically in the coming elections as well.

Posted by: TallDave at May 11, 2005 11:28 AM

Obviously, we can't do polls and ask the insurgents if anything Bush did "caused" them to join the insurgency.

Yes you could. You could send a couple of 'anti-war' journalists out into the field to ask questions. The insurgents know who their friends are.

And of course they'd say Bush is to blame. They'd also say they want peace. If they thought it could convince a peace/anti-war movement to grow in America, they'd blame it all on a stick of gum. Do you think murderers are too principled to lie?

You don't have to guess what their motivations are, you can know from their actions. They target Iraqi children, they target workers, policemen and souk shoppers. They're not trying to win hearts and minds, they're trying to terrorize Iraqis into giving them political power, after which they plan to oppress them. The insurgents are also trying to terrorize the American people so that we'll seek "peace" by leaving. It's not very hard to understand.

The people who are terrorized want us to kill the terrorists. They don't want us to kill their family or their friends by mistake. This is also not very hard to understand.

If we're going to criticize Bush, we should criticize him for not targeting and destroying the insurgency before he declared that the war was won, and for our alliance with Saudi Arabia, the biggest terror-supporting state. Bush's problems are bigger than public relations.

If you want to learn more about the terrorist/insurgents' long-term goals, Sayyid Qutb's works are their Mein Kampf. Hitler explained his whole plan in his book. Qutb's books are the equivalent.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 11:28 AM

Mary, if it were true that every single person opposing us in some way - whether they're an insurgent, actively supporting the insurgency, tacitly supporting the insurgency, or refusing to cooperate with the US - were a follower of Qutb, then we'd have a much, much bigger problem on our hands than we already do.

This extends beyond Iraq, of course. We know that people like bin Laden and Zawahiri are Saalafists, and we have an idea of what their ideology looks like. Fine. That's not the point. We're not trying to win the hearts and minds of extremists who want to murder as many people as they can.

We are, however, trying to win the hearts and minds of the next generation before they volunteer to hijack the next set of planes. These are people who do not yet want to blow up children. The question then becomes: what leads someone who does not want to blow up children to want to blow up children? And what can we do to prevent that?

Certainly, there are steps on the path to extremism, as few people (other than true psychopaths) are born "extremists". What leads them to seek out or be recruited by these ideas? What makes them receptive? What would make them less receptive?

We can blow up terrorists, but the whole point of winning hearts and minds is so we don't have to blow them up forever. If someone is doing something to make that more difficult, then they should be told to stop.

Again, it's like the posters I mentioned before - "Hey, Muslim! You're a Jerk and We Hate You!"

Now, if an Iraqi saw that and thought, "hm, I suppose my preconceived notions about Americans were true, and so maybe these insurgents do have something useful to say", that would be bad. It would have nothing to do with Qutb or bin Laden or blowing up children, and everything to do with yet another enemy who didn't have to be an enemy.

And yes, this does raise all sorts of questions about the morality of the people who do this. We might say: the people who go on to blow up children are monsters, and the only reasonable solution is to continue blowing them up."

I would object. If, in magical pretend-land, the terrorists all came together and said "we will stop being terrorists if you give us five dollars", and I could be sure this would happen, I would give them five dollars. Yes, this would be rewarding them for their disgusting behavior - but the question becomes:

Which is the more important goal, punishing terrorists for their bad behavior or stopping terrorism as quickly and thoroughly and permanently as possible?

No, criticizing Bush for doing stupid things does not deal with the question of why terrorists blow up buses - but if I could stop them from blowing up buses without answering that question, I would.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 11:50 AM

Commenter - Terrorists, Ba’thists and Islamists, follow a philosophy that’s closely related to fascism. In many cases, it’s worse. If you want to understand what motivates Arab and Muslim fascists, study American and European fascists.

Since the European fascists were once a worldwide political group, they’re more comparable.

In the Arab/Muslim supremacists’ eyes, we, the Kurds, Jews, Gypsies, Hindus, Chinese, the French, etc. are the inferior race.

If we compare Ba’thists & the Islamists to the Nazis, we could ask, what could the non-Aryans, the Jews, the Gypsies have done to make the Nazis stop being so mean to them? How could they keep kids from joining the SS? Could they have bribed them, tried to be nice to them? Would that have worked?

