Eunomia · October 2007

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Via Ross, I see that it’s become Gerson-bashing week.  It’s nice to be a trend-setter.  If his latest column is any indication of what his book has to offer, I don’t think “heroic conservatism” is going to take off.  For instance, saying things like this naturally open him up to withering criticism from all sides:

Traditional conservatism has a piece missing — a piece that is shaped like a conscience. 

The article describing Gerson’s book has strange echoes of a different account of Gerson’s gloryhounding when he was a speechwriter:

Time and again, Gerson depicts a lonely struggle to advance measures that would benefit AIDS patients, impoverished children or prisoners reentering society.

Gerson is always engaged in a lonely struggle, undoubtedly waged from his base camp from deep inside some social democratic beanery, at least when he is not single-handedly writing Inaugural speeches at Starbucks.   

Update: Gerson appeared on The Daily Show this week.  He seems to have been on the verge of tears half the time.

Ross writes:

However, something like the reverse is also true: Just because the initial invasion was almost certainly a mistake doesn’t necessarily mean that the continued presence of U.S. troops is a mistake as well. And I detect some goalpost-shifting here among the partisans of immediate withdrawal.


But given that only six weeks ago he [Yglesias] was throwing out “4 or 5 more years” as a timeline for when Iraq might start to settle down, I think it’s also “at least plausible” that when we look back on the last year of American military operations in Iraq, we’ll judge them to have played a major role in putting the worst behind us earlier than most people anticipated.

I suppose I must chime in with my usual dose of pessimism.  The “continued presence of U.S. troops” would only not be a mistake if there were reason to think that the changes that have yielded some marginal, temporary improvement in security were going to continue and serve as the foundation for some enduring security.  As Prof. Bacevich has said:

The general has now made his call, and President Bush has endorsed it: the surge having succeeded (so at least we are assured), it will now be curtailed. The war will continue, albeit on a marginally smaller scale. 

This goes to the heart of Prof. Bacevich’s criticism of Gen. Petraeus, which is that the plan that seems to be producing some results is being brought to a close because it was not politically viable under the current circumstances to keep it going, much less expand it.  Bacevich again:

Petraeus has chosen a middle course, carefully crafted to cause the least amount of consternation among various Washington constituencies he is eager to accommodate. This is the politics of give and take, of horse trading, of putting lipstick on a pig. Ultimately, it is the politics of avoidance. 

And again:

Yet Petraeus has chosen to do just the opposite. Based on two or three months of (ostensibly) positive indicators, he has advised the president to ease the pressure, withdrawing the increment of troops that had (purportedly) enabled the coalition to seize the initiative in the first place.

This defies logic. It’s as if two weeks into the Wilderness Campaign, Grant had counseled Lincoln to reduce the size of the Army of the Potomac. Or as if once Allied forces had established the beachhead at Normandy, Eisenhower had started rotating divisions back stateside to ease the strain on the U.S. Army.

Having achieved modest gains with a half-measure, Gen. Petraeus counsels us to go back to our trusty quarter-measures.  As I have said earlier, the “surge” is necessarily temporary in its application and in its effects.  Its temporariness is implicit in its official propaganda name of “surge” and in the stated policy of the U.S. government, in that the “surge” was always going to come to an end.  Its purpose was to buy time, which it seems to have done.  However, this time is basically worthless–though bought at too high a price in American blood–if it is not going to be used well.    

We have seen temporary increases in force levels before, and they did not ultimately halt Iraq’s downward spiral.  The ”surge” was, by the account of its own backers, supposed to be completely different from these earlier efforts. This time, there would be political reconciliation, and this time Iraqisation would happen, and this time the lambs would lay down with the lions.  Okay, they didn’t say that last part, but the other two were just as likely to happen as the third.  Unsurprisingly, none of them has come to pass, nor does any one of them seem likely to happen anytime soon. 

During the “bad, old days” of “clear, hold and build” you would read stories about how one neighbourhood of Baghdad would be secured, life would begin to resume and then the U.S. deployment would be shifted to another part, whereupon the stabilising neighbourhood reverted to violent chaos.  What is supposed to be different when force levels drop and whatever pressure that the “surge” did exert weakens?  

Now the paired element with the “surge” of brigades was always the old “Iraqis standing up” bit.  We don’t hear a lot about this part of the plan, because this is the part–the fundamentally more important long-term part–that isn’t working very well.  We all know that the political reconciliation part is a farce.  If anything, I’d have to say that Yglesias’ estimate of 4-5 years before Iraq “settles down” may be unduly sunny and positive, because there is nothing to keep things from unraveling again once the “surge” ends.  There was never going to be anything to keep things from unraveling once the “surge” was over, which is why the “surge” was a mistake in the beginning.  It perpetuated the worst-of-both-worlds approach that Mr. Bush has applied to Iraq for years: too few soldiers to properly stabilise the country, but too many to avoid all the costs and burdens of being an occupier.  There are two coherent positions that can be taken (huge increases in force levels or large-scale withdrawal), and one of them is politically and practically feasible.  Or we can continue to muddle through as we have done until some calamity throws Iraq into a new round of upheaval. 

I have given Chuck Hagel a lot of grief over the past year, but today I’m willing to give him a lot of credit.  Via Steve Clemons, I see that Hagel has apparently called on the President to consider “direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran.”  Common sense is infiltrating the Washington Iran policy debate!  No doubt, the administration will file this in the trash can, but it is significant that someone in government is arguing for direct talks with Iran.

So Karen Hughes has had enough and is going home.  (Mark down another departure, James.)  It has been easy to give Karen Hughes a hard time, and it hasn’t really been fair to her.  The administration has made an art form out of cronyism, and the President has chosen some of the most inappropriate people for fairly important tasks based on their close relationship with Mr. Bush.  Rather than a former ambassador or someone accustomed to the work of diplomacy, Mr. Bush thrust Karen Hughes into a role for which she wasn’t terribly well prepared and which was already going to be monstrously difficult for the most qualified person.  It is some consolation for Ms. Hughes that administration policy had already done so much damage to our international reputation that there really was little that she could do, and so perhaps it is not very surprising that she didn’t try to do very much.

The notion that somehow changing the tone means simply that we let them say whatever they want to say or that there are no disagreements and that we’re all holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ is obviously not what I had in mind and not how I function. And anybody who thinks I have, hasn’t been paying attention. ~Barack Obama

When you get down to it, I guess I’m sympathetic toward Hillary but really, really wishing that Obama would give me a good reason to change my mind and support him instead. But he just never does. Domestic policywise he’s been fairly cautious and mainstream. On the foreign policy front he’s better than HRC, but only by a couple of notches. And his Kumbaya campaigning schtick leaves me cold. Worse than that, in fact: it leaves me terrified that he just doesn’t know what he’s up against with the modern Republican Party and won’t have the instinct to go for the jugular when the inevitable Swift Boating commences. ~Kevin Drum

Then there was this bit from Ryan Lizza’s mid-September article on the leading Democratic candidates:

Edwards dismisses Obama’s argument that more consensus is needed in Washington. The difference between them, Edwards told me, is the difference between “Kumbaya” and “saying, ‘This is a battle. It’s a fight.’ ” When I asked whether he’s a populist, he lifted a riff from his stump speech: “If it means you’re willing to stand up for ordinary people, the kind of people that I grew up with, against very powerful, entrenched interests, then yes, I am a populist.”

There seem to be a number of people, whose job it is to pay attention to and be engaged in politics, who think that there’s a bit too much Kumbaya-ism in Obama’s campaign.  As I’ve said before, you can hardly blame people for coming away with this impression when Obama has offered such a vague and non-descript vision.

In fairness, most people, including myself, who use the word Kumbaya as a way of mocking someone’s ridiculously optimistic worldview are doing a disservice to the song in question.  The song itself is a perfectly unremarkable spiritual folk song.  The drippy, saccharine nonsense that Obama offers is so much worse that it demeans the song to link the two together. 

And on yet another level, that issue highlights the way the West, including the U.S., has been preoccupied with the killing of 1.5 million Christian Armenians by mostly Muslim Turks and Kurds. ~Leon Hadar

Certainly, there has been some attention drawn to the genocide in the West over the last 90 years, though the attention tended to be greatest when it was happening and has since settled into the background or vanished from collective memory.  But preoccupied?  The West has been anything but preoccupied with the Armenian genocide.  But for active lobbying by Armenians, scarcely anyone would give it a second thought.

Ron Paul once again reframes the idea of “isolationism” in his discussion of Cuba policy:

Our isolationist policies with regard to Cuba, meanwhile, have hardly won the hearts and minds of Cubans or Cuban-Americans, many of whom are isolated from families because [of] this political animosity.

This echoes his statements in his response to the Union-Leader’s attack on him.

But every time you are somewhere that means you are not somewhere else. ~Fred Thompson

David Kirkpatrick’s article on the politics of modern evangelicals has some interesting details, including a general souring of many evangelicals on the war.  Then there was this:

“The first time I voted was for Carter,” Scarborough recalled. “The second time was for ‘anybody but Carter,’ because he had betrayed everything I hold dear.

“Unfortunately,” Scarborough concluded, “there is the same feeling in our community right now with George Bush. He appeared so right and so good. He talked a good game about family values around election time. But there has been a failure to follow through.”

He didn’t really talk that good of a game.  He played on his own experience with evangelical Christianity to sucker a great many people, both supporters and opponents, into believing that he was a hard-core social conservative.  There was never going to be anything like the “follow through” that would have satisfied many of these evangelical voters. 

Kagan manages to put together an entire column in which he never once shows that he understands the difference between “liberal autocracy” a la Singapore and illiberal democracy.  For the truncated democratist imagination in which there is liberal democracy and everything else lumped under “tyranny,” this oversight is typical.  No one, or at least no one of any consequence, thinks that Putin, Hu Jintao (or whoever will succeed him) or Chavez represent “liberal autocracy,” and only committed opponents of Putin’s and Chavez’s regime prefer to call their political systems autocratic.  I’m prone to throw around the word autocracy to make a polemical point, too, but it is plainly imprecise and does not describe the form of government that prevails in these countries.  

In China, the government is oligarchic and authoritarian and still significantly party-based.  Russia’s government is oligarchic and authoritarian and based in the security services, but retains a number of formal democratic and constitutional features.  Venezuela’s government is a much more straightforward illiberal democratic one, whose claim to being democratic has been denied by many American observers because the government is illiberal and quasi-socialist, which is to show that these observers cannot make basic distinctions in political theory. 

So it is difficult for “autocracy” to be resilient in a place where there isn’t actually an autocracy.  The authoritarianism in Russia and the populist demagoguery in Venezuela are both products of the very elections Kagan boosts.  The fact is that liberalism has a small constituency in both countries (outside of a very few western European, Anglophone and North American countries, this has often been the case), and when put before the electorates of Russia and Venezuela liberalism fares very poorly.  Some of this has to do with the fact that relatively liberal politics was associated with the wealthy elite and tycoons, and the effects of policies carried out in the name of liberalism were generally poor or even disastrous for the people who now back authoritarian populist leaders.  There will be objections that Russian elections in particular are not fully “free and fair,” but against this I would note that even with fully free and fair elections the overwhelming majority would still want nothing to do with the Russian liberals.  This is hardly surprising: in mass democracy, the politics of liberty tends to lose and lose badly, while one form of demagoguery or another (be it nationalist or revolutionary socialist) usually prevails. 

Update: Ross has more.

One of Ross’ commenters makes what I assume he thinks is a clever remark:

This is really important work you’re doing. Thanks. Now that we know Venezuela is not an “autocracy” I can go to sleep tonight, comfortable that my children will not improperly label the various oppressive governments around the world.

Very droll.  Of course, one might observe that misunderstanding the nature of a regime and then building an entire argument off of that misunderstanding will lead to the wrong conclusions.  One might suppose that sloppy and inaccurate use of language reflects poorly on an argument.  Suppose that someone thinks that the answer to the problems of Russia and Venezuela is a lack of elections, when the current regimes are at least partly the product of elections, and then that someone opts, whether out of laziness or sloppiness, to label these elected governments autocracies.  Suppose that he also has a record of promoting confrontational policies against other such “autocracies.”  Might it matter then that we give things their proper names and try to address the world as it is, rather than as it appears in the democratist comic book version?

Second Update: I have written on Kagan’s autocracy talk before.

Something very strange has happened.  Christopher Hitchens writes about the Armenian genocide resolution and actually makes sense:

If the Turks wish to continue lying officially about what happened to the Armenians, then we cannot be expected to oblige them by doing the same (and should certainly resent and repudiate any threats against ourselves or our allies that would ensue from our Congress affirming the truth).

This has generally been my view since the debate heated up again this autumn.  I have more to say along these lines in my next column in TAC.

George Ajjan attended the recent Arab-American Institute’s National Leadership Conference and has some early remarks on one of the panels.  He spoke with Ron Paul while there, and promises to fill us in on their conversation, so keep checking back for an update.

On a similar theme, Michael Crowley writes in response to this LA Times article on Obama:

I sympathize with Obama’s desire to “elevate” politics but unfortunately I just don’t think it generally works. Certainly not the way he’s been doing it. Readers of, say, Matt Yglesias may thrill over swipes at the “conventional” DC foreign policy establishment.  But I suspect the only way Obama is going to get real traction with voters is if he’s willing to go after her character–on questions of trust and honesty.

It would also help him if his swipes at the “conventional” DC foreign policy establishment were supported by his actually charting out what an “unconventional” foreign policy would look like in some way that didn’t draw praise from the likes of Kagan, Giuliani and The Wall Street Journal.  In any case, trying to “elevate” politics clearly does not do much to elevate one’s poll numbers beyond a core constituency of true believers. 

Update: Via The Caucus, we can see that the random Obama supporter, Tod, who introduces the Senator is actually much more forceful in his criticism of Clinton than is Obama.  The Caucus post also points out that Obama’s latest Social Security-related ad is supposed to be an attack on Clinton, but the attack is so indirect and subtle that only people who already know Clinton’s position could decipher it as a criticism.

In The Audacity of Hope, he describes calling Michelle to crow about a legislative victory and being told to pick up some ant traps on the way home: “I hung up the receiver, wondering if Ted Kennedy or John McCain bought ant traps on the way home from work.” He knows the answer, though, and so do we. But he’s proud of being the guy who despite his big-deal status still stops for ant traps. ~Melinda Henneberger

This Slate piece will leave you with the impression that Obama is a decent family man who prizes reaching consensus with his wife.  His enthusiasm for consensus may help explain why he seems to have such a hard time criticising rivals. 

It seems to me that this intense focus on consensus does not make for an effective executive.  It may be better-suited to legislative work, especially in the Senate, but this has been one of the reasons why Senators rarely get nominated or elected.  What has been so infuriating about “the Decider” is not that he is decisive, but that he is ignorant, stubborn and oblivious to contradictory evidence and consequently makes a lot of bad decisions.  

Just as Bush likes stark contrasts that cast his opponents in the worst light, Obama seems to delight in finding the grey areas and finding the bright side of whatever it is his opponents are proposing.  This is also partly a function of the man’s congenital optimism. 

People routinely complain about “negative” campaigning and so forth, but in practice most prefer it to whatever it is that Obama does.  (Also, it makes the most sense to do it against a candidate who already has high negatives–you will damage yourself some, but make your rival radioactive come voting day.)  When he attempts to appear magnanimous and broad-minded (using his standard “I appreciate your view on that…” or “I understand your concern…”), it comes across as mealy-mouthed and condescending, and when he finally tries to “get tough” he is entirely unconvincing.  He does it in such a way that you will think he is asking your permission before ”going negative.”  You can almost hear him asking: “Mother, may I criticise Hillary Clinton for being dishonest?”  It reflects hesitation and uncertainty, which is fatal to a campaign that proposes to sell itself as the vehicle for transformative “change.”   

As John Nichols has noted:

Could there be anything less inspiring than a candidate who “tests” his plan to muscle-up a listless campaign by inviting in New York Times political reporters to vet his new “aggressiveness”? 

This reminds me of a Jon Stewart bit where he was mocking Bush as the “Meta-President,” who is continually telling us why he is giving a speech or appearing at an event rather than simply giving the speech or appearing at the event.  Obama has engaged in this as well, engaging in almost out-of-body commentary on his own campaign during campaign appearances.  This has been especially true when he has meditated on the importance of “experience.”  For instance, here he engages in one of his classic roundabout comments on his own suitability for office while deliberately not mentioning his chief rival:

“There are those in this race … who are touting their experience working the system, but the problem is that the system isn’t working for us,” he said. “There are those who are saying you should be looking for someone who can play the game better, but the problem is that the game has been rigged. The time is too serious, the stakes are too high to play the same game over and over again.”   

Now, instead of being aggressive, Obama promises aggressiveness.             

P.S.  Of course, I am hardly the first one to notice Obama as the Meta-Candidate.

Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me:

Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial, ubiquitous Iraqi politician and one-time Bush administration favorite, has re-emerged as a central figure in the latest U.S. strategy for Iraq.

His latest job: To press Iraq’s central government to use early security gains from the surge to deliver better electricity, health, education and local security services to Baghdad neighborhoods. That’s the next phase of the surge plan.

Presumably, Iyad Allawi can’t be too far behind as we recycle through the failed leaders of yesterday.

Here are two of Ron Paul’s new television ads.

My Scene colleague Matt Frost has had some fun at Michael Gerson’s expense, as have I, on account of this column.  Matt also notes that Gerson’s taste in coffeehouses has changed a bit.  When Gerson was “writing” the Second Inaugural and doing other such “work,” he was allegedly at a Starbucks, but now he supposedly hangs out with the hip java revolution radicals with whom he is now “comfortable.”  Those would be the people who think Starbucks customers are yuppie, sell-out scum (especially the ones who try to claim that they are still hip and progressive while being a Starbucks customer).  These are the people who buy coffee brands called things like Intelligentsiaand who would probably be pretty sympathetic to the anarchists who were throwing bricks through Starbucks’ plate-glass windows in Seattle, c. 1999–Gerson feels at home among them.  

Gerson–always a uniter, not a divider, as he might say–bridges both worlds in his never-ending quest to be trendy-yet-serious.  It doesn’t really make a bit of difference where Gerson writes his bad policy ”arguments,” since his endorsement of aggressive war or amnesty doesn’t seem any more appealing on account of its rich Arabica inspiration.  But he thinks it does matter, so much so that he feels obliged to tell us about why it is important. 

Matt rightly concludes with this line:

You have had more than your due measure of influence and now it’s time for you to please go away.

Perhaps he could return to his old stomping grounds and begin tackling the kind of assignment that he would have a real knack for: the quotes on the side of Starbucks cups.  They are described thus:

Stylistically, the quotes are mostly the literary equivalent of Bearista Bears: sentimental, squooshy, with no aphoristic bite.

Sounds like “compassionate” conservatism in physical form to me.

There were a few bank robbers and counterfeiters. But more than anything, Thompson took on the state’s moonshiners and a local culture, rooted in Tennessee’s hills and hollows, that celebrated the independent whiskey maker’s battle against the government’s revenue agents. ~The Los Angeles Times

Via Alex Massie

In a just and fair world, this would be the death blow to Thompson’s campaign.  Running down still operators and home-made brew to get the government more revenue is a perfect symbol of the kind of petty government intrusiveness that Thompson supposedly opposes.  Who actually prosecutes moonshiners?  What is wrong with the man?

There was also this item from the story:

“It was a game,” said Merritt, the former U.S. attorney. “Gray [the judge] didn’t like these cases. He thought they were a waste of time, and he was right.”

I know just the man to tackle Thompson the Revenuer, and he’s almost as lazy as Thompson is:

I have no excuse.  There were warnings that the Elizabeth sequel was terrible, but I made the mistake of seeing for myself.  This is a perfect example of why movie reviewers are necessary.  You really should take Chris Orr’s word for it: it’s bad!  If anyone is tempted to go see it, just don’t.

When it isn’t painfully boring (which is most of the film), it’s sappy, and when it isn’t sappy it veers into some weird fusion of Patriot-esque speechmaking and retrojected values of liberal tolerance.  As Orr noted, the dialogue is often unpardonably lame.  At one point Elizabeth even gives a little talk on the evils of the Inquisition and England as the bastion of liberty of conscience and thought.  Since pretty much no one today likes the Inquisition, this is an easy way to make her the sympathetic champion of Freedom (her appearance before the assembled English soldiers does have a bit of the Gibsonian “they may take our lives…” element in it), but pretends as if “liberty of conscience” were some universal principle here rather than an invocation of Protestant polemic.  

The director, Shekhar Kumar, has stayed strangely faithful to the original Elizabeth’s studious reproduction of Protestant and English nationalist historiography on film.  Indeed, in the sequel Kumar has ratcheted up the anti-Catholicism of the first movie.  You could just as easily call this Black Legend: The Movie or The Catholics Are Coming To Get You.   

The portrayal of Philip, were it done to an American or British historical figure, would throw certain people into fits of hysteria.  The treatment of Mary Stuart was hardly any better.  The take-home message seemed to be: “The dagoes and Scots are trying to take away your freedom, so you have to kill them.”     Since English historians have long wanted to ignore the fact that Philip II was also briefly Philip I of England, it would hardly bother many to show Philip, as the movie shows him, as some sort of decrepit, superstitious eunuch who is afraid of the sunlight and talks to himself, or whatever it was we were supposed to conclude about him.

This was also the king who sent a significant portion of the fleet that won at Lepanto over the Ottomans, and who was probably among the most accomplished, albeit flawed, monarchs of the early modern period.  Naturally, Elizabeth’s apologists and myth-makers have always had to tear him down to make their heroine appear more important than she was.  This movie is just one of the more recent and execrable efforts along these lines.   

The opening “historical” introduction manages to ignore completely the contemporary Dutch rebels, whose resistance to Philip’s rule was the reason for Philip’s wars in northwestern Europe.  “Only England stands against him,” the writers pompously tell us.  The Dutch role in defeating the Armada is also ignored.  The Golden Age is the English version of Fred Thompson bombast: England stands alone for freedom!  Never mind that the Dutch kept fighting and dying against the Spanish for another two decades after the Armada was defeated and that Spain’s bankruptcy was related to its constant continental warfare against France to protect the Milan road.  We mustn’t diminish the reputation of the most overrated monarch in English history. 

P.S. Even Mike Potemra agrees on the anti-Catholicism of the movie, so it must be pretty obvious.

Before it became a tourist trap for lunatics and sci-fi geeks, I used to live in Roswell when I was very young.  Unfortunately, after the “incident” became fodder for crackpots Roswell eventually decided to capitalise on its odd reputation, and a “museum” was opened up (followed by a painfully non-New Mexican show on the WB that seemed intent on reminding us just how far removed from New Mexico the show actually was).  Since taking the helm in Santa Fe, old Bill has made it something of a pet cause to “get to the bottom” of the “incident.”  He has continued in this fine tradition:

If he wins his bid for the White House, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson may be just the man to get to the bottom of the 60-year-old Roswell UFO mystery.

My hunch is that Richardson is just trying to be his usual, crowd-pleasing, avuncular self in this case.  Even so, he does keep talking about it often enough that you begin to wonder whether he’s serious.

Via Djerejian, I see that Kakutani of The New York Times reviews Podhoretz’s World War IV:

Instead of trying to produce a reasoned argument for a forward-leaning foreign policy, he has served up a hectoring, often illogical screed based on cherry-picked facts and blustering assertions (often made without any supporting evidence), a book that furiously hurls accusations of cowardice, anti-Americanism and sheer venality at any and all opponents of the Bush doctrine, be they on the right or the left.

In other words, it’s a typical piece of modern neoconservative argumentation.

P.S.  It occurred to me after it showed up in the news that Mr. Bush made a very careless reference to “World War III,” which obviously was not part of the script.  As Podhoretz would tell us, WWIII has been over for some time, and now is WWIV, which means that Bush was actually meaning to warn us about the outbreak of WWV.

Looking at the relationship between the GOP and Arab-Americans, it is remarkable how much has changed in just seven years.  The time was when Candidate Bush was the one opposed to “secret evidence,” and he actually ended up getting 44.5% of the Arab-American vote in 2000.  He had Spence Abraham in his Cabinet.  The appeal to Arab-Americans was actually the only example of early Bush Era “minority” outreach that really worked come election-time.  Since most Arab-Americans are Christians from Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant backgrounds, and many of them are middle-class, it was fairly natural that there would be a Republican constituency among them.  Fast forward to the present, post-Iraq, post-Lebanon, and it is fairly amazing that there still are sizeable numbers of Arab-American Republicans.  Of course, many Arab-Americans are thoroughly assimilated, and those inclined to vote Republican are probably less prone to think in identity politics terms about policy quiestions, but it can hardly have helped the image of the GOP to be the leading force in support of the invasion of one Arab country and the excessive, indiscriminate bombing of another. 

This year Steve Clemons reports on the Arab-American Institute’s National Leadership conference, finding that no leading presidential candidates appeared there in person, with only Ron Paul, Gravel, Kucinich and Richardson making appearances.  Here is another example where Ron Paul is keeping the Republican flag flying in communities where it would otherwise be missing.  Of course, it probably helps with this group to be a candidate who opposed both the PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq.  The three leading Dems sent representatives and taped messages, but no leading GOP campaigns were represented (Michigan “native” son Romney had a few brochures available). 

Clemons finds this absence of the major candidates ”outrageous,” and as these things go I suppose it is.  I think it is representative of a general disdain for Arabs and Americans of Arab descent, and it is a function of the ignorance about the Arab-Americans here that is just as appalling as the ignorance about the Christian communities in the Near East to which many of these Americans trace their descent.  In an odd dynamic, the very policies that are uprooting these communities in the Near East are bringing more Arab immigrants to America.  They are in turn going to be ignored by our political class here just as they were in the Near East, but I think this will ultimately be to the detriment of the party that adopts the most aggressive and hawkish policies in the Near East. 

Then again, if I were someone being advised by a Podhoretz or Pipes (Giuliani), a Liz Cheney (Thompson), or a Max Boot (McCain), I wouldn’t expect a favourable reaction to attending such a meeting, because if I were any one of these candidates I would end up saying things that the assembled audience would find either laughable or horrifying.  Romney could go on his riff on how ”it’s about Shia and Sunni” and be laughed off the stage.  All of the leading GOP candidates hold policy views that I assume must be very offensive to large numbers of Arab-Americans, so this may be an instance, like McCain ducking CPAC, where the campaigns saw no upside and a lot of potential problems.  Of course, no one in serious contention for the GOP nomination wants to be associated with this event, because I suspect they fear it would hurt their fundraising and their public image with core voters.  I assume Tancredo and Hunter didn’t go as a matter of some principle or other.  Besides, Tancredo is on the record having said multiple times that we should threaten nuclear strikes on Mecca and Medina as a way of “deterring” nuclear terrorism.  Even though most of the audience at this gathering was probably not Muslim, the idea itself is so awful that it is hard to see Tancredo getting anything other than a hostile reception.

Clemons has an interesting observation on the proceedings:

The room seemed majority Republican — but one could feel the tectonic shift of the community to the Democrats — or to Ron Paul — and away from the Republican frontrunners in a number of cases.

This is natural.  When the leadership and leading representatives of a party choose to adopt destructive, wrong-headed policies that harm both Arab-Americans and Arabs, it is only a matter of time before that translates into political changes in domestic party affiliation and support.  At least Ron Paul offers the audience an alternative face of the Republican Party, even if it is one that most Republicans don’t like. 

Obviously there is going to be a vast difference between the influence and draw of AIPAC and the Arab-American Institute.  One can bestow great favours and inflict serious political damage on a candidate, while the other simply hasn’t the clout to do either.     

The notion that somehow changing the tone means simply that we let them say whatever they want to say or that there are no disagreements and that we’re all holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ is obviously not what I had in mind and not how I function. And anybody who thinks I have, hasn’t been paying attention. ~Barack Obama

Granted, this isn’t how he functions.  The thing about the “politics of hope” rhetoric is that it was always nonsense.  The problem Obama has had is that he made such nonsense the core of his campaign.  His speeches and advertisements have stressed transcending the “smallness of our politics” and bridging “the divisions in Washington,” buying into one of the lamest diagnoses of our present predicament: that our government is actually riven by meaningful disagreement and policy debate.  Would that it were so!  It has been Obama who has led everyone to believe that the “new tone” means always taking the high road, and to date his idea of taking the high road has meant making no direct criticisms of his opponents.  Observers can be forgiven for associating his “hope” talk with his unwillingness to throw at least a few elbows. 

Maybe he doesn’t want everyone to sing Kumbaya, but when a key theme of the campaign is so amorphous and vacuous as his has been it is very easy for observers to interpret the happy talk about hope and unity in ways that Obama never intended it to be taken.  This is where Obama has failed.  He speaks generically about transformation, hope, unity and so on, and most of the time he quite deliberately avoids “drawing distinctions” with particular candidates, taking refuge in vague remarks about “some people” getting things wrong or circumlocutions like ”there were those of us who showed poor judgement,” etc.  In his debate performances, he gives the impression of a seminar instructor trying to generate a discussion among his students rather than a candidate for office.  He seems to think that his political rivals are supposed to give him the benefit of the doubt and not turn his positions to their advantage, but then this is more evidence that he isn’t ready to compete in this arena. 

On Thursday, a suicide car bomber hit a truck carrying Frontier Constabulary troops through a crowded area of Mingora, killing 19 soldiers and a civilian, and wounding 35.

The devastating attack underlined the worsening security situation in Pakistan, particularly in the conservative region near the border with Afghanistan where militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida increasingly hold sway. The rise of militancy in the region has shaken the authority of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in its war on terror. ~AP

Andy McCarthy throws a fit:

Can someone explain to me what is “conservative” about a revolutionary movement that seeks, by mass-murder, to overthrow the established order and set up a tyrannical sharia state?

First of all, McCarthy has read something that isn’t in the story.  The story refers to the “conservative region near the border with Afghanistan.”  As those even a little familiar with these Pashtun borderlands know, the society there is very conservative, certainly by the standards of local tribal customary practice and religion.  According to their traditions, they are the conservatives in Pakistan.  The story was not even describing the Taliban or Al Qaeda.  It was describing the region.  Perhaps McCarthy might argue that its customary conservatism or lack of it is irrelevant to the story and should not have been included, but a good argument can be made that it is precisely this local traditionalism and adherence to patterns of loyalty that take priority over ties to the state that make this region such a valuable area in which pro-Taliban and Al Qaida forces can operate.  Interestingly, later versions of the story have eliminated the designation “conservative” from the relevant sentence, though they have applied it to another, neighbouring region.

Another blow to the imagined Giuliani-Huckabee juggernaut: Club for Growth President Pat Toomey draws a line in the sand and declares Huckabee totally unacceptable as a veep nominee.  So a certain claim that Huckabee was ”acceptable to all factions” wasn’t strictly accurate. 

It must be gratifying for the head of an organisation that doesn’t actually win many primary contests to throw its weight about in the ‘08 race.  Who knows?  This may have some significant impact.  The spectacle of leading fiscal conservatives declaring Huckabee to be the political equivalent of a leper while the social conservatives hem and haw over whether or not they will actually reject Giuliani is an object lesson in the real priorities of the GOP and the conservative coalition.  When push comes to shove, keeping taxes down is a lot more important than protecting life, and the people who are concerned about the latter are supposed to suffer being ignored meekly and put up no resistance.  If you have ever raised tax once, even if it was to repair what were once Arkansas’ decrepit highways (and as someone who used to have to drive on them every year, let me tell you, they used to be really bad), you are an outcast.  That this gets everything entirely backwards with respect to the relative electoral strength of the different factions within the GOP is obvious: the social-cons bring in a lot more voters and put up with a lot more deviations from their preferred positions than economic conservatives ever have. 

Yet, not surprisingly, the party of corporations and the moneyed interest will sooner pay attention to the econo-cons and tell social conservatives to be quiet and play nice.  This may be the cycle when social conservatives have finally had enough.  Time will tell.

While catching up with my Rasmussen polling news, I came across an interesting July survey figure: 60% of Americans have a favourable opinion of Israel, and 26% have an unfavourable opinion.  The crosstabs of that survey offer some interesting data on where public support for Israel comes from.

More Republicans tend to have a favourable view (68%) than Democrats (58%).  That’s not so surprising.  Some big differences emerge between generations among men.  71% of men 40+ have a favourable view, compared with only 51% of men under 40.  Among women, favourable opinion of Israel is roughly the same: 53% for women 40+ and 56% for women under 40.  The groups with the highest unfavourable rating are 18-29 year olds at 35% vs. 55% favourable and 30-39 year olds at 32%.  Fav/Unfav ratings track income level pretty closely, so that among the lowest income groups unfavs are high (e.g., 38% among those earning less than $20K) and quite low among the wealthiest (12% among $100K+ earners). 

The crosstabs (sorry, subscription only) on the latest (10/23) Rasmussen survey of likely GOP New Hampshire voters show a few interesting things.  Rasmussen has a pretty good reputation for accuracy when it comes to predicting the actual outcomes, so their data are worth considering seriously. 

First of all, the overall numbers: Romney 28%, Giuliani 19%, McCain 16%, Huckabee 10%, Thompson 6%, Paul 3% and Hunter and Tancredo at 2% apiece.  14% remain unsure.  That theoretically makes it a pretty wide-open race.  Almost any candidate could break through and pick up one of the top three slots, but he would need to start making his move now.  The primary is just a little over two months away, and could conceivably could be moved closer. 

Bizarrely, McCain performs best among 18-29 year olds (28%).  In that same age group, Romney follows with 18% (significantly underperforming his overall numbers) and Hunter with a surprising 8%.  Giuliani straggles along with 6% with everyone else tied at 4%.  Why on earth McCain would generate so much excitement among young voters, I truly cannot imagine. 

Romney receives pretty even levels of support in the high twenties from all other age groups, and Giuliani receives his stronger support (25%) from the 40-49 year olds while scoring in the high teens and low twenties with the rest.  McCain’s next-best age group is the 65+ group (20%), scoring in the low and mid-teens with everyone else.  Huckabee does best among 30-39 year olds (12%).  Paul receives roughly the same low level of support from all age groups.   

Sickeningly, Romney and Giuliani have a 83% and 78% favourable ratings among those who identify as conservatives.  In this, they do much better than the others. 

On the war, typically, two-thirds support staying “until the mission is complete” and 32% support some form of withdrawal, either within one year (24%) or immediately (8%).  Perhaps not surprisingly, women voters are more inclined towards withdrawal (37%).  18-29 year olds are most in favour of withdrawal (41%), while the strongest supporters of staying in Iraq are the 50-64 year olds (70%).  In a divided field of hawks, it’s conceivable that Paul could bring in at least two-thirds of the withdrawal vote and place a respectable second.  But it isn’t happening yet.

