August 10, 2005

You're Either With Us or You're Against Us

James Wolcott is beating up on liberal hawks (he singles out Roger L. Simon in particular) for making common cause with conservatives by supporting the Terror War:

The fact is that by subscribing to Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride…Do you really think that conservative supremacy in the executive, congressional, and judicial branches of government means that gay rights and abortion rights will somehow be spared?
I don’t know about Roger, but I didn’t vote for “conservative supremacy in the executive, congressional and judicial branches of government.” I voted for a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress. That’s the sort of thing liberal hawks and other centrist types do. I made “common cause” with the Religious Right, which as a social-liberal/left-libertarian isn’t much fun. At the same time I made “common cause” with Dennis Kucinich, which as a foreign policy hawk isn’t much fun.

Politics isn’t binary, James. It’s not a war between the white hats and the black hats -- or the blue hats and the red hats for that matter. Tens of millions of Americans answer with “neither” when asked if they consider themselves liberal or conservative. Some of us vote for third parties. Some of us vote for both of the two major parties at the same time. It’s about tough choices and lesser evilism. If you’re a liberal I suppose the choice is an easy one. Some of us non-liberals see nuance and shades of gray. Maybe you've heard of those things.

UPDATE: Wolcott has a one-sentence response:
I'll let Michael Totten play with his nuances.
Thanks for the dialogue, James. Always a pleasure.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2005 12:55 PM

Comments

While I think MJT summed the main issue up quite nicely, I do percieve a point in Wolcott's comments.

One does not elect part of a party platform. If you voted for GWB, then you gave tacit approval of him (and his full party platform) as the best choice to lead the nation. MJT did this, we believe, because agressive defense against furthur terror appears most important to him. As such, he implicitly gave GWB permission to implement his other planks. The fact that we have a House, Senate and SCOTUS which all share that common platform, simply indicates that Bush has a better chance of actually implementing his planks. While MJT may vocally be for Gay Marriage, or for Social Security, or for an end to the War on Drugs, he made the decision that he could live without those things, if it meant that the President would engage in National Defense in a way MJT agreed with.

Each individual must decide for themselves what the most important issues are. MJT (and some others on this board) felt that Forgin policy trumped domestic policy. They gave up what they want in domestic life, to get what they want in forgin policy. Other individuals on this board felt that no matter who attacked us, or how, we must remain focused on freedoms and rights domestically. Still others made the decision that they liked Bush and his whole platform (we still love them... the poor sods ;-) ). And then is seems there are some people like me, who felt that Bush performed poorly during his first term and should be fired.

I think that nothing is as simple as "If you love liberty you must vote X". Voting for Bush, may gurantee that we as a nation remain independent and free of terror (certianly an important part of liberty). Voting for Bush, may also gurantee that the Patriot Act never disappears, that our budget remains an accounting firms worst nightmare, that the federal government will weigh in on medical diagnosis (right to die, medical marijuana etc), that our energy bill will contain earth shattering breakthroughs like... gasp more Daylight Savings Time.

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at August 10, 2005 01:14 PM

Michael:

More to the point, I would ask Mr. Wolcott what sort of liberalism he expects would survive in a world that fails to confront Islamist fascism.

The political cycle in the U.S. is a temporary thing, but without the survival of Western civilization there will not even be room for debate on things such as gay rights.

Posted by: SWLiP at August 10, 2005 01:16 PM

Tosk,

The executive is only one branch of government. Congress actually writes the laws, and I did not vote for a single Republican in Congress.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2005 01:26 PM

James Wolcott is beating up on liberal hawks...for making common cause with conservatives by supporting the Terror War

Well, not exactly. He is beating up on them for making common cause with conservatives by supporting George Bush.

They could very well have focussed their energies on convincing the dems of their views on the WoT. But they were pro-Bush, anti-dems, long before the dems chose a candidate. All of their rhetoric was totally anti-dem throughout the long process by which the dems arrived at their platform and their candidate.

And Simon was amongst the worst of them, getting down and dirty like a complete partisan hack. His attacks were not just on Kerry, or even just the dems, but on anyone who questioned the great leaders approach.

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 01:27 PM

I've never understood the logic that; if our opponents are for something, we must be against it. The liberal-left in this country takes this to the extreme, although they aren't the only guilty ones. There was a discussion on a liberal blog where someone said liberals should reject or dismiss protests against games like Grand Theft Auto as being nihlistic & amoral. The reason for doing this isn't because we disagree with the charges, but because if we do we will, and I'm paraphrasing here "Giving in to republicans who say that there are corrosive affects on our culture." Huh?

It goes further. Recently during the latest surreal anti-DLC carnival in the liberal blogosphere, Atrios accused the DLC of trying to get Democrats to adopt the Republican platform? What was the evidence for these charges? Well, the DLC called for there to be 'Responsibility in Government' 'National Unity' etc, and since Atrios saw that the GOP platform also makes reference to vague goals and ideals like 'National Unity' and 'Government responsibility', this was enough to tar the DLC as being 'Republican-Lite.'

"The Republicans are saying we should have national unity!, that means we have to combat their dastardly goals by doing the exact opposite!"

Here, James Wolcott unintentionally reveals his partisan motivations for opposing the republican led war on terror; It's because he doesen't like their positions on abortion & gay rights. Boy, that sure has a lot of connotation. How supporting aggressive actions to combat terrorism is the slippery slope that will lead to the abolition of abortion and gay rights Mr. Wolcott fails to illustrate. But he makes it perfectly clear, his motivations for being anti-WOT.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway at August 10, 2005 01:31 PM

Actually, Wolcott doesn't mention, or use the term, "liberal hawks" in his post. Not that it would matter, since the term "liberal hawk", while it does describe you, does not describe either Roger Simon or Charles Johnson, both of whom have embraced most of the Bush Agenda on issues having nothing to do with the foreign policy. Wolcott's point was that the fact that Simon or Johnson may disagree with the President on the margins, or on issues that they don't blog about, is relatively unimportant.

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 10, 2005 01:40 PM

Wolcott's screed is so lame and predictable. Not to mention intellectualy lazy. I'm a former leftist who for quite some time suckled on the teets of Marx et al. Fun times, not all of it wasted either. Yet, here I am today firmly in support of the WoT, the war in Iraq, and Bush's Democracy drive. I don't make any apologies for it, nor do I see it as out of step with my (still) liberal social views. Quite the opposite. I don't march to anyone's band but my own. I look. I listen. I decide. I'm free. Sorry James. I'm not anyone's puppet.

Posted by: MisterPundit at August 10, 2005 01:48 PM

It should be noted that one of the primary downsides of our winner-take-all system is that we are often called to choose between candidates who may be unappealing to us on a range of issues. The upside to this system is that it assures that very few office-seekers will be electable if they stray far from mainstream opinion.

I doubt that many Dem or Repub voters would characterize their views as being outside of the mainstream. It is in the nature of rabble rousers like Wolcott to portray the debate in much starker terms.

Posted by: SWLiP at August 10, 2005 01:48 PM

"And Simon was amongst the worst of them, getting down and dirty like a complete partisan hack. His attacks were not just on Kerry, or even just the dems, but on anyone who questioned the great leaders approach."

We must read two different Roger Simons here, because I don't remember him "attacking" Kerry. And he certainly doesn't agree with Bush where gay marriage is concerned.

Posted by: RG at August 10, 2005 01:56 PM

re. our "winner take all system", SWLIP writes:
The upside to this system is that it assures that very few office-seekers will be electable if they stray far from mainstream opinion

What do you mean by the winner take all system? That Congresscritters can win with a mere plurality? That EV's all go to the winner of a plurality in a particular state? How would a non-winner take all system encourage outside the mainstream candidates?
Seems to me that the ability to win with a plurality rather than a majority would open the door to extremists rather than the opposite.

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 01:58 PM

So if Kerry had been elected, instead of Bush... do you think the US DOJ would be prosecuting medical marijuana patients? Would Kerry have people trying to craft definations of marriage to stick into the federal constitution? Would Congress have taken up the Terri Schavio fiasco, if Bush hadn't been President?

On the other hand, would Iraq have made any improvement with Kerry as President? ;-)

While mosbunall power seems to reside with Congress, the President does seem to influence their behavior... don't you think?

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at August 10, 2005 02:11 PM

It would be interesting to hear what precisely the liberal hawks think would have been different these past eight months in the war ON TERROR (as opposed to the Iraq War) if Kerry had been elected.

I guess that SWLIP seems to think we might be staring in the face of the end of Western civilization. Thats one position. But I'd love to know what MJT thinks, or any of the others who claim liberal sensibilities but feel / felt that a vote for Bush's view of the WoT trumps all other issues.

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 02:20 PM

IP: It would be interesting to hear what precisely the liberal hawks think would have been different these past eight months in the war ON TERROR (as opposed to the Iraq War) if Kerry had been elected.

That's a good question. Here is a good answer from a Lebanese blogger who hoped John Kerry would win the election. (I know this because he's a friend and we had fun arguments about it in person.) He had a bit of a slow re-think after the Cedar Revolution erupted.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2005 02:29 PM

Michael,
One could certainly argue the point that your friend makes, but it doesnt really seem to address the question that I asked. Even if we accept it as true, it serves as an example of some good that might have come from the Iraq invasion. The question though, is what would have been different over the past eight months in the War on Terror if Kerry had been elected?

Are you arguing that Kerry would have supported a continuing Syrian presence in Lebanon, even when people like Chirac was urging them out? When the UN Sec. Council had united on the issue?

I am asking what would have been different - i.e. what have you gained by your support of Bush in 2004? (which is a different question from whether you think good things are flowing from the decisions he made before the election).

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 02:44 PM

There's something extraordinarily mean-spirited and small in Wolcott's comments. It's a tone thing. Instead of just saying that he himself thinks the liberal social and domestic agenda that people such as Roger may still aspire to is being compromised by their supporting Bush, instead he is snide and supercilious beyond measure.

Why? What's the animus about? And why so personal?

I think it comes partly from anger at those who have left the fold, and the desire to get back at them for their betrayal (I wrote about the phenomenon in this post).

Wolcott seems to think that Simon and others of his ilk are clinging desperately to the notion of themselves as social liberals because, clearly, that's the only way to keep their self-respect. He wants to take them down a peg or two--or three or four or more. He seems to think the only shreds of self-respect they have left is the remnants of liberalism they retain, and he wants to tear even those last shreds from them.

I don't think Wolcott can even conceive of a sane person being proud of a conservative point of view--to him, the only good people are liberals, and if Simon and others are no longer totally liberal, then they no longer can stake any claim to being at all good.

This is the type of thing I'm talking about, from Wolcott's article:

...no doubt futile effort to educate Roger L. Simon in the finer points of not making a fool of himself in the future....

...with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride.

Posted by: neo-neocon at August 10, 2005 03:08 PM

This is same Wolcott who got his panties in a wad over the Gannon non-scandal. You have to forgive him, as he hasn't stepped foot outside Manhattan since he went to the Clinton inaugural

Posted by: beautifulatrocities at August 10, 2005 03:09 PM

IMHO, the conservatives in the US have always been the group to actually move liberal causes forward. LBJ was a Southern White Conservative, he also is responsible for the Civil Rights Act and the "Great Society". Liberals are always hyping rapid social change, people are suspicious of rapid social change, doesn't really matter whether it is good or bad.

Liberal politicians talk endlessly about the need for change, but their need for voters to the right of them actually prohibits them from making the changes.

Conservative Politicians talk endlessly about the golden age of the past, and how all the liberal changes have ruined everything. However, their need for votes to the left of them forces them to grudgeingly accept some modest changes.

Bill Clinton talked endlessly about the need to do something about Saddam Hussein, he even managed to get the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 passed. GWB used the sames arguments as Bill Clinton, and actually did something about Saddam.

Posted by: Solder's Dad at August 10, 2005 03:12 PM

Yeah, America regularly hangs gays in the public square and buries our women in a hole in the ground up to their necks then stone to death using the perfect-sized rock for maximum effect. Beware the Nazi Republican.

James makes Liberalism into Absurdism, the beloved Liberal institution know as the UN steals billions from those they profess to care for and Air America hyjacks the only black radio station in NYC only to rip off GLORIA to the tune of $800,000 yet Republicans are evil McChimpyBushilterMcHaliburtonNazi's.

What is Roger thinking by supporting Bush and the evil neocon NaziTyranntJews running the White House.

This topic is as ridiculous as Hollywood.

Posted by: syn at August 10, 2005 03:17 PM

James...who's this now? Never heard of him.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at August 10, 2005 03:52 PM

IP writes:

What do you mean by the winner take all system?

IP needs to remember his/her middle-school American Civics lessons. "Winner-take-all" means that the candidate winning the most votes gets the spoils of office. This is opposed to a parliamentary system, for example, where parties are apportioned seats based on a percentage of the vote.

Posted by: SWLiP at August 10, 2005 03:59 PM

Must be quiet time in the tropics; Wolcott's taken time from his "rooting for hurricaines" to cause death and destruction to attack DINOs or liberals who dared cast a vote for Bush in 2004.

Posted by: h0mi at August 10, 2005 04:05 PM

Nobody who reads Roger Simon can doubt his genuine (classically) liberal bona-fides.

James Wolcott isn't worth arguing with. For him, nothing trumps party loyalty --observe that the WoT doesn't seem to qualify as a good reason to break with party discipline.

I think the broader issue is that the whole liberal/conservative dichotomy in politics has outlived its usefulness. It survives only because it is easy. Simon is able to toss it over his shoulder, while Wolcott invokes it like a mystical sacrament.

Posted by: E Rey at August 10, 2005 04:06 PM

Interesting line from Wolcott: "you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride…"

What's with the reference to "pride" at all? Looks like projection to me. Wolcott is inadvertently admitting that his OWN ego ("pride")is bound up with his identity as as an (American) "liberal". Presumably that accounts for his inability to recognize any real and far more dangerous enemies than (American) "republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists" with regards to the values he apparently holds most dear (real liberal values - i.e. beyond his own ego identification as an American liberal that is). Quite sad really. Does he get out of New York much?

Posted by: Caroline at August 10, 2005 04:23 PM

The sad thing about "liberal Hawks" is that they are still convinced that Bush actually cares about bringing Democracy to the Middle East. Even today, after a Sadrist coup has removed the mayor of Baghdad. As former Bush supporters like Larry Diamond have begun to realize, it is becoming evident that we invaded Baghdad with one real purpose - to create a permanent US military presence in Iraq. Bush is a real conservative, he has no interest in "nation-building" or doing anything warm and fuzzy in Iraq to turn them into secular Westerners. From a realpolitik perspective Bush's actions make some strategic sense - we can't keep our military in Saudi Arabia any longer, that country is too unstable and our proximity to Mecca and Median are too provocative. Iraq was a country ruled by an unpopular madman conveniently located between Iran and Syria - two of the major sponsors of Islamic terror. At the time, assuming we could easily install Chalabi as the pro-American ruler, it made some sense. Two years after Saddam fell we do have our bases, but the country is still unstable, unsafe, increasingly tied with Iran and the populace of Iraq, in whose name we supposedly attacked, has paid, and continues to pay, a massive cost in blood. Doesn't seem like much for a "liberal" hawk to rejoice about. Real conservatives seem increasingly aware that Iraq is off course - but the answer they generally propose is not more "Democracy" but more force and less tolerance. Paleocons and Liberals have an answer - pull out. Traditional conservatives have an answer - bomb the bastards back to the stone age. The "liberal hawks" don't seem to need an answer, they seem to be the last people left who think Iraq is going well. I think it is definitely too early to say that the US has failed strategically in Iraq, but it is not too early to say that the "liberal hawk" vision is a complete failue.