Or should they have destroyed the Nazi leadership and their armies? Well, they did do that, and it worked. It'll probably work again.

Would the average European react to an anti-Euro poster by saying "hm, I suppose my preconceived notions about those people were true, and so maybe these Nazis do have something useful to say”

I don’t think so. Try, for a moment, to pretend that the general Arab population are people, just like us. Just like the Europeans.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 12:30 PM

The Commenter,

Granting Iraqis equivalent levels of self-awareness, personal responsibility, and introspection as those our society possesses, they might also look at that (rather juvenile and ignorant) poster and ask themselves "What have Muslims done that some people feel this way about us?" and find the insurgent/terrorist tactics all the more reprehensible for the negative effect they're having on perceptions of Islam and Muslims, rather than merely reflexive react by concluding that Westerners in general are jerks and maybe he should join the insurgents and try to kill some.

Posted by: TallDave at May 11, 2005 12:31 PM

Guys, the posters were a tongue-in-cheek metaphor. The point was that doing dumb things, like torturing Iraqis, might have the effect of making an Iraqi more receptive to the ideas of our enemies.

Attacking the leadership of our enemies does not preclude attempting to prevent them from being able to recruit new people. In fact, our Dear Leader himself has instructed the US government to engage in a campaign to win hearts and minds while at the same time trying to destroy our enemies militarily. Or do you object to this?

The whole point is to change the way that people think so that we don't spend the rest of existence fighting new batch after new batch of terrorists.

And TallDave, that's entirely possible. It's also entirely possible that, upon seeing a poster saying "Hey, TallDave, You're a Jerk!" you might think, "Hm. I wonder what I have done to make people think that! Perhaps I should change my ways so as to avoid being thought of as a jerk?"

Or, and this is also possible, you might "No, I'm not a jerk. You're a jerk!"

Of course, the point is, why are the posters up in the first place?

Because we also have to remember the context: a region where people already are suspicious of the US, where people tend to explain things through conspiracy theories, where saving face is very important - and then they get to watch US soldiers torture Iraqis in Saddam's prison, while the president holds hands with Abdullah. This is not a good combination - remember your audience.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 12:45 PM

Ahhh, but a personal attack on me is not the same as on my culture. And as we've seen, large swathes of our culture do indeed react that way. In fact, some even blame us for 9/11.

Posted by: TallDave at May 11, 2005 01:16 PM

If Iraqis in general are justifiably angry about Abu Ghraib, that doesn't mean that they'll turn around and sympathize with the facsists who've murdered their friends, children and neighbors.

That just doesn't make sense.

a region where people already are suspicious of the US, where people tend to explain things through conspiracy theories, where saving face is very important - and then they get to watch US soldiers torture Iraqis in Saddam's prison, while the president holds hands with Abdullah. This is not a good combination - remember your audience.

Do you think Muslims and Arabs are comparable to Europeans or do you think they, as a group, think differently than we do?

How should we try to, as you say, "change the way" they think?

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 01:19 PM

Again, Iraqis are not stupid. In fact, regarding Abu Ghraib, they are probably considerably better educated than we are. They know far worse than American horseplay went on there under Saddam; I'm not sure how many Americans even know that given the media coverage.

Posted by: TallDave at May 11, 2005 01:19 PM

Sweet Holy Jesus, first I get yelled at for criticising Bush, and then I get yelled at for whole-heartedly backing one of his programs. You people confuse me.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 01:26 PM

Here's one approach to dealing with PC on campus. The premise is that capitalism, properly applied, will defeat PC issues over time:

On The Extinction of Woolly Mammoths

(And yes, the examples I've cited are real, successful ones!)

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 11, 2005 01:41 PM

And Mary, that's an enormously loaded question you asked - sure, they think differently than we do. I think differently than you do. Now, if you're asking me if I think that they're incapable of things like introspection or logic then no, I don't think they are incapable of those things.

But Mary, people spend billions of dollars a year trying to change the way you think.

It's called advertising.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 01:44 PM

And Mary, why doesn't it make sense? There are people out there who perceive that they have grievances with the United States. Some of those are real and some of them are imaginary. Regardless, those perceptions led some Muslims to fly planes into our buildings. Isn't it a worthwhile endeavor to try to change the way other Muslims perceive the US, in the hopes that they will not also try to fly planes into our buildings? Is giving them more grievances a good way of achieving this?