Part of that is the irrational preferences of many of the withdrawal voters: 31% of Giuliani supporters favour withdrawal now or within a year; 25% of McCain supporters favour the same; 32% of Romney voters support withdrawal; 21% of Huckabee’s take the same view.  For many of these likely voters, their preferred candidate’s position on the war seems to have no relation to their support.

Thompson has accomplished something once thought impossible—he now has higher negative ratings among Republican Primary Voters than McCain. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of those likely to vote in New Hampshire’s primary have an unfavorable opinion of the former Tennessee Senator. ~Rasmussen Reports

So his victory in New Hampshire is looking a little less probable.  I should stop making campaign predictions.  Failing that, candidates should pay me not to predict their future victories.

‘’It’s not my mission in life to prove to anybody how hungry I am,'’ he [Thompson] said during an interview in a dark-windowed SUV on his way to the Zachariah fundraiser. “This is not a pie-eating contest.'’ ~The Miami Herald

Apparently his four or five-minute speech last week didn’t impress too many people.

Charles Kesler wrote:

[T]he GOP has its own looming problem. Sticking with the surge buys time but little else. What comes after the surge? The answer is the 2008 elections, which the party will lose, and deserve to lose, if it doesn’t separate itself from the administration’s stand-pat case for the war…. Conservatives have to prove that they can reason their way to an improved policy on Iraq, as on other issues. And they need to do so soon, before the primaries are over effectively in February or March.

Wehner at Commentary’s Contentions blog responds:

Professor Kesler insists that “sticking with the surge buys time but little else.” But how does he know?

Most of Wehner’s post is a detailed demonstration that he doesn’t actually understand what Kesler meant by this.  When Kesler refers to ”time,” Wehner takes him quite literally, as if the time being “bought” were somehow separate from improved security.  He takes him so painfully literally that you have to wonder whether this is another exercise in the new Contentions blogging habit of deliberately misconstruing others’ statements and then reacting vehemently against the falsified version that the Contentions blogger created out of thin air.  

I imagine that Prof. Kesler knows this because “buying time”–for political reconciliation, training of Iraqi security forces and reconstruction–through moderately improved security was the entire rationale of the “surge.”  If there are some additional benefits arising from the “surge,” they were unexpected and unintended.  (If unrelated things happened, such as the Anbar Awakening, that’s all very well, but is something quite distinct.)  Buying time was the goal of the “surge.” 

In other words, even if you credit that the “surge” has succeeded, you have to have something with which you can follow the “surge,” because the “surge” was necessarily a temporary, stopgap measure designed to shore up a deteriorating situation.  Improved security (the “calmer and safer nation” bit of Wehner’s response) is the temporary benefit that is what actually buys time.  Because the improvements are going to be temporary, the time that has been purchased at great price needs to be used constructively and wisely.  What is the standard response to this?  It is: the “surge” is working!

Wehner then thinks that he has somehow undermined Kesler by saying that the latter probably did not anticipate the Anbar Awakening, but then essentially no one in America anticipated this “Awakening,” which was why it was especially remarkable.  He then demonstrates that he doesn’t know what the word strategy means:

But of course the administration does not have a “stand-pat” policy; the Petraeus strategy is a significant break with the Rumsfeld-Sanchez-Abizaid-Casey strategy that preceded it.

He is referring to plans of tactical deployments and operations.  He is not referring to different strategies.  His response is a perfect embodiment of what Prof. Kesler calls the “stand-pat case for war” and a good example of the kind of thinking that will sink the GOP come next year.

For something completely different, here is Satrangi Re from Dil Se, the most romantic suicide bomber movie you’re likely to see.

Barack, on the other hand, did not, and he did it at a time when it was very risky for him in the midst of a highly contested U.S. Senate primary, to stand up and tell the truth about what he saw and what he felt would be a disastrous consequence. ~Michelle Obama

Yes, it takes a lot of guts to run on an antiwar platform in Illinois, where the war was always an unpopular idea, in a Democratic primary.  As a recent AP story said:

Still, he was never too far out on a limb:

_ Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois voted against Bush on Iraq in 2002 and breezed to re-election shortly after Obama’s signature speech.

_The Chicago Sun-Times published an October 2002 poll under the headline “Illinois is not ready for war.”

The survey found that more than half of voters in the Democratic-leaning state wanted more proof that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction before the United States waged war.

Iraq wasn’t a major issue in the race, according to several Illinois political observers.

“What he was saying in October 2002 — and this takes nothing away from him; he’s a very impressive guy — was not a risky thing,” said Chris Mooney, political science professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield.

“Not risky at all.”

So where does that leave Obama?  If he’s actually inexperienced, and he’s not a great political risk-taker and he’s never been tested in a serious general election fight against stiff Republican competition, what does he have to offer?  I mean, really, what is there?

Even Obama’s wife will not speak directly about She Who Must Not Be Named:

You’ve got a number of the candidates [bold mine-DL] who went with conventional wisdom, and in the face of the evidence that was before them, they took the easy route, they voted for what felt like a popular war.

Now, it’s true that there are a “number of candidates” in the Democratic field who voted for the war.  There’s really only one of them today (Edwards having virtually covered himself in sackcloth and ashes over his vote) that poses a serious problem for Obama.  And he and his campaign literally will not say who that candidate is.  In case all this indirect, subtle hinting has made you forget, it’s Clinton.

Shorter Michelle Obama: Talking about experience is meaningless, but talking about change is deeply significant.

I’m not sure how many voters who aren’t political junkies know the ins and outs of Barack Obama’s biography, but I think the claim that Obama doesn’t talk about this very often is overstated.  He has repeatedly talked up his living overseas and even his college major in international relations as proof of his qualifications and “different kind” of experience (a.k.a., not having foreign policy experience).  His international ancestry was the rhetorical pivot of his speech in Selma.  It seems to me that he has talked (and written) rather incessantly about “his story” ever since the touted 2004 convention speech that launched him on his national career.  His campaign has certainly not failed to draw attention to columns and articles that highlight this aspect of his life.  There are other examples:

He cites his ability to unite the country, his experience living overseas and, when asked, his race.

“I can convene a forum with Muslim leaders, and I will be heard differently from some of the other candidates,” Obama, a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois, told Monitor editors and reporters during an hour-and-a-half interview this week. “I can go to a country like Indonesia, where I spent four years as a kid, or Kenya, where I still have a grandmother who lives in a tiny village with no running water and no electricity, and deliver a message that’s tough but compassionate.”  

That makes this interview with Michelle Obama part of the same pattern, rather than something terribly remarkable. 

It’s debatable whether this frequent talk about his biography has aided him or not, but I think it is part of the record that he has talked about it a lot.  I tend to think that it helps him with the voters who are already enthusiastic Obama folks–educated urban professionals–and does nothing for him among other groups of voters whose support he needs to get. 

Obama has had some good lines setting up the “inexperienced but competent” versus “experienced but foolish” dichotomy between himself and the old government hands in the Bush administration and, less successfully, against Clinton.  When he defends his lack of experience as a virtue and proof that he offers a fresh start or a “change,” he does much better than when he tries to dress up living for a couple years in Indonesia as the source of great insights into world affairs.  Frankly, if Obama stopped the biography talk I think it would help him overall.  My impression during the first half of the year was that he was emphasising the personal far too much, leaving himself open to the charge of lacking substance and specific policy ideas.   

Huckabee’s ethics problems re-emerge as an issue.

We remain surprised that the U.S.-Turkey relationship is thought to be so fragile that this non-binding resolution or other verbal acknowledgements appear to pose a problem. ~Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian

Oskanian went on:

“Armenia has been careful not to voice an opinion on the resolution. We have maintained that this is a matter between those in the U.S. Congress and their constituents [bold mine-DL],” he said.

“But when Turkey and its lobbyists dragged us in, implying that such a resolution would hurt some non-existent bilateral process between Armenia and Turkey, then we spoke up.”

“We’ve held out our hand for more than a decade. Turkey has kept the door shut tightly. Worse, Turkey has become more radical and extreme in its denialist policies.”

This is a helpful corrective to the story being told by some opponents of the resolution that its passage will “set back” efforts at Armenian-Turkish reconciliation.  Ankara isn’t engaged in reconciliation efforts.  For there to be a “setback” there would actually have to be a process that is being set back. 

Here it is again.  There is the idea circulating out there, it seems mainly among neoconservatives and interventionists, that Huckabee’s foreign policy is simply unacceptable.  Krauthammer:

Yes, I know. I’ve left out Huckabee, whom some of my colleagues are aggressively trying to promote to the first tier. I refuse to go along. Huckabee is funny, well-spoken and gave a preacher’s stemwinder that wowed the religious right gathering in Washington last Saturday. But whatever foreign policy he has is naive and unconvincing. In wartime, that is a disqualification for commander in chief.

Now that you’ve stopped laughing after seeing Krauthammer describe someone else’s foreign policy as naive, I’ll continue.  He thinks Huckabee would be a good Interior Secretary.  That’s the harshest backhanded compliment I’ve seen in a while.  This is frankly bizarre.  Does Krauthammer mean to say that Mitt ”It’s About Shia and Sunni” Romney is a more serious candidate than Huckabee on foreign policy?  I’d be glad to throw the lot of them out, but this rejection of Huckabee seems very odd.

Opposition is cropping up more and more now that he has become a semi-serious contender (who also still has next to no money).  John Fund at The Wall Street Journal doesn’t like his claim to be a conservative (no surprise there).

Come to think of it, Huckabee occupies some of the same foreign policy space that Candidate Bush did in 2000 in that he is a “compassionate” conservative governor with no real foreign policy experience.  Where Bush tried to play the role of a Republican realist during the campaign, Huckabee has simply adapted to the more belligerent and interventionist ideas prevalent in the party today.  Just as McCain was The Weekly Standard’s candidate of choice in 2000, the leading candidates, all of whom are being advised by neoconservatives or interventionists, have been deemed acceptable on foreign policy.  It is that the “inexperienced” governor who seems to have at least a few foreign policy ideas that aren’t terrible, unlike his top-tier competition.  Of course, he still has many ideas that are terrible, but this is why I find it hard to understand why he is being shunned by the people who specialise in terrible foreign policy ideas. 

U.S. right-wingers like to use Sarkozy as a rhetorical bludgeon, showing that Europe is moving toward the U.S. rather than vice versa. I wonder if this will cause any of their little pea brains to short-circuit. ~Dave Roberts

Via Yglesias

This comes in response to news not only that Nicolas Sarkozy supports introducing a carbon tax, but also proposes putting levies on non-Kyoto-ratifying countries’ imports.  Not very Bush-like or “pro-American,” is it? 

But the Sarkophiles don’t care that much about his views on industrial and environmental policy.  They will overlook this the same way they have overlooked every daffy Tony Blair domestic policy for a decade.  Yes, some have enthused over Sarkozy’s supposed interest in deregulation, but the thing that Sarkophiles really like about him is that he strikes a pro-American pose and drives French leftists up the wall.  In this way, the admiration for Sarkozy is like the conservative admiration showered on Giuliani.  Sure, it makes no sense, but that’s how it works. 

Since he has started taking a hard line with Iran, they are positively swooning, and this is the key to understanding all present-day talk of “pro-American” and “anti-American” sentiment in Europe.  According to this view, the people who wanted to keep us out of Iraq were hostile to us, and those who cheered us on and offered to help were our friends.  Looking back on it, it sounds like a sick joke.  Five years later, given all that has happened in Iraq, you’d think this kind of thinking wouldn’t exist anymore, but it is thriving.  The difference is that the interventionists dub those who support a strike on Iran as our friends, while vilifying those governments and countries that tell us that this is a crazy idea. 

Score one for the genocide deniers.  I agree with this:

Advocates of the bill predicted that Congress would eventually regret backing off in the face of a threatened backlash from an ally. “This sets a terrible example,” Mr. Hamparian said.

Not that it really matters, but I did happen to see that the ever-shifting subtitle of Liberal Fascism is now markedly less idiotic than it used to be.  Now it is Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.  And, yes, it does still have the same ridiculous cover.

Ross wrote:

Whereas Obama and to a lesser extent Edwards both have a higher ceiling, but also a much lower floor, since neither has been through the fire already the way Hillary has (indeed, Obama has never run against significant GOP opposition of any kind), and either one could flame out disastrously in the heat of a general-election campaign.

Perhaps I am missing something, but it isn’t clear to me why Obama has a higher ceiling of support than Clinton.  Lower floor, sure, but why higher ceiling?  The enthusiasm he generates is mostly limited to journalists and progressive and independent twenty and thirtysomething professionals.  That is, people who write things like this.  Obama must appear as a god for people who feel “overwhelmed” by the plethora of do-gooding crusades that confront them, because he promises to take them all on at the same time.  That’s a sure sign that he would probably be a terrible President in the strange events that he won the nomination and general election.  

Amusingly, he has assumed the role of a tribune for these people, when his avowed style of governance would be a kind of High Broderism on steroids–the very thing many of the young progressives who adore him claim to loathe.  His promise of “change” and unconventional thinking is shrouded in mists of warmed-over cliches about unity, bipartisanship and pragmatic “problem-solving.”  He is just radical enough to frighten away a large majority of voters, and just boring enough to inspire too few to take a chance. 

His campaign style thus far actually makes tapioca pudding seem zesty and exciting by comparison.  His “attack” rhetoric takes a page from Rumpole of the Bailey, in that he is intimidated by She Who Must Not Be Named.  If he is so readily outmatched by a fairly passive Clinton campaign (and he clearly is), how on earth would he compete with a GOP machine designed to drive up its opponent’s negatives?  By talking about hope?  

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is considering endorsing Rudy Giuliani for the GOP presidential nomination and will meet with him Thursday in Washington to hear his views on abortion. ~The Hill

Via Noam Scheiber

Now I was pretty sure that Brownback wasn’t going to endorse Huckabee, and his loathing for Romney has been obvious for a long time, but I confess that this option hadn’t crossed my mind.  That was because, despite all my criticism, I still retained some shred of respect for Sam Brownback.  I assumed that the protection of human life was, as he has so often claimed it to be, one of those non-negotiable principles that animated and guided Brownback’s entire view of the world.  His conclusions and policy recommendations might drive me up the wall in many cases, but I still assumed that there were some deals he would not be willing to strike.  This meeting has some remarkable symbolism to it: one of the leading pro-life politicians in the party will seek an audience with Giuliani.  That helps make this outcome, which ought to be inconceivable, much more plausible. 

Update:  Brownback has been taken in by Giuliani, but perhaps not enough to win an endorsement:

Sam Brownback said he was reassured about the abortion position of Rudy Giuliani after meeting with the pro-abortion rights former mayor for over an hour this afternoon. But the Kansas Senator, who last Friday abandoned his White House bid, said he was not yet ready to offer his endorsement.

Standing just outside his Senate office suite next to Giuliani, Brownback, an ardent abortion opponent, said twice that he was “much more comfortable” with his former rival’s stance on what he called the issue “of life.”

Even Brownback expressing his increased “comfort” with Giuliani makes it that much easier for social conseratives to buy into the “we must stay united to defeat the she-demon” rhetoric that is daily coming from the various leading presidential campaigns.  It’s much easier for these voters to sell out in the name of unity if one of their leading figures gives them a pretext for believing that they aren’t really selling out their principles.

Sullivan points out that the Atheist Alliance International has chosen a symbol for atheists:


Atheists Who Are, Unfortunately, On Earth

Atheists In Space!

The Red Sox are dominating the Rockies 13-1 in the top of the ninth.  Fortunately, this is the first of the first two games in Boston, so perhaps Colorado will be warmed up by the next one. 

Even if you aren’t a Colorado fan, do you really want to see another Red Sox championship?  I mean, c’mon, they’ve already had their quota for this century.  Twice in the same decade would be unseemly.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press’ catalogue just arrived, and it includes Andrew Louth’s forthcoming book in SVS’ “The Church in History” series, Greek East and Latin West: The Church AD 681-1071.  Fr. Andrew’s book will be available as of Nov. 15.  If it is as good as the two other volumes in the series that I have, Meyendorff’s Imperial Unity and Papadakis’ The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy, we should all be in for a treat.

The RedState ban of new arrivals (less than 6 months) voicing support for Ron Paul (it seems that the precise terms of the ban have often been lost in the back and forth) has been generating a lot of online media attention.  The old “there is no such thing as bad publicity” rule applies here–at least for Ron Paul.  The ban ironically rewards the Paul supporters, both reasonable and obnoxious, with additional media coverage of our candidate.  It makes more people ask a question that’s very helpful to Paul: “What do Republicans have against Ron Paul?”  If RedState really wanted to vex and irritate the Paul supporters, they would never have turned whatever annoyance they felt from the legions of Paul supporters into a major story.

Even though the ban is aimed at his supporters (some of whom probably are as obnoxious and crude as they are accused of being–this is the Internet, folks, deal with it), the impression it leaves is that RedState is trying to cut Paul and his message out of their site, which redounds to Paul’s advantage and puts RedState in an awfully awkward position.  Frankly, I find any post-ban complaining from Paul supporters about censorship a little silly, if only because proper libertarians and conservatives should acknowledge the right of voluntary associations (which is what a community blog is) to govern their memberships as they see fit.  It is government censorship that should exercise us, not the stance of a few community blog mavens.  Nonetheless, a decision taken out of frustration will be seen to have been taken out of fear and a feeling of inferiority.  In the end, the ban is just one sign of the inability of the modern movement to maintain its support for the dreadful policies of the last six years and still have a space for antiwar libertarians and conservatives.  If the war takes priority over everything else, as it seems to have done, it really becomes impossible for the movement to accommodate those whose chief difference with the movement is over the war.   

These folks run a politics and commentary blog, but they seem to have no grasp on how politically clumsy their move truly is.  There are already millions of people who think that the GOP and the movement are incapable of rationally coping with dissent, and this has just given them another reason to believe it.  If politics is supposed to involve persuasion, RedState has just abandoned any attempt at persuading Paul supporters that there might be some grounds for compromise and cooperation.  The typical objection is that Paul supporters are already implacably opposed to the rest of the GOP field, so there’s no point in trying to win any of them over.  That’s certainly one way of approaching the problem, but it is a loser. 

Think about it: Republicans and conservatives are already reportedly badly demoralised.  Turnout is likely to be a major problem next year.  Fundraising already is a problem.  Who is generating some enthusiasm and better-than-expected fundraising?  Ron Paul.  Whose supporters do the geniuses choose to ban from talking about their candidate?  Ron Paul’s.  If I were Tom Cole and interested in maximising turnout next year, I would be banging my head against a wall at such patently self-destructive tactics.  RedState is prominent and well known enough that its decisions will have consequences far beyond its own precincts.  The thing is that Ron Paul supporters have known all along that they were not welcome in the modern GOP–this is just one more helpful reminder.   

Update: The Politico story has an interesting detail:

Redstate founder Erick Erickson said he woke up this morning bombed with hundreds of e-mails, “the overwhelming majority very angry.” His own readers, though, loved the ban.

“It is the most recommended user diary in Redstate history,” he said.

That will simply reinforce the view of Paul supporters, such as myself, that RedState’s readers and we have little in common.  This was not exactly news to me, but it is worth being reminded that this is not some arbitrary decision handed down by the people who run the blog, but is quite representative of the opinion of the regulars there.

Second Update: It’s a bad sign for RedState when Kossack diarists are more politically astute than the RedState folks.


A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that Colbert is preferred by 13% of voters as an independent candidate challenging Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani.

Via Yglesias

I suppose this means that Colbert has also received the “Colbert bump.”

I’d like to see Giuliani and Clinton square off because she can beat him given how narrowly he is defining his candidacy. And the fact that David Frum, Norman Podhoretz, and Daniel Pipes are advisors to Giuliani makes folks like me salivate.

Whether the Republican Party knows it or not, a Romney/Hagel ticket or Romney/Huckabee ticket would be much harder for Hillary Clinton to tackle.

Steve Clemons here makes the mistake that is always a danger for all observers of the political scene (I have made this mistake myself more than once): confusing the objectively horrible quality of the candidate and his advisors with his electoral viability.  According to this thinking, candidates who are being advised by loopy militarists will never get elected in a presidential election.  What makes me think this is untrue?

If we trust the head-to-head matchup polls as much as we trust the nationwide primary polling, Giuliani is one of the more competitive candidates and more of a threat to the Democrats than most of the others.  I think both sets of polls are probably misleading and are still driven by name recognition, which is why McCain and Giuliani consistently outperform their rivals, but if we are going to grant Giuliani the status of frontrunner on the basis of such polls we have to acknowledge that he is polling as one of the better-performing Republicans vs. Clinton.  According to the current polling, every Democratic matchup against Romney means a Democratic landslide (against Edwards, the margins have gone from an amusing 15 or so to the ridiculous 25+), while Giuliani is supposed to be reasonably competitive against any Democrat.  We really should not trust much of this national polling on the candidates, but given what evidence we have it seems positively crazy for a Democrat to hope for a Giuliani nomination to avoid the terrible threat of Romney. 

Remember how I recklessly predicted Fred Thompson taking first place in New Hampshire?  Yeah, well, it would help if he actually goes to New Hampshire again (he’s been there once), which he doesn’t seem intent on doing anytime soon:

A key supporter to former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) joined a rival campaign Tuesday morning, telling The Hill that Thompson is clearly not intending to campaign seriously in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Former state Rep. Dan Hughes was in line to serve as Thompson’s state chairman, but Hughes said Tuesday he is joining Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) campaign as state vice chairman instead.

Thompson’s apparent reluctance to campaign in the Granite State has rubbed many voters and officials there the wrong way, and it could get worse. One source told The Hill on Tuesday that Thompson is not planning to file to run there personally, sending a surrogate instead.

So perhaps Thompson’s new strategy is to reject both the old and the new methods of running for President: he refused to start early and he won’t pay attention to the early states.  Thompson labels criticism along these lines as talking about “the process game.”  Well, I suppose, but it is also known as the electoral process, which tends to be important in getting elected.  Thompson may be one of the first candidates to to try to run by first ignoring substance and then ignoring process.  He did say his campaign would be different!

For clarification, in baseball I believe it is generally considered permissible to support a team from the same league in the post-season (this is especially true of National League fans, who are morally obligated to oppose any AL team in the World Series on the assumption that this team will very often be the Yankees), but only if the team is not a division rival.  The more bitter of a division rival the team is, the less acceptable supporting their post-season play will be.  Supporting your team’s historic, bitter division rival is obviously entirely unacceptable.  Doing so as part of political pandering should normally result in deportation, but standards are slipping.

P.S.  There is one gray zone, which may permit supporting the team that defeated your team in the latest round of the playoffs on the grounds that you may find some consolation in having lost to the overall champion, but this is generally viewed as a weak excuse.  This does not usually conflict with the no-support-for-division-rival rule, since it is relatively rare, even with wild cards, for division rivals to meet in the playoffs.  If there is a direct conflict, as there was in the Yankees-Red Sox matchup a few years ago, the division rival rule obviously takes precedence.

P.P.S.  There is also a general New York exception for all non-New York fans, which means that in the event that either New York club reaches the World Series or (horror of horrors) there is a subway series, it is not only permitted, but positively encouraged, for them to support the non-New York team or simply pretend that the entire thing is a bad dream.

There is a very long, but fairly interesting New Republic book review article on the modern state of classical music, its popularity (or lack of it) and classical music’s apologists.  There’s a lot to it, but this part struck me as especially worthwhile:

The morally charged dichotomization of surface and depth is a romantic trope that–as the musicologist Holly Watkins has shown–goes back at least as far as the writings of Hoffmann. Between Hoffmann and Wagner, however, the metaphor of depth had been claimed by German writers as a national trait; and just as nationalism underwent its general transformation from a modernizing and liberalizing discourse into a belligerent and regressive one in the later nineteenth century, so the notion of spiritual depth had been turned into a weapon of national and racial aggrandizement in Wagner’s hands.

I remember Prof. Lukacs remarking in Democracy and Populism, I believe it was, on this tendency that he identified in German thinkers to ascribe superior value and truth in terms of such ”depth.”  However, I would challenge the idea that nationalism really underwent a transformation over the course of the nineteenth century, when the heart of romantic nationalist myths is the idea of an enduring essence or character that the nationalist scholar or artist claims to be able to define and interpret.  You often hear this–the “good” nationalism of the liberal revolutionaries turned into the “bad” nationalism of a Bismarck and so forth, but the “good” nationalism was almost always intent on unification (which usually involved war) and expansionistic (because it was liberal and therefore eager to spread the revolution and, on a less high-minded note, to open new markets for ”the nation”).  In the mid and late nineteenth century nationalists, many of whom remained political liberals throughout Europe well into the twentieth century, were even more likely to engage in warfare to “redeem” the “lost” territories and countrymen still living under foreign rule.  Nationalism was belligerent in no small part because it was liberalising and modernising.  The strange thing is that we still credit the early nationalists’ self-justifications for their enthusiasm for conflict, when we are quite willing to criticise their later heirs.  We imagine a transformation and a difference where there was neither. 

Used in an exclusionary way, as Wagner does in the citation given by Taruskin or as, say, Zambelios did when addressing Western folklorists who threatened to interpret Greek identity and culture in a way that contradicted his classicising impulses, this essentialism means that only those who truly belong to the nation can understand it or participate in its cultural life.  This rhetoric of depth and essence is, in fact, an appeal to abstraction and an actually very superficial, limited grasp on culture and is used as a means of shrinking cultural participation and production down to the confines of a national dogma. 

Nationalism was always belligerent, warring against the political status quo, against legitimate governments that “denied” national unification, often enough against the Church, and against the past of the nationalists’ own people(s) and country/countries.  It was the bane of the civilised world for most of the nineteenth century and for all of the twentieth, and it was fundamentally the same thing.  

It is, of course, history that has often suffered most violently at the hands of nationalist redactors, and nationalist theories of history are almost by definition “regressive,” so to speak, in that they are almost all defined in terms of a golden age, an age of decline, and the age of palingenesis, which, in theory, is simply the recovery of the supposed golden age (whose character is suitably re-imagined to match whatever suits the liberal nationalist fantasy about his own virtues).  On this point, for example, I have happened to see an English-language textbook on Romanian history sponsored by a Center for Romanian Studies in Iasi that treats the period of the Danubian Principalities as one in which “the Greeks” are merely an annoying, troublemaking intrusion that the Romanians were well rid of, and the enormously productive and active life of the Greco-Romanian culture of the Principalities receives little or no attention.  This is a travesty of a fairly impressive period in Romanian history.  (Of course, it was part of the pre-independence period, and therefore not to be credited with as much importance.)  Bucharest and Iasi were shining examples of an international cultural Hellenism in the early modern period, and the educated elites of the Balkans referred to themselves as Hellenes as a statement of their cultivation and status, taking a name that had no particular ethnic connotations for them, and embracing Greek language and literature much as the educated in western and central Europe used Latin.  Pre-Phanariot rulers cultivated at their courts an idea of a revived Byzantium, understood as a Christian empire and not along the strictly ethnic and irredentist lines of the Megali Idea.  Much or all of this is expurgated out of the history of the Romanians in question.           

As many of us have known for a long time, Giuliani is a treacherous baseball fan, having turned against the Dodgers when he lived in Brooklyn and now allying himself with the Red Sox.  It’s as if I were to start cheering for the Cubs or Cardinals because my own team had been eliminated.  It’s absurd.

Commenting on the weird internecine fighting between fiscal and social conservatives that leaves the neocons unscathed, Ross said:

It’s true: As in the Cold War, foreign-policy hawkishness has become the glue holding the fragile GOP coalition together, even as Iraq has made foreign policy a general-election liability for the Right, instead of the asset it was in the Reagan years.

One of the reasons why hawkishness held together the coalition during the Cold War was in part a shared belief in anticommunism, which animated all parts of the coalition for different reasons, but the coalition was also held together by the related fear of appearing “weak” towards the Soviets.  It was also an asset because the form of that “hawkishness” was significantly different from the hawkishness of today.  Then hawkish rhetoric served some rational purpose in helping to provide the leverage for the negotiation of bilateral disarmament agreements and the gradual de-escalation of the Cold War.  Today advocates of hawkishness are devoted very simply to riling up the country to start wars, rather than providing for a strong defense for the sake of deterrence and preventing the outbreak of conflicts.  Such are the things done in the name of a “neo-Reaganite foreign policy,” as some interventionists dub their monstrosity.  

No more do you hear of peace through strength, and instead you hear a great deal about “Strength Through Willpower” or “Showing Our Resolve” and other morally dubious, vitalist phrases.  It isn’t just because Iraq went badly that hawkishness has become a political liability, but that the militarism the new hawkishness has created is fundamentally unwise and dangerous.  Key parts of this problem for the GOP are the exaggeration of the threat and the general hysteria about the extent of the threat, which has induced a kind of panic-stricken bunker mentality among many conservatives, which in turn gives off a disquieting air of desperation and anxiety.  Where a foreign policy of containment and strong defense seemed both eminently feasible and reasonable, expressing steady, sober confidence in America’s endurance and success, and the threat seemed sufficiently great to most to justify the costs of the policy, the modern equivalent of rollback-through-perpetual-war seems crazy and unsustainable, and seems all the more bizarre given that the jihadi threat is nowhere near as dangerous as the Soviets actually were.     

Today, there is also more or less a shared belief in anti-jihadism, but the embrace of hawkishness has become a mechanism for policing the coalition as much as it is an actual stance on policy.  Your fitness to belong to the coalition is called into question if you do not jump through the requisite hoops of declaring your abiding support for the warfare state–even Mike Huckabee, who never misses a chance to mention suicide bombers when he talks about the culture of death, has been branded as being potentially too “soft” and “weak” on foreign policy (perhaps because he shows signs of having a brain).  Hence the increasingly common fashion among Republican leaders, including Huckabee, to bow before the stupid idol of the term “Islamofascism” and the use of rhetoric about an “existential threat.”  These are not things that you say when you wish to describe the enemy and his capabilities accurately, but when you wish to build yourself up as clear-eyed, anti-fascist saviours, instill fear of ideological deviation among your peers and breed loathing of the “unpatriotic” ones who oppose you.  Even more than during the Cold War, when it was still at least remotely possible to carry on an intelligent conversation about foreign policy, today hawkishness is part of a statement of political identity even more than it is an approach to policy. 

According to Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior, violence in Iraq as a whole since the end of June has declined 70%.  (One might point out that the media that allegedly never report “the good news from Iraq” have been…reporting some good news when there has been some to report.)  If correct, that’s good news for Iraqis, though it only returns the situation to its 2005-level misery.  Had someone said to you, “In late 2007, we will just be getting back to the awful situation we had in late 2005,” would that have inspired confidence in you to be willing to remain in Iraq?  It has taken two years to go nowhere, and this is now being described as “progress.”   

The problem with the jingoes isn’t that they want America to succeed, since that is actually what all of us want (for most of us, the sooner the better so that we can bring our people home), but that they are so chronically optimistic that they are also still expecting Sisyphus to get his boulder to the top of the incline and keep it there.  Perhaps when the boulder rolls back down the hill, they will find a way to blame it on the “MSM” and the antiwar movement. 

In other words, they always believe that there is progress and good news, and would believe it no matter what.  (This is why I consider optimism to be a species of mental illness.)  Once in a great while, there actually is a little good news (it was bound to happen sooner or later), and from their braying about it you’d think these people possessed oracular powers.    

A large part of the decline seems to be the changed situation in Anbar, where “violent deaths” declined 82%.  Assuming that all of these figures are basically accurate (that’s a big assumption), that means that much of the “progress” (a.k.a., getting back to where we already were) being touted derived from the Awakening in Anbar, which, as we have had to say over and over, was incidental to and not part of the “surge.”  Good news?  Certainly.  A vindication of the “surge”?  Not nearly so much as crowing jingoes would have you think.  The “surge” has had some modest and perforce temporary success, but it has yielded no political results and cannot conjure up a professional Iraqi police force or independently effective Iraqi Army by sheer willpower. 

As we know, the police force is a shambles, and the army remains still largely inadequate to the task of providing security on its own.  The elements needed for long-term stability and victory, such as it is, are not present, and there is little that has happened in the last ten months has made them more likely in the coming year.  The “surge” was intended to “buy time,” and so it has bought a little–only in this very narrow sense can it be declared successful.  As most of us already know, and all of us should know, that time bought with American lives will be frittered away to no good purpose by the different factions.  Of course, if Turkey invades Kurdistan, all bets are off anyway.  

The part of the story that doesn’t seem to be getting nearly as much attention is this:

However, in the northern province of Nineveh, where many al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab militants fled to escape the crackdown in Baghdad and surrounding region, there had been a 129 percent rise in car bombings and a corresponding 114 percent increase in the number of people killed in violence.

While the figures confirm U.S. data showing a positive trend in combating al Qaeda bombers, there is growing instability in southern Iraq, where rival Shi’ite factions are fighting for political dominance. 

This really is not an exercise in being a naysayer.  This is to keep in mind that every time we have been told that there has been progress in Iraq, some other part of Iraq has soon enough started going to hell after one part had seen a modicum of order restored.  This is not a coincidence, and we have seen the same pattern since the first battle of Fallujah: success in one place simply pushes insurgents and bombers to some other part of the country, where they begin their attacks anew.  As Nineveh province goes to pieces, we are being told about success in Anbar and Baghdad.  As soon as forces are shifted to face the problem in Nineveh, where they will be at least moderately successful, Baghdad or Diyala or somewhere else will probably start deteriorating again.  This is the very definition of running around in the circles, and there is a large part of the population that sees this abuse of our military as a policy that treats them with respect and honour.  Excuse me if I don’t buy it. 

The fundamental flaws of the “surge” that have been criticised since the beginning have always been: 1) insufficient numbers of soldiers to accomplish the counterinsurgency task assigned to them, and 2) a hopeless local political mess that shows no real sign of resolving itself.  The deeply compromised and sectarian nature of the “Iraqi government” has always been at the heart of the latter problem.  The “surge” will at some point come to an end, as has always been the case, which means that the old evils that the “surge” was meant to combat will return once the “surge” has ended.  As Prof. Bacevich pointed out a couple weeks ago, ending the one thing that might have been doing some good on the security front makes no sense by the standards of the supporters of the “surge”–yet this is what Gen. Petraeus has recommended. 

It is the manipulative propaganda of the administration and the hopelessly confused nature of the strategic planning of this war that make it unsustainable and indefensible.  No doubt, our military can execute very smart, effective tactical plans until the end of time (I believe that is the unofficial target date for ending the war at this rate), but if it is in the service of no larger, coherent, feasible plan it is a waste of lives, money and resources.  The strategic goals have remained unchanged for the duration of the occupation (the frequent talk of the “surge” as a “new strategy” has revealed just how few understand what strategy is), and they remain just about as far-fetched and distant as they have ever been.  It is high time to end the war.