Posted by: vanya at August 10, 2005 04:54 PM

Hey, now Wolcott is snarking after you Instapundit guest-bloggers (well, mostly Megan McArdle, although his point seems to mostly consist of noting the fact that she shares the last name as Andrea McArdle of "Annie" fame, and glossing over the fact that Dick Morris making a "credible case" is not same same as Dick Morris being a generally credible person.

Interesting: I can't figure out if "I'll let Michael Totten play with his nuances" is some kind of obscenely-tinged snark, or just a general concession that he has no response to your actual post, or both.

Posted by: Jeremy in NYC at August 10, 2005 05:09 PM

Wow SWLIP,
You are a real classy act aintcha? Are you a politician or something?

My question to you was a serious one. As the full question makes clear (not just the line you quote), I know perfectly well what a winner-take-all system is. I even mentioned two different examples. I explicitly asked you what type of example YOU were referring to, and how, or why you thought it was a better system to insure mainstream winners.

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 05:28 PM

Do people really care what James "George Galloway = Hero of Our Time" Wolcott thinks about strange political bedfellows?

He's buddy-buddy with Jihad George "the rape of the beautiful Arab daughters of Jerusalem and Baghdad" Galloway on the far-left, and Justin "look: Jews!" Raimondo on the far-right.

I voted for Kerry, but this type of suckuppery to quasi-fasicsts by "liberals" is just as, if not more, distubring as losing some liberal hawks to the Bush administration.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 10, 2005 05:30 PM

we can't keep our military in Saudi Arabia any longer, that country is too unstable and our proximity to Mecca and Median are too provocative

Yeah, isnt it interesting. Bin Ladin claims as one of his major motivators that we have troops in SA. Then he does 9/11. Then Bush withdraws troops from SA. And the hawks just nod and say, "yeah, well sure....".

But let anyone even begin to speak about trying to understand the motivations of potential terrorist recruits (not even talking about actual terrorists) and its APPEASEMENT!!!

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 05:36 PM

Do you really think that conservative supremacy in the executive, congressional, and judicial branches of government means that gay rights and abortion rights will somehow be spared?

LMAO! because "gay rights" and abortion is what's important. More rights for transvestites! Like all those dead people on 9/11 give a crap about transvestite rights now.

So now after finding out Clinton had Osama bin Laden handed to him on a platter, we also find out that he had Mohammed Atta in his sights too and let him go because of political correctness:

"Defense Department documents show that the information [on Atta], developed by a classified defense intelligence unit dubbed "Able Danger," wasn't handed over to the FBI because of concerns about pursuing information on foreigners admitted to the country for permanent residence."

Political correctness and "civil liberties" killed those people on 9/11. Liberalism literaly kills people.

Posted by: spaniard at August 10, 2005 05:43 PM

Spaniard: Liberalism literaly kills people.

That's like blaming Tony Blair for the London bombings.

A policy may be wise or unwise. It may help or it may hurt. That doesn't change the fact that we should blame the actual culprits rather than our favorite political punching bags.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2005 05:49 PM

Do people really care what James "George Galloway = Hero of Our Time" Wolcott thinks about strange political bedfellows?

He's buddy-buddy with Jihad George "the rape of the beautiful Arab daughters of Jerusalem and Baghdad" Galloway on the far-left, and Justin "look: Jews!" Raimondo on the far-right.

Total ditto to what SoCalJustice said. Add to that the fact that I've read better essays than "I root for hurricanes"-Wolcott's on a jr. high girls' bathroom wall. There's just so many ways Wolcott can say "I hate Tiffany cuz she's a dog".

Wolcott-worship in the blogsophere is beginning to resemble a spooky sequel to "Heathers". We really need a new sheriff in town.

Posted by: mary at August 10, 2005 05:58 PM

I have to say, ever since I rediscovered your blog, Michael, reading it has been a constant source of pleasure. Sure, we disagree on some things. In fact, we probably disagree on a lot of things. But that's all right. I feel like I'm having a conversation with an intelligent person, not some pseudo-intellectual, when I read your words. Sad thing is, because I teach high school, usually it's the only intelligent conversation I have all day.

More to the point, speaking as someone who considers himself a solid conservative, it's nice to see someone who's technically on the other side of the chasm acknowledging that the truth is indeed nuanced. If one party was completely right, all the time, we'd have no need for a second...or third, or fourth, or etc. I reserve my deepest and most heartfelt scorn for hacks like Wolcott, who only see things through their-party's-colored glasses.

Posted by: Mason Cole at August 10, 2005 06:03 PM

IP -

Bush removing US troops from Saudi Arabia is not appeasement for one very simple reason: we no longer have troops in SA because we no longer need troops in SA. The troops were there in the first place because of Iraq. We no longer need them there for that, or any other, reason. Since we removed them for our purposes (i.e., for use elsewhere) rather than to make OBL happy, the decision to remove them was not appeasement. ... OR, were you suggesting that we should keep them there just to show up OBL?

Posted by: Ben at August 10, 2005 06:55 PM

That's like blaming Tony Blair for the London bombings.

I give you a classified Pentagon operation called “Able Danger” which identified Mohammed Atta as a threat long before 9/11 but was apparently so hobbled by the Clinton administration restrictions on intelligence sharing that their information was never forwarded to the FBI (thank you, Jamie Gorelick), and you compare it to speculative drivel connecting Iraq to the London bombings? What is it going to take for people to realize that political correctness is a recipe for disaster.

Clinton refuses Sudan's offer because he wants to pursue the war on terror in a court of law, and they refuse to investigate Atta because it's PC to treat immigrants with kid gloves, and 3,000 people died on 9/11. It could have been a nuke, and it might be a nuke next time and now the ACLU is suing to stop people from being checked on the subways. Are they going to sue to stop security checks at airports too? I'm telling you, Liberals are going to get us killed.

Posted by: spaniard at August 10, 2005 06:57 PM

Since we removed them for our purposes (i.e., for use elsewhere) rather than to make OBL happy, the decision to remove them was not appeasement

Yes, well thank you for making the obvious point Ben. Now, can you wrap your mind around the fact that those who attempt to understand the motivations of potential terrorist recruits are trying to do so for our purposes as well - so that we can figure out how to make it increasingly difficult for al-Q to find recruits?

OR, were you suggesting that we should keep them there just to show up OBL?

No Ben. That would be as stupid as saying that the Spanish people should have kept their lying unpopular right-wing government just to show up the Madrid bombers.

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 07:11 PM

Spaniard: What is it going to take for people to realize that political correctness is a recipe for disaster.

I am already aware that political correctness is a disaster. But it, by itself, doesn't kill anybody. Terrorists (who are not at all politically correct) do actually kill people.

It may seem like I'm hair-splitting here, but I'm really not. When you accuse your political opponents of killing people they won't listen to a word you say.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2005 07:11 PM

Michael -

I'm with Spaniard.

We LET OBL turn from mole to cancer to death - and continued to look the other way because our leadership at the time prioritized the duties of office below potential political demerits.

Yes, terrorists do the killing. But only if we let them live when we know who and where they are.

BTW, I say "we" up above because we choose our leaders. For a lot of people 1992 seemed a safe be at the time for a not-serious president; the heavy lifting was all done and history was at an end, right?

History distills cause and effect. I intend to read up on the origins of the fourth crusade round about 2040 or so, if I should live that long.

I'm pretty sure that "missed opportunities" will have its own chapter, and rightfully so.

I just hope the print is English and not Arabic...

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2005 07:44 PM

"No Ben. That would be as stupid as saying that the Spanish people should have kept their lying unpopular right-wing government just to show up the Madrid bombers."

Considering that the ruling party had a 5 point lead in the polls 3 days before the bombing, I wonder how you come up with "unpopular".

"The question though, is what would have been different over the past eight months in the War on Terror if Kerry had been elected?"

Since the question calls for spectulation, I figure Kerry would have pulled the troops out of Iraq in six months, but not before putting himself in for a couple Silver Stars and a Medal of Honor.

Posted by: mnm at August 10, 2005 08:10 PM

IP:

Your proposition that "the ability to win with a plurality rather than a majority would open the door to extremists rather than the opposite" didn't logically flow from your line of questioning, which is why I ignored your questions, which were themselves rather obtuse. In a winner take all system, the candidate who wins is the one who appeals to the most voters. And in a country that is relatively evenly divided, this encourages centrism. (Of course, with increasingly brazen gerrymandering of congressional districts, one gets the feeling more and more that candidates for the House of Representatives feel safer playing to the bleachers than they used to, but that in itself does not disprove the general proposition.)

This is all quite elementary, and boring. So why do you feel the urge to try to make an issue out of it?

Posted by: SWLiP at August 10, 2005 08:46 PM

You know, the WWII generation was pretty simple-minded. After Pearl Harbor, they didn't sit around trying to why the Axis Powers hated us so much that they were willing to destroy us. That was tried in 1938 and it was a colossal failure. Walk the streets of Prague and you can still meet elderly people who remain very embittered at Chamberlain and France for selling them out.

No, after the experience of Munich and Pearl Harbor, the WWII generation began an effort to defeat the enemy. And by defeating the enemy, totalling and unequivocally, they defeated the fascist ideas that had given birth to the war.

The same thing in our own Civil War -- peace was only possible when the idea of secession had been defeated through total, relentless war.

The rewards of totally defeating the enemy are of much greater depth than the rewards of half-measures and appeasement.

There is absolutely no point in sitting around trying to "understand" the jihadis, except to the extent that it helps to know your enemy. They laugh at what they perceive as our weakness. UBL made it quite clear that the tipping point for him in his decision to wage war on America was our withdrawal from Somalia after losing 19 soldiers in Mogadishu. He concluded from that event that we couldn't take a bloodied nose. The Islamists are not discouraged by our attempts at understanding. Quite the contrary: They are emboldened by it.

What we need to do more than anything is to defeat them, and thereby defeat the idea that animates them.

Posted by: SWLiP at August 10, 2005 09:00 PM

Sorry for the typos. It's late.

Posted by: SWLiP at August 10, 2005 09:01 PM

SWLip -

Well said, sir.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2005 09:33 PM

"the ability to win with a plurality rather than a majority would open the door to extremists rather than the opposite" didn't logically flow

Hmmm, let me help you with a little logic here. In a three-way race, under winner take all (WTA), one could win with 34% of the vote. In a four way race, one could win with 25+% of the vote. Those percentages could be achieved by someone who appeals only to some rather extreme group - one that would be crushed in a two way race.

In some non-WTA situation, such as instant run-off voting, regular run-off voting, proportional representation systems, or a parlimentary system, the more extreme candidate would either not make it through the runoffs, or would recieve a number of seats in proportion to their vote, and not be able to form a governing majority.

WTA systems are the one form of democratic voting with the highest likelihood of producing a non-mainstream candidate.

If this is so elementary, I wonder why you havent thought it through...
And if you find it boring, then why did you raise it in the first place.
Or is it the thinking that is boring?

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 09:34 PM

There is absolutely no point in sitting around trying to "understand" the jihadis, except to the extent that it helps to know your enemy

Duh,,,and just what other reason do you think anyone has for trying to understand the jihadis?

The Islamists are not discouraged by our attempts at understanding

Oh, I see now. All us librul types really think that if we understand the islamists, then they will be discouraged. We plan to stand up, point our finger at them, and say "we understand you!!!", and they will slink away into the night!
Now, please explain, why wont that work?

For the truly dense, I guess I better say:
(/sarcasm)

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 09:41 PM

Duh,,,and just what other reason do you think anyone has for trying to understand the jihadis?

For the usual Lefty reasons-- like finding some way to blame it all on America? When Richard Gere got up in front of the firefighters and asked them to understand the jihadis (he got booed off the stage) you don't really think he meant it the way us warmongers mean it, do you?

Posted by: spaniard at August 10, 2005 10:03 PM

For the usual Lefty reasons-- like finding some way to blame it all on America

Oh Spaniard, grow up already. The standard propaganda lines lose their punch after the millionth repetition. Do you have any interesting thoughts at all?

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 10:24 PM

At least be honest about this; one can hardly vote for a Democratic Congress when there is no chance that the Congress will turn over, as was the case in the last election. If all you have is a lame excuse like "Rep President and Dem Congress" you are either fooling yourself or trying to fool us.

Posted by: al at August 10, 2005 10:50 PM

you don't really think he meant it the way us warmongers mean it, do you?

And by what standard do you consider yourself a warmonger when it comes to the jihadis? Based on the fact that you supported policies that let the jihadi leadership escape while diverting our military resources to a fight against non-jihadis?

Posted by: IP at August 10, 2005 10:51 PM

Bulletin to James Woolcott,

Two Gays were hangd in Iran the other day for being homosexual. If James Woolcott knows of any up front gay bars anywhere from Fez to Fallujah, please tell me about it. Hopefully, after the WOT, this depressing picture will be somewhat ameliorated.

Warren

Posted by: Warren at August 11, 2005 12:55 AM

I think taking the wind out of the sails of Islamofascism is, in the long run, going to make more of a difference to more gays than anything the U.S. Supreme Court might or might not do. Delegitimizing Islamofascism is more important to me than any last ditch, rear guard actions by a doomed fundamentalist anti-gay agenda.

Warren

Posted by: Warren at August 11, 2005 01:21 AM

I'm pro-gay tolerance, but strongly anti-gay marriage (civil unions is the place for civil government). I'm pro-choice, as long as it doesn't hurt somebody else -- but a human fetus with different DNA IS some human fetal body other than the mother; I want a little human rights for the little human fetus.
Pro-choice on drugs, on school -- let parents have vouchers to choose; on Soc. Sec -- have indiv. choice accounts ... the usual Libertarian economic choice issues. Which choices don't count with the lying "pro-choice" folk who actually mean only pro-abortion.

In March Stanford Magazine noted a small anti-abortion protest; in May there were nasty letters against the protest. So I wrote a letter </> against those letters.

Both pro-abortion letters focused more on being anti-Iraq war, and implicitly calling all pro-life folk pro-war (which is false; Pope JP II was NOT pro-war). I still claim 3 axes of Bush policy: pro-Democracy Export/War, pro-Morals (pro-life), and pro-Tax Cuts.

The prior balance, which annoys Libertarians, was that most pro-Social Freedom (liberals) were anti-Economic Freedom -- and vice versa. So, before 9/11, most folk wanted MORE freedom in something (civil or economic), and MORE government in the other.

Wolcott's valid point is this: voting for anybody is voting for the package. With the new 3rd axis of war, the "packages" are more complex.

It cuts both ways for Wolcott -- change his quote towards opposition: "The fact is that by [opposing, and not] subscribing to Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with" Saddam and Islamofascists.

The problem goes back to Vietnam, a "senseless" war (Stanford letter writer) -- whose actual purpose was fighting against evil commie genocide.
Those against fighting supported the commie victory -- and the genocide. But they're too intellectually dishonest, including Roger Simon, to admit it. (It wasn't their intention! They wanted Unreal Perfection.)

The US domestic political solution will come when Dems agree to export Democracy, and use Big Gov't to do it "better" ... and Tax the Rich to pay for it. Hillary is moving there. After a 2006 wipeout, and enough SC justices to repeal Roe (so CA & NY & Oregon can have legal abortion amendments), the Dems will decide to give up hysterical Bush-hate on Iraq and admit it was their support for Saddam which caused Bush to win -- and Roe to lose.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 11, 2005 06:19 AM

IP -

Your suggestion that proportional representation is more likely to produce non-extremist legislators than a winner-take-all system makes no sense. In a proportional representation system, you can will will a small plurality. In a WTA system you can win this way only if candidates never learn anything. What I mean by this is that as soon as someone figures out that if losers #2 & #3 combine they will have more votes than the winner, #2 & #3 will combine. This is why Third Parties have a very limited history of success in systems such as ours. They almost always either take over or are taken over by one of the two major parties. They have influence because both major parties compete to appeal to their voters. This historically pushes both major parties toward the center.