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 01:47 PM

Line up Commenter's cite of Bush holding hands with the Saudi Prince alongside Bush's comments about Yalta. The left ripped Bush for both coddling a dictator and for speaking uncomfortable truths to a country apparently moving away from democracy. Add in the imperfect Saudi elections, the first in at least 40 years, and maybe Bush has it right - acknowledge the positive steps taken by the Saudis with a little hand holding while giving no quarter to the country moving in the wrong direction.

Fortunately Bush has never been particularly concerned with pleasing anybody but himself. Because the advise he gets from the 'patriotic oposition' is so often contradictory that it simply can't be taken seriously.

Posted by: Sweetie at May 11, 2005 01:54 PM

Commenter - a region where people already are suspicious of the US, where people tend to explain things through conspiracy theories

it doesn't sound like you're talking about the France - or are you?

where saving face is very important

Germany?

remember your audience

Why should we remember our audience? What's so special about them?

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 02:30 PM

acknowledge the positive steps taken by the Saudis with a little hand holding while giving no quarter to the country moving in the wrong direction

The Saudis are still spending millions to fund terrorism abroad, they're killing our soldiers in Iraq and they're spending yet more millions to spread their fascist philosophy of hate. They're not moving in the right direction, and we shouldn't legitimize or support their regime.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 02:33 PM

"Is giving them more grievances a good way of achieving this?"

Isn't this discussion just a tad silly. Were there actions available to the US, whether military or diplomatic, that could have been taken regarding Iraq that didn't have SOME negative consequences? As a war supporter you have to accept being lectured on Abu Ghraib to some extent, even by Andrew Sullivanites that supported the war but not the 'messiness' that, gosh darn it, comes along with war. Andrew, and apparently Commenter, signed up for the 'good war', an option that I didn't even know existed at the time (Bush oversold the war - there's room for everyone to hang their hat on if they wish but I can't as I must acknowledge that I was well aware that the quagmire/Iraqi civil war folks could very well be right, despite the spin out of the Whitehouse).

Could some of Bush's decisions resulted in increasing the messiness? Sure. And I bet some of his 'calls' reduced the messiness too. But these 'facts' that have already been debated ad nauseum will be footnotes in history.

Posted by: Sweetie at May 11, 2005 02:52 PM

"they're killing our soldiers in Iraq"

By that logic we should have turned Saudi Arabia into a parking lot in the wake of 9/11.

I'm no fan of the Saudis but how can you say that they are turning in the wrong direction? I provided evidence of moving in the right direction - conducting an imperfect election. I didn't say they should be offered statehood. I'm interested in your evidence to support the Saudis getting to be more of a problem angle.

Posted by: Sweetie at May 11, 2005 03:09 PM

By that logic we should have turned Saudi Arabia into a parking lot in the wake of 9/11

"That logic" implies that when we're at war, we should respond to an attack by striking at our enemy. What's wrong with that?

The Saudis aren't an effective fighting force, and their power is mostly economic - we wouldn't have turn them into a parking lot, but it's only common sense to dismantle the regime of an enemy force. How does it help us to give them more power and legitimize them while giving them a hug and a kiss?

The Saudis are a problem because they're at war with us, and their actions make perfect sense in that context. Our actions, however, are clueless.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 03:46 PM

Mary,

We weren't attacked by the Saudi gov't, were we? You can say that the Saudis supported the activities that led to 9/11. But you can say that about us, too (the relative strengths of the case can be debated, of course).

I'm still interested in evidence that the Saudis are heading in the wrong direction and, for that matter, evidence that the Saudi government is at war with us.

Posted by: Sweetie at May 11, 2005 03:58 PM

Commenter - re this issue of not creating yet more enemies in the Muslim world? The UBL grievance school of thought, as it were?

For some reason, this incident comes to mind:

British imam declares jihad against Britain

His rationale? "...he declared that the “covenant of security” under which Muslims live peacefully in the UK had been “violated” by the Government’s tough anti-terrorist legislation, The Syrian-born radical said: “I believe the whole of Britain has become Dar ul-Harb (land of war). In such a state, he added, “the kuffar (non-believer) has no sanctity for their own life or property.”"

So the measures that Britain is taking to defend itself against terrorism are apparently creating more terrorists. These measures alone constitute grounds for retaliation.