Cross-posted at Blog

Having been to the CLC, I disagree with Leon’s assumption that these Paul supporters are all or mostly cryptoliberals. Plenty of libertarian-leaning Republicans exist in the party, along with the former Buchananites and isolationists of the GOP. Instead of cutting these people off, it might be better for Redstate to keep engaging them. After all, Paul will not be in the race all that much longer, and we need those voters to stay in the GOP when Paul disappears. There are worse impulses than libertarianism. ~Ed Morrissey

First of all, I accept that the people running RedState are within their rights to bar anyone they like, but it is still frankly bizarre that they are taking this position.  After all, we have the spectacle of a site for online political commentary and activism…banning enthusiastic political activists from commenting on their preferred candidate.  It would be like Daily Kos, c. 2003, telling all of the Deaniacs to shut up and go away.  (And, yes, I realise that Dean was polling a lot better in October of ‘03 than Paul is now, but the principle is the same.)

The presumption behind the ban that most Paul boosters are liberals is embarrassing to RedState.  Sadly, it says a lot more about what passes for conservatism at RedState than it does about the Paul supporters.  Rather than reaching some reasonable middle ground, punishing posters who abuse their privileges, their solution is a ban against new members saying anything about Paul.  The symbolism of this move is terrible for RedState.  It says to all those enthusiastic Paul backers that there is no point trying to talk to most Republicans, and after this I would be hard pressed to contradict such a view.  It also puts the lie to the oft-repeated myth that the conservative coalition is brimming with intellectual diversity and thrives off of energetic and spirited debate, when it has been clear for some time that a great many Republicans have wanted Paul himself gone from the debates.  Were I tempted to participate in a RedState forum, this move would cure me of that temptation very quickly.  This is a move that represents a stagnating movement that is shedding supporters and gradually breaking to pieces on account of its own ideological rigidity and brittleness.         

Unfortunately, this latest is just a symptom of the broader conformism on the “mainstream” right, particularly on matters of foreign policy, and represents the mentality of a movement that has been losing its ability to maintain and grow its political coalition.  Paul’s campaign has thrived on the message that conservatism and Republicanism can and should still mean respect for the Constitution, liberty and a sane foreign policy–the very kind of rejuvenating and reforming message that the GOP needs if it is to retain the loyalty of millions of disaffected small-government conservatives and libertarians–and where Paul is making converts the folks at RedState, to adapt a phrase, are interested in finding heretics.  It is a great irony this year that it is the purists who are actually swelling Republican ranks, while the pragmatists and big-tent folks are doing their best to empty that tent.  Republicans will object that new Paul supporters will not support the GOP once Paul’s campaign is finished, and they may be right.  RedState has just given Paul supporters one more reason to stay home or vote third party.

Rather than translating the energy and excitement that Paul generates into an advantage for the GOP and the movement, the response is to recoil in horror and send Paul’s people packing.  Morrissey is making the sensible, pragmatic case for accommodation, but it seems to me that the impulse to ban newly arrived Paul supporters is much more representative of the state of the movement and the GOP these days.     

I’ve been shocked, really, at the fact that it seems to — there seems to be a place in our culture for, gosh, saying that Mormonism is not a real religion. ~Lynne Cheney

Relatively few people are claiming that it’s “not a real religion.”  For its critics, it is only too real, and the thing some of them might find most shocking is that it does, in fact, exist and people believe it.  The real argument, however, is not incredulity at the Mormon creed, so to speak, as it is anxiety about the relationship between Mormonism and Christianity.  There may be the occasional secular person, a Damon Linker, say, who sees dire threats emanating from Salt Lake City, but the real problem is not so much that Romney’s religion isn’t “real” (it may be one of the very few things about him that isn’t fake!) as it is that his religion seems alien and bizarre to many of the people whose votes he needs to win the nomination. 

If Christian conservatives respond favourably to “one of their own” (as the recent Huckamania suggests they do), they are similarly unenthusiastic about those with whom they cannot relate and identify in terms of shared religious experience.  Even acknowledging Brownback’s less-than-charismatic persona and keeping in mind his ties to evangelicals as qualifications, the fate of Brownback may be telling for how this kind of identity politics works.  It probably did not help him with many of these voters that he had become Catholic.  He could still speak in their idiom and understand their perspective, but there were limits to his ability to claim to be “one of them.” 

Romney hardly helps himself by treating discussion of the subject as a source of embarrassment or lame humour, encouraging critics to regard his religion as something of which he is ashamed.  As a voter’s stupid question about “how many First Ladies can we expect” shows, modern Mormonism is not well understood or very familiar.  Anyone from a relatively poorly understood minority religion is going to carry the political burden of trying to relate his religious experience to that of the voters he’s addressing, especially if he wants to talk up his faith and his life as a “person of faith” in his campaign.

Heads were turned, for instance, when Giuliani suggested expanding NATO membership to Singapore and Israel. Unfortunately for the mayor, heads were turned because British Tories were thinking, “Is he mad?” not “What a capital idea.” ~Alex Massie

I suppose it’s some comfort that the people calling for Ron Paul’s ouster from the GOP nominating contest are painfully ignorant:

Thomas Jefferson in 1801 launched a preemptive war – without the approval of Congress – against the Barbary States because their actions ran counter to our national security interests.

Where to begin?  Jefferson did order a retaliatory strike against Tripoli in response to the ongoing depredations of Barbary pirates against American shipping, for which he subsequently sought and received Congress’ approval.  That’s what some call self-defense.  Pre-emption implies that a threat was building, and Jefferson acted to eliminate it before it materialised, which is exactly what did not happen.  Our consulate in Tripoli was attacked, and our flag chopped down, which was the quaint local way of declaring war.  The Tripolitanian War was about as “pre-emptive” as the European campaign in WWII. 

Even when confronted with how wrong he was, Schoenfeld presses on undeterred with still more dishonest descriptions of James Fallows’ position:

But I am still wondering: why does he arrogate to himself and to his faction the right to determine what American interests are? And why does he cast aspersions of disloyalty on those with whom he disagrees about what constitutes those interests, saying of an American Jewish organization, for instance, that in pressing for a “military showdown” with Iran, “it is advancing its own causes at the expense of larger American interests”?

It could be that it is pretty obvious that war with Iran is not in the interest of the United States and those who think that it is are badly mistaken, but let’s step back a bit.  Fallows at no point cast aspersions on the loyalty of anyone.  He made no claims that anyone was being disloyal; he has made the far more powerful charge that these lobbies are mistaken and wrong in the things for which they advocate.  Neither, for that matter, have Mearsheimer and Walt questioned anyone’s loyalty.  They also go out of their way to distinguish sharply between pro-Israel activists and the American Jewish community.  The two authors object to certain policies and criticise the influence of the people who argue in favour of those policies, because they think those policies do not serve the national interest.  It takes a pretty strange mind to turn that into an accusation of disloyalty. 

In other words, the authors (and, I suppose, Fallows also) accuse these activists of misunderstanding what the American interest really is, when this is what these activists say about their opponents on a regular basis.  That’s the state of the argument, which only one side confuses with a great deal of hand-wringing about alleged prejudice. 



This is the DCI Counterterrorist Center’s logo.  I didn’t realise that bayonets now came in scimitar form, or that all terrorists were, in reality, the black-goo creature Armus from Star Trek: The Next Generation:


Via Yglesias

The Washington Post, not generally known for exaggerating the electoral viability of anti-immigration politicians, has another item, this time a full news report, on the significance of the candidate’s opposition illegal immigration in the excessively touted, but better-than-expected performance of Jim Ogonowski in the MA-05 special election:

But by last month, although opinion polling showed that he was well liked, he was still running 10 points behind Democrat Niki Tsongas with just weeks to go before a special election. The campaign needed a way to go beyond biography, to persuade Northern Massachusetts to vote Republican. They found it in illegal immigration.

GOP spinmeister Democratic House majority whip Rahm Emanuel commented:

This issue has real implications for the country. It captures all the American people’s anger and frustration not only with immigration, but with the economy.  It’s self-evident. This is a big problem.

Republicans can either capitalise on this and address the economic and other anxieties of voters (which would require them to cease their “the sun never sets” rhetoric about the economy for starters) and craft a message that will reach the “Lou Dobbs voters” and others in fairly hard-hit parts of the country, or they can ignore this potential advantage and pretend that all will be well.  We know what the leading presidential candidates want to pursue the latter course.  The question is: why would the Republicans want to cede an issue that they theoretically could use to their advantage?  So that they can retain their credibility as ideologues of free trade?

The Post story continued:

“Immigration played into the economic issue,” said Francis Talty, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell who followed the Tsongas-Ogonowski contest. “Do you want illegal immigrants to get in-state [university] tuition? Do you want them to get driver’s licenses? Do you want their children to get benefits under SCHIP? It was the benefit side that has real resonance, not the deportation thing.”

In other words, the “Tancredoisation” of these issues, so to speak, by Ogonowski apparently did work to his advantage.  It wasn’t enough to overcome Tsongas’ lead and all the natural advantages a Democratic candidate has, but it helped narrow the gap.  Immigration was apparently just about the only area where Ogonowski had a decisive advantage:

Internal polling found that Ogonowski’s tough stance was winning 60 percent to 30 percent over the positions articulated by Tsongas, said Rob Autry, another Public Opinion Strategies partner who served as Ogonowski’s pollster. Ogonowski’s position on taxes had a narrower, 13 percentage point lead. Every other issue “was dicey,” he said.  

So, one of the lessons of MA-05 would seem to be that recasting issues on which Republicans are on the losing side into an argument about illegal immigration is a vote-winner. 

You have to appreciate the kind of fierce dishonesty that allows the people who routinely try to delegitimise opposing perspectives with smears to complain (incorrectly at that!) about their opponents’ attempts to delegitimise them.  At no time, of course, did Fallows question anyone’s loyalty or their legitimacy, but denying the legitimacy, loyalty and patriotism of others (usually because they are unwilling to cheer on the unprovoked slaughter of foreigners) is what the jingoes do to others all the time.  In fact, apart from stoking the flames of war, that’s just about all they do. 

In response to this reasonable Fallows post, in which he observed that many different interest group and ethnic lobbies, including the Armenians and Cubans in his example, can have significant and undesirable effects on U.S. policy to the detriment of American interests, you get the following nonsense:

But why is this game played only one way, with America’s Jews the primary target?

It’s simply baffling to me how anyone believes a word such people say.

All right, so the Dionne column might not have been the best evidence available, but Ogonowski’s opposition to illegal immigration and amnesty clearly helped his campaign rather than weakened it.  Cilizza writes:

He [Ogonowski] also found fertile ground by calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration and decrying Tsongas’ support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as amnesty.

With that campaign strategy, Ogonowski may have provided Republicans a blueprint to follow in contested races next year. Congressional approval numbers are mired in the mid 20s while disapproval crests 60 percent in most recent national surveys. And, immigration is an issue that seems to cut across party lines with a call for the law to be enforced a potent political position.

Ogonowski had all sorts of liabilities–relatively little funding, low name recognition, competing in an adverse political climate–but his position on immigration wasn’t one of them.  The problem with Ogonowski’s S-CHIP position was that he effectively supported Bush’s veto of the legislation, which allowed him to be tarred as a Bush follower.  His explanation of his opposition to the bill in terms of immigration policy may well have been misleading and lame, but if he miscalculated politically here it was not in taking an anti-immigration position but in being opposed to a health care bill.

As a local news source also related:

Midway through the race he latched onto an issue - immigration reform - of great local interest [bold mine-DL] that also showed he is not in lockstep with national Republicans unpopular in Massachusetts.

“He tapped into one issue that is where the national party went astray,” Tarr said. “Immigration is a real issue. But rather than say he was in favor of amnesty, he said people have to play by the rules. And that clearly gave him a lot of appeal to voters in the Merrimack Valley.”

James Fallows makes some good observations about the influence of ethnic and interest group lobbies and the legitimacy of criticising the potentially adverse effects of their recommended policies on American interests.  He is correct that opposition to the genocide resolution doesn’t make someone anti-Armenian.  Then again, I would make a point of noting that no one who supports the resolution has made such a stupid charge.  That’s one place where there seems to be a significant difference in the treatment of different lobbies. 

Of course, the chief difference between the Armenian lobby, so called, and the Cuban and “pro-Israel” lobbies is that the latter two actually get concrete policies enacted that they want to see enacted in the face of the obvious costs and disadvantages those policies involve.  According to the harsher critics, the “pro-Israel” lobby has enough influence to propel America into regional wars or at least to acquiesce in Israel’s own excesses, helping to alienate us from most of the world and contributing to security threats to our own country.  The Armenians can’t even get a symbolic resolution through one side of Congress, the only consequence of which would be the irrational overreaction of one ally.  Does anyone really think that Armenian-Americans could effectively shape U.S. policy in the Caucasus or our relationship vis-a-vis Azerbaijan?  Could they get Washington to recognise Karabakh?  Of course not, and therein lies all the difference in the magnitude of the influence of different lobbying groups.

The supposed right of secession is a part of the imagined right of self-determination, a fantasy drawn from the absurd political theories of Locke and Rousseau and given immortality by Jefferson’s utterly fatuous platitudes with which he began the Declaration. Applied universally, it means Montenegro–backed by foreign interests–had the right to secede from Yugoslavia, the Brda region on the border with Serbia to secede from Montenegro, and any three-man pro-secession village to secede from the Brda, until the Russian Mafia owned every square inch of the county. To speak of rights, in such circumstances–that is, when American corporations are busily breaking up nations and federations into weak little entities they can exploit–is not only nonsense but dangerous nonsense. ~Thomas Fleming

So “Islamofascism Awareness Week” has started, and it’s already off to a great start…with one of the local College Republican chapters changing the name of the event.  They claim the change is meant to ease tensions with the local Muslim Student Association, but I think it’s just a convenient way to avoid deep embarrassment.  I can’t blame them–I wouldn’t want to be associated with an event with such an idiotic name, either. 

But Horowitz is there to remind us why it is necessary:

“It is to raise awareness that there are religious radicals who are obviously armed to the teeth who want to impose their religious law on everybody and who will kill anybody who gets in the way, who they regard as infidels,” he said.  

Because no one is aware of the problem, you see.  There have also been great costs incurred because of this ‘heroic’ work of raising awareness:

His efforts have spawned “a national McCarthy-like witch hunt of anyone who wants to discuss the oppression of women in Islam and the threat of radical Islam and the totalitarian movement in Islam,” Horowitz said.  

Who can forget the chilling scenes of the House Un-Islamofascist Activities Committee grilling the poor and defenseless Santorum: “Mr. Santorum, do you now want or have you ever wanted to discuss the oppression of women in Islam?”  Fortunately, the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali hasn’t been permitted to circulate (it’s been kept under wraps so completely that I don’t even know who she is–how could I?)–the witch hunts have made sure of that!   

What is the more specific purpose of the Awareness Week?  It is aimed at confronting “the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat.”  So it isn’t really very much about “raising awareness” about anything as it is an obvious effort at pushing pro-administration spin.  The phrasing they use is also a bit confused, since the “war on terror” is officially the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and presumably they do want to credit Mr. Bush with that response.  What they probably meant to say was that Bush didn’t “start” the war with jihadis, but that isn’t actually what they said. 

It would be eminently desirable if CAIR and other such groups were put under serious scrutiny, and it would also be excellent if the bogus charge of “Islamophobia” were challenged in a serious way.  But that isn’t what these activists are proposing to do.  They are pushing some petty partisan propaganda campaign under the cover of one of the most ignorant, meaningless words coined in my lifetime.  No wonder so many academics generally want nothing to do with conservatism, when this is the conservatism they encounter.

Another piece of evidence that Ogonowski managed to do as well as he did because of his position on immigration:

Midway through the race he latched onto an issue - immigration reform - of great local interest [bold mine-DL] that also showed he is not in lockstep with national Republicans unpopular in Massachusetts.

“He tapped into one issue that is where the national party went astray,” Tarr said. “Immigration is a real issue. But rather than say he was in favor of amnesty, he said people have to play by the rules. And that clearly gave him a lot of appeal to voters in the Merrimack Valley.

You never know what might happen when Republicans actually try to appeal to their constituents based on what they want.

Last week, Democrat Niki Tsongas won a special election with only 51 percent of the vote, in a Massachusetts district where John Kerry won 57 percent in 2004 and would have run much better in 2006. ~Michael Barone

Only 51 percent of the vote!  That is the exact same result that Deval Patrick had in this district in his gubernatorial race in 2006, which makes it questionable whether Kerry would have necessarily run that much better last year than he did three years ago.  Even so, 2006 was a normal general election, and last week’s big event was a special election with the usual low turnout that such affairs have. 

I have already said plenty about why this election result is not nearly as telling as everyone seems to think it is, but the idea that Tsongas badly underperformed in a supremely strong Democratic district ignores the other evidence that this district had consistently gone for Republican gubernatorial candidates in multiple elections prior to 2006.  The trend in that district has been towards the Democrats on the state level, going from being a Cellucci- and Romney-backing district to a narrowly Patrick-supporting one, and it stands to reason that this trend would be matched in federal voting as well.  In registration, the district is roughly equally independent and Democratic, and it is a more moderate district politically than some of the others in Massachusetts.  If Republicans were going to do well anywhere in Massachusetts, it would have been in the Fifth in a special election against an uninspired machine opponent.  As it was, the best they could do was 45%.  They will be hard pressed to match that result in a rematch in 2008. 

It’s true enough that history “doesn’t stand still,” but all signs still point to “history” being on a course to run over the GOP next fall.  Republicans can tell themselves comforting stories about the perfidies of MoveOn, the “success” of the “surge,” and crow about low approval ratings for Congress, but if the Turks invade Iraq and the national mood remains much as it is or worsens the political consequences for them will not be good. 

Meanwhile, after our government has pathetically yielded to Turkish threats over the genocide resolution, Washington has utterly failed to take seriously enough Turkey’s genuine security concerns about the PKK, which have just become more acute with the latest attacks inside Turkey.  A Turkish invasion now seems very likely, which will do vastly greater damage to efforts to stabilise Iraq and will endanger our forces in Iraq far more than anything that might have resulted from Ankara following through on its threats over the resolution. 

Washington has yielded to moral blackmail and simultaneously failed to avert potential strategic disaster.  Mr. Bush has effectively been protecting PKK terrorists while lending cover to a policy of genocide denial.  He has not managed to shore up U.S.-Turkish relations, which his administration has done so much to ruin over the years, and has managed to take the most dishonourable and dangerous positions available to him.  The mind boggles at how the administration’s toleration of both terrorism and genocide denial can be confused with wise and prudent statecraft.

I gave up on the dreadful Florida GOP debate before they ever got to foreign policy, but apparently Tom Tancredo had the nerve to attack the genocide resolution at one point.  Nothing new there, you might think, except that Tancredo was one of the original co-sponsors of the bill.  He very quickly abandoned it once it became controversial.  Quoth Tancredo:

We can’t continue to go back to the dust bin of history to condemn actions by empires that no longer even exist.

It seems to me that this is what we do all the time.  We pore over the “dust bin” and dwell on the crimes of the Nazis and Soviets, and repeatedly, endlessly talk about those crimes and compare our present-day enemies with the perpetrators of these crimes.  Earlier this year, the President went to the Holocaust Museum and condemned the actions of an empire that no longer exists.  American politicians condemn the evils of Soviet communism as a matter of course, and are not concerned that this might hurt relations with the Russians.  Of course, there is usually an assumption that post-Soviet Russia is in significant ways still quite different from the old Soviet Union, which means that criticism of the latter need not extend to the modern successor state of the criminal regime. 

Yesterday I said in another post:

I suspect, but I cannot definitely prove, that another element is a weird, unseemly desire to keep the Nazis in the public imagination as the fons et origo of genocidal killing (which would also have to conveniently ignore the genocide of the Ukrainians) to sustain the mythology surrounding the entire WWII period.

Part of my point here was to make the point that the mythology about WWII to some extent requires holding up the Nazis as uniquely and especially evil in some unprecedented way.  They must remain the ultimate villains to better reinforce the memory of WWII as the ‘Good War’.  Part of the novelty and uniqueness of Nazi evil, according to President Bush’s own description, is that the Nazis allegedly introduced state-planned genocide:

Yet in places such as Auschwitz and Dachau and Buchenwald, the world saw something new and terrible: the state-sanctioned extermination of a people — carried out with a chilling industrial efficiency of a so-called modern nation.

To argue that there was actually a precedent and a previous state-sanctioned, organised and planned extermination of a people is effectively to deny the newness and uniqueness of the Nazis’ crimes.  To acknowledge the Armenian genocide as genocide, then, endangers a key part of a certain narrative about WWII, because it means that there had already been something similar in nature to the Nazis’ genocidal killing.  For some bizarre reason, there really does seem to be a need on the part of Armenian genocide deniers to resist acknowledging that the Armenian genocide was the “first genocide of the 20th century,” which would at the very least make the Holocaust the second, as if some special or superior status were attached to being the first one.  The distinction is obviously chronological, not moral.  Later genocides do not matter less because they came after others, nor are earlier ones more significant.  However, the debate over this resolution seems to take it for granted that some are more important than others and some are more worthy of commemoration than others. 

Interestingly, everyone got a big hand of applause, except for Tancredo.  Paul had trouble hearing his first question, which didn’t help a response where he’s going to be out of sync with most of the audience.  Romney is getting destroyed tonight.  McCain had some excellent cracks at Romney’s expense.  Huckabee takes an early lead by rising above the intra-party squabbling and makes his pro-life appeal.  Thompson is doing very poorly.  Tancredo complains that people aren’t paying attention to his “objective” conservative ratings.  Duncan Hunter starts blathering about the Bay of Pigs and El Salvador!

Ron Paul prefers aiding the poor rather than world empire.  Romney desperately avoids talking about MassCare.  Tancredo stands athwart the health care debate yelling, “No!”  Thompson realises that NLCB was a bad idea.  It only took six years.  Everyone talks about how much they loathe Clinton.  Huckabee mentions Islamofascism again.

Update: I was getting completely bored with the debate, and didn’t watch the rest.  Dan McCarthy had some good liveblogging commentary.  He really doesn’t like Huckabee (or the debate audience), and there isn’t any reason he should.

This will give Dave Weigel heartburn:

In Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District–a collection of mill towns and affluent and blue-collar suburbs north of Boston–the surprise issue was illegal immigration. Ogonowski made it the centerpiece of an anti-Washington campaign. An Ogonowski news release, for example, accused Tsongas of being “committed to giving cheap college to illegals at taxpayer expense.”

I had been guessing that Ogonowski’s anti-immigration positions were probably doing him more good than harm.  It shouldn’t be surprising that such an issue could work to Ogonowski’s advantage, especially in a special election with fairly low turnout.  That doesn’t mean that Ogonowski’s position wouldn’t help him in a regular general election, but it does remind us once again not to put too much stock in what MA-05 tells us about the strength of the two parties or the importance of particular issues.  What many people seem to be concluding from this race (GOP is reviving, Dems are in danger) is probably wrong, and no one should be investing the closeness of the outcome with much significance.

As an original native of Denver, where I was born, I have been especially impressed and stunned by the Rockies’ surge to the World Series.  When the Rockies began as an expansion team, I took some interest in them as the nearest baseball franchise to Albuquerque and as a team representing my birthplace, but they were never going to displace my attachment to Houston.  Their bumbling (mis)management over the last decade made it painful to think about the franchise, and O’Dowd seemed dedicated to ensuring perpetual mediocrity.  No longer. 

Even so, it was a great shock to see the Rockies capture the wild card in an end-of-season sprint, and sweep through the first two rounds in record time.  They wiped out their playoff competition so quickly that they have had a week to recover while the Indians and Red Sox bludgeon each other in a complete seven-game series. 

On the other side, I do hope that the Indians finally prevail in the AL, because the only thing as obnoxious as a satisfied Yankee fan is a proud Red Sox fan.  Also, as Tom Piatak has explained, the Indians represent the forces of good fighting against those of evil

The San Francisco Chronicle sullies its op-ed page with more of Bruce Fein’s denialist prattle.  Armenians in the Republic are taking a keen interest in the resolution’s fate.  Jay Tolson in U.S. News and World Report makes the obvious, but necessary point:

The question is whether Turkey will ever enter a debate in which the consensus of scholars holds that the killings and mass deportations of Armenians did indeed constitute a genocide. According to the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the historical record on the Armenian genocide is “unambiguous”: In the years approaching World War I, a new breed of Ottoman officials, the Young Turks, heirs to two centuries of imperial decline, saw themselves as the defenders of the Turkish remnant state in the Anatolian core of the empire. Embracing an ultranationalist and supposedly secular ideology, Young Turk leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress pointedly excluded non-Muslim minorities, particularly Armenians, from their vision of Turkish purity. The outbreak of war allowed these leaders to paint all Armenians as pro-Russian fifth columnists (which only a small number were) and undertake organized and widespread massacres and deportations that led to further deaths from starvation and disease.


In his ongoing effort to make a fool of himself save the Republican Party, Fred Thompson continues to plumb the depths of how badly he can campaign:

When it came time for Fred D. Thompson, the crowd was primed, having listened to his rivals deliver speeches, lasting about 20 minutes each, that the candidates each obviously thought played to their strengths.

Mr. Thompson walked slowly onto the stage, kissed his wife, Jerri, on the cheek, made a joke or two, claimed to be a “consistent conservative” — and said good night. He spoke for four minutes.

“I was really kind of shocked,” said Linda Hoffman, 47, who wore stickers for all the candidates on her blazer, reflecting her indecision. “We were all hoping he would say something we could get behind, but there was nothing.”

I’m not sure what’s more remarkable: that Thompson really is as absurd a presidential candidate as I have always thought him to be, or that such an absurd candidate still has a reasonably good chance of receiving more support than all of his rivals.  I think the GOP is in such disarray and enough Republicans are so unhappy with the alternatives that Thompson might yet be their ultimate choice.  For that to happen, though, he will have to give speeches that last longer than four minutes.

As many of you have probably already heard by now, Bobby Jindal has won the Louisiana governor’s race outright in the first round.  He was the favourite since he declared his candidacy, but winning in the first round is still pretty impressive. 

That’s some good news for Louisiana, and it should also please George Ajjan, who explains in his post how sharp and competent Jindal is.

The resolution is opposed by the Bush administration, not necessarily because it disagrees that genocide occurred nearly a century ago, but because such a resolution will inflame passions at a time when there are passions enough in the neighborhood. ~Cal Thomas

Via Sullivan

That must be why the White House said, “the determination of whether or not the events constitute a genocide should be a matter for historical inquiry, not legislation.”  It doesn’t take a genius to come up with the formulation, “Yes, it was a genocide organised by a state that no longer exists, but this resolution is badly timed, provocative and strains an important alliance in wartime.”  That is not the White House’s position.  In fact, that is a fairly rare position in this debate–it is a view held, shockingly enough, by none other than Charles Krauthammer.  Meanwhile, the White House is taking the Ahmadinejad “we need more research” view of the question.  We call Ahmadinejad’s maneuver the tactic of a Holocaust denier.  The same standard should apply to the administration.

The “cult” charge is patently unfair and seems to reflect bigotry, but the perspective that Mormonism is more of an offshoot of Christianity than a variety of it seems fairly well-supported to me. Generally, when you add a new holy book, you have a new religion. ~Matt Yglesias

Perhaps the pejorative use of the term “cult” is a bit much, if by “cult” you mean a group of people who are mindlessly controlled by a cynical, villainous leader who exploits their gullibility.  Even if you think that is true of Joseph Smith’s career, it is hard to claim the same thing for his modern successors, who are, if anything, all together in earnest and sincere.  In another sense, “cult” refers to any religious group and could be fairly applied to the LDS church.  It is a bit intriguing how some cultural conservatives will make a point of noting how culture derives form cultus, referring a religious cult, but how others will use “cult” as an insult. 

In any case, the thing that intrigues me most is the idea that, for some people, “values” trump theology, even though it is allegedly from theology and church teaching that these same people derive their “values.”  One might suppose that how one reached these conclusions would matter quite a lot, but this “values” talk reminds us that there are some who don’t care how you reach the right conclusion so long as you get there.  At bottom, it really is a question of identity politics: can Christian conservative voters knowingly endorse someone who is not really Christian?  For some, “values” are enough.  But I imagine they are not sufficient for most.

For those who value their sanity and general peace of mind, NRO has long since ceased to be part of their regular reading, but recently there has been a small hubbub over the objections raised by Mark Shea to this effort at promoting softcore pro-Israel propaganda.  For what it’s worth, the ad ought to be as distasteful to Orthodox Christians, who find any trivialisation or denigration of the Theotokos to be something deplorable.

In response to the criticism, Shea has written:

Now the amazing thing to me is that, of all the things NRO could be doing, they chose to go to bat for *this*. And not just go to bat for it, but claim that criticism of it is an attempt to “turn us against a brave ally”. Because, of course, anything less than uncritical acceptance of anything the Israelis might choose to do–right down to a blasphemous jiggle ad–is endorsement of the idea of pushing Israel into the sea.

Shea is beginning to understand how many of the people at NRO see things. 

In his original post, Shea wrote:

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder how long American Evangelicals (and even some Catholics) can be snookered by the notion that Israel is something other than a secular nation-state.

That is the real question.  If it is really just a secular nation-state with all that this entails, the religious enthusiasm about it at some point becomes absurd.  That was the point of Shea’s original observation.  The point was not to ”turn us against a brave ally fighting a just war.”  The complete inability to distinguish between critiques of sleazy or offensive “pro-Israel” P.R. and attacks on “a brave ally” is one of the reasons why many so-called “pro-Israel” pundits seem less and less credible all the time.   

The November Chronicles looks excellent, as usual.  There are several good articles on conservation by Dr. Landess, Tobias Lanz and Gregory McNamee.  Mark Shea has a fine piece on the miraculous and the materialist dogmatism of Matthew Parris.  There is much more besides that, and I do also happen to have a book review of Colin Well’s Sailing from Byzantium in the same issue.

Ron Paul had a decent showing in the Values Voters (online) straw poll, placing third behind Romney and Huckabee and ahead of Thompson. 

Update: The above results were from the online poll, while the straw poll at the event itself broke down in a much more predictable way: Huckabee the overwhelming favourite of attendees, followed by Romney, Thompson, Tancredo, Giuliani, Hunter and McCain in that order.

He [Huckabee] also hit on the right subject areas – abortion, gay marriage, immigration, appointment of federal judges — and was the only candidate to drop the word “Islamofascism” into his speech this weekend. ~Kate Sheppard

Clearly, Huckabee is quite happy to use crazy neocon and Santorumesque rhetoric in making his pitch.  In the end, despite his occasionally reasonable statements, Huckabee is definitely not a candidate for foreign policy realists and non-interventionists.  Anyone who uses the word Islamofascism without irony cannot be taken seriously, and should never be entrusted with any policymaking responsibilities.

Preemptive cultural surrender will be the defining issue of this upcoming election. ~Bill Bennett

First of all, if it were going to be the defining issue of the upcoming election it would need to have a much catchier name than “preemptive cultural surrender.”


The new advocacy of containment may stem from a substantial gap between Russian and U.S. aspirations. U.S. diplomacy seeks to transform what Washington considers “nondemocratic” governments around the world, reordering entire regions in the process. Russia, with its experience with revolution and extremism, cannot subscribe to any such ideologically driven project, especially one that comes from abroad. The Cold War represented a step away from the Westphalian standard of state sovereignty, which placed values beyond the scope of intergovernmental relations. A return to Cold War theories such as containment will only lead to confrontation. ~Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Jim Ogonowski is the most famous special election loser most people have never heard of.  Some are taking his close defeat (in Massachusetts) as proof that anti-incumbency and “change” are the things driving voters this cycle, and that our “closely divided electorate” is actually closely divided again.  Ruffini takes it as proof that “we can finally dispense with the talk of 2008 being another 2006 for Democrats.”  It would help the strength of this claim if most of the people at TownHall had actually thought that 2006 would be a 2006 for the Democrats. 

But it isn’t just the TownHall criers who see this election as potentially significant: Jim Antle and Dave Weigel were talking about this race before the Fightin’ Fifth became a Republican talking point.  Weigel attributes Ogonowski’s loss not only to the extremely adverse conditions of running as a Republican in Massachusetts, but also to Ogonowski’s choice to oppose S-CHIP using anti-immigration rhetoric.  It seems equally likely that Ogonowski performed as well as he did (45%, four points better than Bush ran in the district in ‘04) because he tried to recast a highly unpopular position (opposing S-CHIP) in more popular–and populist–language.  However, Weigel does make the right point when he notes, “neither party is brimming with farmer-soldiers whose brothers died on 9/11 and who are ready to work themselves ragged.” 

For Ogonowski’s campaign to serve as a GOP model for next year’s House races, the Republicans would need to recruit candidates as dedicated and appealing as Ogonowski.  Right now, Republican candidate recruitment is going badly, since many local pols who might be interested in making a run for Congress see next year as a disaster and don’t want to be part of it.  A demoralised party base, anemic fundraising and an effectively broke NRCC all mean that you’re not going to have many war veteran Jim Ogonowskis charging into deep blue territory.  It means that you’re going to have virtual no-name rookies trying to recapture territory that your side never should have lost in the first place (TX-22, FL-16, etc.).     

Also, no one seems to be paying attention to this, but the sheer number of votes cast in the special election was much lower than it was even in an uncontested general election last fall.  Turnout at this election was less than half of what it was in ‘06, when Meehan was running without opposition.  ’06 had 50,000 fewer total votes than the contested ‘04 race, in which the Republican received 88,232 votes, over forty thousand more than Ogonowski received (47,770).  What this means is that Ogonowski, with his service record, notable personal story, generally well-run campaign and work ethic, barely managed to bring out half of the Republican voters of the 5th.  Tsongas, for her part, only motivated about a third of Meehan’s ‘06 voters to show up, but this is typical for the two parties in a special election.  In other words, 45% is probably the very best the GOP could have hoped to get in this election, and it achieved that goal.  It will be downhill from here. 

As MA-05 demonstrates quite nicely, Republicans tend to turn out at a greater rate at special, off-year and midterm elections and have done so for a very long time.  Presidential election years tend to have the best turnout for Democratic voters, because their voters tend to turn out at the highest rates when they are mobilised to back the presidential nominee.  That means that next year could conceivably be worse for the Republicans than last year, and the competitiveness in MA-05, to the extent that it has broader significance, vastly exaggerates the GOP’s appeal to the voters.  In any case, next year’s results from Massachusetts are very likely going to be a lot more lopsided than was Ogonowski’s run. 