As for you suggestion that my comment about withdrawl from SA was "stating the obvious", the converse of my statement was clearly implied in your criticism of Bush. Does this mean you were trying to score points against Bush by holding him responsible for not implementing what you have admitted would have been a ridiculous policy?

Posted by: Ben at August 11, 2005 07:03 AM

"will will" should be "win with." Read before you post.

Posted by: Ben at August 11, 2005 07:26 AM

Bulletin to James Woolcott, Two Gays were hangd in Iran the other day for being homosexual.

Woolcott cares about gay rights?

Palestinian gays flee to Israel

"Gay Palestinian men are risking their lives to cross the border into Israel, claiming they feel safer among Israelis than their own people."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3211772.stm

Posted by: spaniard at August 11, 2005 07:36 AM

It would be a low blow indeed for me to accuse Wolcot for getting off on the Hussein Boys rape of girls, the wood chippers etc. But the fact is that the ideologically entrenched left abandoned their stance of hating dictators in favor of hating Conservatives/The Right/Whatever long ago. Far more better to snip at Chimpy McHitlerBurton than to lift a finger against tyrants. If that drives liberal hawks over to the "neocon" side, that is the paleo-liberals major malfunction, not the ones who can't smell of rotting ideas anymore.

Wolcott most likely doesn't approve of woodchippers, putting losing olympians in iron madiens or the like. But capital-C Caring while doing nothing to change things is one thing. Sneering at the other guys when he tries to put a stop to it (even for the "wrong reasons," e.g., WMD) is entirely another.

I too am not Bush's biggest fan, but I have to give credit where credit is due. And Wolcott and his favored team didn't do and wouldn't have done a d@mned thing about the state of affairs there - even if their inaction was for the "right reasons."

Posted by: Bill at August 11, 2005 08:11 AM

Wolcott is a tedious attention-hound who delights in provoking responses from bigger fish. Usually I'm in favor of vigorous debate, but in the case of Wolcott, I half-wish his dainty fusillades were met consistently with silence.

Posted by: Joe G. at August 11, 2005 08:52 AM

I think the 'real' problem that Wolcott has is, as a non centrist, he just thinks the 'other' side is too beyond the pale to even work with.

Most of that is probably based on buying partisan bs and half truths (re: being part of a closed intellectual circle).

What are republicans doing to mess with gay people? Seriously? What? I'm only against 'gay marriage' as it is using the state to redefine a church institution. If churches want to marry gay people, then it's none of my business. Every poll of republicans I've seen shows majority support for civil unions... damm bigots. :)

Abortion? What has Bush done to stop it? Nothing. Every poll I've seen shows only majority support (among republicans) to put restrictions of later abortions. The polls say a majority of democrats feel the same way! They used the courts to force the current system on us without a debate. I think we should talk about whether 6 to 9 month abortions really need to be legal... this does not make me a Taliban member or dominionist (eye roll)….

Get out more Wolcott… find a conservative friend to chat with...

Posted by: Thomas at August 11, 2005 09:10 AM

As for you suggestion that my comment about withdrawl from SA was "stating the obvious", the converse of my statement was clearly implied in your criticism of Bush. Does this mean you were trying to score points against Bush by holding him responsible for not implementing what you have admitted would have been a ridiculous policy

Ben,
I guess the problem is that I assumed that those who read my words would be able to see pretty clearly what I meant. My fault there. And the other part of the problem is that you seem to be locked into a belief that I just must be parroting some stereotypical antiBush meme - without actually trying to read the words I actually wrote.

I was not criticizing Bush. Can you wrap your head around that? I was not trying to "score points" against Bush. I was not expecting him to follow a policy that I admit is ridiculous.

I was criticizing RW propagandists who accuse liberals of appeasement for trying to understand the forces that lead to young people in many parts of the world being susceptible to terrorist recruiters. The appeasement meme is trotted out whenever people try to use their brain to understand what is going on in the world. And heaven forbid, if one supports a policy that in some way could be seen as addressing a complaint that might be common in the arab world, then the appeasement cry grows deafening.

It is all hypocritical propaganda. By pointing to the SA troops situation, I demonstrate that sometimes even GWB will follow a policy that, on the surface, seems to be addressing a concern of bin Laden (not only just an arab concern). And yet no one on the right screams appeasement. Because, obviously, as you stated, it was done for our own reasons - because it was the right policy for advancing our interests. Bush supporters have no problem getting beneath the surface appearances and understanding the motivations, when it involves their guy. But for any of their fellow citizens who are not rabid Bush supporters, there is no effort to pierce beneath the surface of things and understand motivations. To the contrary, there is a propagandistic use of surface appearances to "prove" the ill motivations of the critics.

Hypocrisy. Propaganda. Mindless ad hominem attacks. A mechanism for avoiding serious discussion of issues by demonizing ones political opponents. Standard MO by many, not all, on your side of the issue.

Posted by: IP at August 11, 2005 09:40 AM

Your suggestion that proportional representation is more likely to produce non-extremist legislators than a winner-take-all system makes no sense

It makes perfect sense, and there is empircal support as well. The history of nations that have proportional representation is that they tend to have weak governments, since their parliaments are made up of smaller, non-majoritarian parties that have to reach painful compromises on every single piece of legislations, and thus are in constant danger of collapse.
I am not advocating for such a system, I just point out that they are much more resistant to being dominated by a single minority party. In fact it is impossible for a single minority party to dominate such a system.
Look at our own history. In 1992, Bush Sr. came in second with roughly 37% of the vote. Clinton could have been more extreme than he was and won only 38% and been elected.

as soon as someone figures out that if losers #2 & #3 combine they will have more votes than the winner, #2 & #3 will combine

Right. Thus necessarily enacting a set of political compromises that are acceptable to the representatives of a majority. But in a WTA system, winner #1, who might have gotten less than 40%, has no need to compromise with any other party, and can rule from their minority base.

Posted by: IP at August 11, 2005 09:53 AM

Joe G.Wolcott is a tedious attention-hound who delights in provoking responses from bigger fish. Usually I'm in favor of vigorous debate, but in the case of Wolcott, I half-wish his dainty fusillades were met consistently with silence.

I hear you. But he's a much bigger fish than me. He's an editor at Vanity Fair. I had a chance to argue with him more publicly than usual (this was cross-posted at Instapundit), so I took it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2005 10:04 AM

Dustin, IP, Spaniard, others: obviously you missed the memo. It's not the Global War on Terror or WOT anymore. It's the global struggle against violent extremism, God or GW Save US, for short.

Posted by: markus rose at August 11, 2005 10:12 AM

Wolcot perfectly exemplifies how a certain exceedingly-well-heeled type of man-of-the-people has become a man-of-only-the-right-kind-of-people.

Actually, having Wolcott slander you should be treated as an occasion to break out a bottle of the better stuff.

But not the best stuff. He's a little petty for that, I think.

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 11, 2005 12:25 PM

I see the latest meme of the BDS crowd is that Bush is a lousy communicator.

Glad to see the Left believes in recycling....

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 11, 2005 12:29 PM

The fact is that by opposing Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you have made common cause with Ba'athists, bin Laden, Zarqawi, and Taliban fundamentalists who are truly dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride...

Posted by: TallDave at August 11, 2005 01:23 PM

The above logical extension of Wolcott's arguments addressed, of course, to Wolcott.

I sent him an email. I doubt he'll grasp the irony.

Posted by: TallDave at August 11, 2005 01:24 PM

I'm pulling this out of my memory, but I saw a tape of John and Yoko on Dick Cavett once and he was explaining an angry letter exchange between him and the Village Voice. Some Voice writer had written some intellectual screed that Lennon felt was personally offensive (I think it included a personal attack on Yoko). He responded with a brief letter that the Voice published in their next issue. I'm paraphrasing, but I think it's pretty close: "Dear Village Voice: F--k You! Sincerely John Lennon"

(Of course he didn't blank out any letters).

Lennon was criticized by some people for using a naughty word instead of protesting in a manner befitting an intellectual. Cavett asked him how he'd respond to that criticism. Lennon told Cavett (again I'm paraphrasing):

"Well I'm not an intellectual. I'm working class. And I don't care how politely you phrase it, but when you say 'f--k you' to a working class person he's going to say 'f--k you' back."

The other thing is that I posted on this Wolcott crap too. I didn't go with the Lennon method, though I considered it:
http://www.whoknew.us/archives/000940forgive_us_wolcott_for_we_have_sinned.php

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at August 11, 2005 01:40 PM

IP -

"It makes perfect sense, and there is empircal support as well. The history of nations that have proportional representation is that they tend to have weak governments, since their parliaments are made up of smaller, non-majoritarian parties that have to reach painful compromises on every single piece of legislations, and thus are in constant danger of collapse."

I don't know what system your talking about, but it's not one that exists in reality. Coalition governments like this are much more prone to extremism because a small faction in parliament can drive the ruling party to taking extreme stances by threatening to blow apart the coalition (e.g., remember Meir Kahane?). Historically, governments based on single member districts with plurality win are much more centrist. Political extremists rarely get elected in the US, Great Britian, etc.

"But in a WTA system, winner #1, who might have gotten less than 40%, has no need to compromise with any other party, and can rule from their minority base."

Wrong. Because as soon as #1 finds out #3 is talking to #2, #1 will also try to get #3 to support him.

Posted by: Ben at August 11, 2005 02:09 PM

IP -

"I guess the problem is that I assumed that those who read my words would be able to see pretty clearly what I meant. My fault there. And the other part of the problem is that you seem to be locked into a belief that I just must be parroting some stereotypical antiBush meme - without actually trying to read the words I actually wrote."

"I was not criticizing Bush. Can you wrap your head around that? I was not trying to "score points" against Bush. I was not expecting him to follow a policy that I admit is ridiculous."

I re-read your post in light of these follow-up comments, and I appear to have mis-interpreted what you were saying. I read into your words motives that were not there. I admit to having developed a hair trigger w/r/t the stupid and irrational criticism of Bush that comes out of the mouths of many on the Left. For those people, Bush can do nothing right, and it doesn't matter either that much of their criticism is internally inconsistent and that they never seem to have any suggestions for improving on a policy they characterize as stupid and/or downright evil. I am so sick of it I could scream. Bush is not perfect, but he doesn't deserve anything close to the hatred the Left has for him.

As for your substantive point, I have no problem with trying to determine "why they hate us."* I think most on the right agree with me on this. The problem is that some people seem to think that understanding our enemies is a substitute for fighting back. We need to fight the war while we are trying to understand why they attacked us.

*It must be clearly understood, however, that this is for tactical reasons and not as an end in itself. Finding out why they hate us is useful only to the extent it makes it easier to kill or otherwise neutralize existing extremists and avoid creating new ones (although I expect there is no way that we would find acceptable to avoid creating new ones). Finding out why they hate us has no purpose otherwise.

Posted by: Ben at August 11, 2005 02:35 PM

Ben,
I no longer can claim to know what you are talking about. Perhaps we are talking past each other. The scenario you lay out, with winner #1, and losers #2, 3 etc. can exist in a system like the UK (where its WTA in each constiuency) or it can exist in a system of proportional representation. The negotiations that you describe, between #2, and 3, or #1 and 3 can and do take place in both systems. The ability for a small party, necessary to a governing coalition, to extort the larger coalition member into supporting an extreme position, is equally possible irresepecive of the way individual members are chosen, WTA or proportional. It is merely a function of the fact that no party has a majority, and there is a need for a coalition. George Galloway might have just that power were Blair to only have a single digit majority, or no majority at all, even though it is a WTA system.

Posted by: IP at August 11, 2005 03:03 PM

I shall never forgive Walcott for leading me to this dreadful place.

Uggh.

Posted by: nobody at August 11, 2005 03:15 PM

Nobody -
Your comment made me laugh. I was also (mis)led here by Wolcott...

I really had to see who called Simon a liberal hawk. Simon is such a follower of the neo-con agenda, whether or not he also supports their Christian fundamentalist political partners' objectives of anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, anti-science/progress/reality does not make him liberal. Where is he on taxation? Social programs? Health care? Public education, etc.....

And how would you define a liberal hawk? Would that be someone that supported starting a war without building a coalition? Without support of the UN Security Council? Without even a consistent cause for going to war? Without supporting our troops with armor and suitable numbers? Would that be a war decided by those who have never been to war and will not send their own children but is more than willing to send children of others?

Posted by: j. bryant at August 11, 2005 03:44 PM

Nor shall we forgive him for lowering the level, moral and intellectual, of the visitors.

Wolcott is, in more ways than one, a barren man leading a barren life. His tone and temperment betray his vacancy at every turn.

Posted by: Vanderleun at August 11, 2005 03:46 PM

Funny, I hadn't read Wolcott's column when I commented here. Ah - he said it so much better than I did - as always - witty and incisive.

Posted by: j. bryant at August 11, 2005 03:53 PM

Actually, if you really do view yourself a centrist, you might try and avoid engaging Mr. Wolcott in the future. Not only does it make you appear more right leaning than you may or may not be, but he rips you to shreds.

Posted by: Jody at August 11, 2005 04:42 PM

J. Bryant, here's the policy position in a nutshell:

Totalitarian states are bad, pluralistic democracies are good.

States and organizations who threaten the United States and allies will be taken at their word.

Force will be used when a threat is perceived, not when the threat has been implemented.

Go back through all the communications from the Gu'ment, and find an incompatibility with that little synopsis from this brain-dead right-winger.

Come back with a real rebuttal instead of a yo' mama, and I'll call you daddy and kiss your bum.

Lookin' forward to that bum, good lookin'....

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 11, 2005 05:16 PM

And don't you just love the folks who come on here with anonymous ID's and cutesy emails?

I understand the impulse, but dudes and dudette's, if you're really paranoid, you don't think for a moment that's gonna keep the gu'mint (much less Haliburton) out of your pants.

Don't you know about cell phones?

Posted by: Mark Poling at August 11, 2005 05:26 PM

This whole post has actually reminded me of why I felt compelled to cancel my Vanity Fair subscription in December, after over a decade of loyal (i.e. cover-to-cover) readership. I will miss Hitchens and I sort of regret that I will never really know what Jennifer Aniston went through vis a vis Brangelina (although I’m not morally above reading the occasional newsstand article in a ridiculously long grocery checkout line), but the overall tone of the magazine has become insufferable to me. Jeremy’s blog post re the powdered wig is spot on. In fact, it is entirely possible that j. Bryant is checking his powdered wig in the mirror as I type this:-). And then there are the endless pages of models with their bored and droll expressions that take up half the magazine. (Of course Wolcott’s droll and dismissive response re playing with your nuances is entirely consistent with this established tone). I venture to suggest that the magazine is hopelessly stuck in the 90’s. And I’m not alone in my disgust with VF. Their subscription rate apparently dropped off quite dramatically after their relentless Bush bashing last Fall.

Posted by: Caroline at August 11, 2005 05:29 PM

Nobody: I shall never forgive Walcott for leading me to this dreadful place.

It burns! It burns us!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2005 05:30 PM

Caroline,

Some of their post-9/11 observations made me so angry, one day I burned all the back issues I had. And roasted some weenies over the fire. In the fire, too, come to think of it.

Ahh, the Bonfire of the Vanity Fairs. It burns, indeed!