Hmmm...It occurs to me that the west better be very very careful here, or next thing you know, we might just lose some hearts and minds and then some of these folks might actually start to do REALLY crazy things - like cutting off people's heads on videotape, killing aid workers, flying planes into skyscrapers, taking schoolkids hostage, or God forbid, even trying to get their hands on WMD's with every intention of using the things!

Posted by: Caroline at May 11, 2005 04:22 PM

[Sigh] Why didn't we invade Saudi Arabia? I tried to answer that here.

I don't think it is a complete answer, even if it is a sufficient one. Nor do I buy the "the Saudis may blow it all up" theory propagated by Dr. Pipes. Saddam tried that in Kuwait, and it didn't work then, either.

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 11, 2005 04:29 PM

Commenter: "Isn't it a worthwhile endeavor to try to change the way other Muslims perceive the US, in the hopes that they will not also try to fly planes into our buildings? Is giving them more grievances a good way of achieving this"

My earlier post was a smart-aleck way of saying that there is no "out" and there is no "end" to the path of trying to fight this war by avoiding feeding Muslim grievances (it should be obvious by now that even reasonable measures of self-defense are grounds for retaliation for the true believers). Mary is no doubt right on the abu Ghraib issue. Most Iraqis are well aware of how bad the prison situation, vis a vis torture, actually was under Saddam Hussein. They are largely not the folks making the big deal about it. This was an incredibly humane war by any standard known to the history of human warfare. People will make of abu Ghraib what they will. No doubt it will in fact serve as a recruiting tool for international jihadis. But so will globalization serve as an excuse for jihadis, given it's infiltration of western media and social mores into Muslim lands. I feel for them - I really do. But perhaps a little reflection on the part of the Muslim world will reveal to the thinking person there, that the west is facing massive immigration by 3rd world peoples, many of them from the ME - simultaneously!. So the story is going both ways at once, actually. (Meanwhile, SA, for example, will still not allow a single Christian church in their kingdom. Where do the Jews live in the ME, by the way?)

On the bright side, today's new article at faithfreedom.org suggests that up to 15% of Muslims in the west are closet apostates, fearing for their lives.

Apostates at risk

The bright side was the apostasy part obviously - not the fear... How about a little less concern about offending potential ME jihadi-Muslim recruits, since the real jihadis are hell bent to destroy us anyway, (as Mary points out) - and a little more serious concern among western liberals about demanding and providing safe haven in the West for Muslim apostates in defiance of their would-be murderers? That should be a no-brainer to liberals, shouldn't it? Can we march for it or something? Actually get a million folks into the street for it?

Also - look seriously at the conversion rates to Islam among westerners. PC about Islam here in the west can only be exacerbating the entire situation. In other words, political correctness is breeding an even larger 5th column here in the west. This is no trivial matter. I hope that no real western liberals actually feel guilty about disillusioning those folks, do they? Come on! Those are white western folks! They're fair game, as Spaniard has repeatedly pointed out! We're not seriously thinking about letting our own western citizens drift into the ideology of Islam-fascism without a fight, are we?

On balance Commenter - no - I do not want our government to do completely idiotic things that increase the sum total of world-wide jihadis. But I am also very aware of how little provocation it actually takes for moderate Muslims to covert to outright jihad, even among converts in the west. So I think - there are other ways to go about this War that do not necessarily entail bending over backwards to avoid offending Muslims both here in the west as well as overseas.

Yuk - sorry for the badly worded post. I don't think I've made my meaning at all clear, although no doubt I'll have another chance..

Posted by: Caroline at May 11, 2005 05:44 PM

I posted evidence that the Saudi government has financed 9/11 on this post, Hate is a WMD.

Saudi Arabia financed al Qaeda and most worldwide Islamic terrorism (including Hamas) before 9/11. They continue to fund al Qaeda and worldwide terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.

Under the Saudi system, Islam is the state religion and the mullahs are the lawgivers. The mullahs' salaries are paid by the government. The mullahs preach extremism as law while collecting a salary from their government. The Saudi government inspires and funds terrorism. They are responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Dore Gold's book about the KSA, Hatred's Kingdom, has more evidence of Saudi government sponsorship of terrorism.