Following the same logic being applied by Republican boosters to the MA-05 race, the very close IL-06 open race last year between Pete Roskam and Tammy Duckworth (a double amputee Iraq war helicopter pilot) is evidence that even DuPage County could turn Democratic.  Taking such open elections, especially when they are special elections in an off year, as evidence of a national trend seems mistaken, and the fact that it is being taken as a sign of things to come rather reflects the desperation of Republican observers who really need to find something they can use to mobilise their side.  It seems to me that the incumbent party very often wins such open elections in traditionally safe districts by relatively narrow margins.  Roskam won 51-49 in a district that Henry Hyde had routinely won with more than 55% of the vote.  If we grant that Ogonowski was a much better candidate than Duckworth (and everyone will grant this), we should not be terribly surprised that he performed well against Paul Tsongas’ widow, who may have had the advantages of establishment and name recognition, but who evidently did not have a lot more than that as a candidate.

Update: Dig a little deeper, and the GOP boosting of this election makes even less sense.  Apparently, a good number of local progressives resented the party machine foisting Tsongas on the voters and sat the election out.  I’ve already noted the turnout gap between the two sides in this election, and this helps to explain some of it. 

Also, it’s worth noting that the Massachusetts Republican Party is a “shambles” right now.  One of the many knocks on Romney’s tenure is that he did little or no party-building when he was governor.  This represents a striking contrast with the Democrats in Ohio, who were surging after Kerry’s close loss in 2004 and who were in the process of selecting strong candidates for Senate and governor for ‘06 when Hackett made his failed challenge to Jean Schmidt.  Like Ogonowski, Hackett was a veteran with no prior political experience.  The Democrats were pinning their hopes as much on the symbolic appeal of a war veteran candidate as the Republicans were pinning theirs on the appeal of a relative of a 9/11 victim.  In the end, the voters who came out for the special election stuck with the incumbent party (and Schmidt narrowly retained her seat in ‘06 as well). 

Given what I’ve already said about the differences between the parties with respect to special election turnout, Hackett’s strong showing was evidence of a surging Democratic Party in Ohio while Ogonowski’s result is evidence of Northeastern Republicans in disarray.  If you check the electoral history of Ohio’s 2nd District (which is very easy to do these days, which makes me wonder why it seems that no one has bothered to do this), you can see that the drop-off in support for Schmidt in the special election relative to the level of support for Portman, the House member she was trying to replace, was huge.  Except for the ‘04 presidential year, when overall turnout in the district soared, Hackett’s special election result represented one of the best showings for a Democrat in that district in the last decade before ‘06.  He outperformed the Democratic candidate for the general in ‘02 and was within 10,000 votes of matching the 2000 Democratic candidate’s tally.  Schmidt meanwhile got only 26% of Portman’s 2004 votes, while Hackett held on to 63% of his ‘04 counterpart’s votes.  Schmidt’s performance relative to the strength of her predecessor was significantly worse than Tsongas’, and Hackett’s performance was significantly better than Ogonowski’s.  Republicans in Ohio were turning out at a rate so much lower than the norm for Republican voters in special elections that it was quite rightly taken as a sign of the GOPocalypse. 

Matt Continetti notes economic and business conservatives’ wariness about Huckabee, but then goes on to add that Huckabee’s foreign policy may actually be insufficient for “national security conservatives.”  As Continetti puts it, these people have “reason to doubt Huckabee’s seriousness in prosecuting the war on terror and carrying the Bush Doctrine into the next administration.”  Since Huckabee’s feints in the direction of a “humble” foreign policy have never seemed very compelling to me, I confess that it had never occurred to me that he could have exposed himself as weak in the eyes of interventionists.  What terrible things did the man say that have apparently put him in such a bind? 

At the CFR CSIS he said:

This Administration’s bunker mentality has been counter-productive both at home and abroad.  They have done as poor a job of communicating and consulting with other countries as they have with the American people.   

This seems to be a basically true observation.  Huckabee could very easily be making these criticisms as a hawk who thinks that the administration has failed to “name the enemy,” to use a favourite jingo phrase, and has failed to “explain to the people” the stakes and costs of the war.
It’s true, he did say this:

We don’t merely tolerate diversity, we embrace and celebrate it. 

But he is making his drippy remarks in the context of talking about how different we are from “Islamic extremists.”  Huckabee went on to say:

It takes an enormous leap of imagination to understand what these people are about, that they really do want to kill every last one of us and destroy civilization as we know it.   

This should put him right at home with the people Continetti is talking about.  The man name-checks Sayyid Qutb and talks about the need to understand the thinking of the enemy.  Granted, for some interventionists any call to understanding is painful and alien, but it’s not clear how Huckabee has failed the “seriousness” test as seriousness is defined by these folks.  He even comes back to his favourite theme of linking the jihadis to the culture of death–it’s new fusionism in action!  (In case I need to make it clear, I don’t think this is a good thing.)  Where did Huck go wrong?

Huckabee talks about the failure of European integration of its Muslims while praising the wonders of assimilationism here.  This stuff was supposed to be music to the ears of “national security conservatives.”  But, wait, I think I am seeing a weakness in Huckabee’s otherwise solid jingo wall:

We have to understand that while educated Muslims in Europe may not be materially deprived, many of them feel socially and emotionally deprived by a lack of acceptance. 

Anytime you use the phrase “emotionally deprived,” your favourability with the voters Continetti is talking about is going to go down.  This sort of language veers dangerously towards the idea that policies have some relationship to terrorism and the prevention of terrorism.  It also sounds a little too therapeutic for most people on the right.  Then there was this:

We can’t ‘export’ democracy as if it was Coca Cola or KFC, but we can nurture native moderate forces in all these countries where Al Qaeda seeks to replace modern evil with medieval evil.

Er, who’s the “modern evil”?  That’s a bit of a puzzle, but otherwise Huckabee is on potentially solid ground as far as “carrying the Bush Doctrine into the next administration” goes.  He expresses some greater skepticism of democratisation, but doesn’t seem to fundamentally disagree with the assumptions of the Bush Doctrine.  Instead of Second Inaugural-style lunacy, Huckabee proposes a milder form of madness:

My goal in the Muslim world is to correctly calibrate a course between maintaining stability and promoting democracy.  It is self-defeating to try to accomplish too much too soon, you just have elections where extremists win, but it’s equally self-defeating to do nothing. 

He accepts the indictment against realism that the pursuit of stability is unacceptable, which is one of the reasons why I continue to find Huckabee unacceptable. 

Huckabee may have gotten himself into some trouble here:

First, we have to destroy the terrorists who already exist, then we have to attack the underlying conditions that breed terror, by helping to improve health and basic quality of life, create schools that offer an alternative to the extremist madrassas that turn impressionable children into killers, create jobs and opportunity and hope, encourage a free press, fair courts, and other institutions that promote democracy. 

“Underlying conditions” sounds an awful lot like “root causes,” which usually receive such mocking from the people Continetti calls “national security conservatives.”  On the whole, however, this doesn’t sound that far removed from what Romney has been saying.  However, he summons up an association he might have wanted to avoid:

As for the underlying dispute between them that’s been going on for almost fourteen hundred years, we don’t have a dog in that fight. 

References to dogs and fights grate on neocon ears, since this is the language used by James Baker about Yugoslavia (and he was right) and usually belongs on the indictment of realism.  But when you look closer, you can see that Huckabee is no realist (far from it!):

Our enemy is Islamic extremism in all its guises. 

Apparently that includes every “extremist” on earth, no matter whom he’s fighting or why.  Of course there’s no conceptual coherence to any of this–he belittles the Saudis for backing “Sunni extremists” while praising our efforts to support…Sunni extremists in western Iraq.  He does nonetheless occasionally say strangely intelligent things:

I’d rather have more people in Langley, so we can deploy fewer in Baghdad.   

Then he says things that must really annoy them over at the Standard:

The difference in America’s mission is that Al Qaeda must be destroyed as a movement, while Iran just has to be contained as a nation.

Obviously Huckabee didn’t get the memo that containment is for losers.  By mentioning containment, despite his perfect willingness to launch attacks on Iran, he has made himself seem less “serious” to the hawks, which is some evidence that he is at least not as irresponsible as they are.  Not to worry, though, he’s still sticking to the main points of the script:

To contain Iran, it is essential to win in Iraq. 

But then he goes and “ruins” it all by talking about robust diplomacy!  He then quickly “saves” himself with a pointless call for divestment from Iran.  But then he really hurts himself with the “national security conservatives” when he says:

While there can be no rational dealing with Al Qaeda, Iran is a nation state looking for regional power, it plays the normal power politics that we understand and can skillfully pursue, and we have substantive issues to negotiate with them. 

This sounds unusually sensible.  It will probably completely undermine his reputation with the Persophobes who think that there can never been any real negotiations with Iran, but it might just make him seem remotely sane enough to be entrusted with power.  He seems to be leaving the door open to restoring diplomatic relations with Tehran, while also stating his willingness to bomb them.  This is a terribly split-minded view of things, but it might be just the right balance of hawkishness and sanity to win over a good number of voters.  But, before anyone gets too excited, Huckabee really does go off the rails and begins making an extended argument for launching strikes into Pakistan without Islamabad’s approval.  As foolish as I think this is, Huckabee does also manage to say some sensible things about Musharraf that need to be said.  Then he turns around and recites the talking points about the “surge” and “bottom-up reconciliation.” 

There are a lot of things there that ought to satisfy interventionists, a few lines that realists will like, and very little to generate enthusiasm among antiwar conservatives.  Frankly, whatever you think about his policy proposals, his CFR speech is one of the most substantive addresses on foreign policy this year.  Any knock on Huckabee that he is “light” or weak on foreign policy seems plainly wrong to me.

Rod writes:

But I think he [Huckabee]’s going to get the GOP nomination in 2012. What think ye?

I agree with Rod that Huckabee is not going anywhere this time, even if he should somehow win in Iowa, which I have already argued won’t happen.  But what about the next time around?  Assuming that the eventual GOP nominee this time will be defeated next November, and he very likely will be, it’s not unthinkable that Huckabee could win the nomination. 

However, for this to happen at least two things are essential. 1) He must not be the VP nominee this time (a failed Veep nominee never gets his own chance, unless he has actually been, as Mondale was, at least Vice President at some point before).  2) In the event of a Giuliani nomination, he must not endorse the nominee.  Any strong social conservative, pro-life politician who endorses a Giuliani ticket will suffer the curse of Santorum in the next cycle (being abandoned by many of the very pro-life voters whose cause the politician had made a central part of his career).  Any pro-life politician on a Giuliani ticket will be finished. 

Also, Huckabee would need to cultivate a position as an informal opposition leader during the next administration.  However, he would probably have some strong competition in another open GOP race in ‘12 against a number of other governors or former governors (perhaps Pawlenty, Riley, the ever-looming Jeb Bush or perhaps even a very strong Charlie Crist).  Either Pawlenty or Riley could undermine Huckabee’s claim to his mix of social conservatism, reformism and populism, and the possibility of having a big-state governor on the ticket would limit the appeal of an Arkansan (who will have been out of office for five years by the time the first votes are cast in ‘12).  Were it not for his name, Jeb Bush would easily overshadow all other probable entrants for ‘12.  Now a Bush-Huckabee ‘12 ticket would not be such a far-fetched idea, awful as it seems to me, but I just don’t see Huckabee’s name in the top position. 

Reihan makes a number of good points here*, and if I had taken the time to write a longer response to Brooks’ latest I would have had to acknowledge that there is certainly something to Brooks’ contention that Huckabee ought to be taken more seriously and should be seen as more of a first-tier candidate.  What I wanted to say in my short post was simply that one of the key reasons that Brooks gives (Huckabee’s acceptability to “all factions”) is pretty questionable.  Brooks says this as a way of distinguishing Huckabee from the leaders of the pack, but Huckabee has as many perceived flaws as, if not actually more such flaws than, some of the leaders.  

That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t also got a number of electoral strengths (his mild Main Street populism, his foreign policy mix of national interest and talk of honour, his Giuliani-esque embrace of border security while being pretty liberal on immigration policy itself).  Then again, some of these strengths can be liabilities in a Republican primary contest and some undermine him with other voters.  His corporation-bashing is good, populist fun, but it hardly helps his already anemic fundraising, and his sympathy for American workers seems to be entirely out of whack with his broader immigration position and his advocacy for a consumption tax.  He talks a good game on a number of things at the moment, but perusing his record gives the groups I mentioned a very different view of the man.   

As I’m sure Reihan knows, the Club for Growth really dislikes Huckabee’s record on taxes.  This would be where Reihan says that this is actually a mark in Huckabee’s favour, because people backed by the Club for Growth have pretty bad electability.  Nonetheless, in the primaries the Club has disproportionately great influence and their “pro-growth” views carry weight with many activists.  Huckabee has also received a “D” grade on economic policy from Cato for his tenure as governor.  Again, Reihan could ask, “How many divisions does the Cato Institute have?”  The number would not be large.  But the reasons why Huckabee might very well be a successful general election candidate are the reasons why he will have trouble gaining traction in the early primaries.  Does he undo some of this damage with his support for the Fair Tax?  Perhaps, but the charge of opportunism hurts as much as “vagueness” and “flexibility” help.  The same goes for his discovery of border security.  On the war, his position is not a liability with most core GOP voters, but it seems to me that antiwar conservatives have to have been put off by his commitment to remain in Iraq in the name of “honour.” 

Update: Ross has more.

Incidentally, aside from his having an agreeable personality and executive experience, what substantially distinguishes Huckabee’s social conservatism plus populist streak from a similar Gary Bauer-type candidacy?  What policies does Huckabee advocate that should make him more appealing than a Bauer?

*I would normally be writing this at the Scene, but so far the new interface has a nasty habit of making my browser crash, so this will have to do for now. 

Evidently, I am a technological moron.

On the subject of Brownback’s endorsement of a rival, I am fairly sure of one thing–it won’t be Huckabee that he will be backing.  The reasons are pretty obvious, but let’s just review them quickly.  First, Huckabee and Brownback were fiercely competing with each other for the same voting bloc and seeking to claim, in effect, the mantle of the Christian “compassionate” conservative.  Both were trying to repackage social conservatism as something I suppose they would call more “humane” or less “angry,” and were both known for taking on unconventional (for conservatives) reform issues.  The extent of their drippiness on immigration was virtually identical, though Huckabee has always been able to make a better rhetorical presentation of the same saccharine talk.  They were always going to be natural competitors if they both entered the race, and it remains to be seen whether Brownback will be willing to ignore that Huckabee is one of the main reasons why his campaign is coming to an end. 

Second, part of their fierce competition was some fairly bitter fighting in Iowa before the straw poll, which included some recriminations from Brownback’s side about alleged anti-Catholic sniping from some Huckabee supporters and some bad feeling about Huckabee’s supposedly insufficiently zealous denunciations of anti-Catholicism.  Huckabee’s campaign manager notably once responded to Brownback’s complaints thus:

It’s time for Sam Brownback to stop whining and start showing some of the Christian character he seems to always find lacking in others.   

Perhaps Brownback will be willing to look past the rivalry with Huckabee, but since it was Huckabee’s second-place finish at Ames that pushed Brownback into the insignificance of third place I doubt it.  Brownback also has to weigh Huckabee’s chances, which right now do not look all that great.  Huckabee’s been slowly gaining ground, especially in Iowa, but Brownback might have more of an impact by endorsing, say, Fred Thompson.  Endorsing another likely also-ran severely reduces any later influence on the national campaign, while backing one of the media-anointed leaders holds out the chance of shaping the final ticket or, much less likely in Brownback’s case, being part of the ticket.  Thompson-Brownback?  When I think about it, it’s not entirely ridiculous.

Returning to Lerner for another response, I will try to explain how flawed the article is.  As an earlier commenter has noted, Lerner has already tried to stack the deck rhetorically by making a comparison between an exterminationist party and ideological movement and an entire nation:

We must do it, Armenian genocide proponents [sic] tell us, because the Armenian tragedy was the original Holocaust: Armenians in World War I were like the Jews in World War II; Turks in 1915 were like the Germans in the 1940s. Thus, the only moral choice is to condemn the Turks, as we condemned the Nazis.

In fact, it was not “the Turks” who filled the role of genocidaires during WWI, but leaders and members of the CUP, Kurdish irregulars and some Ottoman soldiers.  To make blanket statements about “the Turks” is to go down Goldhagen’s road of collective guilt and engage in precisely the kind of reckless identitarian vilification that, as Kuehnelt-Leddihn has argued in another context, leads to the dehumanisation of an entire people and thus makes it easier to wage campaigns of annihilation against them.  Lerner has phrased things in such a way as to endorse Ankara’s portrayal of the efforts to recognise the genocide.  In this view, it is not just a recognition of crimes committed by agents within the Ottoman government and military, but an indictment of the entire Turkish nation.  If that was what we were talking about, I would also have to object to it, but it isn’t.  “The Turks” as a whole were not responsible, just as “the Turks” today are not responsible for what was done in those years, but it was rather specific groups of Turkish nationalists and Kurdish tribesmen who were responsible for what happened.  So, right away, Lerner clouds the issue by inaccurately describing the terms of the debate.

Lerner says:

The only enemies at home [in Germany in WWII] were the Jews, and they were never a real threat. They were scapegoats, not objective enemies, and they were being methodically eliminated, without exception, in all German-controlled territory.

The implication is that all Armenians in eastern Anatolia were an “objective enemy,” because there were some Armenians who raised rebellions or fought with the Russians, which somehow makes the genocidal campaign against the civilian Armenian population of eastern Anatolia less than genocidal.  In Lerner’s world, it’s only genocide if there are literally no members of the targeted population engaged in subversive or rebellious activity.  In framing things this way, Lerner has already conceded the morality of collective punishment of civilian populations in retaliation for the activities of guerrillas.  Presumably, as she sees it, there was also no genocide attempted against the Serbian population under German-Croat occupation, either, because “the Serbs” were an “objective enemy” engaged in resistance.  For Lerner, deliberate exterminationist campaigns are something other than genocide when they take place in a war zone, which I’m pretty sure is the exact opposite of the way most people understand the term.  Organised killing of a particular group of civilians bound by ethnic and religious ties is not genocide for Lerner if it comes as a “punishment” for the rebellion of a minority of the population.  It’s certainly a different kind of view, but it certainly isn’t moral.

She then obscures the issue by describing the Dardanelles campaign thus:

Fighting there was fierce, and continued until January 1916, but, on this front, there were relatively few civilian casualties, and no massacres.

There were relatively few civilian casualties because the front was largely static and confined to the narrow strips of land near Gallipoli.  There were no massacres because the Ottoman forces had their hands quite full with British and ANZAC forces.  There was also no sizeable Armenian population in the immediate vicinity of the Dardanelles, which makes the comparison seem almost pointless.

While Lerner acknowledges that Armenians fought on the Ottoman side, being subject to the general mobilisation conscription, she does not mention that Armenians in Ottoman units were disarmed after the Ottoman defeat at Sarikamis.  They were then executed. 

Of the aftermath of Sarikamis, Akcam writes on p. 143-44:

The defeat at Sarikamis was a turning point in the treatment of the Armenians, especially those in the army and labor batallions, who were no longer mistreated but frequently murdered.  In many regions, propaganda claimed that the Armenians had stabbed the Turks in the back.  Enver Pasha himself attempted to attribute the defeat to Armenian treachery, and referred to Armenians as a “threat.”….the first measure taken after the Sarikamis disaster was the order sent to army units on 25 February 1915, instructing them to disarm all Armenian soldiers….Reports followed, claiming that the annihilation of Armenians serving in the army had begun. 

Akcam writes more on page 144:

German missionary Jakob Kunzler, who worked with the medical personnel at the Urfa missionary hospital, recounts that the Armenians taken into the labor batallions were killed in March 1915, and that, “mostly knives were used, because the ammunition was needed for the foreign enemy.”  Something similar was related by Ambassador Morgenthau:

In almost all cases, the procedure was the same.  Here and there squads of 50 or 100 men would be taken, bound together in groups of four, and then marched out to a secluded spot a short distance from the village.  Suddenly the sound of rifle shots would fill the air, and the Turkish soldiers who had acted as the escort would sullenly return to camp.  Those sent to bury the bodies would find them almost invariably stark naked, for, as usual, the Turks had stolen all their clothes.  In cases that came to my attention, the murderers had added a refinement to their victims’ sufferings by compelling them to dig their graves before being shot.

Other eyewitness accounts by foreigners serving in the area corroborate the fact that the murder of the labor batallions began only after the defeat at Sarikamis.

Sounds an awful lot like scapegoating to me. 

She also has nothing to say about the leading Armenians of Constantinople who were arrested on April 24, 1915 and subsequently executed.  She has nothing to say about these episodes because these would all point to an organised campaign of extermination.  In the end, Lerner cites the presence of Armenians fighting for the Russians (many of whom hailed from Russian Armenia all along, since the country was, as it has often been, divided between different empires) as if their possessing the same ethnicity gave the CUP or anyone else license to slaughter other, entirely unrelated Armenians.   

The only thing that Lerner can credibly claim is that the situations of the Armenians and Jews were very different.  The differences do not prove that there was no genocide, but only shows that genocide can take place under a number of different circumstances. 

Akcam has a passage on page 126 that happens to address the thrust of Lerner’s article directly:

It was not a coincidence that the Armenian genocide took place soon after the Sarikamis disaster and was contemporaneous with the empire’s struggle at Gallipoli.  As a rule, the acceleration of the process of a country’s decline and partition helps to strengthen a sense of desperation and “fighting with one’s back to the wall.”  As the situation becomes increasingly hopeless, those who have failed to prevent the collapse become more hostile and aggressive.  When the crisis deepens, they resort to increasingly barbaric means, and come to believe “that only an absolute lack of mercy would allow one to avoid this loss of power and honor.”  A nation that feels itself on the verge of destruction will not hesitate to destroy another group it holds responsible for its situation.

Update: Just to make another thing clear, there were also deportations of Armenians from western Anatolia and Thrace following the deportations from eastern Anatolia.  Those who would like to cast this as an eastern front wartime measure and leave it at that have no way to account for this. 

And why on earth should these public bodies lecture historians as to what they should be saying? ~Norman Stone

This is a standard line that I have heard a lot of these past few days.  Never have you encountered so many new passionate defenders of the independence of professional historians as in the last couple of weeks–the concern is truly touching.  Very clearly, Stone has never read the text of the resolution in question, or he would know that it has absolutely nothing to do with lecturing historians. 

The invocation of what we magical historians do bothers me most when someone talks about a matter “best left to historians” as another way of saying, “Let’s please stop talking about this subject publicly and leave it to those ghastly academics to worry about.”  Huckabee has done it before when it comes to debating the merits of the beginnings of the Iraq war (”it’s a question for historians to decide”), and it has now become the favourite refrain of the denialist.  Naturally, the denialist is not interested in proper historical research, nor does he care about interference with that research by “public bodies.”  The denialist complains about “political” interference with research when official bodies recognise the blatantly obvious, but will just as readily denounce as hopelessly biased any research that comes to conclusions that he dislikes.   

No one says that governments are “lecturing” historians when they commemorate the Holocaust or V-E Day or the Armistice or any other major historical event.  Governments commemorate things all the time, lending a certain sanction or authority to this or that reading of history.  As the Turkish government has shown, governments can use this power for distorting and corrupt ends.  That does not mean that we cease all commemorations and public acknowledgements of the past, but that we strive to be scrupulous in how we remember the past.  Certainly governments should not interfere with academics or dictate to them what they ought to say–that is fundamental.  That’s yet another reason to draw attention to the offically sanctioned denialism of the Republic of Turkey.  It is rather amazing to me how so many Westerners became so exercised over the threatened free speech rights of the people at Jyllands-Posten, but have suddenly lost all interest in free speech when it comes to Turkish academics and writers.  Many Westerners were put off by the idea that Muslims should apply the standards of their religion to everyone else and demand that others abide by those standards, but when it comes to abiding by the revisionist propaganda coming from Ankara they are more sanguine.        

It is not the government’s official approval or recognition, to address a concern my colleague James has raised, that adds any truth or significance to the event, and the historical reality would be the same whether or not it was ever officially acknowledged.  The genocide happened, whether or not Ankara and its small army of American and other lackeys will ever accept that reality.  But what we choose to commemorate and acknowledge does reflect on the kind of government one has and the kind of historical memory the citizens of a country have.  Refusal to commemorate and use the proper names for things also reflects on us. 

To cast the current (almost certainly now dead) resolution as a lecture to historians, as Stone does, is especially galling, since the main (indeed technically the only) intended audience of the resolution is the President, who is as much of an historian as I am a jet pilot.  The resolution is entitled: “Calling upon the President to ensure the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian genocide and for other purposes.”

Were the resolution to pass, not one historian would be obliged to do anything.  No historians will have been lectured by a public body.  Most historians of the subject, who already acknowledge the genocide, will be unfazed by the terrible burden of a non-binding resolution.  The only historians who would be troubled are those who have, for whatever reason, chosen to deny the genocidal nature of the events.  In any case, they have not yet been persuaded by evidence or conscience to recognise and speak the truth–a vote by the House of Representatives will not weigh heavily on them, either.

Stone invokes Lewy, whose arguments are pretty effectively undermined here, while ignoring the work that directly contradicts that of Lewy.  The Inside Higher Ed refers to a future Akcam work that will reportedly make the case even more clear.  From the article:

To those like Lewy who have written books saying that there is no evidence, “I laugh at them,” Akçam said, because the documents he has already released rebut them, and the new book will do so even more. “There is no scholarly debate on this topic,” he said. 

P.S.  Note to Cohen: the text of the resolution itself includes mention of Lemkin’s views on the Armenian genocide.

The Economist covers the resolution in an editorial and discusses Turkish-Armenian relations in an article.  Naturally, I don’t agree with the editorial, but I’ve already said plenty on that subject for now.  The article is a good overview of the state of affairs in Turkey.

Huckabee is the one candidate acceptable to all factions. ~David Brooks

Except the economic conservatives, restrictionists, libertarians and conservative opponents of the war.  Other than that, he’s golden.

Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, the Kansas conservative who struggled to raise money and gain recognition in the 2008 presidential campaign, will drop out on Friday, people close to him said Thursday.

Money was a main reason for his decision, said one person close to Brownback who requested anonymity because the candidate had not yet announced his plans. Brownback is expected to announce his withdrawal in Topeka, Kan. ~AP

I have to say that I will miss having Brownback to kick around.  He gave us so much–corny Oz jokes, wooden performances in the debates, waffling about his views on the “surge,” his late discovery of deeply principled objections to amnesty, a bad plan for Iraq’s “soft partition” and that syrupy, goopy “compassionate conservatism” that made him strangely unpopular in his own backyard.  He took an early lead in the crucial Biden primary, but somehow couldn’t translate this into a source of fundraising.  He talked about ethanol with feeling as someone who has voted for such subsidies again and again, but this did not win over the Iowan crowds.  In many respects, Brownback resembles Santorum, as I have said before, but where Santorum has gone crazy Brownback was always just a little goofy.  He’ll probably make a decent governor in Topeka when the time comes.  So long, Samnesty.

Via Massie, I see that Fallows wrote:

The Armenian genocide was real; many Turks pretend it wasn’t. They are wrong, and we should stand for what’s right. But it’s hard to think of a more willfully self-indulgent step than lecturing Turkey’s current government and people 90 years late.

Er, so it’s willfully self-indulgent to stand up for what’s right?  What do you call it when you permit those in the wrong to prevail?  Virtuous self-sacrifice?  As the last couple of weeks has made quite clear, it isn’t just “many Turks” who deny the genocide, but a small army of water-carrying American apologists as well.  Is it “self-indulgent” to try to defeat willing collaborators in genocide denial?       

There is something deeper wrong with Fallows’ response.  He is not alone in making this kind of argument, so this isn’t aimed just at him.  There is the idea that unless you simultaneously condemn every act of genocide or anything that might reasonably be defined as genocide in the history of the world, you really shouldn’t say anything about one particular genocide.  This is a very strange view to take.  Rather than strengthening the case against recognition and drawing attention to the particular genocide, it simply reminds us of how many such exterminationist campaigns most people never give a second thought.  It reminds us how lopsided and arbitrary our commemoration of past genocides has been up till now, and underscores how poor and limited our historical memory is.  There is something particularly strange about those who actually know about these other slaughters and wish to cite them as reasons for not acknowledging this or that genocide.  They might cry, “What about the Ukrainians?”  But should it ever come time to commemorate the Holodomor, they will turn around and cry, after having belittled the Armenian genocide resolution and the history that it represents, “What about the Armenians?” 

The odd thing is that this push to recognise and acknowledge an historical event requires very little of a nation.  Americans are not being called on to intervene in someone else’s conflict, nor are we being asked to take sides in complex, little-understood struggles on the other side of the world.  The only costs that we might incur derive from the threats of a putative ally.  Americans are being asked to acknowledge, through their representatives, the basic and obvious truth about a terrible, state-organised act of terror and violence against innocent people, and in response their representatives are being intimidated with invocations of the importance of this so-called ally in the “war on terror.”  The absurdity of it is plain for all to see.         

After an awful lot of genocide and genocide resolution blogging, I will fortunately be away from Eunomia for a while.  Tonight the CSO is putting on a performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony.  It’s not exactly a symphony that inspires light-heartedness, but it is a promising diversion all the same.  

P.S.  The Wiki entry’s reference to the “shatteringly pessimistic…outcome” cheers me up a bit.

The liars are out in force these days.  Does National Review really want to be known as a venue for genocide deniers? 

She seems to think that a people cannot be made into a scapegoat when things at home are going badly, but only when they are going relatively well.  This is a very unique understanding of what scapegoating is.  It is rather stunning that so many hacks and amateurs can confidently deny what honest scholars of genocide studies and history affirm.  As for those who “excel” at propaganda, Ms. Lerner does not need to look very far, since her article is a classic example of that very thing. 

P.S. Incidentally, it is articles just like this one that confirm my view that passage of the resolution is highly desirable.  Every day that this resolution is blocked is another small victory for these genocide deniers.  Whenever someone argues that the resolution is redundant or “gratuitous” because no one questions that the Armenians experienced a genocidal campaign against them, I will simply point to this article and others like it to show that denialism is flourishing. 

Like Cohen’s shambles of a column the other day, Lerner’s article insists on defining what genocide is based on its identity with the circumstances of the Holocaust.  Since no other genocide in modern history has ever been identical to the Holocaust, this style of argument implicitly denies all the other acknowledged genocides of the 20th century by emphasising dissimilarity of circumstances.  Lerner’s article is a blatant example of “blaming the victim,” pinning the blame for the actions of a relative few revolutionaries on an entire population.  And of course the trials of guilty officers were conducted by the non-CUP elements of the Ottoman government, yet Lerner uses these trials as exculpatory evidence to the advantage of the CUP leadership. 

I don’t know how many times one needs to say this: there was a deliberate and organised campaign of extermination authored by the leaders of the CUP and carried out in a series of massacres and death marches on their orders.  As Akcam has shown, the CUP leaders would send our duelling sets of orders, with one set ordering humane and decent treatment of the deportees and the other ordering their annihilation.  These are obviously war crimes–that much hardly anyone will seriously dispute–and they very clearly meet all but the most peculiar definitions of genocide.  It’s not clear to me what could actually motivate someone to engage in Lerner’s morally abhorrent contortions. 

Here is a good Telegraph review of A Shameful Act.

I have seen a lot of dishonest cheerleading for Ankara, but this Houston Chronicle piece is right up there when it says:

The country’s leaders have been single-minded in building a new national identity that sets religious and ethnic differences aside [bold mine-DL].

That’s absurd, as anyone with a scintilla of knowledge about Kemalist Turkey knows.

Denialism is alive and well on the Web.  Here is a specimen of the type, complete with references to Kevorkian and “crafty” Armenians.  Naturally, this brave character does not publish his name–nor would I if I were in the business of spewing filth.

To recapitulate those tenets one last time: (1) Our struggle is moral, against an evil enemy who revels in the destruction of innocents. Knowing this can help us assess our adversaries correctly and make appropriate strategic choices [bold mine-DL]. Saying it convincingly will strengthen our side and weaken theirs. (2) The conflict is global, and outcomes in one theater will affect those in others [bold mine-DL]. (3) While we should always prefer nonviolent methods [bold mine-DL], the use of force will continue to be part of the struggle. (4) The spread of democracy offers an important, peaceful way to weaken our foe and reduce the need for force [bold mine-DL]. ~Joshua Muravchik

Via Ross

Ross notes that there is nothing uniquely neoconservative about these tenets, and he’s right.  A great many people share these tenets, several of which are misguided or confused.  That is one of the reasons why the foreign policy of any future administration will be generally unchanged from the current administration–a depressing thought, I know, but true nonetheless.  There is a lot wrong with several of the tenets, and even more wrong with the way in which actual neoconservatives and internationalists employ them.  If these tenets represent the “only game in town,” as Muravchik claims, the country is in serious trouble.  In this post I will try to sketch out why these tenets aren’t, or don’t have to be, the “only game in town.”  The troubling thing is that most people ”in town” are only too happy to keep playing the same, losing game. 

First, the moral struggle.  No one disputes that the methods employed by jihadis are vicious and evil, and virtually no one would deny that their ultimate goals are essentially contrary to our vision(s) of the Good.  Where the language of moral struggle becomes a liability is when it actually clouds our discernment and causes us to associate all manner of cruel or repressive regimes and groups with our specific enemies.  Indeed, this moralising tendency often causes us to make the wrong strategic choices, making us focus on a cruel or despotic regime that may not, in fact, pose any meaningful or uncontainable strategic threat.  The moralistic-legalistic streak, as Kennan called it, in our foreign policy thinking leads many of us to exaggerate the threats from such regimes and groups because we reduce them to forces of unreasoning malevolence.  The more we reduce these other regimes and groups to veritable embodiments of evil, the greater will be the temptation of an annihilationist or total war campaign against entire populations.  The “moralising” tendency has led our government, and will keep leading the government, to undertake policies of aggression that are immoral and indefensible.  To draw on Prof. Schroeder’s recent arguments in TAC, the problem with the Iraq war wasn’t that it went wrong, but that it was wrong, and this fundamentally morally wrong war derived from the rhetoric of “moral clarity” and “an end to evil” espoused by Muravchik’s confreres.       