Posted by: TallDave at August 11, 2005 05:37 PM

Would that be a war decided by those who have never been to war and will not send their own children but is more than willing to send children of others?

Hey Bryant, ever called 911? Isn't it hypocritical of you to demand that other people's children put themselves in harm's way as police and firefighters when you've never been in a shootout or a five-alarm fire and aren't sending your own children?

Posted by: TallDave at August 11, 2005 05:42 PM

"Ahh, the Bonfire of the Vanity Fairs. It burns, indeed!"

excellent :-)

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

Hey TallDave, your analogy doesn't work. Everyone pretty much agrees that fires should be put out and shootouts stopped. Everyone does not agree that the war in Iraq was a good idea. The "chickenhawk" argument is based on the economic maxim that externalities should be internalized.

Posted by: Big Worm at August 11, 2005 06:52 PM

Your high-minded political positioning is, and always has been, about your own perceived virtue. It's a way of flattering yourself and avoiding accepting the consequences of your alliegences.

Why dialogue with you? If at this point in the game you're still willing to offer any support to the gang who couldn't shoot straight, what possible rhetoric could sway you? Really, we're beyond that point.

Posted by: Realish at August 11, 2005 06:53 PM

IP -

Perhaps you are right that we are speaking past each other. In an attempt at clarity, I will summarize my view as follows: A system that has single member districts with plurality win generally does a better job of keeping extremists out of government because election winners, on average, must achieve a larger percentage of the vote than in a proportional representation system.* Most winners in a WTA system receive more than 50% of the vote; in a proportional representation system, those who finish with less than 50% of the vote routinely are put in office. Typically, a politician who receives more than 50% of the vote must appeal to a broader base of support, while one who knows he can win with less than 50% need not appeal beyond his base. (The benefits of WTA are, of course, mitigated by the scandal of gerrymandering - it used to be the case that voters pick their representatives; now we have a system in which representatives have at least some ability to pick their voters).

*Most countries that have single member legislative districts with plurality win have some variant of a two party system, in which one party is center-right and the other is center-left. Third parties typically only last for an election or two before they are subsumed by one or both of the major parties. Their influence comes from the fact that their ideas often live on in the party that subsumes them. Occasionally, a third party takes over the position of one of the major parties (e.g., Republican-Whig, Labour-Liberal). Third parties that endure typically are regional (Quebec) or have some similar characteristic that accounts for their dominance among a selected minority of the electorate. In these countries, it is very difficult for someone who is not endorsed by one of the major parties to be elected. Since the major parties usually need more than 50% to win, they tend to avoid running candidates who are wildly out of the mainstream. With a few limited exceptions, there are far more truly radical officeholders in countries with proportional representation systems than in countries such as the US, UK, Australia, etc.

Posted by: Ben at August 11, 2005 07:11 PM

Michael,

you're a heretic plain and simple and heretics are not dialogued with. If we lived in a country where power was assumed at the point of a sword instead of in a democracy with regular elections, they would literally burn you at the stake.

Posted by: spaniard at August 11, 2005 07:11 PM

Big Worm -

The chickenhawk argument is a stupid now as it has always been. Above all, it is an attempt by people to end debate for a reason having nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of the positions being debated.

Your response to TallDave is incoherent. First, because by comparing policing in general to one particular war is an apples and oranges comparison (i.e., I support policing in general but I do not support police enforcement of a particular law or in a particular area or against a particular group of people), and secondly because internalization of externalities applies equally to crime and firefighting.

Posted by: Ben at August 11, 2005 07:18 PM

TallDave: Some of their post-9/11 observations made me so angry, one day I burned all the back issues I had. And roasted some weenies over the fire. In the fire, too, come to think of it.

That's creepy.

Anyway, there's still good stuff in the magazine. I buy it when Hitchens has a new piece, and some of the rest of the pieces are worth reading as well.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2005 08:17 PM

Realish: Why dialogue with you?

Do you only talk to people who agree with you about everything?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2005 08:20 PM

I believe someone (Tall Dave) needs to return to logic class. No one is "demanding" that other people's children join the police or fire departments. Further, those members can quit any time they want. Finally, the fire fighting and crime fighting missions are not being lost in part because of a lack of personnel. Try harder.

Posted by: Kathleen at August 11, 2005 08:35 PM

lmao! that was really lame, Kathleen. We're arguing with 2nd graders here.

Posted by: spaniard at August 11, 2005 08:39 PM

Well, I wish I could say something witty and intelligent here that could make me seem smarter than really I am.....but the only thing that comes to mind when reading what Mr. Wolcott has to say is....

What a dick.

Posted by: Mike T. at August 11, 2005 09:09 PM

the tottentots have been pwned!

Posted by: jerry at August 11, 2005 10:25 PM

Islamofacsism. YAAAWN!

Anyone remember our two homegrown (right wing) terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Eric Randolf Rudolf Whatever-his-name-was? But no, their skin complexion, and government hating ideologly, was remarkably similar to your own, so NO BIG DEAL.

Wolcott is incredibly bright...Always a great read and seldom, if ever wrong. The same cannot be said for this wishy washy excuse for a blog.

Posted by: Tristram at August 12, 2005 01:22 AM

Tristram: But no, their skin complexion, and government hating ideologly, was remarkably similar to your own, so NO BIG DEAL.

Boy, do you ever have the wrong blog.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 12, 2005 01:56 AM

Tristram is right. Why haven't we blogged more about the large scale worldwide terrorist holy war being waged by White Christian fundamentalists from our very own country? I guess it just doesn't bother me when they fly planes into buildings and blow up commuter trains. And isn't it strange that the federal government never takes up arms against the likes of them. Even now the Branch Davidians and the Freemen are running numerous terrorist training camps and have enslaved millions of people in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and it's never even covered in the mainstream media. Try searching Google News and I bet you won't find one single story on it. If that's not proof enough that Tristram is right then I don't know what is. And it's so true: I want to hate them but they just look too much like me for me to dislike them for long. Will Timothy McVeigh ever be called to account for blowing up that building all those years ago? Of course not. And why is Rudolph allowed to walk free? Why do we only hate Left wing revolutionaries like Bin Laden? Do we hate the Left that much? Maybe we hate our parents. If we really wanted to know more about organized Right wing terrorist groups we'd do better to study the teachings of Senator Robert Byrd than listen to people like Chrisopher Hitchens who doesn't have anywhere near as much first hand knowledge of such things. Just something to think about.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at August 12, 2005 02:45 AM

Wolcott responded Today, good luck. If I were you, I would just let this be, because honestly you're not as good a writer as he.

Naturally, it's your decision just lending a suggestion.

Posted by: cksa1a at August 12, 2005 03:38 AM

Your sincere interest in human affairs is duly noted, cksa1a.

James Wolcott does two things in this latest response. First (after saying he won't dialog with Michael or anyone else) he clarifies his position and more conscientiously lays out his opinions. It's fine for him to be wrong, but it would be much better if he were able to express these opinions without heckling other writers.

That leads me to the second thing he seems to be doing in this latest post, namely trying to assert himself as alpha-male in the political blogosphere, a contest not even Glenn Reynolds has shown much interest in competing in.

So I don't see where you're coming from in warning Michael he might want to back off. This isn't supposed to be a Jello wrestling bout.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at August 12, 2005 04:17 AM
he seems to be doing in this latest post, namely trying to assert himself as alpha-male in the political blogosphere
yeah, for some primates, er, people it always comes back to the baboon troop — the warm fuzzy feeling of being immersed in my tribe, and the even better feeling of hurling feces at your tribe. Wolcott's just doing the male primate chest-thumping, butt-flashing thing.

This sort of behavior is more addictive than crack, even — and why there are so many writers out there who are no longer worth reading.

Posted by: Ping Critical at August 12, 2005 05:18 AM

cksa1a wrote:

Wolcott responded [t]oday, good luck. If I were you, I would just let this be, because honestly you're not as good a writer as he.

Wolcott:Totten::Dylan:Donovan

Posted by: edddie at August 12, 2005 05:43 AM
If I were you, I would just let this be, because honestly you're not as good a writer as he.

I think Totten's relative shortcoming in the area of writing skills is more than compensated for by Wolcott being at least plus six sigma on the flaming asshole distribution. Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me, style hardly ever compensates for flyblown substance.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at August 12, 2005 06:05 AM

Wolcott makes one very good point on his latest entry in this "non-dialogue." He attacks the pseudo-"former Liberals" like Simon that go around saying "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me". These types like to congregate at this blog as well. I've always found this statement singularly annoying - as it means the speaker is either dishonest, or was incredibly ignorant in their younger days. The Democratic party is about as conservative today as it has been at any point since JFK died. The "party left me" shtick is a tired rhetorical trick used to imply that liberals have moved further to the left, anyone who uses it is debating only to score partisan points, and clearly has little interest in discovering where the truth may lie.

Posted by: vanya at August 12, 2005 07:24 AM

Ben,

There are several reasons that the Chickenhawk argument is unpersuasive. I merely pointed out that TallDave's comment does not set forth any of them. TallDave made the analogy between policing in general and going to war in a particular instance, not I. Internalization of externalities applies to every situation where a choice must be made, but it seems beyond peradventure that, in the run-of-the-mill situation TallDave was describing, agreement on the proper response is fairly unanimous.

Posted by: Big Worm at August 12, 2005 07:26 AM

"avoiding accepting the consequences of your alliegences"

Am I the only one who thinks this phrase sounds more than vaguely Stalinist?

Is the Workers Alliance of Vanity Fair planning to hold a national purge of apostates - with some light summer salads and reeducation thrown in, perhaps?

Oh, I see on Vanity Fair's cover that "Jen Finally Talks!" Now that's what I call a political and cultural transformation!

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2005 07:28 AM

If I were you, I would just let this be, because honestly you're not as good a writer as he.

I must admit Woolcott is one heck of a writer, but the only thing he's got over Totten is his ability to be an asshole. He does it well, and Totten, admittedly, is no match for him in that department. That's why Woolcott declined the invite to a dialogue-- it doesn't lend itself to his strengths.

Posted by: spaniard at August 12, 2005 07:56 AM

Democratic party is about as conservative today as it has been at any point since JFK died.

That simply is not true. Joe Lieberman is the closest thing the Dems have to a JFK Liberal and he's a pariah. The Dem party has left perhaps hundreds of thousands of its own in the lark, I know several of them, including myself (I have since drifted much further right).

Posted by: spaniard at August 12, 2005 07:59 AM

Spaniard,

Lieberman would have been a far bigger pariah in the 1970s - you pretend like the Democratic party of McGovern never existed. (Personally I think Liebeman is a pariah more because he's an unlikable hypocrite than for his policies, but that's a different argument). In the 1980s the Dems still considered socialistic business regulations as mainstream, now that stuff is relegated to the marginal Kucinich types. Have you forgotten Jimmy Carter? He was far to the left of any of the serious Dem candidates in 2000 or 2004. In the 1980s the Democrats were openly supporting left-wing revolutionary movements in Central America. Maybe the Democratic party has moved right a lot more slowly than you have, but it has undeniably moved. Anyone who voted for the Democrats in the 1980s thinking it was still the party of JFK deserves only pity. If the Republicans continue to position themselves as the party of creationists, K-Street lobbyists and foreign policy incompetents, the Democratic party will have a golden opportunity to recapture the center. Which is why partisan hacks have to try so hard to persuade centrists that "the Dems have moved left."

Posted by: vanya at August 12, 2005 08:23 AM

Slartibartfast wrote:

I think Totten's relative shortcoming in the area of writing skills is more than compensated for by Wolcott being at least plus six sigma on the flaming asshole distribution. Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me, style hardly ever compensates for flyblown substance.

Slartibartfast:hilzoy::Totten:Wolcott

Posted by: edddie at August 12, 2005 08:43 AM

I wouldn't tangle with James Wolcott. His writing is so excellect, that anyone who takes him on looks stupid.

Posted by: la at August 12, 2005 08:56 AM

Vanya: "The "party left me" shtick is a tired rhetorical trick used to imply that liberals have moved further to the left"

Actually Roger often refers to a certain wing of the anti war Left as "reactionary" and I, for one, know what he means (i.e. not as anti-fascism and pro international solidarity as one might normally expect of the Left). So this reactionary Left have scattered in both directions like cockroaches when the light's turned on. And now they are angrily attacking anyone they perceive to be threatening their entrenched Cold War era world view. Whether that's Left or Right, it's reactionary, and it certainly feels like a departure.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at August 12, 2005 09:08 AM

What's with the comparisons between MJT and Wolcott? Wolcott is a gossip columnist who edits a fashion magazine. MJT is a political and travel writer.

Would Wolcott travel alone to Libya? Would he venture into Hezbollah's headquarters in Lebanon during the Cedar Revolution

Would MJT write pages and pages of worshipful gushing over Pauline Kael?

They're apples and oranges.

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2005 09:09 AM

Would he venture into Hezbollah's headquarters in Lebanon during the Cedar Revolution?

I have a feeling he would go there, but not for the same reason as Totten. Wolcott is such a good writer that he would probably be there giving them pointers about how to write their promotional material. Pro bono of course.

Posted by: Court at August 12, 2005 10:37 AM

Wolcott writes back:

Roger L. Simon I don't consider a liberal hawk. Because he isn't. He isn't much of a liberal of any kind.

Instead, he typifies a subset of bloggers who day-in, day-out bash the UN (particularly over the "oil-for-food" scandal") while saying damn near nothing about the billions of reconstruction money lost or stolen in Iraq and the sweetheart deals for companies like, yes, Halliburton; who dump scorn regularly on the ACLU and minimize the brutalities at Abu Ghraib; who pull that "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me" shtick (or its cousin, "When I was young, liberalism meant this [fill in blank with noble cause], and now it means this [fill in blank with outrage du jour]; who accuse those who don't share their righteous urgency of "not getting it" or having "a pre-9/11 mentality;" who trash Juan Cole but never make a peep about Daniel Pipes or David Horowitz; the sort of blogger who even at this late date kvetches that the MSM is withholding the "good news" about Iraq...well, you get the idea.

Wolcott nails Simon and Totten here.

It is always instructive to see - what is a blog outraged about? What does it criticize, in the main? What does a blog support, in its writings?

It is THAT which determines the blogs position on the the political spectrum.

You can vote for everyone liberal, but if all you do is criticize liberals, then you serve the conservative cause.

If you remain silent about one side's outrages, while being outraged about another sides, then THAT shows what cause you are supporting.

So for Totten, "I voted for democratic Congressmen" doesn't matter much if he never actually praises the congressmen's positions in a post here.

The blog has a voice, and what the posts are silent about, and what the posts are supportive of, and what the posts are outraged about - this is what matters.

For example, on the front page, his mentioning of other bloggers.

1. He THANKS Joe Katzman for posting his stuff on Winds of Change - a very right wing site (although the posters, if not the commenters, are smarter).

2. He criticizes Juan Cole.

3. He is posting on Instapundit.

4. Criticizes Bush (glory be!) for not being hawkish enough - "Our enemy is the combat wing of radical and Islamist movements that are genuinely enormous". Of course, this is done with little self-reflection, considering that the Hussein govt in Iraq was NEVER THE COMBAT WING of radical and Islamist movements and the invasion of Iraq HAS ONLY HELPED TO SUPPORT THE LARGEST ISLAMIST STATE.

We probably won't get a mea culpa on the whole Iraq thing though.

In July

5. A neutral-to-negative post on Hilary Clinton.

6. On the Conservative Heretics post "It seems to me that conservatives in general are more comfortable with centrists than are liberals in general. "

7. "It must really suck being a liberal these days. They’re surrounded by right-wing boogeymen on all sides."