Bin Laden is inspired by Sayyed Qutb, who was inspired by the extremism of Wahhabism. 90% of the Saudi people support bin Laden's "ideals". The only difference between the Saudi Wahhabi royals and the Saudi Wahhabi terrorists is patience - the terrorists would prefer to destroy the west now, and their sponsors, their Saudi Royal "brothers" would rather wait until they've gotten enough money out of us.

The idea that any terrorists would destroy the Saudi oilfields is completely absurd. Groups like al Qaeda and the Saudi royals depend on that oil for their salaries and their survival.

Our government's efforts to preserve our 'alliance' with the Saudi royals has cost us more than the Saudis have generated in oil revenues. The American people are not benefiting in any way from this alliance. We never will.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 05:47 PM

Sweetie,

Clearly, the war would produce negative as well as positive effects. So, what, exactly? Saying "nothing's perfect" trumps all criticism? Bush has produced negative effects needlessly, such as being photographed holding hands with Abdullah. Ask Mike Totten what people in the Middle East think of this. I have said several times that all Bush has to do is not be photographed holding hands with Abdullah - in other words, he should stop doing things that generate no benefits and lots of negatives, things that would cost us nothing to stop. It's all about image. Bush is engaged in a massive hearts and minds campaign - an advertising campaign to re-brand America in the Middle East.

Caroline,

I think that you may have misunderstood the words I have written, so I will try to clarify once more. We are not trying to win the hearts and minds of people who have already declared a desire to kill us - these are the people that, if they attempt to do so, we will kill first. I don't imagine that it would be possible at all to convince many of these people to stop hating us.

We are trying to win the hearts and minds of people who have not yet made that decision, but are in a category of people who might do so. For this discussion it does not matter, as I have already said, whether or not the grievance is real. Let's set that aside, and pretend that all we care about is finding the best way of fighting terrorism. We can kill terrorists, fine, but more take their place, so we decided to transform the Middle East - bring democracy and goodness and so forth to make it less likely that Middle Easterners will try to kill us. Isn't that what the war in Iraq is all about now? Isn't that what Paul Wolfowitz was writing about for 30 years?

All that matters is what the subject perceives - if the subject perceives that he has a grievance towards America, and as a result is more receptive to radical Islam, this is bad and we should try to stop this.

This is not an "America is bad and that's why they attack!" argument.

This is a "They think America is bad and that's why they attack us, and so we should do what we can to convince them that America is good so they won't attack us" argument.

Hello? We run sattelite news channels and magazines in the Middle East in an attempt to influence people. Bush is already in the process of doing this!

What I find really amusing, or annoying, is that our Dear Leader himself has implemented such a plan, and I totally support it, but because..what, I'm a liberal? I was critical of Bush for doing things that could hurt his own plan? I was critical of Bush at all?..for whatever reason, none of you are happy at all with the fact that I was critical over wanting to achieve Bush's goal through Bush's plan.

You people are weird.

I came here and said "I think that Bush is doing something that hurts our chances of winning this war and I think he should stop doing that so that we have a better chance of winning."

Responses could have ranged from "I agree! I, too, love freedom and wish it to succeed, and put petty partisan issues below winning, and as such am also critical of dumb things that Bush does, because I recognize that no one is perfect and wish him to do better than he already is!" to "I do not think that this is hurting our chances, and this is why."

Instead I get "You liberals, always critical of Bush for something!" to "so, you think Osama bin Laden is right?" to "so, do you believe that Arabs are people too, or not?" to "why are we even having this discussion? any criticism of Bush is clearly an attempt to score some partisan points!" to "attempting to do exactly what Bush is doing is bad, because a liberal said it!" to "since no plan is perfect, criticism is stupid!"

Seriously, if you think that everything Bush does is 100% great, then you're messed up - no one is perfect. Ok, fine - saying "no one is perfect" does not exempt someone from criticism, if you want them to do better next time.

If you think that Bush makes mistakes but that to point them out is bad in some way, you're messed up. But, more importantly, if you think the latter, then I accuse you of being unserious about fighting our enemies, and of placing partisan gain - attacking any criticism of the president - before seriously considering that criticism to see if it has any merit and could in any way be better than current policy. That's right. I, a liberal, accuse you conservatives of being less serious about fighting terrorism than me!