One of the problems in ceding, or appearing to cede, the language of morality in foreign policy to those who have weak moral imaginations (for whom virtue entails willpower and violence combined with good intentions) is that it has made it more difficult to distinguish between a moral foreign policy and an unjust, domineering foreign policy that wears the mantle of morality. 

Second, the dimensions of the conflict.  Though I have also sometimes referred to the conventional phrase “global counterinsurgency” approvingly, I have to say that the conflict is not really global.  It is international, or rather transnational, and there is an important difference.  The conflict is not limited to just one country and it involves non-state actors, but it is not a struggle that encompasses the entire globe.  The Cold War was the closest to a complete global conflict or rivalry that has ever unfolded in modern history, in that it significantly affected every part of the world and, of course, had the potential to obliterate human life on this planet.  Right away we see the difference in scale and scope with the present conflict, which has neither the potential for destruction nor the fully global dimension that the “WWIV” crowd claim.  To grant that the conflict is in a meaningful sense “global” is to grant one of the interventionists’ dangerous assumptions without giving it much consideration.  Conceiving of the conflict as “global” makes it easier to engage in the aforementioned conflation of our specific enemies in Al Qaeda and their allies with any or all other despotic regimes.  The now unfortunately widespread language of “Islamofascist” or “Islamic fascist” that has gained currency among the presidential candidates and their advisors also serves to further this notion of a global threat, since the word fascist carries with it ideas of world mastery and conquest.  Applying it to the jihadis, while absurd on so many other levels, also exaggerates the extent and nature of the threat posed by them, since it suggests that they have it within their power to dominate the globe.

This brings into question the entire language of “theaters” and their interrelationship.  If we are fighting non-state actors, whose organisation is almost by definition loose and decentralised, it is as much of a mistake to talk about theaters as it is to talk about “fronts.”  If jihadis make up a transnational insurgency, there are no fronts and to the extent that we can speak of “theaters” they are going to be only very indirectly connected.  Indeed, the main thing connecting the “theaters” of fighting some handful of jihadis in Anbar and jihadis in eastern Afghanistan is our military, by which I mean that they are theaters in the “same” conflict only to the extent that we are engaged in a conflict in both places.  Otherwise, the “theaters” are not connected, and our relative failure or success in one will have negligible, if any, effects in the other.

We should always prefer nonviolent methods, which is how we can tell that this tenet has nothing to do with the neoconservatives.  These are the people who hardly ever prefer nonviolent methods when they are available, and are always looking for some way to justify recourse to violence.  One of the few nonviolent methods neoconservatives will prefer, at least rhetorically and superficially, is democracy promotion, which has resulted time and again in the strengthening of those forces that the neoconservatives in particular regard as our enemies.  It has certainly strengthened Islamists in essentially every part of the Islamic world where it has been introduced under the auspices or influence of the “freedom agenda.”  Perhaps someone could propose another justification for democracy promotion, since democracy promotion has not resulted in the weakening of “our foe” and the reduction in the need for force.

Mr. Krikorian is correct when he says:

First of all, it is simply inarguable that the Ottoman Empire tried to eradicate the Armenian people under the cover of World War I.

Why then do so many prominent Americans keep arguing against it, hedging their statements or tying themselves into knots to trivialise the events?  Of course, it is, or rather ought to be, inarguable, but so long as Ankara’s apologists are able to retain any credibility and cast doubt on the matter there will be a continuing “debate.”

He’s also right when he says:

Our policy toward modern Turkey should have nothing whatsoever to do with acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. But caving to Turkish pressure never to use “Armenian” and “genocide” in the same sentence is what has given the current resolution its impetus.

Critics are right that Congress has no business weighing in on historical controversies. But there is no controversy here [bold mine-DL]. This isn’t even a matter of the polite fictions necessary to international diplomacy. Denying the Armenian Genocide is simply a lie, and a lie propagated at the behest of a foreign power. It’s unworthy of us.

Amen to that.

“They have focused on the idea of objectivity, the idea of ‘on the one hand and the other hand,’ ” he said. “That’s very attractive on campuses to say that you should hear both sides of the story.” While Payaslian is quick to add that he doesn’t favor censoring anyone or firing anyone for their views, he believes that it is irresponsible to pretend that the history of the period is uncertain. And he thinks it is important to expose “the collaboration between the Turkish Embassy and scholars cooperating to promote this denialist argument.”

To many scholars, an added irony is that all of these calls for debating whether a genocide took place are coming at a time when emerging new scholarship on the period — based on unprecedented access to Ottoman archives — provides even more solid evidence of the intent of the Turkish authorities to slaughter the Armenians [bold mine-DL]. This new scholarship is seen as the ultimate smoking gun as it is based on the records of those who committed the genocide — which counters the arguments of Turkey over the years that the genocide view relies too much on the views of Armenian survivors.

Even further, some of the most significant new scholarship is being done by scholars who are Turkish, not Armenian, directly refuting the claim by some denial scholars that only Armenian professors believe a genocide took place. In some cases, these scholars have faced death threats as well as indictments by prosecutors in Turkey. ~Inside Higher Ed

Via Cliopatria

Well, there goes any respect I might have had for Bruce Fein (who works, it should be noted, for the Turkish Coalition of America, founded in that august, ancient time of February 2007):

Like Benito Mussolini, Armenians believe truth is an assertion at the head of a figurative bayonet.

Yes, don’t you see–the Armenians are deceitful and treacherous.  You can’t trust them.  Sound familiar?  Note that any similarly gross overgeneralisation about another group of people would be met with fierce denunciations from all sides.  The upshot of Fein’s article is that lots and lots of Turks died in the same period (true), there were atrocities carried out by Armenians in eastern Anatolia (also true) and there have been many Armenian terrorist attacks against Turkish targets in the 20th century (true again).  The purpose of the article, of course, is to make light of the genocide and to equate the organising massacring and death march of over a million civilians by their own government (it is, of course, the intent and organised extermination, not the number, that ultimately matters) with the devastating consequences of near-total war between sovereign governments.  Sounds curiously like arguments that go something like, “Lots and lots of Germans died fighting in WWII, so state-run genocide isn’t that big of a deal.” 

My favourite bit is the accusation of religious bigotry (that would be bigotry against the Muslims, you see), the praise of the notorious genocide denier Shaw for his “academic courage,” and the immediate invocation of none other than Bernard Lewis.  Of course, it was in no small part religious bigotry and supremacism on the part of the perpetrators that fueled the genocide, as Akcam has made clear, and I suspect that it has been the fact that the Turks are Muslim and the Armenians Christian that has kept the genocide from being more widely publicised and recognised for what it was.   

Update: The Turkish Coalition of America takes mendacity to all new lows.  Consider this description of H. Res. 106:

[it] targets Turkish history and heritage, hurts US-Turkish relations and the US national interest.

Impressive how they hardly ever mention anything about the substance of the resolution.  That might make the “Turkish history and heritage” bit a little too hard for some folks to swallow.  This “Action Alert” section is also quite hilarious in a depressing, sickening way:

Sadly, our voice has mostly been absent in this debate.

If you believe that, they have a bridge in Istanbul to sell you. 

Query: what is the position (at the moment) of the magnificent dancing fraud (i.e., Romney) on the genocide resolution?  This is, after all, someone who wants to indict Ahmadinejad under the Genocide Convention because of his menacing remarks towards Israel.  Surely someone so deeply concerned about genocide as Romney would be a vocal proponent of the resolution’s passage.  What’s that, you say?  He’s never talked about it?  He was “largely indifferent” to Armenian-American concerns when he was governor in Massachusetts?  That’s strange.  It’s almost as if he were taking his positions on a purely opportunistic basis!

Almost a dozen lawmakers had shifted against the measure in a 24-hour period ending Tuesday night, accelerating a sudden exodus that has cast deep doubt over the measure’s prospects. Some made clear that they were heeding warnings from the White House, which has called the measure dangerously provocative, and from the Turkish government, which has said House passage would prompt Turkey to reconsider its ties to the United States, including logistical support for the Iraq war. ~The New York Times

Here’s a true champion of the moral high ground:

“We simply cannot allow the grievances of the past, as real as they may be, to in any way derail our efforts to prevent further atrocities for future history books,” said Representative Wally Herger, Republican of California.

That’s a good one.  Acknowledging genocide is now just a matter of ”grievances of the past.”  This is what people are reduced to saying.  What else can they possibly say?   

Rep. Sherman, a resolution supporter, took the words right out of my mouth:

Since when has it become fashionable for friends to threaten friends?

Alex Massie is right on the mark again:

But of course Lemkin himself deliberately cited the suffering of the Armenians when he first wrote about genocide. He didn’t seem to share Mr Cohen’s belief that there is only one kind of genocide.

I appreciate Mr. Massie picking up on this point.  After all, if someone confronted with the horrors of the Holocaust had been looking for precedents of coordinated state extermination of its own population the Armenian genocide would have been an obvious example in the 1940s.   

What strikes me as so strange about all this is that virtually no one in the Washington political or media establishment has ever applied this same level of skepticism to talk about genocide in Darfur, to say nothing of the much more dubious case of Kosovo.  I expect that I will look in vain for Cohen’s citations of Lemkin from the spring of 1999.  All that needed to be said in 1999 was the word “Balkan” and suddenly everyone who was anyone was convinced that genocide was about to happen again (not that any of the people who wanted to “crush Serb skulls” ever gave a second thought to the genocide of Serbs during WWII at the hands of the forerunners of our good friends and allies in Zagreb). 

Pundits and pols are very free with the word when the regime being accused is one that they don’t much like, which is why I have tended to be very skeptical about people who describe something as genocide in the present.  It has frequently become a one-sided and tendentious political weapon that seems to be deployed for other reasons.  Yet in this case, when the evidence is clear, the government responsible is long gone and all that is being asked of anyone is to recognise the obvious, everyone becomes terribly anxious and reticent.     

Massie also notes a ridiculous Hiatt op-ed:

Then there’s Fred Hiatt, the WaPo’s editorial page editor  who thinks the resolution should be spiked because, well, modern Armenia isn’t properly democratic. Or something like that.

I had seen Hiatt’s op-ed, and my first response was simply to move on to something else.  Then it occurred to me that Hiatt’s column quite unintentionally helps explain why the resolution is necessary.  Hiatt’s argument, such as it is, is that the Armenian Diaspora could have used their time and resources for much better purposes than lobbying for this resolution.  Think of what all that money and attention could for Armenia, Hiatt exulted!  Armenia is a poor and corrupt state with a dysfunctional government, and the Diaspora could work to change that. 

Not that Fred Hiatt has ever, to my knowledge, given a fig for what happened to the Republic of Armenia, mind you, but his tiresome lecture did make me think of something important.  It was, as some of us will remember, Hrant Dink’s argument that the Diasporans should stop fixating on the genocide and work to build a better Armenia.  Dink, a great man, argued that the preoccupation with the genocide would become “poison in the blood” for the people who continued to focus on it so intently.  Dink was actually arguing for the Armenians to move on and try to build a better future for the independent Armenian state that Armenians finally did have–the very thing that Hiatt has suddenly discovered as the right answer–and for his wise counsel he was indicted by the Turkish government for “insulting Turkishness.”  How could that be?  Well, his remarks about “poison in the blood” were taken entirely out of context and turned into an attack on Turks.  When he was talking about poison, according to the government, he was referring to Turks.  This was a malicious and obvious lie, as the government there must have known, but the hysteria in the press that the charges generated led in short order to Dink’s assassination by a Turkish nationalist. 

Dink was right–the genocide should not be an all-consuming passion, and Armenians should work to improve Armenia.  For his efforts to de-emphasise the focus on the genocide (while also insisting on the reality of the genocide), he was prosecuted and then murdered.  His son has since been indicted under the same charge and sentenced to a year in prison.  That is the government for whom the apologists are carrying water. 

Yet here is another reason why recognition of the genocide is important–without widespread recognition and pressure on Ankara to acknowledge the reality of the genocide, the Diasporans will never be able to let go and start the necessary work of building up Armenia.  Not, of course, that Turkey has had any interest in aiding the improvement or reform of Armenia, since they have kept the border sealed in solidarity with the Azeris.  The poverty, corruption and bad government of the Republic have more than a little to do with that situation, which Washington tacitly endorses with its alliances with Turkey and Azerbaijan.  Hiatt has quite unwittingly helped the argument for the resolution, by making clear that Armenia’s development depends in part on the Diasporans’ being able to turn their attention to other things besides this.

Richard Cohen started out all right, but then goes into the ditch:

Of even that, I have some doubt. The congressional resolution repeatedly employs the word “genocide,” a term used by many scholars. But Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish emigre who coined the term in 1943, clearly had in mind what the Nazis were doing to the Jews. If that is the standard — and it need not be — then what happened in the collapsing Ottoman Empire was something short of genocide. It was plenty bad — maybe as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished, many of them outright murdered — but not all Armenians everywhere in what was then Turkey were as calamitously affected. The substantial Armenian communities in Constantinople, Smyrna and Aleppo were largely spared.

Not every Tutsi in Rwanda was “affected,” either, but we don’t quibble about that.  Of course, the Armenian elite in Constantinople was not spared, and tens of thousands of members of the Armenian community in Smyrna was massacred when Kemal’s forces took the city in 1922.  Frankly, this line of argument is a bit like saying, “Well, since there were some Jews left at the end of the war, it wasn’t that bad.”

Cohen is trying hard to reach moral equivalency:

Among them were the Armenians, an ancient people who had been among the first to adopt Christianity. By the end of the 19th century, they were engaged in guerrilla activity.

How nice it must be to sit back and talk about what “they,” the Armenians, all did.  Some Armenians were involved in guerrilla activity, but virtually the entire Armenian population of eastern Anatolia was “punished.”  The actions of a relative few neither explain nor justify the murderous response of the CUP.

Cohen says:

Within Turkey, Armenians were feared as a fifth column.

Set aside the obnoxious dismissal of the Armenians’ reputation as the “loyal millet.”  Unlike many members of the Rum millet, the Armenians typically did not engage in separatist or subversive activities.  Of all the Christian subjects of the Ottomans, the Armenians had given the least cause for offense, yet they were the ones who suffered the full wrath of the empire to whom the overwhelming majority remained loyal.  Sound familiar?  Need I point out the obvious problem with talking about the nationalist delusions about minorities as if they were mitigating or justifying?  Nationalists and genocidaires routinely treat their victims as collaborators with an enemy, whether real or imagined.  Collaboration is often not happening in any form, but it is assumed by the ideologues for whom “those people” are all inherently treacherous and disloyal.  Sound familiar?


So contemporary Turkey is entitled to insist that things are not so simple. If you use the word genocide, it suggests the Holocaust — and that is not what happened in the Ottoman Empire.

Yes, the past is so very complicated!  Especially when the people who were butchered don’t have anything to do with you.  It’s much easier to talk about context and ambiguity when the humanity of the victims doesn’t really matter as much to you.  If you use the word genocide, it also suggests Rwanda, Cambodia, the Ukraine in the ’30s.  None of these is directly identifiable with the methods employed in the Holocaust, but each is a genocide.  It need not be done in organised camps with gas to count as the same crime.

Cohen then goes deeper into apologist mode:

Its modern leaders, beginning with the truly remarkable Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, have done a Herculean job of bringing the country from medievalism to modernity without, it should be noted, the usual bloodbath.

Except for the bloodbaths that made a more homogenous Turkish state possible, and except for the ongoing repression of the Kurds.  By all means, give Kemal his due for modernising Turkey, but let’s not pretend that it was all done through some pleasant and humane process.  It was brutal, coercive and, more often than his admirers like to recall, quite violent.

Cohen finally comes around, after all of this, to declare Turkey’s threats over the resolution and its efforts to suppress the truth to be unacceptable, but he took such an appalling route to get there I’m not sure that it matters.

A Sullivan reader writes about “Gen-X Conservatives”:

I’m a young, newly-minted assistant professor here at a large state school in Mississippi and I’ve got to say I’ve had just had an interesting conversation with one of my more conservative students. As far as I can tell he’s a pretty ‘die hard’ Republican. He’s really big into state and local politics and is even participating in a big way in a statewide campaign - and not for the first time. He is bright, sophisticated, and probably a future power in state and local politics here in Mississippi.

What surprised me was both his anti-war attitude and, moreover, his positive view of Obama versus Hillary. Though I did not ask, as it was not my place, who he intended to vote for, it seemed clear to me that he recognizes that 2008 is going to be a disaster for the GOP outside of the deep south and that Obama was probably the best the Democrats had to offer in terms of leadership potential. What most impressed him, he said, was that Obama was against the war from the beginning - giving credence to the effectiveness of the ‘Obama has superior judgement’ meme that is being put out by Obama’s campaign.

The meme may be effective, but, like many memes, its ability to reproduce itself has nothing to do with its actual merit.  In memetics, as it’s called, the race is not to the good or the wise, but simply to the trendy and the catchy.  I heard Dennett lecture to this effect at a philosophy conference once.  The meme that Obama has superior judgement is catchy because the country is desperate to have somebody, anybody with good judgement in a position of power.  It has been so long since we’ve had such a thing that most of us have literally forgotten what it looks like, which is why it seems remotely plausible that Obama might just possess such good judgement.  The meme, however, does not contain that little something I like to call “truth.” 

As has been shown in his fantastical foreign policy speeches, his blunders on Pakistan policy, his appalling position on the war in Lebanon and his support for anti-Iranian policies, Obama’s judgement is hardly superior, if by superior we mean “likely to reach sensible and intelligent conclusions.”  It is certainly far from unconventional.  Antiwar conservatives, especially younger antiwar conservatives, should not be fooled by Obama’s rhetoric of “change” and his use of his Iraq war opposition.   

He opposed the Iraq war in a district and a state where it was exceedingly easy to oppose it.  No one will confuse Hyde Park and South Side Chicago with the jingo capital of the world, to put it mildly.  (Ours is a neighbourhood where you can readily find the fairly amusing bumper sticker, “I’d rather be smashing imperialism.”)  He happened to be right about Iraq, but there is little or no evidence that he has applied the same sober judgement to other foreign policy matters, and there is really not much evidence that he would retain his previously good judgement under intense political pressure.  There is no evidence because, until this campaign, he has never really been under intense political pressure.   

Goodness knows that I, too, look forward to a day when the clapped-out, wasteful politics of the Boomers disappears from the scene.  I believe that 2008 probably represents the last hurrah of that generation’s own preoccupations and their continual refighting of the same dreary fights, at least as far as foreign policy and cultural debates are concerned.  (Obviously, the inter-generational political fight that is brewing over entitlements and pensions is just getting started.)  I was born in 1979, so I believe this entitles me (not that I want the dubious honour) to some claim to belong to Generation X or the “13th Generation” as it has sometimes been called.  For my part I do not see the leadership potential in Obama that everyone keeps raving about.  Clinton and Obama are both quite dangerous and have terrible policy ideas, and it is not at all clear to me that Obama is necessarily the better of the two.  People of “my” generation should not buy into the Obama hype simply because they are tired of Boomers screwing things up.     

Jeffrey Goldberg, as some may recall, was the enterprising New Yorker writer who wrote up Kurdish propaganda a report on Ansar al-Islam and its alleged ties to Iraqi intelligence.  These claims were naturally entirely bogus, and this ought to have been obvious at the time.   

As noted by A Tiny Revolution, Goldberg also made some amazingly foolish statements five years ago this month, such as:

The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality [bold added].

At least he didn’t say six months!  That last line is remarkable, but this was my favourite one:

Their [i.e., opponents of the war] lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected. 

Those silly, inexperienced cretins!  They’ve certainly learned their lesson.

Wolcott has additional comments.

Alex Massie gets it:

Ultimately it’s pretty simple: you either treat genocide as genocide or you don’t. But if you don’t at least have the decency to stay quiet about it rather than offering weasel excuses about the national interest and all the rest of it.

Besides it is humiliating to give in to Turkish bullying. To wit:

A top Turkish official warned Thursday that consequences “won’t be pleasant” if the full House approves the resolution.

“Yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball,” said Egemen Bagis, foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball.”

Screw them.

Spengler also has a number of good points, including this one:

The sorry spectacle of an American president begging Congress not to affirm what the whole civilized world knows to be true underlines the overall stupidity of US policy towards the Middle East. It is particularly despicable for a Western nation to avert its eyes from a Muslim genocide against a Christian population.

Thanks to commenter tcowan for the link to Spengler’s article.

Ron Paul’s campaign has started running radio ads, and intriguingly the first ad focuses on popular, “mainstream” themes.  The ad script says:

Anncr: Who is Ron Paul, the candidate for President? He served his country as a flight surgeon after the Cuban Missile crisis.

As a young doctor, Ron Paul worked nights in the emergency room of an inner city hospital, taking care of everyone, whether they could pay or not.

As an OB-GYN, he has delivered over 4000 babies. As a doctor, Ron Paul knows our health care system needs real change— where patients and doctors are in charge, not big corporations or government bureaucrats.

As a Congressman— for over twenty years, Ron Paul knows our Constitution is there to protect our freedom and limit government in our lives.

Ron Paul has refused his congressional pension. He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch. He has never voted for a tax increase or an unbalanced budget. People who know him call him the taxpayers’ best friend.

To learn more about this remarkable man, go to That’s Ron Paul
RP: I’m Ron Paul and I approve this message.

The ad has some nice populist flourishes.  It manages to tie in Rep. Paul’s medical career with health care and allude to his pro-life stance without dwelling on it and it pitches a constitutionalist, libertarian message without talking about the war.  It seems pretty intelligently crafted to me.  This ad makes me think that Paul is now really trying to expand his base of support.  The days of the symbolic protest campaign definitely seem to be over.

But while I agree with his goal of working towards a rational, secular world, a triumph of enlightenment values, I disagree entirely with his proposed strategy, which seems to involve putting a bullet through every god-haunted brain. ~Pharyngula

It might be worth noting that the two are frequently paired in the last two centuries, and that the triumph of “enlightenment values” has often enough been associated with just such mass killing of believers.    Those who would like to insist that such mass killing-for-enlightenment has nothing to do with the “enlightenment values” cannot very well make the same connection between religion and violence committed in the name of religion.  It would require instead a non-ideological and intelligent appraisal of history, which secularists and atheists, at least of the militant variety, have never been interested in making.  Of course, a crucial difference, certainly in Western history, is that secular revolutionaries have no difficulty believing that the ends of advancing the cause justify the means, while for Christians in particular to make similar arguments they must betray Christianity’s moral and spiritual teachings.      

This gets to the heart of the absurdity of Hitchens’ view of religion.  If it “ruins everything,” as the subtitle of his book claims, how can a decent atheist stand by and let it go on ruining things so terribly?  Hitchens was simply showing the fanaticism that tends to accompany a view in which all believers are either dupes or power-hungry villains who have made the world a much worse place.  Once you have cast theism itself as a species of totalitarian groupthink, as Hitchens and his ilk do, it’s rather hard to say that you shouldn’t be willing to fight the totalitarians you have just so labeled, and to fight them tooth and nail.  Hitchens really is just taking his position to its logical extreme, which reveals the basic moral bankruptcy and evil at the heart of his ideas.  He has never been squeamish about endorsing revolutionary violence before, and his so-called “move to the right” over the last few years was simply his joining together with people who shared his faith in the redemptive and liberating power of violence.   

Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has joined the ranks of militant secularism and has lately advocated “defeating Islam” in much the same way as Hitchens, Hitchens possesses the intense certainty that a supposed devotion to rationality and enlightenment require large-scale irrational slaughter and barbarism.  That is nothing new.  It is the inevitable venom of the disenchanted ex-believer or the bitter non-believer, who cannot simply cease believing and leave it at that, but must try to “free” everyone else from ”chains” that the latter do not see.  If they will not free themselves, they must be forced to be free–such is the bloody logic of “enlightenment values” and “freethinking” in action.  To get from the Freisinnigen to the death camps it takes only a few steps.

Weigel says:

I’m always curious about what Paul voters expect from this race and what they’ll do if he doesn’t win.

It depends on which Paul voters we’re talking about.  The young, optimistic and enthusiastic boosters for Rep. Paul may actually think he has a chance at winning, in which case I feel sorry for them.  It isn’t going to happen, and not necessarily because Paul’s message wouldn’t resonate with enough voters.  We have seen what happens when an insurgent anti-establishment Republican candidate has won in some of the early primaries, and it isn’t pleasant.  The mild irritation and contempt shown towards Paul and his supporters by the “mainstream” voices in the GOP would turn into incandescent hate and a concerted program of opposition if there was any chance of Paul acquiring a substantial number of delegates.  

It seems to me that other Paul voters are simply disaffected folks who are looking for someone whom they don’t loathe to support.    They expect precisely nothing, but are glad to have an alternative.  Then there are those, including myself, who have been familiar with Ron Paul for many years and who have been long-time Paul admirers.  We are in substantial agreement with virtually everything he says, and so will support him as a matter of upholding the principles he espouses.  We expect that Ron Paul will do these principles credit and speak on behalf of those libertarians and conservatives who have little or no representation these days.   

Speaking for myself, I really never expected anything, except that I thought Paul would present the libertarian-conservative case effectively and challenge others in the GOP to face up to the disasters they have helped create.  Now that there is a chance for a bit more impact on the outcome of the race, I am hopeful that Paul will become the rallying point for opponents of the eventual frontrunner.  That may not happen, but if there could be a large show of united opposition to the eventual frontrunner and nominee it would go a long way towards weakening the eventual nominee (who will, in all likelihood, be terrible on a number of major issues) without involving a futile and ultimately self-defeating third party bid. 

Mitt Romney created a stir over the weekend with his assertion that he speaks for “the Republican wing of the Republican Party.” ~Dan Balz

The magnificent dancing fraud is at it again with more reinventions of himself.  In some ways, it imitates Dean’s own repositioning from reasonably competent centrist Northeastern governor to fire-breathing darling of the netroots, except that Romney is not receiving anything like the enthusiastic response from activists that Dean had.  What is more worrisome for Romney is that he is echoing a phrase that was given some currency earlier this year by the failed presidential candidate and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, which shows just how desperate Romney has become.  An insurgent candidate speaks of representing a wing of the party, because he has to show that he is a more pure and idealistic and less accommodating alternative to the “safe” or establishment choices.  Insurgent candidacies thrive on energy and the promise of issuing a stiff, sharp kick to the party leadership that has hitherto failed the core constituents.  Meanwhile, a confident leading candidate speaks of representing the entire party.  Romney has resorted to this kind of talk (which is all the less credible coming from him) because he feels the walls closing in around him.  He is treated by the media and pundits as a so-called first-tier candidate, and he has significant establishment support inside Washington, but he is gaining no traction nationally–hence the desperation gambit of claiming the high ground of true Republicanism.   

Gilmore’s phrasing was obviously meant to mimic Dean’s insurgent rhetoric from 2003-04 that he used to set him apart from those Democrats who had effectively been on the GOP’s side, especially when it came to the war.  Gilmore also pioneered the “Rudy McRomney” name and conjured in the minds of many conservatives a three-headed monster, so it is especially amusing that Romney has now adopted Gilmore’s claim to represent true Republicanism.  As has been said in a different, but related context, it’s good if the town whore repents, but no one expects the penitent to preach the sermon. 

Update: Dave Weigel has more.

Chris Orr has a Highlander-inspired response to the story.

This is how I see Ron Paul. Like all candidates with an “R” at the end of his name, he uses the label to acquire electoral office. He accrues the benefits that the party label provides. However, because he takes so many divergent issue positions both in the campaign and in Congress - he does not contribute to the maintenance of the brand. To put it intuitively, he’s a libertarian who dresses up as a Republican. This is why I chuckle whenever he argues - which he often does in the debates - that he is the only true Republican in the field. If you define a Republican as a libertarian - then that would be the case! ~Jay Cost

In this post Cost seems to be lamenting the lack of ability on the part of political parties to bar candidates from debates.  It’s interesting that Cost would make a point of insisting that what Paul believes really has nothing to do with the GOP.  I have known that for some time, but it’s remarkable for someone arguing on behalf of the “GOP brand” to announce that the GOP brand really has no connection to advocacy for U.S. sovereignty, limited government, and constitutionalism, defense of civil liberties, protection of life, opposition to illegal immigration and a non-interventionist foreign policy.  The GOP must be fundamentally against all these things, since the candidate who espouses them is not helping “maintain” the GOP brand. 

If you define a Republican as a pro-choice, pro-amnesty authoritarian jingo, Giuliani would then be the ideal candidate.  For some reason, the party would rather be identified with that than with someone like Paul.  Perhaps Paul doesn’t represent the “brand” well, but that has a great deal to do with the content of the “brand” being absolutely awful. 

P.S.  There is also actually an advantage in having candidates who match their districts to provide greater flexibility and adaptability for a national party “brand.”  If everyone tried to maintain the exact same “brand” in every district, the losses would add up quickly.  The Democrats finally figured this out last year when they started running candidates that were actually suited to local views on social or cultural issues.  Complaining about candidates who are “undermining” the brand is a luxury the GOP can’t really afford when the national party’s brand is widely reviled.

Apropos of nothing, the brilliant Canadian-Armenian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian was one of the main voices on the soundtrack of The Two Towers, as well as for Atom Egoyan’s AraratBayrakdarian is one of the rising opera stars of our time, and I had the pleasure of hearing her perform during one movement of Mahler’s 4th Symphony at the CSO and again at the Lyric in Dialogues des carmelitesHere she is singing a song adapted by the great Komitas, and here she is singing an ancient Armenian Christian hymn (taken from her DVD A Long Journey Home). 

During my few days in Toronto, I happened to visit St. Anne’s Anglican Church for the concert I mentioned earlier.  In St. Anne’s, which was inspired in its design and decoration by Hagia Sophia, there is a traditional war memorial to the war dead of WWI and WWII.  The phrasing of the memorial was worth mentioning, in light of the arrogant bluster of a certain American presidential candidate.  Referring to those from the parish who had fallen in battle, the plaques read:

In loving memory for those who gave their lives for the world’s freedom [bold mine-DL] in the Great War of 1914


In loving memory for those who gave their lives for the world’s freedom [bold mine-DL] in the Great War of 1939

You can say what you will about the exaggerated claims of these memorials.  In any case, the point is that the people who dedicated these memorials believed that their departed compatriots were shedding their blood for the freedom of the other peoples (indeed, for the freedom of the whole world).  They deserve respect and honour.  This isn’t hard to understand.  Unless, of course, your name is Fred Thompson. 

Coming to this debate a little late, I second Ezra Klein when he says of Roger Cohen:

These are not arguments. They are smears. They are attacks aimed at degrading the credibility, rather than the beliefs, of the coalition that opposes the Iraq War. And in intent and effect, they are indistinguishable from Bill Kristol’s worst columns, save for the possibility that they are more effective, because they ostensibly come from within the Left, rather than outside of it.

Sullivan has replied to it, saying of Klein’s post:

It’s an attack on any independent thought outside of the situational demands of a political coalition. It is a full-throated and not-even-regretful support for the subjugation of free inquiry and free ideas to the demands of political organization. It makes Sidney Blumenthal seem intellectually honest.

Clearly, Sullivan and I are reading two very different Ezra Klein posts, and I might add that nothing can make Sidney Blumenthal seem honest.  For Sullivan, Klein’s post is “chilling,” while I find it quite congenial and sensible.  First, Sullivan employs this language of suppression and subjugation, when it is clear that Klein is resisting Cohen’s attempt to denounce and delegitimise criticism of ”liberal hawks” and the war.  Someone is trying to suppress dissent, but it isn’t Ezra Klein. 

It is Cohen who speaks of conspiratorially-minded loonies who supposedly mutter darkly about Jews, while Klein points out Cohen’s tendentious (one might even say dishonest) prattling about anti-Semitic conspiracy.  It is Cohen who is engaged in anything but “independent thought” and “free inquiry,” instead preferring the comfortable cell of the war supporter who continued to support his ideal Form of the war in spite of the way it has actually been waged.  Rarely has a more predictable liberal defender of aggressive war appeared on the stage. 

Klein’s distinction is quite right: Cohen’s self-identification as a “liberal hawk” is highly subjective and based on a need to distinguish himself, at least superficially, from the even more morally obtuse people who have led the charge for the war.  Using the name “liberal hawk” is a way to say, “Yes, I’m for aggressive war, but not like the neocons are.  I’m in it for the right reasons!”  Indeed, I would go further than Klein to say that such people are in some ways actually considerably worse than the neocons, for whom talk of freedom and democracy is at least partly tongue-in-cheek or at least expendable in the last resort, because they actually do believe this garbage and seem to think that murdering liberating people leads to the improvement of mankind.  Neocons often say things like this, but it is not always clear whether they are simply having us all on.

Sullivan defends Cohen up to a point by insisting that Cohen is sincere, but he seems to miss Klein’s point that Cohen’s sincerity or lack of it doesn’t matter to the end result of how Cohen’s commentary affects the debate.  Yes, every writer has a duty to his conscience to say what he thinks is right.  The problem, as I should think would be obvious, is that Cohen thinks that aggressive war is right and regards those who think otherwise as somehow morally compromised or lacking in seriousness.  That ought to be enough to discredit him, but unfortunately it is not.  It is precisely the content of what Cohen says that is Klein’s target.  Cohen’s motives and sincerity are, by Klein’s own admission, irrelevant to the significance of Cohen’s echoing of pro-war talking points.  Cohen serves his function by covering the left flank of the War Party, and even helps to consume antiwar energies in internecine quarrels about our respective attitudes towards Roger Cohen.  The fact that opponents of the Iraq war are spending any time at all fighting with each other over Roger Cohen’s support for the Iraq war is an indirect confirmation of the very phenomenon that Klein is describing.  Above all, his function is to run interference, muddle the issue and throw in distracting references to Kosovo.  If there was ever anything farther removed from free inquiry, I don’t know what it would look like.

Update: Klein responds to Sullivan here.
Incidentally, it is astonishing that Sullivan could read Klein’s response to Cohen as proof that Klein is the apparatchik.  Perhaps neither deserve that label, but it is an enormous stretch to say that Klein has delved here into some fetid den of partisan lackeydom.  He is calling b.s. on Cohen’s blustering op-eds that denounce the left-wing critics of “liberal hawks” on the grounds that said op-eds are, well, b.s.  He is refusing to let Cohen define the terms of the debate and write out everyone to the left of Friedman as intolerable.  Sounds good to me.

Only Turks question this history. ~Ralph Peters

There, of course, Mr. Peters is laughably wrong.  If “only” Turks questioned this history, there would be no debate whatever in any academic circles outside Turkey over “whether” there was a genocide.  You would not find academics readily spouting the official Ankara line, nor would you find pundits and hacks mouthing denialist rhetoric.  The truth is that there are a great many willing, non-Turkish collaborators who help cover up or apologise for this “questioning.”  At least Peters has the integrity, so to speak, to acknowledge that his opposition to the resolution is motivated out of his fidelity to the Iraq war.  He is quite happy to quash the resolution and tacitly abet genocide denial if it allows the war to continue.     