8. July 13th - another attack on Juan Cole.

The schtick is clear here - Totten knows his game, whatever he may claim. Any smart liberal knows his game. There's a reason why the commenters on this site swing conservative.

The only mystery is why anyone would believe Totten's claims of "middle of the road".

Again, read the recent Wolcott, it's a very effective exposing of the Totten style - http://jameswolcott.com/archives/2005/08/how_do_you_like_2.php

Posted by: JC at August 12, 2005 11:17 AM

Jesus Christ, Michael! Is it true that you have criticized Juan Cole? And more than once?! You really must be a Right winger. And then blogging on that ultra, super Right wing Glenn Reynolds site (he supported the war in Iraq AND is pro gun ownership!!!).

It scares me to think where this might lead, Michael. You might even not vote for Hillary in '08 -- it really could get that bad if you don't seek help NOW.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at August 12, 2005 12:02 PM

Yes, JC is questioning your ideological purity here. And he has a carefully researched list of crimes against the Party, including the crime of fraternizing with counterrevolutionaries!

Tell me, JC how are the lattes at Wolcott's re-education camps? I've heard they use skim milk.

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2005 12:32 PM

mary,

they've switched to soy-- organic.

Posted by: spaniard at August 12, 2005 12:41 PM

Totten's a hardcore activist Bush supporter. The "liberal" thing is rhetorical shtick. Liberals can and should make common cause with Republicans and conservatives who are genuinely concerned about U.S. national security and want to end the ridiculous farce of Bush / neocon foreign policy, which is a huge threat to U.S. interests and world peace. (Although less of a threat since Bush's flaming incompetence has basically neutered U.S. military power). But no compromise with neocon Bush supporters, they are the worst thing going right now.

Posted by: MQ at August 12, 2005 01:54 PM

(Although less of a threat since Bush's flaming incompetence has basically neutered U.S. military power)

This is a roundabout way of saying he wants us to lose the war. Occasionally Libs slip and expose their anti-Americanism, even if only in parenthesis.

Posted by: spaniard at August 12, 2005 02:08 PM

So for Spaniard, criticism of Bush's incompetence is a "roundabout" way of being anti-American? Please! My first visit to this blog and this is the level of discourse? Won't be back anytime soon.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 12, 2005 03:16 PM

Liberals can and should make common cause with Republicans and conservatives who are genuinely concerned about U.S. national security and want to end the ridiculous farce of Bush / neocon foreign policy

Pat Buchanan is anti-war. Should "Liberals" make common cause with him?

Other anti-war activists on the right side of the spectrum include David Duke and the folks at Stormfront. Are those more 'common cause' types?

Posted by: mary at August 12, 2005 03:30 PM

"Totten's a hardcore activist Bush supporter. The "liberal" thing is rhetorical shtick."

There you have it. If you support Bush on the war, then you are a liar. Any espousal of liberal values must therefore be phony. Honest differences of opinion do not exist.

Nevermind the areas of agreement and the consensus that might be built on other issues. It's not about the issues. Michael and Roger have committed the cardinal sin: they have broken with party discipline.

Unforgivable.

Posted by: E Rey at August 12, 2005 03:40 PM

stand up idiot,

please don't come back. Wishing for the neutering of our military isn't a criticism of "Bush" you MORON.

Posted by: spaniard at August 12, 2005 04:07 PM

Steve Smith said: "...Charles Johnson, both of whom have embraced most of the Bush Agenda on issues having nothing to do with the foreign policy."

Er, I think you are mistaken. And considering that LGF focuses on the war with Islamic fascism I wonder where you get that idea. Would you like to cite examples of these numerous non-war-related domestic policies with which Charles agrees? And give links, of course?

Posted by: pst314 at August 12, 2005 05:51 PM

I couldn't resist replying to Spaniard's fabulous riposte, though I'll do it without capitals or twisting his screen name in as clever a way as he does mine. MQ was stating his opinion that "Bush's incompetence had basically neutered US military power." That claim is neither anti-American (your charge which my reply tried to show was prima facie nonsensical, a point which you ducked in your response), nor is it the expression of a "wish," but it certainly is a criticism of Bush. Personally I deeply regret the danger that Bush has put our troops in by going along with Rumsfeld's small army policy when the professionals in the Pentagon warned him that he was not committing enough troops for the aftermath. I wish to the bottom of my heart that the brave men and women of our military had better, less incompetent, civilian leadership. Can you explain to me how that wish is anti-American?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 12, 2005 09:51 PM

Can you explain to me how that wish is anti-American?

Stand up,

it's very simple-- if whirled peas depends on our military being "neutered"-- as he claims-- then it logically follows he wants our military defeated. Those are the words of a traitor, and the fact that he hates neocons, and that bushitler is the commander in chief doesn't make a f-ing difference. That's your explanation.

Posted by: spaniard at August 12, 2005 10:10 PM

Responding to points above:

I love America with all my heart and believe I am far more pro-American than Spaniard et al., since he prioritizes his little war fantasies with the Muslim world above the actual well being and national security of the United States. Unfortunately, we have such an incompetent leadership that if they had been able to they would probably have invaded Iran. The fact that they haven't been able to do that is indeed a good thing, both for America and for the world. The best outcome would have been for the American military to stay intact and healthy, managing the rebuilding of Afghanistan, without being involved in the current mess. But we would have been far worse off than we are today had we followed up Iraq by invading Iran, which many in the administration wanted to do.

As for "winning the war" in Iraq, we have already lost. That horse left the barn long ago. Managing the loss is now the question. Again, it would have been far better had we had leadership who could have avoided such a loss for us, but now that it has happened we have to face reality.

"Pat Buchanan is anti-war. Should "Liberals" make common cause with him? Other anti-war activists on the right side of the spectrum include David Duke and the folks at Stormfront."

I respected Buchanan for his anti-war stand initially, but he then endorsed Bush for re-election on the basis of abortion rights and gay marriage, showing that his anti war perspective was actually not particularly important in his politics. The stone Nazis like Duke et. al. obviously hold other (non-liberal) issues as much more important than the war. They are all non trustworthy coalition partners because they would use any coalition to advance agendas I do not agree with, not to genuinely fight against our current militarism. In fact Nazis are obviously incredible militarists who would be far worse in that department than Bush if they got any power, so it's a silly question.

But Republicans like Ron Paul or Brent Scowcroft are genuine patriots who are committed to improving our foreign policy and took risks to speak out against our recent mistakes. I disagree with them on a lot of other issues but they would be great allies in this effort.

Posted by: MQ at August 12, 2005 11:41 PM

"There you have it. If you support Bush on the war, then you are a liar. Any espousal of liberal values must therefore be phony. Honest differences of opinion do not exist."

No, I have no idea how subjectively honest or dishonest Totten considers himself to be. Maybe he has convinced himself he is a liberal democrat despite supporting Bush on what both he and I think is the most important issue of the day. Whatever, it doesn't matter, that's his business. He is factually a hardcore supporter of an extremely conservative President, and he himself would probably admit the issues on which he disagrees with Bush are secondary in importance to his agreement on the critical current issue of foreign policy. I think Bush and Totten are dead, completely wrong on that critical issue of foreign policy.

"Nevermind the areas of agreement and the consensus that might be built on other issues. It's not about the issues. Michael and Roger have committed the cardinal sin: they have broken with party discipline."

It's completely about the issues and not about "party discipline" at all. Didn't you see what I said about making common cause with Republicans if necessary? But it's kind of pointless to chase agreement and consensus on secondary issues with types like Totten right now because the major important thing to them is helping Bush pursue his misguided and incompetent foreign policy.

If things change and our foreign policies improve then I and other liberals like me would no doubt be glad to sign petitions with him about environmental policy or whatever (actually environmental policy is damn important, but not a priority for types like Totten). But that's not what is at issue right now.

Posted by: at August 12, 2005 11:56 PM

Jeremy Brown wrote:

So I don't see where you're coming from in warning Michael he might want to back off.

I never warned Mr. Totten, I just made a suggestion. I was just suggesting that I wouldn't want to get in a pissing contest (and that's all this is) with Wolcott where the tools used in the contest were the written word. Now Mr. Totten may and you may but I wouldn't.

Posted by: cksa1a at August 13, 2005 02:35 AM

I respected Buchanan for his anti-war stand initially, but he then endorsed Bush for re-election on the basis of abortion rights and gay marriage, showing that his anti war perspective was actually not particularly important in his politics

You "respected" Pat Buchanan despite the fact that he is wildly anti-Semitic, openly racist and has flirted with fascism.

..and you only began to disagree with this anti-Semitic fascist when he endorsed Bush for re-election??

And you don't support genuine Nazis because they're not properly "anti-war???" Oh. my. God.

You appear to have no problem with the idea that "Liberals" should join with openly anti-minority Republicans, you have no problem with the idea of abandoning the interests of the minorities within the Democratic party for your hate-filled goal of defeating the "neo-cons.

In his book "The Anatomy of Fascism", Robert Paxton stated that when a political group loses power and feels humiliated or victimized, they can begin to lose faith in the democratic process. They become more willing to abandon democratic ideals

I see that Paxton was right. Thanks for letting us know what we're dealing with here.

Posted by: mary at August 13, 2005 06:20 AM

Spaniard, there's no logic at all in your claim. MQ's first claim was that Bush's foreign policy puts "US interests and world peace" at risk (MQ's original point -- and please no tricky word play when you reply -- it took me a really long time to figure our "whirled peas"). I would agree with MQ: it puts our interests at risk by tying down our military in a no-win situation, and wasting money that could have been spent on homeland security, in Afghanistan, on alternate energy, and other factors that are key to US interests.

As far as Bush's policies being a risk to world peace, I suppose you'd have to go with the argument that legitimizing pre-emptive war is not a good precedent, and pushes countries like North Korea and Iran towards nuclear armament, since the one country of the famous Axis not to have WMD's got invaded.

As for the combination of US interests and world peace, count me in the GHW Bush (41) camp. That is, I believe in the Powell doctrine, which worked to perfection in the First Gulf War. The usual formulation is the following (from Wikipedia, but many other sources are available):

Is a vital US interest at stake?
Will we commit sufficient resources to win?
Are the objectives clearly defined?
Will we sustain the commitment?
Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation?
Have we exhausted our other options?

I prefer to parse it as:

Clearly defined objectives
Clearly defined exit strategy
Broad-based domestic (and international) support
Overwhelming force
No peacekeeping or nation-building

The neoconservatives hate this sort of "realist" doctrine, preferring a "moral" foreign policy. So the real argument is realism vs. moralism, which doesn't equal Republican vs. Democrat or right vs. left. Because there are plenty of old Republicans, steeped in long-term geopolitical analyses, who argued against 43's Iraq war, while they argued for 41's war, fought according to the Powell Doctrine. Or did the fact that 41 let Brent Scowcroft and other subordinates argue against 43's Iraq plan escape you?

Now the second claim is compound. One part is that US military power has been neutered by being put in an impossible situation (Iraq AND Afghanistan AND all our other commitments around the world -- some 750 installations I'm told, ranging from bases to small apartments and safe houses: source here is Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire). Making this claim does not entail a wish that it be so, unless you think that me claiming that "Spaniard makes a mistake in his reasoning" means that I "wish" that you make such mistakes. -- But I don't wish that, I assure you. I wish that you argued better. Now is MQ's neutering claim plausible? There are a lot of career military people who think so. This is an argument from authority, but sometimes that's not completely a bad thing.

The second part of MQ's compound claim is that the alleged fact of the neutering of US military power mitigates 43's bad foreign policy. I suppose you could say by being tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else all over the world our forces are spread too thin to engage in other disastrous adventures, like engaging Iran or Syria or both. Such an engagement would I think be against both US interests and world peace. I can't think of a scenario in which either of those two engagements would pass the test of the Powell Doctrine. (Which is why I think Powell held on as long as he did: to keep the neocons from doing any more damage to US interests and world peace -- which I think, and I think Powell thinks, almost always coincide.)

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 13, 2005 07:16 AM

Oh, and just so you don't think I'm making up my claim about career military criticism of the incompetence of the current Bush administration's foreign policy regarding Iraq, here are a few quotes from Anthony Zinni:

“I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan. I think there was dereliction in lack of planning,” says Zinni. “The president is owed the finest strategic thinking. He is owed the finest operational planning. He is owed the finest tactical execution on the ground. … He got the latter. He didn’t get the first two.”

Zinni says Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time - with the wrong strategy. And he was saying it before the U.S. invasion. In the months leading up to the war, while still Middle East envoy, Zinni carried the message to Congress: “This is, in my view, the worst time to take this on. And I don’t feel it needs to be done now.”

But he wasn’t the only former military leader with doubts about the invasion of Iraq. Former General and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Centcom Commander Norman Schwarzkopf, former NATO Commander Wesley Clark, and former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki all voiced their reservations.

Zinni believes this was a war the generals didn’t want – but it was a war the civilians wanted."

Source: http://tinyurl.com/yr2bq

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 13, 2005 07:28 AM

MQ,

if you wish to clarify your statement and insist that you don't heave a sigh of relief for whirled peas because our military has been neutered, I'll take you at your word. But as your post was originally written, that didn't come through.

Posted by: spaniard at August 13, 2005 09:11 AM

Spaniard, my brother, I think I've adequately covered the most plausible interpretation of MQ. Would you address the substantive points I make?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 13, 2005 10:43 AM

MQ: "Didn't you see what I said about making common cause with Republicans if necessary?"

Yes, you reserve for yourself the right to make common cause with Republicans on specific issues where you agree. But you don't countenance that other liberals (eg. Michael Totten, Roger L. Simon) might do the same...without your approval. Therefore, they must be excommunicated.

Their dissent is devastating to you, so they are branded liars. Hence your "liberal rhetorical shtick" remark.

You shortchange your liberal values by so denigrating those who happen to be fellow travelers on such "damn important" issues as environmental policy, abortion rights, gay rights, etc. But of course, if your primary value is Party discipline, then your antagonism make sense.

Posted by: E Rey at August 13, 2005 11:34 AM

Thanks, stand_up, and MC (I thought you were the same). Your thoughtfulness deserves better than spaniard's dissing (though I almost always agree with him.)

Nation-building is long and hard. Bush's PR has been lousy about this, almost as bad as Johnson's & Nixon's in Vietnam -- the nation-building war the US lost.

I fully agree with the neo-con need to build a SECOND democracy in the ME, besides the Jewish built Israel. Without pro-democracy movement in Arab Islam, the world was doomed to a WMD taking out a city (90% likelihood by 2010). There's still some 30% chance. Including an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran (which I think would have been 70% likely had Kerry won.)

The Powell doctrine, and especially "overwhelming force", is terrible for nation-building. It's the Leftist dependency trap -- let the US gov't do the heavy lifting. It's why Nixon's Vietnamization failed (Dr. K says it was basically succeeding by 72).

Only the IRAQIs can win. Will they have a gov't by democracy, or by death squad? Yes, I really want human rights. But the Shah of Iran's (Cold War) failure shows modernization w/o democracy doesn't work so well under Islam (Singapore & Hong Kong, big successes w/o voting).

The US army today, or even with 30 000 fewer, is enough to win any battle for Liberation -- and even with 100 000 more, is NOT enough to Occupy and give security.

But pro-War or anti-War isn't very much a Conservative or Liberal issue; those are more on gov't spending / regulation/ taxes (low-high) and gov't social control (high-low) (right-left).

It's silly to talk about JFK's Dems, or even Carter's -- the USSR was still considered a viable economic alternative! Libertarians & Conservatives "knew" it was empty -- but most Reagan supporters didn't act like they expected immediate collapse.