Of course, I do work for the Department of Defense and am learning Farsi and getting a master's degree in defense studies so that I can, you know, fight terrorism better, while I'm not sure many (though some might be) of you are doing anything to fight terrorism except posting on a message board. So, there you go - a liberal who cares more about fighting terrorism than a bunch of blow-hard conservatives. Who could have ever imagined?????

Anyway, I have a cold, I need some more tussin, and I'm tired, so I am going to stop posting here for a while, and I'm not going to check these messages, so go ahead and say whatever you want behind my back, you big meanies.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 05:49 PM

One more, because I did not see Caroline's last post -

This is not about "bending over backwards" to accomadate every possible grievance that a Muslim might have in order to prevent them from becoming a jihadi. This is about doing little things that would cost us nothing but could have a big, cumulative effect. The photographs of Abdullah - stop holding his hand! Little thing, no cost, big effect. See? No accomodation to the bad guys, minimal accomodation to potential bad guys, who have one less reason to dislike America and be receptive to America's enemies. That's all!

Posted by: The Commenter at May 11, 2005 05:54 PM

Solomon2 - On 9/11, Saudi-sponsored paramilitaries attacked and slaughtered thousands of Americans in an unprovoked act of war.

On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese army attacked and slaughtered thousands of Americans. This was our president's response:
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack...

...It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

Was Roosevelt "murdering our honor" when he pledged that we would win our victory over the enemies who wanted to destroy us?

Is it honorable to maintain an alliance and dhimmify ourselves in an effort to maintain an alliance with (and to legitimize) the the Wahhabi cult?

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 06:07 PM

Commenter,

It's impossible to argue with you. Anytime I say something you start crying about how I'm somehow impeding your free speech. No one is stopping you from saying what you want to say. The only way I could make you feel as though you were still free to criticize the President is if I were to agree with you wholeheartedly on every single issue, and that is just never going to happen.

There is a difference between censorship and disagreement.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at May 11, 2005 06:21 PM

Commenter - cold, tussin or not - yes you will too come back and check this message board. I'll bet on it! Anyway, I actually remember the very first day you showed up as Proud Conservative and mocked all the conservatives on this board for claiming that liberals didn't REALLY support freedom in the ME. Then you started seriously expressing your opinions, you changed your moniker several times (hello Hassan!), and you also seriously kept several threads going!. Personally, I may never forget "Put the lotion in the basket...", one of the funniest things I've seen on a thread at this site:-).

Commenter - I do think that most of us here are classic liberals and not really the enemy you may perceive. I did in fact remember that you work for the DOD, that you live near downtown DC, that you may sit in front of your computer sometimes with no pants on? :-). But seriously - get some rest. Get over your cold. And check back here after you've gotten away from it for awhile. I know you will anyway cause you suffer from OCD, right? Ever wonder why those folks have to keep rechecking whether or not they turned off the stove? :-)

Posted by: Caroline at May 11, 2005 06:39 PM

Was Roosevelt "murdering our honor" when he pledged that we would win our victory over the enemies who wanted to destroy us?

Non sequitur. That isn't a "proper" question.

Two more things about the Saudis:

1) On 9/11 we had troops in the Kingdom to protect it from Saddam. Unless hostilities had been openly declared, overthrowing the Saudi régime would be murdering our honor. As a result, it would probably kill almost every alliance America has.

2) I'm guessing here, but Saudi Arabia isn't an absolute monarchy and does have politics of a sort. It's just that politics is restricted to the extended royal family, but power is wielded only by the inner circle. My hypothesis is if a royal in the "outer circle" wants more power, he may try to gain leverage by refusing orders (as the governor of the Eastern Province briefly did in Desert Shield) or sponsoring terrorists. That's not as wild as you may think; the Sauds cemented their royal authority by machine-gunning their own army after the conquest of Arabia was complete. There's legitimacy for you!

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 11, 2005 07:15 PM

You have an interesting blog, Solomon2. Why do you point out that you're not a diplomat?

Non sequitur. That isn't a "proper" question

Are you sure you're not a diplomat?

So, what are your opinions about writers like Joel Mowbray? Was the Visa Express Program, which allowed Saudi hijackers into the country, an example of the State Department's definition of honor?

Were State's efforts to defend the Visa Express program, and to in turn defend their Saudi-sponsored retirement benefits also honorable?

According to the State Departments' definition of honor, being willing to risk American lives to Feed at the Saudi Trough is honorable.