Michael Crowley raises a good point that the genocide resolution is providing hay for conservative talk show hosts, who would like to turn the entire question into a debate over national security and the war.  This angle had occurred to me, but Pelosi doesn’t strike me as  being nearly so clever as to engineer such a roundabout, indirect way of making the continuation of the war untenable, and attacks on her along these lines will not persuade anyone who isn’t already steadfastly behind the war.  Actually, if pro-war talk show hosts wanted to go down that road I think it could help the antiwar cause in one respect: it closely links support for the Iraq war to supporting, tacitly or not, genocide denial.  They can keep saying, in effect, “Genocide denial is essential to victory.”  I’d be interested to see how many people buy into such a corrupt bargain.

On a different point, when Pelosi says, “this is about the [former] Ottoman Empire,” she is clearly trying to distiguish between the condemnation of a genocide in the past and the perception that recognising this for what it is somehow entails equal condemnation of the current government or the Republic of Turkey.   

Update: Here is a roll call of the committee vote.

When I was in a summer program in England on Tudor and Stuart history and literature, I once had the pleasure of seeing one of my classmates react with visceral horror at the historical mockery that was the original Elizabeth.  He was particularly amazed at the absurdly short shrift given to Lord Burleigh, as anyone familiar with the period would be. 

Don’t misunderstand me.  As a work of cinema and as a matter of acting, Elizabeth was impressive and deserved to beat that preposterous Shakespeare in Love (which stole its deserved Best Picture and Best Actress awards) in every category.  For their sins, Gwynneth Paltrow went on to make such masterpieces as Proof and Joseph Fiennes disappeared into a cinematic void after his weaselly character was shot in the head in Enemy at the Gates (though, I am sorry to see, he is poised to sully the good name of Vivaldi by taking on the lead role in a film of the same name). 

As Chris Orr tells us, the Elizabeth sequel is a different story, filled with dialogue that might have been scrounged from the wastebins at the writing sessions for Star Wars, Episodes II and III:

Him: “Why be afraid of tomorrow, when today is all we have?” Her: “In another world and at another time, could you have loved me?” 

On the plus side, I have heard that the music is by A.R. Rahman, who wrote, among other things, the score for the Oscar-nominated Lagaan, so perhaps there is some small redeeming virtue left in the film.

Call me a cynic, but it seems to me that the significance of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in these latter days bestows as much credibility and glory on the recipient as “winning” the Darwin Awards.  That is, not very much at all.  It is therefore strange that anyone should care that Al Gore has won the prize.  For people who already admire Al Gore, this is a nice trinket that confirms why they admire him; for everyone else on earth, it is pretty meaningless. 

Even so, this is a rather strange post, since it links to a page that records massive melting of the northern polar ice cap while also recording massive ice expansion in Antarctica.  I suppose the upshot is that the two phenomena might seem to balance out, but if the goal is to say, “Global warming isn’t happening, la la la la la,” linking to this information doesn’t really get the job done.  What the information seems to show is that global warming isn’t having the same effects at both poles at the same time (and skeptics, including myself, will note that it was only a few years ago that everyone was freaking out over the disappearance of the Antarctic ice shelf).  That doesn’t necessarily mitigate or deny effects of climate change on countries in the Northern Hemisphere.  Of course, what remains to be demonstrated for skeptics is why such change is inherently bad or worrisome. 

Via Clark 

The conference in Toronto was very enjoyable and, I think, generally successful.  I heard many interesting papers, and the reaction to my talk on monotheletism was as good as I could have hoped to receive.  By strange chance, one of the U of T students whom I met was married to a Hampden-Sydney alumnus who finished a couple years ahead of me.  There was even a Eunomia reader among the assembled attendees.  During the trip, I finished Mozawer’s Salonica, which I plan to use for my urban history class next term.  We also heard two concerts organised in conjunction with the conference, and we heard a number of works by the Orthodox composer John Tavener.  The second, which included an adaptation of a prayer of the ninth-century monastic poetess Kassia, was the better in my view, and Patricia Rozario’s performance was very impressive.

Back from Toronto.  I’ve come across Fisk’s latest on the Armenian genocide.  I also see that Turkey has recalled their ambassador over the House committee vote.  Look for my next column for more discussion of all this. 

Update: Can I just say how genuinely weird it is that everyone at The Washington Note is effectively taking the White House’s side in this dispute, while I support officially recognizing a genocide?  There is also a notion out there that the right way to handle Turkey is to give in to its demands over this, as if it is the proper behaviour of a government to enable its ally in one of its most self-damaging policies.  There is nothing “pro-Turkish” in encouraging the worst sort of behaviour in our ally, especially if you think that Turkey should be implementing the changes that will make it acceptable to the European Union.  I think Turkish entry would be a mistake by the EU, but if I supported Turkey’s bid I wouldn’t be backing them when they’re in the wrong over something that will definitely undermine their bid.  Turkey’s denialism is self-destructive and harmful to their own stated long-term goals, so it is simply amazing that they are willing to take things this far.

Chris Roach makes an excellent point here:

I would be sympathetic with complaints against this Congressional Resolution if they were lodged by consistent realists, who adopt an across-the-board policy rejecting interference with other nations’ internal affairs. But the defenders of Turkey’s right to live in a world without criticism are normal, run-of-the-mill western politicians–these, the same people that piously utter “never again” at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.  In Turkey’s defense, the Madeline Albrights and Cyrus Vances of the world are standing shoulder to shoulder.

My next column will be on the Armenian genocide resolution and the debate surrounding it, so I won’t pre-empt myself with more commentary before I go to Toronto.  However, James Bovard makes many of the right points:

It’s a helluva thing when a war on terror supposedly requires the U.S. Congress to pretend that genocide didn’t occur.  Bush’s assertion that “we all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people” is a lie.   Most people either don’t know or don’t care about the carnage.  And Bush apparently wants to keep it that way.



Here we go:

A congressional panel approved a resolution calling for the U.S. to designate the World War I-era killings of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, amid warnings that the measure would harm relations with Turkey.

Yglesias refers to a section on Habsburg history in the second part of Paul Schroeder’s article on Iraq in TAC as an “annoying detour,” which I suppose it might be for some people, were it not for the fact that the “annoying detour” was a central part of explaining Prof. Schroeder’s key insights into the essential flaws of the Iraq war.  Here is Prof. Schroeder:

Austria’s leaders were convinced that it was defending not just itself but the rights of all of Europe against international outlaws and that every decent government in Europe, understanding this and appreciating their stand, would support them even if it led to war. This moral hubris, the absolute value they assigned to Austria’s just cause, closed their minds not merely to political and strategic realities but also to competing moral values and judgments. Many Europeans understood Austria’s grievances but placed a higher value on peace, recognized other rights besides historic and legal ones, and understood the necessity and inevitability of change.

The same three strategic errors—a refusal to recognize when a position has become untenable, a reliance on military victory and power to achieve unattainable ends, and moral hubris leading to political and strategic miscalculation—have also brought the U.S. into its current mess in Iraq. 

It might also be worth noting at this point that Prof. Schroder is a modern European history professor who probably has relevant insights into lessons from the history of defunct empires.  Those would be some of those “annoying detours” Yglesias mentioned. 

Do Ron Paul and Barack Obama draw support from the same kinds of independent voters?  The Blogometer’s  Conn Carroll says maybe, and John Tabin correctly says that they probably don’t.  As a more or less independent voter who has contributed to Ron Paul’s campaign and regularly criticises Obama, I would have thought it would be obvious that this is impossible, but then my preferences are also hardly representative of most “independents.”  Sure, superficially Obama and Paul might seem to offer some similar themes, and both did oppose the Iraq war, but Obama is essentially an interventionist at home and abroad and Paul is diametrically opposed to both.  One invokes JFK, the other invokes Robert Taft.  Obama thinks everything on earth is tied to our national security; Paul thinks that there are very few things overseas that are tied to our national security.  (Incidentally, it never ceases to amaze me how the former view is usually considered sane and sober, while the latter view is deemed irresponsible, when the reverse is true.)  Someone would be drawn to both candidates at the same time probably only if he didn’t follow the candidates’ policy positions very closely. 

A conservatism that warns against utopianism and calls for cultural sensitivity is useful. When it begins to question the importance or existence of moral ideals in politics and foreign policy, it is far less attractive. ~Michael Gerson

In other words, conservatism is acceptable to Gerson when it doesn’t get in the way of projects that he supports, but becomes annoying when it points out the moral bankruptcy of the policies he endorses.  I am sick to death of the idea that apostles of aggression and warmongering have some claim to representing “moral ideals in politics and foreign policy.”  Theirs is a fundamentally immoral position through and through, and their pose–and it is a pose–of moral superiority is the most infuriating of all.  It isn’t a question of idealism vs. pragmatism, but one of corruption vs. decency.  Gerson is a happy apologist for the former.

Gerson self-righteously writes:

It demands activism against sexual slavery, against honor killings, against genital mutilation and against the execution of children, out of the admittedly philosophic conviction that human beings are created in God’s image and should not be oppressed or mutilated.

What of the conviction that human beings should not be slain in wars of aggression, nor children ripped to shreds by cluster bombs (the “execution of children” is perhaps less abhorrent when the children are Lebanese or Iraqi), nor ancient communities uprooted and decimated by fanatics unleashed by ignorant meddlers?  The victims of Mr. Gerson’s preferred policies are no less the children of God.  Let him justify, if he can, the strange calculus by which he trades their lives and dignity for his abstract commitment to human dignity.

Gerson burbles still more:

Without a firm moral conviction that independence is superior to servitude, that freedom is superior to slavery, that the weak deserve special care and protection, the habit of conservatism is radically incomplete.

Yes, independence is superior to servitude, which is why conservatives deeply resent the immoral infringement on the sovereignty of other nations.  The weak deserve special care and protection, which is why the Machtpolitik of hegemony is abhorrent to us.  The only thing worse than the arrogance of power is the presumption that the possession of that power gives one a right to dominate the affairs of other peoples.  A “moral vision” is necessary, and it is high time that Gerson and his allies acquired one that did not involve the shedding of other people’s blood.   

Has it occurred to anyone that Bill Kristol is extremely aware of the role he plays in public life, and that he calls for military action against Burma not because he is a war-mad kook but because he wants to broaden our sense of what we can realistically accomplish there? ~Reihan

I have to say that it had not occurred to me, but let’s consider the idea.  First of all, would military action of any kind accomplish anything except to exacerbate and worsen the situation for the people of Burma?  I don’t think so.  Second of all, does this sound like the voice of someone concerned about “broadening our sense” of what can be realistically accomplished:

But given our weak history of pressuring China on anything, and the number of excuses there will be for not making this a priority, no one should hold his breath waiting for real consequences to follow for China [bold mine-DL].

This takes for granted that “real consequences” ought to follow for China, as if China is the pupeteer and the junta its easily controlled toy.  Those who have real expertise in the area claim that this is incorrect, and that Beijing does not have the kind of control that Sinophobes attribute to the Chinese government.  Given Kristol’s longstanding enthusiasm for antagonising China, I suppose I can’t say that I am surprised, but how does hoping vaguely for threatening China with undefined “consequences” broaden anything good?

Kristol continues:

Couldn’t we tell the generals who are ordering and the soldiers who are carrying out this crackdown that they are being watched, that their names are being recorded — and that the day will come when there will be plenty of evidence to hold them personally accountable for their deeds?

Yes, we could, but Kristol knows as well as I do that this would be so much bluster unless Washington were prepared to carry out the kind of intervention needed to apprehend those officers.  The “day will come,” no doubt, when they are held accountable–it will be Judgement Day, but likely no sooner.  Such an intervention makes absolutely no sense from the perspective of American interests, but Kristol knows that, too. 

Kristol concludes:

Couldn’t the Bush administration do more to give that just God a helping hand?

The impiety of this sentence speaks for itself.

And of course most bloggers are, um, not sunny and upbeat people, so it’s no surprise that a far more common approach is to ignore the “good” and hound the “bad.” ~Reihan

If I might add a characteristically gloomy and disgruntled addendum, the reason why bloggers ignore the “good” and hound the “bad” is, broadly speaking, the same reason why journalists “fail” to report the “good news” and tend to report the “bad news.”  It’s all very well to encourage people on the right path, but it helps more if you keep them out of the ditch in the first place, and one way of doing that is to warn them off of the advice and counsel of those who have had an impressive record of being (in the opinion of the critic) very wrong.  When error and injustice, or simply stupidity and ignorance, abound, it makes less sense to pat one another on the back in a mutual appreciation society and congratulate each other on our cleverness.  Emphasising the ”good” has not been helped by the tendency of people with absolutely awful policy ideas to engage constantly in accentuating the positive (a.k.a., propaganda).   

The reason why someone like, say, Joe Klein earned contempt of the netroots in the beginning is that he consistently advocated and espoused ideas that they regarded as absolutely terrible.  From the perspective of the critic, it is not incumbent on him to make nice to someone who has routinely demonstrated bad judgement, but rather it is the latter’s job to make up for his past errors.  Maybe the person in question is not going to be budged from his views–all the more reason to not waste any time trying positive reinforcement with an implacable opponent.   

Critics aren’t parole officers who are overseeing the target’s rehabilitation.  Indeed, in some sense, most blogger critics are not even trying to win over the target of their scorn (obviously), but are trying to persuade everyone else to stop listening to the person they are ridiculing.  It’s just like heresiology: the goal is not so much to persuade the heresiarch that he has gone astray, since he has already been condemned for his stubborn persistence in error, but to alert everyone else to the danger of the heresiarch’s false teachings.  We don’t read out the Synodikon just to give Nestorios a few posthumous kicks, but to remind the people to steer clear of his mistakes.  On a much more mundane, much less significant level, blogging critics aren’t really concerned with vilifying this or that pundit or journalist–they are trying to warn other readers away from someone whose track record on the issues these critics care about is dreadful. 

P.S. Reihan says at the end of his post:

Because Matt has an ironic sensibility, he understands why this approach fails.

But does it really “fail”?  It doesn’t persuade the target of the criticism, but that was never the purpose of the criticism.  No one engages in polemics as a means of persuasion of the target of the invective.  Polemic is a device for rallying the faithful and demoralising the opposition.  It is a device used to win over the undecided and the uninformed to one’s own side.  The last thing that the polemicist–which is what many bloggers are–wants is to bother with winning over his opponent.  First of all, he doesn’t think it very likely that this will happen, and more to the point the polemicist isn’t even speaking to him (even when he seems to be addressing him directly).  The polemicist speaks to the audience watching the dispute: persuading them is what matters.  To the extent that a Joe Klein (or a Michael O’Hanlon or whoever else) is regarded as less authoritative or worthy of attention by a larger number of people, this method not only has succeeded, but it has achieved exactly what it set out to achieve.

My mother is not an illegal immigrant. ~Sam Brownback

Young Zeitlin doesn’t like Ron Paul’s remarks throwing the pejorative term isolationist back in the faces of those who use it all the time.  For the whippersnapper, it’s clunky and outdated international institutions or nothing at all.  Working through bilateral relations is apparently not supposed to be an option.  This objection got me to thinking about different foreign policy schools. 

The liberal internationalist seems to prefer a faculty meeting approach to international relations–hence the enthusiasm for international institutions.  International institutions really are surprisingly like faculty meetings: people who don’t like each other gather, get very little done and trade unpleasantries and thinly-veiled slights when any two of those in the room might come to some mutually beneficial collaborative arrangement on their own.   

The neoconservative and generic interventionists are very much opposed to their own “isolation,” preferring instead to isolate and occasionally strike others.  This is the international relations-as-prison facility approach.  Naturally, the interventionists have a condition for running things this way–they get to be the warden and the guards.  When the “prisoners” (i.e., other countries) react badly, they are in need of discipline and punishment, which the interventionist seems only too keen to mete out.

The non-interventionist has a radical and “kooky” notion that international relations ought to work much more like an engaging conversation for the purpose of mutual benefit.  Instead of sacrificing interests and sovereignty to generally useless, but sometimes actually dangerous, talking shops or trying to treat the rest of the world like the inhabitants of a jail, the non-interventionist imagines that America’s international relations might return to the way our government ran them for close to a century and a half.   

If Belgium falls to sectarianism, what does that say about prospects for making Europe into a super-Belgium? ~Jonah Goldberg

But it isn’t sectarianism that is dividing Belgium, since sectarianism would imply, well, the existence of rival sects that serve as the basis for political and social divides.  In fact, one of the reasons for the creation of Belgium was the decided lack of sectarian divides among the Flemings and Walloons of the southern half of the southern provinces.  It was through common identity as Catholics that Belgians were originally lumped together.  With secularisation and the general decline of religion as a primary political loyalty, ethnic and linguistic differences inevitably have become more salient.  If Belgium breaks up, it will be partly on account of the breakdown in the original “sectarian” character of Belgian identity.

Alex Massie has more.

Huckabee could probably do without this kind of “help”:

As it happens, the Bush adviser [Bartlett] was most enthusiastic about a contender who seems to have even less chance. He called Huckabee the “best candidate,” one who seems to most mirror Bush’s own vision of compassionate conservatism [bold mine-DL].

At his latest press conference, Gordon Brown uttered the seemingly banal phrase, “With power comes responsibility,” which several people have noticed to be a close rip-off from one of the lines of Spiderman.  That ’s perhaps not the best association to conjure up for a government now desperately trying to rid itself of a reputation for “spin.”  (Drumroll, please.)

Speaking of Bernard Lewis, one of the more unpleasant facts about the man is that he has made a point, using his reputation as a serious Ottomanist, of maintaining the Ankara line on the Armenian genocide (i.e., that it wasn’t planned and wasn’t genocide).  Naturally, Armenian-Americans are rather unhappy that genocide deniers receive presidential awards, and I should think most everyone should be unsettled at the thought that one of the more influential historians advising or inspiring Republican views on the region is committed to denying a genocide.  Lewis’ privileged place as the administration’s reliable Middle East expert helps explain the White House’s fairly despicable attitude on the question of recognition.

We’re going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth. ~Barack Obama 

Establishing the kingdom of heaven on earth always means rendering more to Caesar than what was originally due. ~Nick Gillespie

 It is also, from the perspective of Christian orthodoxy, impossible to do and it is impious to believe that men can build the Kingdom.  Also, chiliasm has long been regarded as a dangerous heresy.  Christians are citizens of the civitas Dei, and we should live accordingly, but we cannot replace the earthly city.  Christians are called to be the leaven in the world.  They are not called to be utopians.

It is not we non-interventionists who are isolationsists. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seek change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example. ~Rep. Ron Paul

Geoffrey Wheatcroft has reminded us that we do not actually have either a functioning democratic or republican system, but instead suffer through a series of inept family-based cliques in a kakistocratic oligarchy (there are certainly no aristoi in our political class) in which connections are decisive and merit painfully irrelevant.  The latest example of this is the accession to the throne presidential campaign of Clinton.  In other words, things are running much as they have done for much of my lifetime (and almost certainly longer than that).  The idea that Bush-Clinton fatigue will set in among voters this time derives from the average pundit’s impatience with the dreariness of dynastic cycles and the continued belief that democracy results in generally better, more dynamic and less squalid government.  Our system keeps doing its best to prove that belief wrong, but it persists anyway. 

There will be no fatigue.  This dynastic cycle is, unless I am very much mistaken, what most Americans want, or at least it is what they will accept if it is offered to them.  Like Clinton, Bush the Younger was not called forth by an enthusiastic public, but was dropped on the country by his establishment chums and his family, and people accepted it out of sheer loathing of the other family and its allies.  

Americans’ affection for the Royal Family (or our pop culture’s fascination with the mafia, on the other end of the family spectrum) has always hinted at a sneaking admiration for hereditary and family power, and perhaps our national obsession with genealogy was also bound to catch up with us sooner or later.  It was only a matter of time before some sizeable number of us would embrace (or rather re-embrace, since this sort of thing has been happening for quite a while, as the Roosevelts and Tafts could testify) a politics defined by lineages.  There is every chance that the dynastic cycle could continue beyond 2016, and it would eventually have to be crowned by a joining of the two houses, like the joining of York and Lancaster or Komnenos and Doukas.  People have joked about this possibility in the past, but it’s not so far-fetched.  As a wise man once said of another proposed alliance of major political clans, “Then you can challenge the Klingons for interstellar domination.”  And what red-blooded American will want to turn away from that destiny?   

The only thing that is curious about Wheatcroft’s op-ed is that he expresses a degree of shock that this has happened.  Is it any wonder that a dysfunctional managed democracy has started to fall into the same sets of hands in election after election, distinguished only by the larger factions (i.e., political party and other interests) on whose behalf those hands rob empower the people?  Is it strange that a government that has what many people routinely call an “imperial presidency” should also have hangers-on and entire networks of family loyalists and retainers cultivated over decades of patronage?  The concentrated power there is, the more incentive there is to build up a huge network of allies to acquire and retain control over that concentrated power–and the more incentive there is for people to abase themselves in service to a dynasty.  The worse educated and worse informed the public is, the easier it will be to push candidates based on name and family association.   

One sympathises with the despair of Choniates as he surveyed the late twelfth century of Byzantium with its squabbling Angeloi and lesser Komnenoi, though right about now we could do worse–and probably will do worse–than a John the Fat.  We may hope that the outcome for us will be less traumatic, but if so it won’t be on account of wise and prudent government.   

Dan McCarthy is making his “rash” predictions, so I thought it would be time to update my own.  Of course, once upon a time I made some really ridiculous predictions that were based more in contempt for the media-anointed candidates than in careful analysis.  The top six (or, now, seven) all seemed so preposterous and undesirable–how could any of them win?  But, of course, two of them are likely to emerge as the nominees.  More on that in a moment.  

Nine months later, I see just how wrong my painfully counterintuitive claims for a Duncan Hunter grassroots surge were.  Restrictionists evidently like their candidates to be preoccupied with nothing else, and so have backed Tancredo, leaving Hunter in asterisk country.  Rather embarrassingly, I assumed that Ron Paul’s position on the war would make him so unwelcome in the GOP primaries and would prevent him from playing any significant role, and yet it is Rep. Paul who has enjoyed the grassroots explosion of support and Rep. Paul who has made the biggest splash in the debates.  In theory, there was nothing more implausible about a Hunter candidacy enjoying this kind of success, since both Hunter and Paul are relatively little-known Congressmen, but I clearly overestimated the draw of Hunter’s trade and immigration views and neglected to consider that he would be dreadfully conformist on all questions pertaining to the war.  I actually underestimated the depth of frustration with the war, or at least I assumed it would work to the advantage of the Democrats.  Among other reasons, Hunter has generated so little enthusiasm because there is nothing particularly distinctive about Hunter’s campaign that mobilises many people.

Dan suggests an eventual Giuliani-Huckabee ticket.  This ticket seems designed to alienate two-thirds, so to speak, of the Republican coalition.  Huckabee’s social-con credentials will not be enough to stifle dissenters against Giuliani as the presidential nominee, and if Giuliani chooses Huckabee he will have sent a signal that will be deeply worrying to economic conservatives.  I have previously made light of such a combination of candidates, and I am still convinced that neither of these two will be on the national ticket.  Huckabee is arguably as personally likeable as Giuliani is obnoxious, and putting the two of them together will simply make people wonder, “Why isn’t the VP nominee on the top of the ticket?  This other guy is crazy!”  Besides, the GOP has never nominated an ethnic Catholic, nominal or otherwise, to either of its top two slots.  It isn’t going to start this year or next.  Romney will start failing early, and Thompson will benefit from this.  McCain will be gone or all but gone by the end of January.  Romney will probably still hang on to win Iowa.  Thompson, Romney and Paul will go 1-2-3 in N.H.  Giuliani will place maybe fifth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire.  It’s frankly inconceivable to me that Giuliani can fare well in these states.  Thompson wins South Carolina.  Giuliani will persist, but find no success until Feb. 5 and even then not much.  Romney has the self-financing to keep going through March, and he will do so, but with ever more diminishing returns.  Thompson ultimately wins the nomination, and Thompson will choose someone from outside the presidential race as a running mate.  Thompson’s general election campaign will be unsuccessful, losing to the Democratic nominee by a sizeable margin.  A Clinton-Biden or Clinton-Richardson ticket will prevail.   

George Ajjan spoke about Ron Paul at his local county GOP nominating convention in mid-September.  He writes about that meeting and another New Jersey conservative convention here.

Not to jinx anything before the series is over, but I wouldn’t be much of an Astros fan living in the Southside of Chicago if I didn’t take a moment to enjoy the suffering and humiliation of the Cubs at the hands of the Diamondbacks thus far.  In Game 3, Arizona leads the Cubs 3-0 in the 4th, and it’s a best-of-five series.  It’s never over till it’s over, but it appears that the Cubs will not be advancing.  This is a very good thing. 

Update: It’s bottom of the seventh, and the Diamondbacks lead 4-1. Now bottom of the ninth, Arizona leading 5-1.  I think we can look forward to an all-Southwest NL Championship.  Rockies win in 5.

It’s not clear to me what advantage the NM Republicans gain by permitting a fratricidal Senate primary, but it seems that chatter that Steve Pearce (NM-02) plans to run for Domenici’s seat against Wilson is true.  Pearce’s district is much more solidly Republican, so if he were to somehow win the nomination his House seat would be safe.  With Wilson’s district, it is not at all clear that a rookie candidate could fend off another strong Democratic challenge.  The district has been trending away from the Republicans, and in a strong Democratic year an open seat there would be a likely pick-up for the Dems. 

Pearce stands a poor chance of competing statewide, and I think he must know this.  Pearce pursuing the Senate nomination would be more of a statement about intra-party control, an attempt to rout the moderate Republicans who have called the shots lo these many decades.  My guess is that some local conservatives want to oust Wilson come what may in the autumn.  Some of us back home never liked the way she was foisted on the district by Domenici, and now that he is departing the scene the knives may come out to get rid of a moderate squish that many Republicans in the First District never wanted.  Of course, it’s perfectly fair to note that the NM GOP doesn’t really have many other viable candidates for the Senate race.

The idea that Schumer might encourage Diane Denish to run is remarkable.  Denish gives the impression of being a nice enough woman, and would probably make an average candidate.  In a head-to-head match-up with Wilson, it’s not at all obvious that Denish would come out ahead.  Udall is probably their best bet.  I had all but forgotten about our mayor, Marty Chavez, whose last attempt at gaining statewide glory ended in failure.  Chavez enjoys reasonably good popularity in Albuquerque, but he has not been able to translate that into statewide appeal.  As I have said before, Madrid would be a disastrous choice.  In a big Democratic year, it might not matter who the nominee is, but that’s what some of us thought about the House race last year and Madrid proved us wrong.   

Update: Apparently, Udall will not run.  That seat has already become a lot more competitive.

Commenting on this, Alex Massie writes:

I’m as glib as the next clown but this just seems, well, glib and just another opportunistic stick with which to beat the Bush administration.

Mostly, Sullivan’s post seems to be a criticism of European governments rather than Bush.  I agree that Sullivan’s claim that Turkey is “[p]erhaps our most important ally” is strange.  The British don’t seem to get a lot of credit these days for their solidarity with us.  Turkey certainly remains a strategically important ally, but the current stance of its government on a possible U.S. troop withdrawal into Turkey would suggest that it is not our “most important ally.”  The worsening of U.S.-Turkish relations is lamentable in some ways, and it will be one of the long-term costs of the invasion of Iraq.  Some of the worsening of relations was the fault of our government and entirely avoidable, and some of it comes from internal political changes in Turkey.  Turkish opinion of the U.S. is extremely unfavourable right now, and that is going to shape Turkish politics and their regional policy for years to come.  Turkish interests will also continue to diverge from our own if we insist on confrontation with Iran while Turkey and Iran pursue bilateral trade and energy cooperation.  We can either begin adjusting to such realities of a post-invasion Near East, or we can watch previously solid allies drift away from us.  Washington’s enthusiasm for Turkish EU entry, meanwhile, has simply stiffened the spine of the opponents of such a move and associated the issue with the projection of American influence.  

However, delaying EU entry for Turkey is hardly “myopic.”  It is at the very least an example of prudent caution, especially after member states have been absorbing the costs of the last rounds of expansion.  Yes, accession talks have been going on for years, decades even, and they may well continue for years and decades more if all parties still want to pursue it, because there remain many serious problems with the way Turkey is governed that preclude its membership in the EU.  I have no affection for the EU, but it does have its standards and it means to keep them–that is the reality of the situation.  One also need not subscribe to theories of Muslim takeovers of Europe to recognise what a huge political change in the makeup of the EU it would be to bring in a nation of 60 million people.  Extending an even-more expanded Europe’s borders to Iraq and Iran also presents security risks that a great many Europeans reasonably don’t want to take on. 

There is some hint of criticism for Bush in Sullivan’s remarks that Turkey has been “left hanging in Iraq,” which is odd since Washington has tried to placate Turkey as much as possible on the question of the PKK.  As the article Sullivan links to shows, the AKP government has been gaining in popularity in Kurdish areas and has taken a more conciliatory stance towards expressions of Kurdish identity, which in turn has made the PKK less of a real political threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity.  The rise of the AKP has fortunately to some extent blunted the issue of the PKK presence in northern Iraq, and its election victory has chastened the military and undermined the latter’s influence in the country.  That may or may not be to Turkey’s ultimate benefit, but it has reduced somewhat the tensions over a possible military incursion. 

Gordon Brown has said he will not call a general election this autumn.

The PM said he wanted a chance to show the country his “vision for change” and to develop his policies further. ~BBC News

Via Alex Massie

Considering the talk less than two weeks ago that Labour regarded playing up the possibility of a snap election as a smart move that might end up destroying the Tories, the decision is remarkable.  As Nelson recounted before the Blackpool conference, a “Labour insider” told him:

We want this to be the end for the Tories. The talk about an early election is a gamble for us: if it focuses their minds, they may unify. But my money is on them thinking they have already lost, and starting to kick each other to death. 

Apparently they have kicked the habit of kicking one another to death.  As it happens, they unified and they have given the impression that they think they can win an election (they may be bluffing, but they are bluffing very convincingly).  Massie points us to this to explain Brown’s decision.  The move was described by the political editor of SkyNews as ”one of the worst blows to a serving prime minister that I can remember in quarter of a century of covering politics.”  So that’s pretty bad, then, since that period would also include such impressive disasters as Thatcher’s poll tax fiasco and Black Wednesday.  Brown can take heart–it’s just “one of” the worst, not the worst overall.  

No general election means two more years during which pundits and pols can bash Brown for being an “unelected” leader.  Granted, no one should underestimate Tory capacity for self-destruction and fratricide, but something seems different this time.  It is irrational, but people respond well to shows of confidence regardless of substance or policy (this is why I’m afraid that Americans remained supportive of Mr. Bush long after reason should have told them to flee from him in droves).  Delaying the general election might have been technically the right tactical move, if there were going to be significant losses, but the symbolism of it is deadly for any ruling party.  Brown has effectively declared to all that he has no confidence in his party or his government, and this just a short time after he and his partisans apparently believed themselves to be on the verge of an historic knockout.     

It appears that my earlier post about “the lost leader” was timed correctly–it was just aimed at the wrong leader.

Update: It’s not just marginal districts, but the entire country that has turned on Labour.  This may be only temporary, but the Tories have enjoyed a 14-point swing to pull 3 ahead of Labour in the space of one week.  I know that public opinion can be fickle, but this is ridiculous. 

Forsyth writes at Spectator’s Coffee House blog:

He is being denounced as weak by all and sundry while his reputation for straight-talking is in tatters. Never again will his opponents cower in front of him.

Opinion at The Guardian is no more favourable:

This will prompt a reassessment of the prime minister that will not be to his advantage. The one thing that everyone, friend or foe, reckoned that they knew about Mr Brown was that he was brilliant at politics. Whatever else they have thought about him, his enemies have always regarded him as awesome at the game. His allies have often described him as a grandmaster of political chess, a strategist so clever that he is able to look ahead a dozen moves. And yet by this weekend, the Prime Minister had got himself into a terrible position on the board. Here was a grandmaster who had managed to put himself into check.

In the same spirit as some of my remarks above, Nelson has dubbed today Brown’s “Black Saturday.”

The Scotsman editorialises that Brown has been “irreparably damaged.”

While we’re having fun rummaging through old Brooks columns, this one stands out for contradicting the last one pretty impressively.  Instead of being the cause of Republican collapse, all those “creedalcons,” as my Scene colleague Matt Feeney has dubbed them, were the lifeblood of the party–in 2005.  Remember the “clamoring of creeds” that were smothering the Burkeans?  Evidently, two years ago–before everything went truly, horribly wrong–all the clamoring, factionalism and ideology were good for the GOP:

Conservatives have not triumphed because they have built a disciplined and efficient message machine. Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly. As these factions have multiplied, more people have come to call themselves conservatives because they’ve found one faction to agree with.

There’s also this:

This feuding has meant that the meaning of conservatism is always shifting. Once, Republicans were isolationists. Now most Republicans, according to a New York Times poll, believe the U.S. should try to change dictatorships into democracies when it can. Meanwhile, 78 percent of Democrats believe the U.S. should not try to democratize authoritarian regimes.

Moreover, it’s not only feuding that has been the key to conservative success - it’s also what the feuding’s about. When modern conservatism became aware of itself, conservatives were so far out of power it wasn’t even worth thinking about policy prescriptions. They argued about the order of the universe, and how the social order should reflect the moral order. Different factions looked back to different philosophers - Burke, Aquinas, Hayek, Hamilton, Jefferson - to define what a just society should look like.

That first passage about interventionist foreign policy is notable, since it drives home that it wasn’t the ideologues pushing intervention alone who have brought the GOP to its current lowly state, but it was also a majority of Republicans themselves who bought into this nonsense.  Had there been more instinctive, temperamental Burkeans, it would not have been so easy to persuade so many Republicans that promoting democracy on the other side of the world was a realistic or desirable end.  The GOP has certainly driven away many temperamental conservatives, but what the last few years have shown us is that, depressingly, there weren’t that many Burkeans left to be driven away in the first place.  Even more depressingly, those poll results indicate that the opinions of most Republicans and Democrats on such issues can be moulded and transformed based on little more than the partisan affiliation of the administration carrying out the policy.  Ten years ago, I bet the results would have been almost exactly reversed when the other party was in the White House.