Similarly, the sexual liberation of the 60s was leading to acceptance of abortion, and promiscuity, and gay sex -- but only after the laws & culture were changed (by elite judges, not elected law-makers) did the pro-life folk start concentrating. Pro-life Catholics, and Liberal priests, made up a LOT of the Dems; the Party is certainly moving away from them.

Calling Bush a hardcore conservative is such a laugh -- he hasn't vetoed a single bill. Not one gov't agency has a lower budget this year than last. Reagan had tax cuts AND gov't cuts (small); Bush had Tax cuts and MORE gov't. Blechh; pork here, there, and everywhere -- keep everybody happy. In fact, with Dems so fast to oppose Bush on "everything," just because he's Bush, I keep hoping they oppose some spending. Nahhhh.

Bush calls for Civil Unions, not banning gay couples. Yeah, he's "pro-life": in 5 years what has he done? Reduced gov't funding for int'l groups advocating abortion. Beeeg Deeeal. Maybe, prolly, Roberts is pro-life, but even that's not as certain as what Hugh Hewitt (Conservative) wants. Maybe he's a Souter.

I like labels. But labels without standards? yechh.

Finally, Bush's "failure" in Iraq. Intellectual coward. What would success look like, how would it be measured? Less than 2500 killed in Iraq while Bush is in office, I call that HUGE success. Progress on an Iraq Constitution and increasing Iraqi control of security. Looks good. Democracy within a year of what Kosovo gets (remember THAT UN democracy exercise?), or faster -- looks better than any other nation-building going on.

Perfect, no. What's better, what's the standard? The Cowards, like Wolcott, don't say. Never say. I think Michael should keep up the pressure on Liberals -- because the terrorists aren't going away unless their own democratic countries stop accepting their human rights violations.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 13, 2005 11:34 AM

Is I is, or is I ain't, a
tottentot?

or is it
tottentotter?

Maybe
tottentottingest?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 13, 2005 11:37 AM

Tom Grey, thanks for writing. Where did you get your probability estimates (30% chance of a WMD attack on a city)? The irony of ironies here is not simply that Iran will have a huge influence in Iraq from now on, but that without 43's Iraq war, the "pragmatic" and "Western leaning" elements would probably be on top in Iran by now and we'd be on the way to a democracy in Iran, as a large part of the educated urban classes detest the theocrats, and with proper backing might be gaining momentum. Instead we get paranoia, reaction, and more theocracy in Iran and Shi'ite theocracy (or complete civil war) in Iraq, "federated" or not. I don't see that as progress.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 13, 2005 12:14 PM

Tom,

I only dissed him because he came in here with an attitude asking to be dissed. But he came back with a new and improved attitude so he should be treated accordingly.

Stand up,

There is a legitimate way to dissent, and a traitorous way to dissent. I'm going to ask you a question and you need to answer honestly and logically. You believe, like MQ, that Bush's policies are a threat to world peace. Fair enough. If that's true, however, how can you logically not want our military to be defeated given it is the instrument of his policies? It's a conundrum, I'll admit. The reason I ask is because MQ's comments about the military being neutered didn't come to me in a vaccuum. This is a sentiment that I've heard expressed by many on the Left-- that for the good of America and the world our GIs must to be driven out with their tails between their legs. The American empire must be defeated in order to save the Republic.

Now, the people on the Left saying this love their country and call themselves patriots. And you cite Anthony Zinni and Pat Buchanan, et al. Yet you will never hear a sentiment like that escape from their lips, nor do they believe in it. There comes a point when opposing your government IS to oppose your country-- this is especially so in a time of war-- and your hatred of Bush and the "neocons" has driven you to that point. The debate is over. The war HAS to be won, no matter how incompetent you think the neocons are, we have to WIN this.

Posted by: spaniard at August 13, 2005 01:49 PM

Spaniard, you have to read more closely. I said that 43's Iraq war is a threat to both US interests and to world peace. You can't simply pick up on the "world peace" and leave the "US interests" behind. Secondly, "neutering" or as I would prefer to put it, "being stretched too thin," does not equal "defeat." It means not being in a position to make things worse by going into Iran and / or Syria. Thirdly, I'm not responsible for what people on the left say. As I've made it clear, I'm a balance of power "realist" in foreign policy, as was 41. Again, the debate here is between the "moralists" in foreign policy (shorthand: the "neocons") and the "realists" (among whose ranks are the paleocon Republicans like 41 and the career military folks, like Zinni).

As for your other points:

1) "There comes a point when opposing your government IS to oppose your country -- this is especially so in a time of war." Now really, you can't be serious in wanting to equate "government" and "country." You might think this administration protects a core set of national interests better than another government would -- or did. That's fine. I disagree and you can't seriously want to suspend debate because of a war.

2) "-- and your hatred of Bush and the "neocons" has driven you to that point [of opposing my country]." This is silly and unwarranted psychologizing. I don't "hate" Bush (and "neocon" is pretty standard description used to distinguish them from "paleocon," certainly not a loaded, hateful term); I just think he's incompetent, and surrounded by incompetents, and that their incompetence has damaged our country's short-term and long-term interests (which I believe coincide with world peace).

3) "The debate is over." Oh. Please.

4) "The war HAS to be won, no matter how incompetent you think the neocons are, we have to WIN this." I agree we must win the war against all forms of fascism, among them Islamo-fascism. But I think getting embroiled in Iraq was a very bad move in that war. Now if you mean we must "win" in Iraq, then I'm afraid that's just not going to happen, no happen how important you think it is. That doesn't mean I "wish" to see the US "defeated" in Iraq; it just means that by entering into a conflict in clear defiance of the basic principles of the Powell Doctrine, there is no clear objective that would define winning in Iraq. That's a realist position, not a left or right wing position.

The fundamental problem here is geo-political. There's a reason the British set up Iraq the way it is, with a minority Sunni Arab dominance over Kurds displaced from Turkish and Iranian Kurds, and a disempowered Arab Shi'ite population. It has to do with keeping the Iranian (Persian) Shi'ites from making common cause with the Iraqi (Arab) Shi'ites and thereby messing with the Sunni Arabs in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Unfortunately, that seems to have been what 43's incompetence is bringing about.

The whole genius of the British was their ability to create "stable instabilities" along the fracture zones of their empire. That's the sort of thing a realist like 41 appreciated and that's why he didn't get us bogged down by displacing Saddam rather than simply weakening and constraining him.

Now can we drop the "wishing for the defeat of the US military" bit and talk about the Iraq mess and 43's responsibility for getting us bogged down there?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 13, 2005 02:42 PM

stand up philosopher - without a doubt Spaniard's initial interpretation of MQ's post was correct. MQ was equating neutering of our military with increased chances of world peace (whirled peas, heh). I've definitely seen this argument from the left before - hoping that we would lose in Iraq to keep the "neo-con" agenda in check, the assumption of course being that it is the US, and not the Islamists, who represent the greatest threat to "whirled peas" (double heh).

I do not agree that this is a good thing (i.e. our military getting bogged down in Iraq). Iran DOES look poised to get nukes. Wouldn't it have been a better scenario if we had succeeded brilliantly in Iraq and then proceeded into Iran to give a quick hand to toppling the mullahs before they succeeded in attaining nukes? Might not the pro-American Iranians have then made common cause with their newly-liberated secular/liberally oriented Iraqi brethren, to possibly transform the politics of these 2 neighbor countries simultaneously?

So MQ's point doesn't make any sense to me. It seems obvious that a quick American military victory would have been a good thing for the region as a whole. In fact, it strikes me that for someone not to appreciate this fact would imply precisely that they view the US as the great global danger and to see the world that way, is essentially anti-American. How is not? It is implicitly to wish for some other force to assume global hegemony. Obviously, a vacuum will be filled by some force, won’t it?

In fact, it strikes me that our getting bogged down in Iraq is precisely what has given the Iraqi Shia plenty of time to align with the Iranian clerics and mullahs to bring about the current scenario of an incipient Islamic state in Iraq..

I do understand your endorsement of the Powell doctrine. I assume then that you feel our “shock and awe” at the time of invasion was a big let-down, not enough S&A? That you were calling loudly for the use of massive force in Fallujah, when the opportunity to crush the radical Shia forces was presented? Should we have shot the looters on sight the day after we took Baghdad? Should we have ignored the press coverage of civilian casualties- both our MSM and al-Jazeera from the get-go? Should our soldiers have fired from the outset at all vehicles approaching checkpoints above a certain speed after that 1st suicide bombing? I assume you scoffed at the Abu-Ghraib coverage? Should we have been more ruthless, in other words from the get-go to apply the Powell Doctrine, as you recommend?

You yearn for the days of realism in our foreign policy. Then I assume you had no objections to the sanctions, or the slaughter of the Shias after GWI and so on.

Look – I supported this war. I am an idealist, I admit it. I wanted to free the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam. I wanted to end the sanctions. I felt horribly about the Shias getting slaughtered after GWI. I cringed over every civilian casualty as we went in. I vacillated over Fallujah. Too much force? Too little force? I wanted to win hearts and minds. I am also sorely disappointed about where the outcome appears right now to be heading – towards an Islamic state, potentially an adjunct of Iran.

I am a squeamish, bleeding heart sucker. I admit it. But I swear – when I endorsed going in, I never imagined (oh – call me naïve for sure) that there were such ruthless, savage people in the world. Hiding behind civilians, holing up in mosques, waving white flags and then opening fire on our troops as they welcomed those surrendering, beheading people, blowing up innocent people at markets, at mosques and even at the funerals of people mourning the dead already blown up!, murdering international aid workers, blowing up crowds of children accepting small gifts of candy from our troops. Frankly, I don’t recall those predictions.

My conclusion? We’re simply not savage enough to defeat an enemy like this. When you invoke the Powell doctrine are you suggesting that we should have been so savage? Cause this was a tricky war –trying to overthrow a regime, while minimizing casualties to the innocent population. It isn’t quite like driving an invading army out of Kuwait on a long road of death.

But one thing I do know. MQ is wrong. The US is not the greatest threat to world peace. It is not a good thing that we have gotten bogged down in Iraq – due to our HUMANITY, and our unwillingness to be as ruthless as our enemy. Anyone who thinks that to be the case, as Spaniard pointed out, is clearly rooting for our enemies and simply has no business claiming to be pro-American while doing so.

Posted by: Caroline at August 13, 2005 04:22 PM

Caroline,

I kinda think I was right too, at least the way the post was first written. But I chose not to insist given their lengthy denials. Honestly, that's not something I mind being proven wrong about.

Stand up,

do you really think the neocons went to war over "moral" reasons alone? You can't really be serious. Yes, that was partly the way they sold the war (that's how all wars are sold), and it is a "moral" war to the extent they sold it that way. Most of us armchair warrior chickenhawk types do indeed support the moral aspects of this war. But none of us believe that without some national interest we should be going to war over purely moral reasons. Have you really never discussed with the warmongers why this war was in our national interests? If not, you're in the right place and you should stick around.

You cite the Powell Doctrine, which to me is just good ol fashion horse sense. Yet it was Colin Powell himself who invoked this doctrine in articulating the justifications for the Bush administration's preparations for the war.

Has this war turned out the way we hoped? I would agree that not. Wars never do. But the war is winnable. The only way to lose this war is here at home. Yet you have already conceded defeat in Iraq when if fact defeat is not an option open to us. We won't allow you to do that. It would be a DISASTER to withdraw prematurely because it would throw that region into chaos for decades to come. You know this very well, and I can think of only ONE reason why your camp could possibly be ok with that-- to discredit Bush and the rightwing. A "necessary evil" as you might put it. I see no other reason why you would risk the consequences of losing in Iraq.

If I'm right about that, and I hope to god I'm not, then what can I say. It's treason.

Posted by: spaniard at August 13, 2005 04:51 PM

Spaniard -

MQ referred to "...the ridiculous farce of Bush / neocon foreign policy, which is a huge threat to U.S. interests and world peace. (Although less of a threat since Bush's flaming incompetence has basically neutered U.S. military power)."

I don't share your doubts about my ability to read basic English. The meaning was immediately apparent to me when I read it last night and I started a post to defend your reply but frankly it seemed too bloody obvious to point out, so I deleted the post, logged off, and returned this evening to find that the obvious meaning of MQ's post (as written) was being disputed.

MQ subsequently posted this: "Unfortunately, we have such an incompetent leadership that if they had been able to they would probably have invaded Iran. The fact that they haven't been able to do that is indeed a good thing, both for America and for the world."

(I would bold the second sentence if I could actually figure out how to bold stuff on the internet.)

So now MQ is ipso facto (if that is the proper latin terminology) endorsing the view that it is a good thing for both America and the world that Iran will acquire nukes. Cause that looks pretty likely right now.

It looks to me like SUP is adhering to that view merely in a surface sort of way, but not with quite the same meaning that MQ originally implied (and imply it he most certainly did).

Posted by: Caroline at August 13, 2005 05:52 PM

Caroline,

To bold, put an asterisk before and after the selection, with no space in between. That may not work everywhere, but it works here.

Posted by: jeebus at August 13, 2005 06:01 PM

To bold, put an asterisk before and after the selection, with no space in between. That may not work everywhere, but it works here

Awesome Jeebus! I will never forget DPU for teaching me how to link and now I will never forget you for teaching me how to bold:-)

Posted by: Caroline at August 13, 2005 06:06 PM

Caroline and Spaniard,

I too share your disappointment at how Iraq has turned out. The realism I advocate would have kept us from getting in there in the first place. Caroline, you confuse the standard poli sci meaning of "realism" with some sort of "toughness when the going gets tough," when in fact it refers to caution in messing around with a balance of power achieved through carefully maintaining "stable instabilities" in strategic places. If in fact you were surprised at the tactics of the various forces in Iraq, then you haven't read enough history. Sorry to be patronizing, but many brave US service men and women had to die in Iraq to teach you that war is hell?

But it's not too late (it's never too late) to be realist. In this case, we will have to be realist about a the likelihood of an Iraq / Iran Shi'ite axis, IF we can avoid a full-fledged civil war. My insistence that we hold 43 accountable for his and his team's incompetence is that our great country is never again placed in such a difficult situation. We have a war on terror to fight, and getting us bogged down in Iraq was the wrong move.

You'll note that none of this exchange has anything anymore to do with interpreting MQ or any other "leftists." It has to do with our country and our brave men and women in the service. You simply can't seem to grasp that I'm not a "leftist," that I'm not in a "camp" and that I don't "hate" 43.

Finally, repeating over and over again, or putting it into caps, that the war is "winnable" doesn't make it so. How do you define "victory" in Iraq, and how do we get there from here?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 13, 2005 09:14 PM

stand up: "Sorry to be patronizing, but many brave US service men and women had to die in Iraq to teach you that war is hell?"

Stand up - it's not that I didn't know that war is hell. But it's also fairly obvious that our side has not been given free reign to fight like war is hell. That's simply a fact. Every one of our actions has been scrutinized mercilessly by a free western press, amidst the cries of millions world-wide shouting "No blood for oil". Look at Abu Ghraib alone and the massive press coverage. Meanwhile, the enemy is obviously willing to reduce all of Iraq to a huge pile of rubble - and every Iraqi with it - if that's what it takes to win. Also, I did not mean to give the impression that I was conflating your arguments with those of MQ. The differences are obvious.

I'm not going to rehash all the arguments for going into Iraq - the assumption of WMD, the sanctions conundrum, after-the-fact - the Duelfer report which confirmed that Saddam intended to and had the capacity to redevelop his WMD programs after the sanctions were lifted, the numerous UN resolutions, regime-change as US policy dating back to Clinton etc etc.