If you define honor as Dhimmitude, then yes, our current relationship with Saudi Arabia is honorable.

Unfortunately, our willingness to dhimmify ourselves after we were attacked also legitimizes a fascist regime that's currently sponsoring terrorism in India, Thailand, Russia and Iraq. I doubt that makes anyone trust us.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 09:10 PM

Commenter - You're learning Farsi? I'm learning Arabic. As far as I can tell, the letters are similar. I'm at about a 3-year old's level ( I can sing the alphabet song!)

Sorry you're feeling sick. Hope you get better soon.

Posted by: mary at May 11, 2005 09:18 PM

Some answers for Mary:

1) You're not the first to accuse me of being a diplomat, that's why. I stuck in the disclaimer only when REAL diplomats started doing so. ("You and your colleagues in the State Department have the wrong approach...") One of the oldest laws on the books is that private U.S. citizens cannot take it upon themselves to negotiate for the federal governement.

2) I've heard of Mowbray, but I don't think I've read anything of his in a long time. The existence of Visa Express was a shock to me, its continued existence for months after 9-11 a scandal.

3) There is no link for "Feed at the Saudi Trough", but I have some idea of what you mean. Americans should be concerned about just how influential such money can be. It has taken decades for Saudis to learn how to grease Americans in a legal and socially acceptable fashion. Their influence, aided by some of America's best public relations firms, now extends beyond the federal government to some universities (buildings, departments, professors) and school systems (textbooks, sponsored candidates for school boards). I consider that anybody who subscribes to "moral relativism" is probably available for purchase.

4) I think you are stretching the semantic use of the word "honor" far beyond the limits I confined it to: that of redeeming a sacred pledge. When several such pledges may conflict, one must act carefully. Our troops are out of Saudi Arabia now. If there was another 9-11, maybe we would invade! We're not dhimmis yet.

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 11, 2005 09:48 PM

Commenter, you said this earlier:
"Bush just has to make sure the cameras are off when he makes with the kissy-kissy with dictators."

Several times you reiterate that you regard this as a stupid mistake - allowing his meeting with a known and infamous dictator to be photographed (especially because it is the Saudi prince himself). It's because this makes the president and the US look very hypocritical and duplicitous, right? Because it would further erode trust and respect in the US by people who are already suspicious and wary, right?

That makes sense. The debate is so active that it was never really mentioned, but it doesn't seem that anyone challenges that at all.

I'd like to. Well, sort of.

I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which Bush has a formal diplomatic meeting with the Saudi prince, and requests (or has someone else request) that the meeting/whatever be off-limits to cameras and journalists.
The global public would be spared the hilharious/depressing PR pictures that cast the US administration in a dubious light.

However, I believe that a closed meeting between the president and such a man could also have an unsavory effect. It would seem to go against tradition for the cheesy "diplomatic meeting" procedure.
Do you think that giving the meeting a more private and secretive tone could have made it even more suspicious?

Posted by: alec truist at May 11, 2005 10:43 PM

I skimmed the first twenty comments, but I think it would be fair to say that both Democrats and Republicans are bad for everyone. Anyone who has been elected is probably a scumbag, liar and a bit of a thief. The culture war, which as far as I can tell, only exists on TV, the internet and various hollywood/talkradio/waste of time projects is not really that important to anyone. There are far to many "brave voices of dissent" screaming about the same bullshit. AAAARRRGGHHHH.

Posted by: Mike at May 11, 2005 10:57 PM

Thank you Mary, and especially Caroline, for kinder words than I probably deserved.

Posted by: The Commenter at May 12, 2005 05:23 AM

Solomon2 - sorry about the bad url. Here's the link Feeding at the Saudi Trough

I'm not a Christian, but somehow I doubt that there's anything 'sacred' about legitimizing fascist dictators and begging them for lower oil prices. But yes, we have removed our troops, and there already was a 9/11. Nothing's stopping us now...

Thanks for the link to the info about the Saudi doomsday threat. LOL! I don't respect the Saudi leadership, but I thought they understood us better.

Posted by: mary at May 12, 2005 01:48 PM

Commenter - Caroline was right, you checked :-)

Glad the tussin worked.

Posted by: mary at May 12, 2005 01:53 PM

The 'all-seeing' pyramid eye sees all ...:-)

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