Respondents, including myself, have been so caught up in talking about Burke-this and ideology-that, that we have neglected to mention that the column doesn’t actually explain very well why the GOP’s support collapsed.  As it happens, the policies that have so disgusted people with the GOP have not been shared equally among the different “creeds” identified by Brooks.  There were scarcely any national policies enacted that might be traced back to the “free market” or “religious” conservatives.  NCLB, Medicare Part D and amnesty were all the fruit of “compassionate” conservatism, so called, and good old-fashioned attempted vote-buying with earmarks.  We know who was most responsible for Iraq, and it cannot be pinned on the libertarians and the “theocons,” though many of them went along with it.  It is the backlash against the costs of these policies, and, of course, the body blow to Mr. Bush’s administration that followed Katrina (whether or not pinning the blame on the administration for the whole thing is fair) and the debacle of Iraq, especially in 2006, that have put the GOP in its present condition.  

It wasn’t the tax cuts that alienated your average temperamental or “dispositional” conservative, but the egregious expansion of government and spending that contributed to building up massive amounts of debt and future liabilities.  Brooks neglected to note the role that Mr. Bush’s immigration follies had in alienating core conservatives.  Strong opposition to ESCR has certainly not been a great position electorally, but in general religious conservatives’ adamant defense of life is not losing the GOP that much and routinely brings in tens of millions of voters who might otherwise probably never want to be associated with the party.  No, it has been the combination of “compassion,” big government conservatism, Iraq and, of course, mega-incompetence that explain why the “dispositional” conservatives and others have abandoned the party. 

Well, I guess everyone can change his mind over time, but what a change the last column was from this (via Yglesias):

The Bush folks, at least when it comes to Africa policy [bold mine-DL], have learned from centuries of conservative teaching - from Burke to Oakeshott to Hayek - to be skeptical of Sachsian grand plans. Conservatives emphasize that it is a fatal conceit to think we can understand complex societies, or rescue them from above with technocratic planning [bold mine-DL].

So people in the administration are deeply immersed in the wisdom of the conservative intellectual tradition when they’re working on Africa policy, so they must just forget about it the rest of the time.  That makes sense, right?  Er, no.

Then again, maybe Brooks has a point.  There certainly never was any extensive “technocratic planning” done by this administration, and no one would accuse them of even trying to understand complex societies.  There are some who would love to attribute this to the mythical conspiracy whereby anti-government conservatives govern badly to prove that government can’t work, but it really is a case of this administration not knowing what they’re doing.  (It would also help this theory if there were a lot of conservatives in the administration.)

Give Paul Krugman a prize.  He has managed to make me say something in defense of Bill Kristol.  Krugman writes:

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

I don’t know whether Bill Kristol actually cares about sick or hungry children.  Maybe he doesn’t.  If his foreign policy arguments are anything to go by, he isn’t terribly bothered by children who get blown up by cluster bombs.  But, as I said, this is a defense.  What Kristol said was a joke at the expense of liberals who make everything a matter of protecting “the children.”  It doesn’t matter whether the policy in question will actually protect or help “the children”–what matters is the treacly, manipulative deceit that “the children” are receiving the help they so “desperately” need.  The policy might very well harm children, but these people will say that it is done “for the children,” much in the same way that Kristol’s foreign policy arguments advance continuous warfare as a boon and a glorious gift for the people in the war zones.  Therefore, when we hear appeals made in the name of “the children” today, it summons up a certain cynicism and an urge to mock the sanctimonious frauds (that would be Krugman) who lecture us on compassion, since it has been the experience of conservatives and even of people like Bill Kristol to be treated to the moral blackmail that if you oppose some ghastly government intervention you hate children (much as Mr. Bush once lectured opponents of his ghastly war that to oppose “liberation” and democracy promotion was to be racist).  Someone with a sense of irony, or indeed a sense of humour would get all this.  Krugman has neither.

I would add to this that Mr. Bush’s veto, in the wake of his own massive entitlement expansions and his general reluctance to veto anything at any time, is politically just about the most idiotic thing he could have ever done.  He cannot lift his pen to veto any piece of shady earmarked appropriations or expansion of government that benefits corporate interests, but he will be sure to resist S-CHIP because he supposedly cares so deeply about fiscal restraint. 

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Heather Wilson is such a non-conservative and terrible member of the Republican caucus that a National Review contributor and I can agree on something for a change.  It is strange that the outrage against Wilson’s decided lack of conservatism (she is pro-choice, pro-amnesty and, of course, pro-war) has only come now over her rebellion over S-CHIP, but I guess it’s better late than never.  Wilson’s reason for backing S-CHIP really is very simple: she barely survived her last re-election, and the next one would not be any easier if she voted with the White House on what will undoubtedly be a popular program.  Especially if she plans to run for Senate, she has to have something she can brag about in a statewide race in New Mexico, where Democrats and independents outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. 

In the forthcoming TAC, Prof. Schroeder continues his essay on Iraq that he started in the last issue.  To my mind, the second part is even better and offers more of his typically excellent analysis.  Here’s a small sample:

A credible American commitment to real withdrawal both removes those incentives and restores traditional rivalries–Turk versus Kurd, Shi’ite versus Sunni, Iranian versus Saudi, Iranian nationalism versus Iraqi–while still permitting general co-operation against the Islamic radicalism that threatens all.

There is a more challenging section towards the end:

We also need a changed American public, one that in regard to world affairs is both smarter and better (the two qualities go so closely together in international politics as to be almost indistinguishable)–a public better informed, more honest and open to the truth, less self-preoccupied and self-centered and therefore able to discern and willing to follow better leadership and make more exertions for better long-range goals.

Rusty Houser likes McCain’s stance on the war; when I ask him why we are in Iraq in the first place, he tells me, “To get rid of Al Qaeda.” When I point out that Bush himself has admitted there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, Houser shrugs. Bush, he assures me, “doesn’t always let people know what he knows.” ~Matt Taibbi

If some people want to talk about “nutty” candidates and their followers, they could do worse than to read some of the comments from McCain’s people.

Michael Crowley has been doing good work keeping track of the politicking and lobbying surrounding the Armenian genocide resolution, and he has a round-up of the latest news.  Most ridiculous (and depressing) line comes from the White House: “the determination of whether or not the events constitute a genocide should be a matter for historical inquiry, not legislation.”  This comes from the same administration that has felt no compunction about labeling the conflict in Darfur a genocide and the House joined the administration in declaring it as such, whether or not that really is the most accurate term for it.  Mr. Bush has no problem invoking the Cambodian genocide in a tendentious and dishonest revisionist account of the end of the Vietnam War.  Yet the administration and its allies in the House are utterly spineless when it comes to properly describing the genocidal crimes of a regime that no longer even exists because it will offend an allied state.  This is all another very helpful reminder that for all together too many people that the recognition of a genocide that occurred in the past depends heavily on whether it serves or harms present political interests. 

Do you suppose that PM Erdogan would be received in the same way that Ahmadinejad was last month?  I doubt it.  He would be welcomed, cheered as a “moderate” and “reformed” Islamist and a strong ally of the United States, and so on.  He denies a genocide about which relatively few people care, and his government is allied with Israel, which makes his government’s affront to moral and historical truth rather more acceptable to a lot of the very same people who wanted to bar Ahmadinejad from setting foot on U.S. soil.  Erdogan is the head of government in a state that prosecutes people for engaging in just such “historical inquiry,” which is why Turkish historians who wish to speak truthfully about the genocide, such as Taner Akcam, have had to leave Turkey.  When Bush says that there should be more “historical inquiry” into the matter, what other politician does he sound like?

I don’t know Matt Continetti at all, so maybe that’s why I shared Chotiner’s puzzlement about Continetti’s response to this episode:

Ryan Spidell, 19, who works in the kitchen at the Midtown Cafe in Newton, Iowa, asked Thompson about “Sen. Kennedy’s bill on college debt.”

Spidell was referring to Kennedy’s Student Debt Relief Act, which would cut interest rates on student loans and cap loan payments.

Thompson had never heard of it.

Continetti takes the Politico reporting as evidence that the media are now underestimating Thompson.  How you can underestimate someone who consistently underperforms all expectations is a bit of a mystery, but there it is.  Continetti then says at the conclusion:

And you gotta wonder whether elite media circles in New York and Washington are seriously underestimating the power of Thompson’s cultural appeal to Sunbelt conservatives.

But is ignorance about the relevant pending legislation actually culturally appealing to Sunbelt conservatives?  As a conservative who hails from what I suppose counts as part of “the Sunbelt” and still votes in New Mexico, I would have to say no.  The larger point is that this is how Thompson answers almost every question.  It usually goes something like this: “Well, you know, when I was driving around Tennessee during my Senate campaign, I learned that the American people love freedom and that they want the government to do good things, not bad things.  I’m not familiar with the specifics of what you’re talking about, but I am confident that we can unite as a people to handle anything that comes our way.  No, I’m not interested in talking about what my rivals have said on this subject, because I have no idea what they said, and it doesn’t matter anyway.  What matters is that we secure this country against threats, and that’s what I’ll do.” 

Politico has a quote of him actually saying much the same:

Let’s keep doing what works and quit doing what doesn’t work.

An equally telling point would be that Thompson’s answer seems to show complete tone-deafness on a topic (cost of college education).  He seems give no indication that he understands that Republicans need to try to be competitive among precisely those voters who are liable to have large amounts of student debt and limited resources with which to pay it off.  These are the folks who may be favourably inclined towards the party that works to alleviate that burden.  Thompson’s answer will be more satisfactory for those whose parents did just “write a check for college” to the extent that those people are not terribly concerned about efforts to ease student debt burdens.   

Thompson could have made the federalist case that education shouldn’t even be part of the federal government’s concern–it’s a state matter, he could have said, and just look at the godawful mess Kennedy and Bush made when they started trying to tinker with lower levels of education with NCLB!  Instead, he managed to show that he knew nothing about the current state of the policy debate while also appearing indifferent to the anxiety that lower-middle and middle-income voters have about racking up debt for their children’s education.  If that is the ticket to winning over a lot of Sunbelt conservatives, I’m still not sure that this is a good thing.

The new CFTR is predicated on the belief that “the conditions of the party today are almost identical to what they were in 1977,” the official said. “By 1977, the party had been betrayed by corruption and betrayal of conservative principles.” ~Marc Ambinder

Citing this report, Yglesias draws attention to an old 2006 op-ed by Craig Shirley, who is heading up the new effort.  One of the sources of resentment that Shirley identified that makes no sense to me whatever is the presence of ”a League of Nations mentality” in the GOP.  Is this some roundabout way of saying Wilsonian idealism?  It’s hard to tell, since the main Wilsonians in the GOP today are Max Boot’s so-called “hard Wilsonians” (a.k.a., neocons, whom Boot believes do not exist) whose attitudes towards international institutions are rather closer to those of the Imperial Japanese or the Italians towards the actual League of Nations c. 1937.  If there were a lot of Republicans espousing a “League of Nations mentality,” it might very well create resentment, but I have to say that this is one element of a GOP crack-up that I don’t see. 

Whatever else one might say about Lincoln (and I could say a great deal), I think this is mistaken.  You can cheer on Lincoln until your voice gives out, I suppose, but you will have a devil of a time inventing the Garibaldi from Springfield as a font of American conservative thought.  Their enemies called them the Red Republicans for a reason.  Reihan, continuing to blog up a storm while Ross is away, helps explain the thinking that would draw meliorist/reform conservatives towards Lincoln as a model. 

A modern conservative appropriation of Lincoln seems mistaken to me since, obviously, I think Lincoln’s politics are the antithesis of the decentralist, distributist-cum-populist tradition that properly makes up what best approximates a native conservative tradition in America.  If judged according to Burkean hostility to Jacobinism and “armed doctrines” generally, Lincoln would have to be classified as an enemy of the permanent things. 

The “native” American tradition to which I refer is the Country tradition, which, like everything almost everything in early republican America, has its origins in Britain.  This tradition even had some latter-day representatives inside the Party of Lincoln, such as La Follette, and post-New Deal and post-WWII decentralists began to look to the GOP as an alternative, but it has never been their natural home and has never really been receptive to their message for very long.  If modern conservatives wish to belong to the Country tradition, Lincoln is necessarily out of the picture, and if they wish to embrace Lincoln they pretty much have to turn their back on virtually the entirety of that tradition.  Nationalism, centralism and government working on behalf of corporate and industrial interests (tendentiously dubbed by its early advocates as “the American system”) are all aspects of “Lincolnianism” that are directly opposed to the Country tradition.  In the American context, what would that tradition include?  I think it would include love of place and tradition, constitutional and federal republicanism, support for regional diversity, conserving local communities, keeping a broad distribution of property as a safeguard against abuse of power, and preventing the concentration of power and money in a few hands.  Lincoln represents the tendency to uproot, level or destroy pretty much everything that a great many traditional conservatives believe that we should be conserving.

Finally, via Yglesias, a sensible, critical and intelligent response to Mearsheimer/Walt by Daniel Levy.  This is exactly the kind of thing I have been hoping to see, and I applaud Mr. Levy for it.  It will certainly not satisfy the book’s critics over here, but neither is it a full endorsement or apology for every claim the authors make.  Levy makes some excellent preliminary remarks in this post that also includes his book review:

Some of the commentary, by the way, has just been plain shoddy – a word hurled too often at Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer. Leslie Gelb, reviewing the book in the NY Times is the most disappointing and inexcusable example of this [bold mine-DL]. Gelb for instance claims that the official American policy against settlements and in favor of a Palestinian state proves the limitations of the lobby. Hardly! If anything it suggests the opposite – 40 years and over 400,000 Israelis living beyond the green line later – there is perhaps a disconnect and might this not require an explanation.

Quite.  I’m glad Mr. Levy drew attention to the Gelb review, since it is considered by more than a few of the book’s critics to be some gold standard of serious engagement with the book’s arguments.  Levy also draws attention to what is actually very confused terminology in the entire debate, namely the designation “pro-Israel”:

Without himself being an Israeli, my friend MJ Rosenberg probably captures the essence of this position best when he writes: “There is nothing pro-Israel about supporting policies that promise only that Israeli mothers will continue to dread their sons’ 18th birthdays for another generation.”

To which one might add parenthetically along the same lines that there is nothing pro-American about foreign policy decisions that continually expose us to increased hostility overseas and put our soldiers into unnecessary wars.

He makes an important point on the Iraq war:

Understandably, Walt and Mearsheimer’s chapter about the Iraq war has drawn the most fire and ire – and with no small degree of justification. Yes, as Leonard Fein argues, the book does go too far in conflating the Israel lobby with neocons. But that act of conflating does not exist only in the minds of Walt and Mearsheimer.  As I argue, the mainstream lobby allowed itself to be co-opted and it moved so far to the right and made such dubious alliances, that the co-option gave the impression of being almost seamless [bold mine-DL].

In his Haaretz review Levy notes:

Their more shrill detractors have either not read the book, are emotionally incapable of dealing with harsh criticism of something they hold so close (certainly a human tendency), or are intentionally avoiding a substantive debate on the issues.

As Levy makes clear from the beginning, his review is going to be very different, and it is.  He also cuts to the heart of the question of Israel-as-strategic liability:

It is not Israel per se that is a liability, but Israel as an occupier: “If the conflict were resolved, Israel might become the sort of strategic asset that its supporters often claim it is.” The distinction should be on the radar screen of Israel’s strategic planners.

Levy makes a number of good points, and you should read the entire review, and he makes a subtle but, I think, basically correct distinction here:

Walt and Mearsheimer place them four-square inside the Israel lobby. The reality seems more complicated than that. Many leading neocons, by their own admission, care greatly about Israel, but they want to impose their policy, not follow Jerusalem’s. Unlike, for instance, AIPAC, which takes its lead from the Israeli government, and then tends to give it an extra twist to the right, the neocons adhere to a rigid ideological dogma and are not afraid to confront a government in Jerusalem they view as too “soft.”

This is another place where the general term “pro-Israel” obscures too much, since it can include both those, like the neocons, who support Israel-as-it-ought-to-be (or as they imagine it to be), and those who support the policy of the existing state.  However, Levy does say (as he also suggested in his post):

It is more likely that the neocons co-opted the Israel lobby, and Israel itself, to their own vision of regional transformation. Still, most of the Israel lobby were willing accomplices, and this represents their historic error.

And again:

The picture is complete when the role of Ariel Sharon, then Israeli premier, is added. Sharon was a hawk, but no neocon. He viewed dreams of regional transformation, democratization and regime change with scorn and disdain, but he could spot a useful political ally when he saw one. The neocons would be his bulwark against being dragged into a negotiating process with the Palestinians or Syrians, as America re-calibrated its approach to the Middle East post-9/11. Negotiations were Sharon’s “Room 101.” The Dov Weissglas-Elliott Abrams channel saved him the trouble. Walt and Mearsheimer describe a damning end product, policies that are a disaster for America and Israel alike, but in over-conflating the neocons with the Israel lobby they overlook a dynamic and nuance that might have implications for the future.

As Mr. Levy argues, disastrous Near East policy of the last few years was the result of a combination of factors:

Another way to look at it would be: This is the first Republican administration since the Christian evangelical Zionists emerged as a potent force in the GOP; since the mainstream pro-Israel community planted itself firmly on the Likud right, and with an executive that contained a sizeable and senior neocon presence. At the same time a hawk was ensconced in the Israeli Prime Minister’s residence (Sharon). Then came the shock of 9/11, followed by the swagger and hubris that followed an apparently easy military victory in Afghanistan. This was a potent mix. These actors can all be described with some accuracy as pro-Israel, but they are also all different, and charting a future course is helped by recognizing that difference.


I’ve been slow in getting together a response to Brooks’ latest (sorry, Rod), which I read just a little while ago via Sullivan.  The general argument makes sense: those who possess a traditional conservative mentality or temperament, the Burkean conservatives, are disillusioned by the reign of abstraction among the various factions of the GOP.  So far, so good.  He then uses this to explain the GOP’s political reverse:

To put it bluntly, over the past several years, the G.O.P. has made ideological choices that offend conservatism’s Burkean roots. This may seem like an airy-fairy thing that does nothing more than provoke a few dissenting columns from William F. Buckley, George F. Will and Andrew Sullivan. But suburban, Midwestern and many business voters are dispositional conservatives more than creedal conservatives. They care about order, prudence and balanced budgets more than transformational leadership and perpetual tax cuts. It is among these groups that G.O.P. support is collapsing.

Perhaps it is implicit in the rest of the column, but Brooks does not seem to stress enough that the reason why GOP support among these groups is collapsing is that ideologically driven policies take little account of present realities and attempt to shoehorn society into an imagined model.  GOP support isn’t simply collapsing because its increasingly ideological nature offends the temperamental conservatives in America, but because the policies it has managed to implement have generally failed even on their own terms.  It is in no small part ideology’s hostility to reality and the repeated, doomed attempts to force reality to conform to absurd expectations that makes the temperamental conservative flee from it.   

There are also some problems with Brooks’ remarks on several of the examples of ”what the temperamental conservative believes,” and a whopping great problem with his final sentences when he says:

American conservatism will never be just dispositional conservatism. America is a creedal nation.  But American conservatism is only successful when it’s in tension — when the ambition of its creeds is retrained by the caution of its Burkean roots.      

Some may even call me ideological for insisting on this point, but America isn’t a creedal nation.  I don’t think such a thing can exist.  More to the point, talk of a nation existing as a creedal nation is itself an ideological assertion, an attempt to construct a national identity that can be defined in abstract terms and whose membership is defined by adherence to abstract propositions.  To describe a nation as creedal is to a very large extent deny that “the individual is a part of a social organism and thrives only within the attachments to family, community and nation that precede choice.”  First and foremost, the confessing of a creed is an act of will, which means that a creed is something chosen.  If organic relationship defines our membership in a nation, creedalism is, at best, redundant or a bit of rhetorical icing on an already-baked cake, and at worst an attempt to repudiate the unchosen attachments and obligations to people and country in an effort to broaden or “open” national membership to whomever feels inclined to profess the creed. 

It seems to me that this creedalism, which refers to an imaginary creedal nation, is one of the sources of the conservative predicament today.  Indeed, Brooks’ agrees that it is part of the problem.  However, he believes that it is only because of the excesses of these supposed “conservative creeds” that things have gone awry, and not the insistence on creedalism itself.

There are also a number of other difficulties with the way that Brooks advances this argument.  

There is a problem with the choice of words that stems from the prior acceptance of creedalism: he describes the rise of various ideologies as the result of conservatism in America “becoming creedal” (because America is “creedal”).  This might give someone the impression that the lover of prudence and small platoons doesn’t actually believe (credo, credere) anything, lest he, too, becomes attached to a creed, but relies on tradition, prejudice and instinct alone.  The word creed has long been conventionally applied to a certain brand of nationalist ideology that I just talked about, but actually I think the word creed is ill-suited to describe it, and could actually be impious.  

Its religious and specifically Christian origins lead the person who uses it for a political identity to one of a few undesirable results: he either conflates his political cause with a religious creed, losing the merits of both, or he replaces his own religious creed with that cause, or he invests a political cause with godlike authority.  The implications of having a “national creed” are also rather worrisome, since it means that anyone who fails to embrace a certain set of ideas, usually political ideas, cannot be a member of the nation.  Like the religious creed from which this language of creeds derives, a national creed implies anathematisation for those who do not confess it.  A political creed cannot help but be ideological.  I am less certain that the same can be said about religious beliefs.

Brooks’ talk of creeds allows him to include religious conservatives among the ideologues, but they do not belong to the phenomenon he is describing.  He writes:

Over the past decade, religious conservatives within the G.O.P. have argued that social policies should be guided by the eternal truths of natural law [bold mine-DL] and that questions about stem cell research and euthanasia should reflect the immutable sacredness of human life.

But temperamental conservatives are suspicious of the idea of settling issues on the basis of abstract truth. These kinds of conservatives hold that moral laws emerge through deliberation and practice and that if legislation is going to be passed that slows medical progress, it shouldn’t be on the basis of abstract theological orthodoxy [bold mine-DL].   

Brooks is right that temperamental conservatives are wary of “settling issues” on the basis of “abstract truth.”  Put this way, most religious conservatives might also recoil from such settlements.  An essential element to religious conservatives’ thinking is that they believe God is the author of both natural and moral law and that they are necessarily complementary (just as truth is one, divine, natural and moral law are ultimately one).  Further, they would, and I think they do, argue that man discerns natural law through observation, rational deliberation and reflection no less than he does the moral law, and they would also hold that these are confirmed by revelation.  In someone of a conservative temperament, this does entail a fanatical and terrible simplification of the difficulties and complexities of contingent circumstances, but instead provides the guiding moral principle that informs and shapes all prudential judgements appropriate to the given case.  Moral casuistry is not situationalist ethics or relativism, and it cannot proceed without a grounding in eternal verities.  It was Kirk, the interpreter of Burke, who held that an essential element of the conservative mind was the recognition of a “transcendent moral order.”  I believe Kirk would have found the description of conscience–our moral sense integrally bound to natural law–and what Newman called “the illative sense” as a species of abstraction to be completely wrong.           

As it happens, the opposition party in Burma, the one getting shot, is called the National League for Democracy. Not the National League for Stability, but Democracy. ~Daniel Henninger

That’s a really profound observation.  Very good.  Henninger has the critics on the ropes now!  Of course, the government calls itself the State Peace and Development Council, and it is clearly interested in neither peace nor development.  I don’t assume that the opposition is quite as dishonest in its choice of names, but obviously any dissident movement that wants Washington’s attention and support will invoke the magic d-word.  Every corrupt oligarch around the globe who wants to overthrow his government knows that much.

Henninger says later:

Instead, it’s that the president’s critics felt compelled not only to refute Iraq but every jot of the Bush foreign policy, including its espousal of democracy and freedom. They have come very close to displacing the Bush Doctrine with the idea that promoting democracy in difficult places is, very simply, a mistake.

But it is a mistake.  It was a mistake when JFK promoted it, and it will be a mistake should Obama continue to promote it in the future.  In its substance, it is actually a bad idea.  The Near East’s woes brought on, or rather exacerbated by, democratisation have sobered up people who just two years ago were saying silly things about an Arab Spring.  The attempt is misguided, and in most cases it is also likely to cause still more suffering.  It is certainly a mistake as it concerns American interests in almost every case, at least when the elections reflect the opinions of the people in the country, and it is also very likely a mistake for most of the countries proposed as “beneficiaries” of this great gift.  These are not things for us to promote, but they are instead things that we should practice and offer as examples.  If they are to have any meaning and to have legitimacy in many of these countries it is imperative that their promotion be indigenous and has nothing to do with us. 

Here’s the real gem:

Nations with freely operating political parties are likely to be centripetal; their energies bend inward, fighting with each other. In places without real politics, they sit in cafes plotting how to kill innocent civilians 2,000 miles outside their borders.

Which is, of course, why we didn’t invade Iraq (and Panama) and never bombed Yugoslavia–we were too busy fighting one another over school vouchers and Social Security reform!  In places without so-called “real politics” (whatever that means–politics are just as “real” when they are authoritarian, as people in Burma know only too well), people are usually preoccupied with targeting the government that denies them those “real politics.”  Or did I miss the Karen bomb attacks in Beijing?  The overwhelming majority of people in such countries does not engage in far-flung terrorist conspiracies against distant countries.  Instead, they endure and occasionally rise up against their own governments to attempt to free themselves, which is the only sort of liberation that ever truly lasts.

Beyond that, neocon has morphed into an all-purpose insult for anyone who still believes that American power is inextricable from global stability and still thinks the muscular anti-totalitarian U.S. interventionism that brought down Slobodan Milosevic has a place, and still argues, like Christopher Hitchens, that ousting Saddam Hussein put the United States “on the right side of history.” ~Roger Cohen

Has ’neocon’ really become such a thing?  He says it is used to describe Paul Berman et al., but when did this happen?  Examples would be useful at this point, and Cohen provides none.  There may some people who use the term indifferently these days to mean “crazy militarist,” but then they are actually making more sense than they realise.  On foreign policy, especially when it comes to the Near East and Russia, the differences between Tomasky’s “mainstream liberals,” liberal interventionists and neoconservatives are far more of degree than kind.  

Here’s Tomasky:

We recognized further the difference between a comparatively low-risk air war, as in Kosovo, and the far more momentous decision to commit 140,000 troops to the ground, and we understood that the latter was not to be undertaken lightly (especially when the top military man in the country was saying we’d need at least 300,000 soldiers to do the job).  

Kosovo was, in his words, a ”proper, balanced and admirable” kind of intervention.  Proper and balanced, it would seem, because that aggressive war posed few risks to us.  Why it was admirable will always remain a mystery.

The neocon taste for American empire is not the liberal hawk’s belief in the bond between American power and freedom’s progress. ~Roger Cohen

But the neocon “taste for American empire” (a characterisation that many neoconservatives would, of course, actually vehemently reject) is bound up with their equally ideological belief in “the bond between American power and freedom’s progress.”  Neocons were once “liberals mugged by reality,” but now they are people who would like to mug reality–and strafe it and bomb it–in the name of liberalism (broadly defined).  They don’t prattle about democracy and liberal revolution for their health–they actually think that our hegemony and other peoples’ freedom are compatible.  No, really!  One thing both groups do have in common is that they are profoundly, impressively wrong.

(Needless to say, I completely reject the idea that there was something high-minded or noble about the interventions of the ’90s.  Low-risk imperialism is no less morally repugnant.)

Neocon, for many, has become shorthand for neocon-Zionist conspiracy, whatever that may be, although probably involving some combination of plans to exploit Iraqi oil, bomb Iran and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit. ~Roger Cohen

It has nothing to do with conspiracies, but, in point of fact, prominent people who still call or have called themselves neoconservatives have said that we should exploit Iraq’s oil (it was going to pay for the war and reconstruction, remember?), bomb Iran (see Norman “I hope and pray that we will bomb Iran” Podhoretz) and apply U.S. power to Israel’s benefit (”This is our war, too,” said Kristol the Lesser of Lebanon).  The thing is that these are compliments to such people, which is why it never ceases to amaze me that they become offended when it is pointed out that this is what they support.

I suppose it would be taking the latest Coulter book a bit too seriously if I pointed out that women’s suffrage in virtually every Western country was initially quite favourable to parties of the center-right and helpful for conservative politics generally.  This came as something of a surprise to some of the progressives who had pushed for women’s suffrage, evidently failing to notice that there were a great many women who actually held views that put them on the right.  Even today, the GOP, which I suppose still has to count as our center-right party, typically wins among married women and loses among unmarried women.  The reasons for this really should be plain already, and I have already spent too much time on this.

Fallows, who knows more about Burma and China than most, wrote in his PostGlobal piece on the idea of an Olympic boycott over Burma:

I am constantly amazed, and I think most Americans here feel the same, by how little overt anti-Americanism I encounter in China. (Japanese expats here might tell a different story.) But those who were here when the U.S. bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade say that the rage against Americans then was physically frightening. All at once the mood turned angrily hostile. (I have not met anyone in China who thinks that bombing was an “accident.”) The potential for nationalistic reaction against “disrespect” toward China is great. Again, the point: the prevailing outlook by average Chinese toward Americans seems positive, and about the only thing that could change it would be something perceived as a slap at national dignity.

This makes a lot of sense.  It makes even more sense when you consider that Chinese nationalism is already probably going to be rising as the Olympics approach.  This has happened before at previous Olympic Games, the most infamous of which was actually the first Olympiad held in Athens, which was followed shortly afterwards by a reckless irredentist war on behalf of the Cretans that Greece lost.  More to the point, an American boycott of the Beijing Olympics would be exactly as effective as the boycott against the ‘80 Games was, which is to say not at all, and would have even less of a justification. 

Boycotting the Moscow Games was meaningless moral preening in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan, a perfect example of the futility of U.S. foreign policy under Carter, but at least you could understand it as a protest.  It’s not at all clear what message a boycott sends this time.  It will amount to saying: “Hey, China, we know that you can’t fully control this military dictatorship in Burma, but we’re going to punish you anyway to feel better about ourselves!”  Indeed, that’s usually all boycotts and sanctions are ever good for–the self-satisfaction of having made a gesture.  In the real world, they usually either provoke the target regime to worse behaviour or exacerbate poor material conditions for the people. 

We saw how irrationally our own people behaved when allies refused to join in an aggressive invasion of another country–imagine how we would respond nowadays if someone boycotted an Olympics hosted here, and then cube that.  That gives you an idea of how foolish and counterproductive a boycott would be.  

Here’s something on the lighter side.

The Republicans have bigger problems than an insane-looking convention logo.  My home state’s senior Senator, Pete Domenici, who was a sure thing for re-election, is preparing to announce his retirement.  By doing this, he has thrown open another Senate seat and probably given the Democrats the inside track on picking up four seats without their having to break a sweat.  Throw in probable losses in New Hampshire and Minnesota (it can’t help Norm Coleman that the crazy blue elephant will be plastered all over Minneapolis next summer), and a tough race in Oregon, and it will be a very bad scenario for them even without the possibility of Democratic presidential success.  Losing 5+ Senate seats in back-to-back elections is pretty much unheard of. 

The disappointment with Thompson is growing.  Quin Hillyer at The American Spectator refers to his campaign’s offerings as “a themeless pudding” and goes on to say about Fred’s campaign style:

Platitude follows upon platitude upon platitude, until you start to give the sense that you’re a creature that would look utterly ungainly if you tried to actually implement real policies — a platitudinous platypus, perhaps, unsure if you actually have the right equipment to swim in the rough political waters.


“On prosperity, I have a real novel approach, a real creative approach,” he [Thompson] said in Coralville the other night. “Let’s continue doing what works and quit doing what doesn’t work in this country. Tax cuts work.” ~The New York Times

Maybe he was being ironic.  It wasn’t “creative” or “novel”–it was the tried and true methods of yore!  Good one, Fred!  It was probably hard for the audience to tell, since half of them must have been asleep by this point.  Read the whole article to get a sense of the “magic” of Fred Thompson on the stump.

Thompson wasn’t done:

Turning to what he said would be a second priority of a Thompson administration, he said, “High, high, high on our lists of concerns for anybody who would think about becoming president of the United States is the security of this nation.”

One might even call it a “top” priority.  There are multiple lists of concerns?

As an early anti-Thompson blogger, I have to say I never expected Thompson to be so very dull in his campaigning.  I assumed that he would argue for policies I didn’t support, and he was probably going to reprise his preposterous role as the good ol’ boy who is just one of the guys, but I don’t think anyone fully realised that the “laziness” rap against him would mean that he was also going to be so unenthusiastic about his campaign while he is speaking to a crowd.  The Thompson boom never made any sense.  It hadn’t occurred to me that it would all unravel this quickly.

Also, he seems to be in denial about how poorly he has done since announcing:

He bristled at the notion that his campaign had had anything but a strong beginning. And he suggested that “the pundits” were holding him to a tougher standard than his opponents because, he said, he was defying the rules by getting in so late.

Yes, those lousy pundits!  How dare they expect candidates to know things and be able to speak about them!  They even want to see policy positions–who do they think they are?  It’s an outrage, and we shouldn’t have to put up with this uncivilised pestering of our noble candidates any longer.

Maybe he really does think he’s the new Reagan, and we’re living in the ’80s again:

Still, Mr. Thompson at times seems to be looking for his sea legs. In an interview with Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa on Wednesday, in talking about Iran, he referred to the “Soviet Union and China.”

Romney is asked about Mormonism wherever he goes. In my travels, I find his religious preference cited everywhere as the source of opposition to his candidacy. His response to the former CEOs that only reporters care about this issue sounded like a politician’s tired evasion. Romney was indicating that either he was too obtuse to appreciate his problem or was stalling because he had not determined how to deal with it. Contact with his advisers indicates the latter is the case. ~Robert Novak


This is surreal:

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has underlined the need for moderate Pakistani forces to join hands in order to resist extremism and continue economic progress and commended President Musharraf’s important role in “bringing Pakistan back from the brink.”

This comes in the same week that Bhutto is preparing to take her party out of parliament because of what Musharraf is doing, and there are already PML-N (Sharif’s allies) and MMA MPs pulling out of parliament to boycott the election.  They even have cricketing legend Imran Khan on their side–let Condi Rice put that in her “sport is a universal language” pipe and smoke it.  Musharraf isn’t bringing Pakistan back from the brink–he’s heading straight for it.  This confirms my impression that the administration has no idea what it’s doing in Pakistan. 

At the same time, the security situation in the northwest is deteriorating.  Clearly, something other than more of Musharraf’s clumsy and haphazard responses to crisis is needed.  It is probably too late to urge him to step aside now.  Washington has already publicly backed him too far to change. 