I just want to focus on one argument - the logic of bringing democracy to Iraq in order to transform the politics of the region in a more liberal direction, in order to deal with some of the supposed "root causes" of terrorism. (And please don't tell me that was a later justification after no WMD were found because it wasn't. It wasn't called OIF for nothing.)

Part of the logic was that Iraq was a comparatively secular society to begin with and that if democracy had a chance in the ME, Iraq would be a good place to start. The neo-cons made the assumption that people are everywhere the same – a basically liberal argument. There was also the consideration that the west had been propping up dictators because they feared the Islamic alternative. (one of UBL’s original grievances in his fatwa actually). So we gambled and tried to fight an incredibly humanitarian war (which included realpolitik considerations re WMD) to accomplish regime change while giving the Iraqi people a chance to transform their society in a more liberal direction, in the hopes of transforming the region.

If the Sharia in the constitution holds, then it seems to me that the neo-cons basic assumptions about human nature everywhere being the same, that democracy and Islam are compatible, and that we can address some of the root causes of terrorism by transforming the political culture in the ME – are all wrong. I’m not denying that there are some amazing liberal voices in Iraq – the Iraqi bloggers for example, but clearly there are not enough of them and the Islamists appear to have been systematically assassinating them over the past several years.

I know there are many who will merely conclude from all of this that this essentially liberal project failed because of the incompetence of the Bush administration. For every argument in that direction though there are good counter-arguments. To take but one – we needed more troops, critics say. But counter critics have a valid argument in claiming that more troops simply mean more support vehicles and supply lines and hence more sitting targets for the insurgents. Why did we need more troops? We simply weren’t willing to use the fire power to kill people (e.g. the looters) with the troops we had. What would more troops have done? Well – this whole argument would require an entire thread so I can’t go into it here. Other issues would include whether we should have been more forceful in installing a more secular “puppet” regime. But of course everyone would have screamed loudly about that. Kerry, in fact, publicly called Allawi a puppet. So should I infer from that that Kerry is happy with the outcome of a Sharia-based constitution? It’s pretty obvious that the US ain’t controlling the political outcome of this democracy project. I should think that the leftists and the Islamists should be quite happy about it all.

I know what my conclusions are from all of this but they aren’t ones that I expect many on the left would share. I do anticipate that the potential fall-out from our failure to prevent the formation of an Islamist state in Iraq will be that 1. The US electorate will never again support a humanitarian war to free people from tyranny in the ME. No more attempts at nation building to transform the political culture of the ME. No more wars fought with such excruciating concern for minimizing human civilian casualties. 2. We will be forced to confront the possibility that Islam is in fact the problem. 3. We will look for ways to defend ourselves against Islamic jihad, which means focusing on the 20 million Muslims who already live in the west and on our immigration policies.

I shouldn’t have to add how much I respect our troops with regard to what they tried to accomplish. I refuse to see their lives as wasted, however. Before this is all over, I anticipate an absolutely huge number of civilian casualties in the west. I still believe that we tried to do something very noble and humane, yet I am not convinced that the outcome could have really been any different. It’s not that I think people are actually different in essence. But beliefs are incredibly powerful things and they are enough to make people different for all essential purposes, as long as they cling to those beliefs.

Way long. Sorry but dead thread. Huge thunder/lightning storm rolling in here in NC (2nd day in a row). Shutting down before possible power loss...

Posted by: Caroline at August 14, 2005 01:55 PM

Caroline, thanks for writing. To be brief, the people I read on "fourth-generation" warfare will tell you that you can never be savage enough to eliminate an insurgency or guerrilla movement or terrorist or what have you. Unless you think the Soviets / Russians weren't savage enough in Chechnya. So I don't think I can agree with your first point.

About bringing democracy to the ME by invading Iraq. Let's say they were sincere in wanting a democracy in the ME, instead of just another client state to replace our former friend Saddam with a more tractable authoritarian like Mubarak or Musharraf. This would be a novelty in history (either in US history or in the history of other empires -- at least since the Athenian Empire / Delian League), but let's go along.

First, there's the problem of imposing democracy rather than supporting an internal democracy movement.

Second, there's the problem that invading Iraq would be the second time in fifty years that US action has eliminated democracy in Iran. First in 53 by overthrowing Mossadegh and then in 2003 by invading Iraq and thereby giving the hardliners momentum in squelching the growing internal Iranian democracy movement.

So if we had waited, we might have had a democracy in the ME, in Iran, while we continued in isolating and containing Saddam and supporting the internal Iraqi democracy movement. Instead we end up with the worst of all possible outcomes.

I don't know about the "liberal" assumptions you're talking about, but I will say that thinking in terms of "democracy" and "Islam" as big abstract concepts unrooted in the concrete history of the region won't get us anywhere. Knowing just a little of that history shows you there's no essential contadiction between "democracy" (or better, "secular democracy") and "Islam." You just need the right circumstances, one of which is not to have the CIA overthrow you. I'll just mention two names: Attaturk and Mossadegh.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 14, 2005 03:00 PM

A note about one of the "two names" above. Of course I know Attaturk himself was a secular republican who only allowed one party, but you could argue his vision was always to prepare for the multiparty democracy that followed. And of course I know you can never underestimate the role of the military in constraining freedom of movement of politicians in Turkey. I just want to insist that Turkey and Mossadegh's Iran show that "secular democracy" and "Islam" are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 14, 2005 03:11 PM

I keep needing to fix my own posts! Mayb I should give that "preview" button a try?

Anyway, I should have said that "secular democracy" is not impossible in "countries with Islamic cultural heritage," as I argue using my examples above. Of course "secular democracy" is mutually excluded, by definition, from "Islamic fascism" or from any other sort of fascism or theocracy.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 14, 2005 03:15 PM

stand up - literally 10 seconds after posting my earlier response we lost power for several hours in a rather earth-shaking thunderstorm!

you said: "Let's say they were sincere in wanting a democracy in the ME, instead of just another client state to replace our former friend Saddam with a more tractable authoritarian like Mubarak or Musharraf. This would be a novelty in history"

Yes, it would but I got the message that the neo-cons concluded that the status quo of US supported strongmen had created blowback in the form of 9/11 and that it was time to radically break with our previous realpolitik policies. I also think they didn't believe that Iraqis would actually democratically elect an Islamist government. Maybe they thought the Iraqis had learned something from their neighbor's experiences.

"Second, there's the problem that invading Iraq would be the second time in fifty years that US action has eliminated democracy in Iran. First in 53 by overthrowing Mossadegh and then in 2003 by invading Iraq and thereby giving the hardliners momentum in squelching the growing internal Iranian democracy movement."

If the internal Iranian democracy movement were at the verge of such a tipping point as is often portrayed, it was also a reasonable assumption that invading Iraq would have strengthened it and provided the necessary momentum for the tipping point to be reached. So it seems to me that there is a bit of hindsight involved in your claim.

"So if we had waited, we might have had a democracy in the ME, in Iran, while we continued in isolating and containing Saddam and supporting the internal Iraqi democracy movement"

What internal Iraqi democracy movement? I don't recall a single expat iraqi liberal who didn't agree that war was the only hope for removing Saddam and preventing the likelihood of another several decades of rule by his sons after his death.

In other words, it seems to me that you're relying just a little on wishful thinking and the benefits of hindsight in your portrayal of what would have happened had we not gone in. Of course, since you opposed going in, you are certainly entitled to imagine the best possible outcome had we only appreciated your wisdom. I won't deny you that! :-)

"I just want to insist that Turkey and Mossadegh's Iran show that "secular democracy" and "Islam" are not mutually exclusive."

You've got me on Moddadegh. I know very little about him. Yes, there is Turkey. But decades later, the hold on secularism appears more tenuous than it ought to be by now.

I suppose instead of saying that secular democracy and Islam ARE incompatible, I should have said that that is a conclusion that may end up being widely drawn among the American public as a result of Iraq and that that is likely to impact public support or opposition to various courses of action in the WOT in the future. Of course, the constitution isn't a done deal yet so I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens over the next few days.

Posted by: Caroline at August 14, 2005 06:07 PM

stand up,

I wouldn't use Mossadeq as an example. He was a socialist and the islamists were trying to topple him.

Posted by: spaniard at August 14, 2005 08:00 PM

Spaniard, Mossadegh was an Arab nationalist first and foremost. His crime was to want to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. That's what got him deposed by the CIA and replaced by the secularist Shah. Did the CIA manipulate old-fashioned clerics to help them overthrow Mossadegh? I'm not an expert, but I've never read that. In any event, those kind of old-fashioned "islamicists" (if they ever had a significant role in topping Mossadegh) have nothing to do with post-1979 radicalized, world-political "islamicists" intent on re-installing a Caliphate. For one thing, they as Sunnis hate and despise the Shi'ites of Iran. If there's one thing I hope to teach you and Caroline in this exchange is that you have to think in concrete historical terms and avoid using abstract terms like "Islam" or "the islamicists" or else you make the same sort of incompetent and ignorant blunders like the current administration.

Furthermore, I thought it's obvious from my last post that secular democracy must constantly struggle against theocracy and fascism; throughout most of the 20th century it also had to struggle against US intervention if significant nationalization of industries was at stake.

That brings us to the possibility of a social democracy. The "socialist" jibe you use comes from Mossadegh's plan to nationalize the industry and from his playing his cards between the US and USSR in the cold war. (Cf. the "non-aligned" movement of Tito, Nasser, and Nehru, which was formed in 1954: no doubt with an eye to avoiding what happened the year before in Iran). So when you use another abstract term like "socialist" you have to specify the historical context and not simply juxtapose it to another abstract term like "islamicist."

Caroline, thanks again for writing. I'm glad the power is back on! Of course to have a real analysis rather than just a blog exchange we'd have to do best-case vs worst-case scenarios, and so on. My point is that for realists caution is the word and thus while you may sometimes get the best case, you rarely get the worst case, which we now have.

Re Turkey, see what I say to Spaniard: the struggle of secular democracy against theocracy and fascism is on-going. (Of course these are abstract terms too, but when we discuss concrete cases then they hold up, unlike "Islam.")

Re the possible misconceptions of the American people, well, I'd say part of our civic duty is to talk with our co-citizens and clue them in by engaging in informed, concrete, historical-political-economic-military-diplomatic analysis and thereby help them avoid thinking in abstract terms like "Islam" and "islamicist."

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 07:03 AM

Just to avoid another interpretation war. Spaniard, when you use "the islamicists" in the context of 1953 Iran, you risk having people think that by using the term most often currently applied to UBL and his crowd (i.e., "the islamicists") you risk making a basic blunder. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that when you use "the islamicists" to refer to 1953 Iran you really mean "old-fashioned Shi'ite clerics" and not the current generally accepted meaning of the term, that is, global players seeking a return of a Sunni empire.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 07:50 AM

Boy, I really do need to proof-read my own stuff better!

Nehru called for a non-aligned movement in 1954. The first non-aligned summit, called by Tito, wasn't until 1961.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 08:47 AM

stand up,

Mossadeq may have been a "nationalist", but so was the Ayatollah and the Shah. Who isn't. It tells me nothing, zip, zero, nada when you say Mossadeq was a "nationalist".

The CIA, the Shah, and the shiites were not trying to boot Mossadeq because he was a nationalist but because he was a socialist. For the CIA this was unpardonable in the context of the Cold War. So too for the shiites who's theocratic vision for Iran did not include secular socialists. And yes, the Ayatollah was just as active against Mossadeq as was the CIA and their client, Mr. Pahlavi. It just so happens that Pahlavi took the spoils-- something the ayatollahs have never forgiven us for.

Re "islamists", if the theocrats of Iran aren't "islamists", then I don't know what is. That the sunnis and shiites kill each other over their bizarre theological differences doesn't seem to make any difference to me.

Posted by: spaniard at August 15, 2005 11:21 AM

Man oh man, Spaniard, it's hard to keep up with you. I chide you for using a contemporary term ("Islamicist") in the context of 1953 Iran, that is, for making a historical mistake, and defend yourself by proclaiming that "theology" doesn't mean anything to you!

Now there's a few things to say here.

1) If you think the Sunni / Shi'ite split is about "theology," then you probably think the Reformation was about transubstantiation.

2) But let's say you know better and would say that theology reflects more basic distinctions. Still, saying you don't care about the most basic distinction possible in the midst of our enemy, the Islamic fascists, the Shi'ite / Sunni difference, is tantamount to saying that ignorance is strength. I wouldn't have dared to insult you by imputing that to you, but you do it yourself. Let me be clear about this: if you don't think that it's helpful to us struggling against Islamic fascism to notice the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite, then I'm going to have to say I don't think we can benefit from continuing this little exercise. For I can't conceive any serious person thinking that an abstract term big enough to cover the Sunni / Shi'ite difference will give us any chance of thinking strategically, let alone tactically, in this grave fight. I thought you took the "War on Terror" (actually it's now the "Global Struggle against Violent Extremism" which is a better term) seriously. But I see now that you don't.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 03:12 PM

stand up,

your interest in muslim theology is commendable and I'm impressed. You're a better man than I in that regard. I'm puzzled, however, that someone on the Left such as yourself, whom I assume has bought into the Liberal party line that islam has nothing to do with terrorism feels the need to dissect the nuances between shiaa and sunni to better understand the war on terror.

I, on the other hand, do believe islam and terror are connected (not really sure how), yet I don't care about the subtle theological nuances between the two sects. Puzzling, no? And why should I care. I doubt muslim terrorism in India and the Phillipines and Chechnya and East Timor, etc. (Caroline, have I missed any?), can be explained by those theological nuances.

But if you see a connection, please do share! I'm all ears.

Posted by: at August 15, 2005 04:30 PM

Spaniard (I assume this is you in the above comment), I was mocking you by attributing to you the laughable opinion that "theology" is what separates Sunnis and Shi'ites. Hence the Reformation / transubstantiation jibe. But I guess you're beyond mockery. Sigh.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 04:46 PM

stand up,

mock away, I don't give a crap what the split was about. It's as important today as the Reformation is. Sunnis and shiias alike are engaged in terrorism, as well as wahabis and muslims of all stripes and colors in all parts of the world, and that's all that matters to me. Everything else is self-important intellectualizing-- like whether the Ayatollah was an "islamist" or not. What a joke coming from those who say terrorism is caused by "poverty" and "occupation". If true, then what does it matter what an "islamist" is. It's sophistry and I'm not impressed and frankly not interested.

Posted by: spaniard at August 15, 2005 06:07 PM

stand up - it may have escaped your attention that Spaniard invited you to elaborate on how an understanding of the Sunni/Shia distinction might inform our strategic and tactical efforts in the WOT. You chose to mock him instead. Is that easier for you to do than to actually clarify how we are to make strategic and tactical use of this distinction (which I understand to be a political dispute of sorts over the line of legitimate succession after Muhammad). Now Spaniard says he's not interested. I don't blame him but I think he's letting you off too easy. However, it is interesting that Robert Spencer at jihadwatch, quite an expert in Islam, has written thousands of posts at this point, a great many of which I've read, and he's never seen fit to elucidate that this distinction has particular relevance to what we're up against in terms of the global Islamic jihad. On the other hand, High Fitzjerald, a frequent poster at JW, thinks we ought to intentionally exploit the Sunni/Shia divisions - keep them at war with eachother and that this would be to our advantage - an admittedly Machiavellian POV. So yes, I am interested in what you have to say if you think it has strategic relevance. By all means, explain away.

Posted by: Caroline at August 15, 2005 06:30 PM

Caroline, you're right. When Spaniard says, "I, on the other hand, do believe islam and terror are connected (not really sure how)," I should have seen that as an honest admission of ignorance, just as I should have seen his not understanding the problems with understanding the Sunni / Shi'ite difference in terms of "theology" as an occasion to honestly teach him something. Instead I took the easy way out and mocked him. I'm sorry. There is just something about truculent ignorance, smug know-nothingness, and general anti-intellectualism that sets me off. But probably the thing that made me maddest is when Spaniard tries to understand me -- or better, tries not to understand me -- by calling me a "liberal" and then trying to foist off on me all sorts of things I never said, despite my explicitly denying that I'm a "liberal," despite my never saying anything in this whole exchange that would fit under the term "liberal," despite my extensive praise for the foreign policy of 41 and Powell (hardly "liberal" positions, now are they?), and despite my trying to show that "realism" versus "moralism" are the operative distinctions, not cliched views of "liberal" and "conservative." So what really got me mad is when Spaniard assumes that anyone who criticizes 43 must be a "liberal," despite my extensive citations of people like Scowcroft and Zinni. (But not Buchanan. I don't know where that came from. Just because I criticize 43 doesn't mean I agree with everyone who criticizes 43!)

So, here goes.

1) "Theology" is too abstract to cover the long historical / ethnic / political differences between Sunni and Shi'ite. For that you need to study history, ethnology, and politics.

2) "Theology" is too idealist to discuss the rage triggers that become embedded in people's bodies and allow them to kill. How do those triggers get embedded? How do terrorists do the things they do? (You'll notice I'm not asking "why" but "how.") That's a long story that needs a combination of political science and affective neuroscience to explain it. As there is no such field yet, we're in trouble. But we'll get there. Not by talking about "poverty" of course, but since I never said such a thing, that's purely a projection on Spaniard's part.

3) "Islam" is too abstract and ahistorical a term to use in discussing theocractic fascist terrorism because it overlooks our essential allies in the fight, the non-theocrat, non-fascist, non-terrorist Muslims.

4) As far as what we should do about the hatred between the Sunni theocratic fascists and the Shi'ite theocratic fascists, I think Fitzgerald has the right idea, if what you say about his position is in fact his.

5) But really, how can I convince someone that to fight a war you need concrete historical analysis so that you know your enemy and that you proceed carefully and ruthlessly so that you don't create a worse situation and that you minimize the risk to our service men and women? How can you argue that knowledge is better than ignorance, that concrete information is better than abstract images?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 09:22 PM

That's a long story that needs a combination of political science and affective neuroscience to explain it.

stand up,

I've got nothing on you in the mockery department, I'll admit. But it's because of people like you that people mock intellectualism.

Caroline,

tell me honestly that I'm only imagining things when I read, and re-read, his last post and I saw all sound and fury signifying nothing.

Here's a beaut: "That's a long story that needs a combination of political science and affective neuroscience to explain it." waaa???

He talks about fighting carefully and ruthlessly...and here's the kicker... "so that you don't create a worse situation" while simultaneously arguing for immediate withdrawal from Iraq! waaa?

As Orwell might have said, only an intellectual could believe ideas that stupid.

Posted by: spaniard at August 15, 2005 10:02 PM

Spaniard, where do I "argue for immediate withdrawal from Iraq"? Oh wait, I never did. See how hard it is to argue against you, when you keep putting words in my mouth? As far as "affective neuroscience" that must be laughable because you've never heard of it, right? Those 17,500 returns you get from Google for that phrase must all be from laughable intellectuals as well. The first one is a lab at Wisconsin, the second at Stanford, and the third is the standard text in the field, out since 1998. Please, whatever you do, don't Google a phrase you've never heard of before posting on it! It would take too much effort, and run the excellent show you're putting on here.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 10:27 PM

"ruin" the excellent show!

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 15, 2005 10:28 PM

stand up,

You said the war in Iraq was already lost. Your words. I logically inferred you want an immediate withdrawal of our troops. I said so several posts up and your silence confirmed it.

And no, we aren't going to beat terrorism with ivory tower "neuroscience" while retreating with our tails between our legs from the world stage.

I'm not an intellectual nor do I pretend to be, but I'm smart enough to know that.

Posted by: spaniard at August 15, 2005 10:49 PM

stand up - I agree with you that Spaniard appears to have unfairly assumed that you are a liberal even though you haven't said anything to warrant that (one could as easily infer that you are a paleoconservative from your arguments). And anyway you specifically stated up the thread that you are really none-of-the-above.

But Spaniard is correct in pointing out that your 9:22 post amounts to "all sound and fury signifying nothing." You made the claim that the Sunni/Shia distinction is one that has particular relevance for our fighting this war. You have yet to explain how it has relevance or how specifically we should take advantage of it in either a strategic or tactical sense.

Incidentally, Hugh Fitzjerald sees Islam itself as the problem, period. That's why he has no qualms about exploiting Sunni/Shia divisions. in fact, he thinks it would be to our advantage to get out of Iraq and let it degenerate into a civil war. It's a purely Machiavellian position. Morality doesn't figure in at all. I assume you don't share his position re Islam based on your point#3 in your 9:22 post. So given your point #3, how do you propose that we make use of the Shia/Sunni distinction?

Posted by: Caroline at August 16, 2005 04:36 AM

Spaniard, it's your "logical" way of putting words into your opponents mouths that made me mad in the first place, with your "logical" conclusion that MQ was a "traitor." That bothered me, because I have a very strong patriotic feeling that our country is better than that, that we can argue about the war and not try to intimidate our opponents by "logically" calling them traitors or by "logically" putting words in their mouths so they fit into neat little pre-conceived boxes like "traitor" or "liberal."

You see, what gets me mad is not your ignorance, because everyone is ignorant about almost everything. That's why we have libraries and the internet. What gets me mad is your attitude toward your ignorance, that is, you don't want to do anything about it. And the reason that gets me mad is because not knowing your enemy puts our soldiers at risk. So when you say that the sort of neuroscience I'm talking about is "ivory tower" then you display two problems very clearly. One, you have a cliched little mental box you call "intelllectual" or "ivory tower" that you put things into that you don't want to learn about, and two, you show that you don't really care what happens to our troops, since the study of psychopaths (our enemies) and post-traumatic stress disorder (which affects too many of our troops) are big topics of interest in affective neuroscience. Which you could have found out on many of the 404 returns for googling "affective neuroscience" and "military." Or you could just read Biology of Violence by Debra Niehoff, or On Killing by David Grossman.

Caroline, I really have less positive recommendations than I have warnings about the more trouble we will get into if we ignore these differences. Here's a pessimistic analysis of potential troubles from a realist military angle: http://tinyurl.com/7j5mt (You'll note that I'm only recommending his analysis, not his wish for a US pullout -- yes, Spaniard, not only "liberals" want that). I'm happy to go look for some good short-term analyses of positive recommendations of how to exploit the S / S difference. But really, shouldn't the default setting be that knowledge of your enemy is a good thing? Again, why do I have to argue for that? In return, what is your argument that ignorance is better than knowledge?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 16, 2005 06:38 AM

What gets me mad is your attitude toward your ignorance, that is, you don't want to do anything about it.

stand up,

you flatter yourself. Don't. What really makes you mad is that nobody is impressed. Most self-proclaimed intellectuals today are just people who like to see their own writing and hear themselves talk. I devour information all day long, and I'm one of the few people who actually reads the stuff that my ideological oppoents and self-proclaimed intellectuals link to, and I've followed too many of their red herrings and gone down too many of their rabbit trails, and I am no longer impressed. Most of it amounts to longwinded nothingness. Such as comparing "ee-lect--shuns" to African juju. Wow. Brilliant. I'm not proud of ignorance, I'm proud of the fact that I recognize the emperor in his ivory tower has no clothes. They are agenda driven knuckleheads generally talking out of their asses.

"Affected" neuroscience and ivory tower blowhardedness isn't going to win any wars with the self-loathers and appeasers in charge. Period. The war is not going to be won by comparing the sunni/shiaa split to the Reformation or quibbling over whether the ayatollahs are "islamists" or not, even though they themselves have funded terror for decades. Wars are won through steadfastedness and resolve, and a good dose of common sense. Period.

Posted by: spaniard at August 16, 2005 10:35 AM

But I am impressed with you Spaniard, I really am. Besides your ability to put words in my mouth, and your ability to pigeonhole me as an "intellectual" despite my never having claimed to be one, you now display the ability to read my mind and tell me what I am "really" mad about. But really, let's continue. How do you define this victory in Iraq which we are to achieve with steadfastness and resolve? What is that victory going to look like and how are we going to get there?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 16, 2005 01:37 PM

stand up,

check this out, you don't actually have to utter the words "I'm an intellectual" to try passing yourself off as one.

In regards to your question, it's very simple, and you won't even have to get a Phd in affective neuroscience to get it. We stay for as long as it takes to stand up an Iraqi army that can provide security on it's own. No Phds required. That should be accomplished by about the end of 2006, unless our own domestic whiners and defeatists make it politically untenable here at home to do so. If that were the case we would have to leave early, condemning Iraq to long term chaos (I suspect this is exactly the goal of many on the Left because their only wish is to discredit Bush and the rightwingers. It's a "necessary evil" for the good of whirled peas, they think). Like I said before, we will either win or lose this war right here at home, and we rightwing warmongers aren't going to let any ammount of red herring intellectualizing lose us this war.

Posted by: spaniard at August 16, 2005 03:21 PM

"an Iraqi army that can provide security on it's own"

What are they going to be providing security for?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 16, 2005 03:35 PM

Oh my - stand up and Spaniard still going at it 4 days later.

stand up - If I correctly recall, your first post was a brief one saying that you wouldn't be back. To tell the truth, my first impulse upon reading that was to tell you not to let the door hit you on the way out. I am glad I refrained from that impulse and glad that you stuck around. I actually appreciate that you make your arguments from a non-partisan POV, just tryng to get at the truth as you see it, being a philosopher and all :-).

Spaniard I love (and would love him by any other name):-). Mostly I appreciate his consistent criticism of liberalism. Liberalism needs some very serious criticism these days and I appreciate Spaniard's single-mindededness on that score, even if he sometimes detects liberal arguments where they aren't. I have come to the conclusion that liberalism plays such a central role in the problems we are confronting vis a vis the Islamic jihad, that we cannot possibly look too critically at the role it plays in our entire world view.

I supported the war in Iraq. I made that very clear further up the thread. Part of the difficulty in defending that decision is sorting out the multitudinous (is that a word?) criticisms and separating the wheat from the chaffe. I, like Spaniard, have utter disdain for most of the "left's" arguments against it and now even their I told you so gloatings about how it has turned out. It leaves me tongue-tied in fact because pointing to a global bad outcome requires sifting through so much garbage. I would use up all of Michael's bandwidth trying to take each and every point. So I will merely take one example that I brought up earlier: I cannot recall the sheer number of those on the left who accused the US of going into Iraq to install a puppet regime to "steal" the Iraqi's oil. I bring up Kerry for that reason as he was the darned Democratic candidate for president! He loudly proclaimed Allawi a US puppet at the time of his visit to the US - taking a page straight from our enemies. The left practically implied that any US influence in the electoral process was evil and untrustworthy. But Allawi was a relatively secular guy! On the eve of Iraq apparently turning towards Sharia - I'm sorry if I cannot tolerate the sound of those on the left complaining that Sharia may be incorporated into the Constitution!

Stand up - I'm not putting you in that camp. I am in fact very interested in what realists have to say. You haven't convinced me that the Shia/Sunni distinction has some immediate relevance (besides something like Hugh Fitzjerald's machiavellian prescription to let them go at eachother to destroy eachother, and in the end it could well come to that anyway) and by the same token I understand Spaniard's frustration with the left in general.

But - If Iraq ends up as a Sharia state, closely aligned with Iran, then I have to agree on some level with stand up's question - "What are they going to be providing security for?" Or rather, I would rephrase that - how much should we care? It will be replacing one kind of repression with another. We will have spared the suffering of Islamist males so that they can inflict suffering on women and the non-Muslim minority (or whatever remains of the latter).

Ironically, the conclusion that I come to is that the Bush adminstration merits criticism but it isn't for the reasons that the left likes to cite. This was a LIBERAL project in the end. I supported it for Liberal - not conservative reasons, because I am, at heart, a liberal. But so are most westerners. And so is Bush! The outcome in Iraq is essentially an indictment of the west's liberal assumptions about human nature.

One of the very few commenters on the web who seems to adopt this perspective consistently is Laurence Auster at amnation.com/vfr. Here is his most recent post on the subject:

Bush's Global Democratization

I recommend to Spaniard in particular that he bookmark this site and follow it because I think he would appreciate Auster's devastating critiques of liberalism. His conclusions aren't what most westerners would want to admit - but they lead to a policy of containment and limiting the immigration of Muslims into the west if we ultimately hope to prevail in defending ourselves against Islamic jihad. There is nothing in the way iraq has turned out to suggest that he is wrong. By the same token, I'm not sure that such conservative, traditionalist insights could be appreciated absent the experiment in Iraq. And without the experiment in Iraq, Muslim immigration would have most likely quietly proceeded on a large scale into the west and completely under the radar, most likely resulting in large-scale civil war eventually (it still could). In the end, I think that would be more devastating for the long-term prospects of the west than what we have tried to accomplish, and learned from - Iraq. That's why I don't regret Iraq. There's actually a major silver lining in the cloud, so to speak.

Posted by: Caroline at August 16, 2005 05:10 PM

>>>What are they going to be providing security for?

stand up,

What would you have them provide security for?

Posted by: spaniard at August 16, 2005 05:42 PM

Caroline, thanks for writing. I understand that you and Spaniard don't like what you call "liberalism." Since I've never advocated any of those positions and in fact have argued solely and consistently from a paleocon, realist, position, I really don't know why this "liberalism" thing keep coming up in this thread.

But anyway, Spaniard, I want to hear from you about the security issue. You proposed your criterion for victory, the ability of the Iraqis to provide security, and I asked for clarification. It's your criterion; I want to hear from you.

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 17, 2005 06:17 AM

stand up,

I could give you the standard answer-- a democratic Iraq. But somehow I have the feeling that wouldn't satisfy you and that you're trying to get at something else.

Posted by: spaniard at August 17, 2005 07:04 AM

Spaniard, I know the standard answer and I know that's what you wish would happen. I want to know how we're going to get there from where we are now. It's not enough to wish for something. Remember the old saying: "if wishes were horses, even beggars would ride." You have to have a concrete workable plan to achieve a reachable goal. Otherwise, you're no better than the people you deride for wishing for world peace.

But let's continue. Because there's another old saying us realists always use when talking to moralists: "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it." So when you say a "democratic Iraq" do you mean a secular democracy preserving human rights and friendly to US interests? Or do you mean what Caroline says might happen: "a Sharia state, closely aligned with Iran"? Because that might be the result of the democratic elections and democratic constitutional process. Or do you have another definition of a "democratic Iraq" and a notion of how we are to get there?

Posted by: stand_up_philosopher at August 17, 2005 08:43 AM

stand up,

I do have some concern for the worst case scenario, but I'm hoping for the best based on the fact that though shiaa, the Iranians are Persians.

My understanding is that Persian-Arab hatred trumps all, making an Iran-Iraq alliance unlikely. Until the invasion, Saddam himself considered the Iranians a greater enemy than even the U.S. Therefore I see no reason why that should change overnight simply because the government is now democratic, especially if the more pragmatic among them (Sistani) can see the benefits of remaining on our good side.

I don't think the worst case scenario is a done deal by a long shot.

Posted by: spaniard at August 17, 2005 09:53 AM

Let's hope you're right! All for now.

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