Domenici’s expected retirement opens up some interesting possibilities in New Mexican politics.  RCP notes that a political unknown and businessman from Santa Fe, Don Wiviott, has started a campaign for Senate on the Democratic side.  If either Udall or Madrid gets into the race, Wiviott’s chances are basically nil.  Since Wiviott prides himself on being a “green-friendly” businessman, there is always the possibility that he might switch and try to run as a Green if he was unsatisfied with the eventual nominee.  The New Mexico Green Party is quite strong as third parties go and it has created problems for state and federal Democratic candidates in the past.  Even without Wiviott, the Greens might make trouble.  Most of the Greens’ glory days were back in the ’90s before 2000 shocked many Democrats into resisting the impulse to split the vote on the left, but they could still play spoiler.  A lot of funny ideas float around in northern New Mexico.  A weak or unacceptable Democratic nominee could invite a significant Green candidacy that could manage to save the Republicans a seat.  I expect the state GOP is starting to think about how it can encourage a Green revival.

As I have said elsewhere, the New Mexico Democrats would be fools to nominate Patricia Madrid.  Whatever people may say, I have the impression that Patricia Madrid couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag (and I say this as someone who reluctantly voted for her last year).  Not only did she interfere in the Vigil bribery case and nearly sabotage the federal case against him (which Iglesias was busily messing up on the U.S. Attorney’s end), which makes her judgement and her ethics as questionable as those of Heather Wilson, but she stood mute, stupefied, by a simple question about whether she would vote for tax increases.  From what I’ve heard from people back home, this was the moment that saved Wilson from defeat.  She’s not very good in debates, while Wilson is honed and actually quite smart.  I’m sorry to say that Wilson would have a decent chance to save the seat if the Democrats pursued the Madrid option.  

The GOP has unveiled the convention logo for next year:


Apparently the GOP is going to try to destroy 2008 before 2008 can destroy them.  They’re taking Giuliani’s message to heart–stay on offense! 

Is the message of this logo that the Republican Party is drunk (the stars)?  Depressed (hence the blue)?  Insane?  Perhaps the message is that the party’s being chopped to pieces, or gradually erased from existence and disappearing into the background?

Past GOP convention logos have never been what anyone would confuse with aesthetically pleasing, but no recent one has been quite so ridiculous.  Consider ‘04:

2004 Republican National Convention Logo

While it does appear as if the elephant is possibly threatening to step on the Statue of Liberty’s head, the elephant itself appears quite normal.

2000 was a year of a tame, sane blue elephant, which was nonetheless trampling on the flag:

Logo of the 1996 Republican National Convention

While the year itself loomed overhead, the ‘96 convention had a much more subdued, reasonable-looking elephant.

I wasn’t able to find images for 1992 in Houston or for the 1988 New Orleans convention logo, but I did find this description for ‘88:

It consists of the stylized three-star elephant used by the Republican National Committee since 1968, with its back reshaped to represent the Superdome where the Republican delegates will gather next August.

It doesn’t sound that great, but almost anything would be better than the blue rampaging freak of nature on display this time. 

And those changes have brought us success, in local elections we have taken Plymouth, we have taken Lincoln, we took Chester, we took the council right here in Blackpool and as William reminded us in that great speech on Sunday we are back in the North of England, a force to be reckoned with in every part of our country.  ~David Cameron

Except Scotland.  Or maybe this was an intentional oversight?

Update: Alex Massie adds several solid observations on this point, and has more about the speech in an earlier post.

Here is a sentence from the introduction to the brand new Crisis of the Oikoumene:

Loyalty to the Empire that endured until the Monothelite crisis–involving a development on Monophysite Christology–prevented the [Three Chapters] schism from making a lasting mark on the African church.

Can I just tell you how troubling these lines about monotheletism are?  Every year there is some book that comes out about Orthodoxy, Christology, ecumenical councils or Byzantium and inevitably somewhere in such a book you will find a description of monotheletism like the one above.  It’s just not accurate, and yet it gets repeated on a regular basis.  I may have more to say about the book at Cliopatria in the coming weeks.  Christology buffs, stay tuned.  

Update: On the other hand, Richard Price’s chapter explaining the origins of the Three Chapters controversy is absolutely superb and definitely required reading for anyone interested in the question of the authority of Chalcedon and its supposed ‘Nestorianising’ tendencies on account of the reinstatements of Theodoret and Ibas.  I have rarely seen a scholarly treatment of this aspect of the controversy handled so carefully and thoughtfully.  Well worth the wait.

The Post’s list of foreign policy advisors for the main candidates is fairly disturbing, albeit unsurprising stuff.  We have known about many of the big names associated with the leading candidates for a while now.  Edwards and Romney have assembled teams of people who are not nearly as well known.  That’s no guarantee that these advisors are any better at guiding foreign policy, but prominent screw-ups and known warmongers are mostly conspicuous by their absence from the Edwards and Romney camps. 

Also, Romney seems to have a peculiarly strong focus on Latin America policy at the moment: 10 of his 26 advisors belong to his Latin America policy group, and virtually all of the others are dedicated to counter-terrorism.  Judging by his current advisors, you’d get the impression that Romney believes Latin America to be the most important region in the world. 

By continuing to use such terms as “Burma” and “Rangoon,” we refuse to be spooked. ~David Warren

I don’t mean to be a broken record on this.  By all means, condemn and denounce the junta, and expose its crimes to the world, but let’s stop pretending that we keep calling it Burma out of deep conviction.  Myanmar has been the Burmese name of the country since independence, so it is hardly “spooky” to apply that name to English usage.   The continued use of Burma and Rangoon and so forth simply means that English-speakers are using the same names they have used for a very long time.  Using these names is not a protest–certainly not an effective one–but a convenience and a habit.  The logic of this sort of argument is that continued use of a traditional colonial name for a place is a declaration of opposition to the current regime, in which case we had all better start talking about Rhodesia again instead of Zimbabwe, lest we taint ourselves with some supposed nominal obeisance to Mugabe. 

P.S. Warren’s calls for military strikes are typical and foolish.  Throwing the country into chaos and unleashing internecine conflict hardly seem desirable alternatives; cheap talk about having a ready-made opposition government is the same kind of recklessness that did so much to make Iraq the mess that it is today.

Longtime baseball fans know what the Mendoza line is (we won’t explain here) but what we mean here is that there may be a “Ron Paul line”: those candidates who couldn’t outraise Paul this quarter (he apparently took in approx. $2.4 million) ought to do some soul searching? So who couldn’t outraise Paul this quarter? Dodd, Biden? Huckabee? Every other GOPer not in the top four? ~Chuck Todd

In the event, Rep. Paul took in twice as much as Todd expected, which raises the bar even higher for the rest of the GOP field.  Hunter and Tancredo have vowed to stay in through the caucuses, but where do their supporters go when they drop out?  Ironically, Paul is alone among the others in being a reliable opponent of illegal immigration and trade deals such as NAFTA, which would make him the logical choice for these voters…if the war did not divide him so sharply from the majority of Republicans.

Update: Huckabee managed to bring in a whopping $1 million.  Ambinder ponders the significance:

There must be, within the Republican Party, a vein of anti-war libertarian sentiment. It is longer and deeper than many of us had suspected. The Paul movement is probably one part Buchanan bridage and one part fiscal hawk. It is clearly active in ways that most of us haven’t adequately understood? Paul may be in a position to be a giant killer now. Imagine if he finishes second or third in New Hampshire ….

Well, some thirty percent or so of Republicans have been opposed to the war for some time now, and there was always a small but hardy contingent of antiwar Republicans and conservatives.  It appears that they have begun mobilising.  Might it be enough to drag other candidates towards somewhat less crazy foreign policy views?

For the third quarter, Ron Paul has raised just over $5 million, improving on last quarter’s numbers and giving him a respectable chance to compete in the early states. 

But McCain was precisely correct to say that Judeo-Christian values were a cornerstone of Enlightenment thinking that led men like Madison, Jefferson and Adams to believe in individual autonomy [bold mine-DL].

These men were critical of some aspects of Christianity. But to deny that Christian principles were a powerful force behind the founding of this nation, from the impulse to flee Europe to the justification for war to the guiding principles at the Constitutional Convention [bold mine-DL], is to deny historical reality. 

The political thinking of the Founders was profoundly shaped by Christian teaching. Pointing that out would hardly be controversial were not so many people irrationally afraid of religion in general and Christianity in particular. But as John Adams said, men “may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”  ~ New Hampshire Union-Leader

That first paragraph is remarkable.  Naturally, I don’t agree.  Far more overreaching than anything McCain said, which was ridiculous mostly because it was McCain saying it, the editorial maintains that “Judeo-Christian values were a cornerstone of Enlightenment thinking.”  To which I respond: “what part of the Enlightenment do we mean?”  I have been known to refer very broadly and negatively to “the Enlightenment,” when I am really objecting principally to political and social theories of Locke, Voltaire and Rousseau, and I have been reminded on a few occasions that it is worth keeping in mind the differences between Enlightenment thinkers.  Here this is especially worth doing. 

Leibniz, for example, was probably the closest to matching the image of an Aufklaerer who also respected what the editorial calls “Judeo-Christian values” (which is still pretty far removed from being “profoundly shaped by Christian teaching”), but he was an early figure and not representative of the kind of thought that influenced the Founding generation.  Algernon Sydney’s Discourse Concerning Government, which had a great influence on 18th century colonial political thought, is a weighty tome replete with references to Scripture, but it is not so much “profoundly influenced by Christian teaching” as it is Whig political philosophy trying to shield itself against Filmer with the Bible.  It is difficult to say that Harrington and Bolingbroke, significant for us because of their influence on Montesqieu and the later Country tradition, were “profoundly influenced by Christian teaching” beyond the reality that they belonged to Christian confessions and lived in a culture that was steeped in Christianity.  In my modern Greek history class, I could also say that Moisiodax and Korais were “profoundly influenced by Christian teaching”–profoundly influenced, that is, to run away from that teaching when it conflicted with their philosophical and political programs.  In general, wherever people have been ”profoundly influenced by Christian teaching” they have had no time for prattle about natural rights, the social contract and “individual autonomy.”  It seems right and good to me that they should respond in this way.  Understandably, Christians try to construct some preeminent place for Christianity in the story of “the Founding,” which has itself been given quasi-mystical status by nationalist historians and ideologues, because they have come to recognise that it is only through having a claim to being a key part of “the Founding” that they will be permitted to have any real role in a system dominated by Americanist/proposition nation ideology.  The problem lies not so much with attempts to baptise ”the Founding” as with the distorted and ideological treatment of the early republican period by later nationalist politicians and historians.  If Americanism and American identity itself are to be defined by political propositions, as the adherents of the proposition nation view would have it, it becomes necessary for people to interpret ”the Founding” in a such a way that their beliefs are discovered as the ultimate sources of those propositions.    

As a recent instructor of mine was fond of saying, let’s take this step by step.  It makes sense to describe America as a Christian nation in the following ways:

1) Anglo-American culture, what Russell Kirk referred to as our “British culture,” owes an enormous debt to European Christianity and is inconceivable without it.  North American colonial societies were and are derived from European and Christian civilisation and ultimately belong to that civilisation.  Christianity was a public religion and was, at the state level, an established religion in one form or another in many of the colonies, and this arrangement prevailed for many decades after independence.  Those who think they have found justification in the early republican period for their drive to push religion into the corner and isolate it from public life don’t know what they’re talking about.   

2) It is not possible to understand the evolution of America’s “language of liberty” without referring back to the 17th century religiously-charged constitutional struggles of the British Isles.  In this sense, our constitutional inheritance, which was at the heart of the War for Independence, depended on and derived from precedents that were set during a civil war that had both political and religious dimensions. 

However, the constitutional settlement that emerged out of these conflicts involved to a very large extent the complete abandonment of all political theology.  Any endorsement of ideas of “individual autonomy” would represent a significant departure from “Christian principles.”  “Judeo-Christian values,” fairly meaningless phrase that it is in this formulation, do not lead anyone to believe in individual autonomy.  On the contrary, whether in the Old Testament or the New, what we call individual autonomy is what Scripture defines as sin and pride.  Scripture is brimming with commands for social obligation, fraternity, charity, self-sacrifice and the corporate unity of the People of God.  Traditional Christian social teaching does not recognise an idea of “individual autonomy.”  Unity in the Body of Christ does not obliterate distinctions and personality, but it does preclude autonomy of any kind.  Enlightenment social theories along these lines were considered–and were–subversive because they contradicted the Christian teaching that allegedly so profoundly influenced the thought of Jefferson (!).  It should be enough that Jefferson was a great proponent of decentralism and liberty; we should not need to remake him into a crypto-theologian to appreciate his contribution to our country.  

It is correct to observe that Christian respect for the dignity and integrity of the human person and scholastic arguments on natural law paved the way for later applications of these reflections in political and legal reform.  It is true, as studies of the rhetoric of the Revolution have shown, that the use of originally religious language of covenants, which had already been introduced into political discourse during the English civil war, shaped broader popular understanding of the patriot cause more than did familiarity with Lockean contractual theory.  It is true that the broad mass of the population of the colonies was made up of professing Christians.  In this sense, the people constituted a nation of Christians.  To the extent that they still do, they may be called a Christian nation.  As Dr. Fleming said on this subject:

The United States was never a ‘Christian country’ in a confessional sense, though it was once a nation of mostly Christians.

Apparently, Cameron has given a speech at Blackpool that has impressed many and even awed some of his audience.  He had no text or cues or podium, and worked from a few notecards.  The prospect of a general election this year seems to agree with Cameron.  In any case, the swirling rumours of just a few days ago that Cameron was headed for a fall, which I assumed to be true, show just how many people in his party underestimated his campaign skills.  The Cameroons have always struck me as a ridiculous bunch, and I remain skeptical that they can win an election, but as of right now this is probably the most competitive–and least demoralised–the Tories have been in ten years.

Exit Strategies is the very good foreign policy blog of Dan McCarthy, Jim Antle and Richard Spencer.  If you’ve been reading their blog, you’ll know that Jim Antle was talking about the Ogonowski Phenomenon before anyone else, and he was also explaining why Ogonowski is not likely to succeed.  Ogonowski seems to be a very strong candidate, but it is unlikely that he will be able to overcome the many natural barriers that a Republican in Massachusetts faces, especially in what is likely to be another cycle of hemorrhaging for the House GOP.

Richard Spencer has a new post talking about Prof. Bacevich’s forthcoming cover article for TAC on Gen. Petraeus. 

Except for McNamara, most senior administration officials from Secretary of State Dean Rusk on down privately agreed with Johnson’s intelligence adviser, Clark Clifford, who was quoted in minutes of a National Security Council staff meeting as saying it was “inconceivable” that the attack had been a case of mistaken identity.

The attack “couldn’t be anything else but deliberate,” the NSA’s director, Lt. Gen. Marshall Carter, later told Congress.

“I don’t think you’ll find many people at NSA who believe it was accidental,” Benson Buffham, a former deputy NSA director, said in an interview.

“I just always assumed that the Israeli pilots knew what they were doing,” said Harold Saunders, then a member of the National Security Council staff and later assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. ~The Baltimore Sun


Ezra Klein makes the obvious, but apparently still necessary point:

Walt and Mearsheimer, by contrast, are arguing that there exists a powerful political lobby, ranked second in multiple surveys of Congressmen and staffers, that exerts disproportionate power over American policy towards Israel, in much the way AARP, the NRA, or the Cuban Lobby does on their issues. This Lobby, they argue, does not represent the expressed opinions of most Jews, and it includes a large constituency of Christian Zionists. That is not anti-Semitism. You may disagree with it, but it is not an attack on the shared characteristics of Jews. And it is disgusting and cheapening to pretend otherwise because marginalizing the authors as anti-semitic is more effective than arguing back their viewpoint.

What’s most bizarre about the polemical response to the book is that, if the critics of the book are largely right about the many egregious exaggerations, mistakes and oversights Mearsheimer and Walt have made, there should be no need to resort to these tactics.  If the argument were as weak as critics simply assume it to be, the denunciations for alleged prejudice would be as redundant as they have been frequent.    

As I’ve said before, I think the authors do overreach when they downplay the influence of the Saudis and oil interests, but the existence of these other interests by no means proves their larger arguments wrong.  On the contrary, evidence of significant influence from other lobbies makes claims about the role of pro-Israel groups in shaping policy that much more reasonable.  If others have shaped policy, then surely a “loose coalition” of some very influential groups, including one of the most effective lobbies of all, will be quite successful as well.  The claims the authors make may be in need of qualification, but citing the influence of these other lobbies comes nowhere near refuting their position.  Dan McCarthy drives this point home:

But it doesn’t follow that if the Saudis have tremendous, and probably detrimental, influence on American foreign policy in the Middle East, the Israelis must not have similar influence. The Saudi and Israeli lobbies disagree on much–though certainly not everything–but the one does not negate the other.

Those who are critical of the book are very big fans of Leslie Gelb’s review, which some seem to take as a definitive smackdown.  Those who stop to read the mighty Gelb review discover that it does nothing of the sort, and instead unwittingly backs up much of what the book argues.  As Dan McCarthy puts it:

Actually, Gelb is not comparing the Israeli lobby to the Cuban lobby–he’s comparing the claims made by Mearsheimer and Walt to Fidel Castro’s contention that the U.S. can’t really be a democracy because a small number of Cuban expatriates shapes our policy toward Havana. Trouble is, Castro has a valid point, and Leslie Gelb, of all people, knows it.

I share Klein’s frustration that it hasn’t been possible to have a real discussion of the merits (and flaws) of the book.  (There are rare moments when the occasional critic makes a partly substantive argument, but this tends to merge with the general wave of irrational hostility that the book’s release has provoked and get lost in the noise.)  A proper discussion about the book hasn’t been possible because the entire “debate” has turned into a clash between polemicists denouncing the authors and distorting their words and the rest of us attempting simply to defend the principle that the authors hold a legitimate point of view that ought not to be demonised.   

When I said that as President I would lead direct diplomacy with our adversaries, I was called naïve and irresponsible. But how are we going to turn the page on the failed Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to our adversaries if we don’t have a President who will lead that diplomacy? ~Barack Obama

By electing someone other than Obama, someone who might know how to frame and present the issue well?  Framed this way, it appears to be part of a reflexive endorsement of whatever it is that Bush didn’t do.   

He continued:

When I said that we should take out high-level terrorists like Osama bin Laden if we have actionable intelligence about their whereabouts, I was lectured by legions of Iraq War supporters. 

And by many Iraq war opponents, too, who thought the idea as stated was batty.  Because it was batty–and dangerous.  Pakistan policy requires special finesse because of the internal political problems of the state, and instead of a scalpel Obama brought a sledgehammer to the problem.  That was his idea of introducing a new approach to foreign policy? 


They said we can’t take out bin Laden if the country he’s hiding in won’t. A few weeks later, the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission – Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton – agreed with my position.

It is conceivable that Tom Kean and Lee Hamiton–old establishment hands and kings of conventional wisdom that they are–are just as wrong as Obama.  Shocking, I know.  They were on a blue-ribbon investigative commission; they are not necessarily trained Pakistan experts (indeed, I feel confident in saying that they are not) and are endorsing a general principle that would, in this particular case, be potentially very counterproductive, if not disastrous.  Context is everything in these matters.  Ignoring context is part of the reason why the Bush Doctrine has been such a flop–it attempted to apply a universal standard to a kind of problem that needs to handled differently on a case-by-case basis.     

Putting it the way that he did, Obama makes it sound as if the unwilling government is actively aiding and abetting Bin Laden, when this isn’t obviously the case.  The government may be unwilling to have American military strikes inside their territory for entirely different reasons.  Declaring your intention to ignore an allied government about military actions inside their country doesn’t sound as if you are “turning the page” of the Bush-Cheney era, but rather sounds more like an extension of the same ham-fisted approach to international relations: we rule, you obey; your sovereignty means nothing if we say it means nothing.     

Also, if the “foreign policy elite” failed us, as Obama says, why does he have so many members of the “foreign policy elite” that got it wrong advising him?


And when I said that we can rule out the use of nuclear weapons to take out a terrorist training camp, it was immediately branded a “gaffe” because I did not recite the conventional Washington-speak. But is there any military planner in the world who believes that we need to drop a nuclear bomb on a terrorist training camp?

Almost certainly not, but that is to miss the entire point.  There is no “conventional Washington-speak” on this question, because you don’t talk about it in public!  If no one with any expertise believes that we should do it, and no one has proposed doing it, why even talk about it?  When it comes to nuclear weapons, you don’t talk about when you would use them–the uncertainty actually can add to their deterrent effect.  Ruling out such things, even though we might all agree that doing them is fantastically stupid, is the equivalent of MacArthur and Acheson describing the U.S. defense perimeter and excluding Korea from it, implying that everything outside the perimeter was up for grabs.  Result?  The Korean War.  But the officials of the Truman Administration was “straight” with the people, all right, and that’s what matters! 

Is it just me, or does Obama’s latest speech come off sounding rather too narcissistic?  Granted, I am not an Obama fan, so I tend to respond as negatively to his speeches as other people respond positively, but he spends the first half of the speech talking about how insightful and prescient he was and then launches into how the mean establishmentarians have been picking on him for his allegedly bold, new ideas.  It isn’t until the second half of the speech that he gets down to any of his really substantive proposals, including some that are actually sensible (his work with Lugar on securing nuclear materials is to his credit and ought to have had a much larger role in this speech).  His idea about making the DNI a position with a fixed term and semi-independence has some merit.  However, his talk about “strengthening” the NPT seems like rather wishful thinking to me.  Does Obama intend to scupper the nuclear deal made with the Indians, since that deal pretty blatantly violates the NPT? 

We don’t know the answer to that, because he immediately goes back to talking about Obama’s wonderful experiences in life.  I do realise that personality and personal history are relevant and are important factors for many voters, but this speech seems to be far too much about the man and far too little about what he will do.  Some of the things he does tell he will do will invite yawns if they do not invite derision.  For instance, this seems odd:

I’ll give an annual “State of the World” address to the American people in which I lay out our national security policy.

How better to underscore one’s interventionism than to make what will be perceived as a claim that the President rules the world?  Why not include this as part of the State of the Union, or incorporate it into the standard speech at the U.N.? 

And perhaps I am not appreciating the cleverness in this proposal:

I’ll draw on the legacy of one our greatest Presidents – Franklin Roosevelt – and give regular “fireside webcasts,” and I’ll have members of my national security team do the same.

I’m sure most political bloggers will find this proposal interesting, since it will give them new online material on a regular basis, but what’s the point?  In an Obama Administration (something that will, of course, never come to pass, but just for fun let’s imagine), do we really want the National Security Advisor doing webcasts, or do we want him to do his job well?  Viewed skeptically, this proposal seems to be an attempt to make national security officials into part of a P.R. effort, when we have already had quite enough of this sort of fluff from the current batch. 

Not surprisingly, five of the six sitting Senators currently running for President decided that absence was the better part of valour in the defense appropriation vote: Obama, Biden, Dodd, Clinton and McCain all managed to miss it.  Feingold, Byrd and Coburn were the only three to vote against the measure.

P.S. Can anyone explain Tom Coburn’s ‘nay’ vote?

Sayeeda Warsi, given a peerage by David Cameron to enable her to join his front bench as spokesman on cohesion, has taken on the issue head on, volunteering her view that immigration has been “out of control” and that people feel “uneasy” about the pace of immigration into Britain. Her intervention has outraged black groups who say she is using the language of the BNP. It also threatens to derail Mr Cameron’s attempts to shake off the Conservatives’ “nasty-party” image, while exposing divisions between left and right.

“What this country has a problem with is not people of different kinds coming into this country and making a contribution, but the problem that nobody knows who is coming in, who is going out – the fact that we don’t have a border police; we don’t have proper checks; we don’t have any idea how many people are here, who are unaccounted for,” she says. “It’s that lack of control and not knowing that makes people feel uneasy, not the fact that somebody of a different colour or a different religion or a different origin is coming into our country.” As her press officer squirms in his chair, she continues: “The control of immigration impacts upon a cohesive Britain.”

Warming to her theme, she declares that the decision to house large groups of migrants on estates in the north of England “overnight” has led to tension in local communities. Similar tensions have been found in the London in Barking and Dagenham, where the far right has been making political in-roads. “The pace of change unsettles communities,” she says.

Lady Warsi’s outspoken intervention is somewhat surprising as she is the daughter of immigrants herself [bold mine-DL]. Her father is a former Labour-supporting mill-worker from Pakistan who, after making a fortune in the bed and mattress trade, switched his allegiance to the Tories. The lawyer, 36, who is married with a nine-year-old daughter, devoted her early career to improving race relations, helping to launch Operation Black Vote in Yorkshire and sitting on various racial justice committees. So her analysis of race relations on the eve of the Tory conference cannot be dismissed as a right-wing rant [bold mine-DL].

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Lady Warsi claims that the conspiracy of silence on the subject of immigration plays into the hands of the far-right British National Party.

“The BNP will look at what issue it is locally that they can exploit and the other political parties are not seen to be dealing with and they will play to that,” she says. Far from ignoring the issue of immigration, she thinks it should be confronted head on. “I think we need to have the debate. One of the problems why the BNP has been allowed to grow is sometimes certainly the Labour Party took the view that if we ignore them they will just go away,” she says.

But while BNP supporters, including the English National Ballet dancer Simone Clarke, have been sharply criticised for backing a racist party, Lady Warsi says that BNP voters should be listened to. “The BNP and what they represent, they clearly have a race agenda; they clearly have a hate agenda. But there are a lot of people out there who are voting for the British National Party and it’s those people that we mustn’t just write off and say ‘well, we won’t bother because they are voting BNP or we won’t engage with them’,” she says.

Indeed, she says, people who back the extreme-right party, criticised for its racist and homophobic agenda, may even have a point. “They have some very legitimate views. People who say ‘we are concerned about crime and justice in our communities – we are concerned about immigration in our communities’,” she said. ~The Independent

This has apparently annoyed many people in Britain (not least of which was probably David Cameron, who wanted his conference week to be blissfully free of anything remotely interesting).  What could the shadow community cohesion minister be thinking, talking about, well, community cohesion like this?  How could someone whose career has been in race relations make statements about, er, race relations?  Obviously, it is considered unpardonable to suggest that immigration restriction or even modest reform is legitimate, which is why these remarks are even considered that noteworthy, and it is considered even worse when it is done by the daughter of immigrants, even though it cannot be dismissed as easily when she says it.  Not just a “right-wing rant,” you see, because no daughter of immigrants could actually have come intellectually to see any reasonableness in ”right-wing” views.  (It is the fact that it cannot be dismissed out of hand, as would normally be done, that I think really vexes Baroness Warsi’s critics.)  If all immigrantss started assimilating and respecting the opinions of their fellow citizens, where would it lead? 

Here’s some grist for James‘ mill:

John Redwood, the right-wing frontbencher who supported Mr Cameron as leader, told The Independent on Sunday that Mr Cameron will begin to set out policies in keeping with “some of our eternal values [bold mine-DL] like ‘yes to lower taxes’

I think the left is in a deep crisis in Europe because of their lack of willingness to confront the racist ideology of Islamism [bold mine-DL]. ~Flemming Rose

This is every bit as absurd describing someone’s criticisms of Islam as an expression of ”racism.”  Race is not the main issue for either side.  Race isn’t the subject at all.  This is an example of invoking “racist” as others invoke “fascist”–it is a descriptor that has long ceased to have any content besides meaning “really bad.”  “Islamism” might be less worrisome if it were explicitly racist and insisted that only people from a certain ethnicity or nationality were “real” Muslims, since this would limit its potential reach quite a lot, but, of course, such an idea is pretty much entirely at odds with Islamic tradition. 

As it happens, I sympathise with many of Rose’s views on removing limits on free speech, and I, like so many others last year, argued that his paper was perfectly within its rights to print the cartoons that it printed.  It was gratifying that my Danish cousins resisted attempts to intimidate them into silence.  But this blather about racism suggests that even now Rose is unclear on what the question really is, which is a bit shocking given his personal, central role in such a prominent controversy.

Watch McCain pander:

I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, that’s a decision the American people would have to make, but personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith.

Watch him completely abase himself:

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.

Whenever I hear the claim that “this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles,” much less that the Constitution “established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” I have to wonder what people are thinking when they say these things.  In McCain’s case, it’s easy: he’s repeating what he thinks primary voters want to hear.  Never in his entire career, so far as I know, has McCain ever held forth on America as a Christian nation.  It would never have occurred to him.  The people who champion this or related ideas have been his adversaries within the GOP. 

It is true that America derives her religious culture from European Christianity, and it is true that Americans have been overwhelmingly Christian all along.  I think this religious heritage should be defended and extolled.  It is an integral part of American cultural identity.  What I really don’t understand is the need to make up these myths that the Republic is founded on “Christian principles” or that you can somehow find this claim in the Constitution.  First of all, these myths are unnecessary.  Second, it is an example of the mistaken drive to locate national and cultural identity in our political institutions and key political texts, when those identities really must be defined in other ways if we are not going to reduce them to ciphers or subordinates part of some political creedalism.   

Via Yglesias, I see that Perlstein has a good review of revisionist books on Vietnam.  Not that it will matter to Perlstein, who cannot recognise a basically sympathetic, if perhaps poorly phrased, argument when he sees one, but I happen to find the nationalist habit of revisionism in support of policies of ever-greater militarism and slaughter to be as abhorrent as he does.  His review also succeeds in drawing attention to the revisionists’ comfort with mass killing when it is being done by the ‘right’ people for the ‘right’ reasons, which should help put the crocodile tears many of the same people conveniently shed over the victims of the Cambodian genocide in perspective. 

The young whippersnapper Matt Zeitlin makes a good point in his reply to my latest round of Obama-bashing:

The million or more deaths from Malaria each year, millions of people infected by preventable water borne diseases and the approximately one billion people in extreme poverty doesn’t negatively impact our national security, strictly defined, as much as say the ungoverned tribal regions of Western Pakistan being lousy with Taliban and Al-Qaida.  And, if you talk privately to most people who say that extreme poverty of “tropical diseases” are threats to America’s national security, they’ll –after enough drinks — probably admit that they’re playing fast and loose with what “national security” means.  The reason people do this, however, is that America tends to act in the international arena when it thinks that the action will make us safer — and when we do act, we act big.  This is why NGOs, activist and academics in work in the areas of development and international public health have re-tuned their message — governments are more likely to listen if you’re presenting something that’s not just killing hundreds of thousands of foreigners, but is a threat to the US.

Zeitlin is right that our government tends not to act overseas unless it sees an international problem as a potential security threat (or at least as a cause of later security threats).  I suppose it’s understandable that people who want the U.S. government to take some action on a variety of international woes would try to cast those problems as threats to the United States.  It also doesn’t make Obama’s apparent inability to prioritise real security threats over high-minded concerns for the well-being of foreign peoples any less troubling.  If he doesn’t believe that public health problems in other countries affect our national security, he is trying to play the public, and if he does believe it he is very confused about what our national security interests include.  

It also doesn’t make these claims any more  true, and it seems to me that this sort of “dishonest altruism,” as Zeitlin calls it, will come back to hurt any cause that attempts to frame itself as an aid to national security.  This seems to be a more likely danger for such “altruism” in the wake of an administration that tried to justify anything and everything that it did under the banner of national security and antiterrorism.  If activists and academics cannot make the substantive case that there is some sufficiently good reason for our government to act on this or that question of development or public health by itself, it is implausible that they will be able to win any sustainable support or action from the government by tying themselves into knots to come up a national security rationale.   

It’s also all very well to talk about global interdependency, but this is just another way to spin intervening in someone else’s business as part of our self-interest.  What this kind of thinking will lead to in practice is not a U.S. government engaged in ever-greater levels of international cooperation, as I imagine many people would like to see, but instead one that uses every kind of international problem as a pretext for meddling and intruding on other states’ internal affairs.  Setting a standard of national security interest limits government action overseas to some extent, though we have already seen how expansively “national security” can be defined by ambitious policymakers (especially when it is joined to talk of “values”).  If the definition of national security is permitted to be inflated even more by extending it to climate change or health epidemics or education, there will be no end to the occasions for U.S. meddling.  If future interventions do for combating epidemics what the invasion of Iraq has done for regional stability and nonproliferation, we should be very worried about anyone who wants the U.S. government to take an active interest in the question.  (As the last few years have shown, government is equally incompetent on both sides of the ocean.)         

This convenient invocation of security is worth bearing in mind when some people begin hyperventilating about certain liberal claims that climate change is a greater security threat than terrorism.  This has been a favourite punching bag of some folks on the right, who will, in the same breath, very seriously say that we are in the middle of WWIV against the “existential threat” of Islamofascism.  In fact, climate change doesn’t represent that much of a security threat, but then (and here’s the kicker) the threat of terrorism has also been vastly overblown.  The climate change activists who are now talking in terms of national security are simply seeing the terrorism alarmists and raising them with some extra exaggeration.  “The threat you worry about isn’t existential, but the one I worry about really is!”  This is accompanied by vocal critics on the opposing side: “The threat you describe hardly even exists!”  Terrorism alarmism and climate change alarmism both overwhelmingly benefit the state at our expense.  They continue to exist because each kind of alarmism has a dedicated constituency that is quite happy to yield to the state’s demands in order to, in one way or another, “save the world.”   

Wisdom from the matrimonial banquet scene: “Tell them about your degrees and your family, that is very important, but don’t mention your father’s glaucoma.”

My earlier remarks on the matrimonial banquet phenomenon are here

The whole point of the American Revolution was to establish a country without anyone to run it [bold mine-DL].  We don’t want or need a president who is inclined to run things. We need a President who leads and inspires. Fred, with his non-managerial background, is the only candidate of either party who seems to get this. ~Peter  Mulhern

The whole point?  I rather thought the “point,” so to speak, was to preserve the self-government and constitutional rights of the several colonies.  Liberty and independence and all that.  Evidently, the “whole point” was to make sure that nobody was “running the country.”  Thompson certainly is an incarnation of the hallowed principle of non-management.  No one would suspect that he was going to “run” anything and more observers than ever are becoming convinced that he won’t even do much when it comes to running for President.  His diffidence is an example to us all. 

Mulhern continues:

Fred Thompson isn’t Ronald Reagan. But he can restore the Republican Party to Reagan’s default settings. He can make the GOP once again the party of the American Revolution and distinguish it sharply from the party of the French, Russian, Chinese, and Cuban Revolutions [bold mine-DL].

Of course, the GOP isn’t the party of “the American Revolution.”  No modern party can lay claim to that, since both modern parties are founded on the repudiation of some significant part of the original constitutional arrangement created after the Revolution (see Lincoln, FDR).  And goodness knows I don’t like the GOP, but I think they probably still have a little ways to go before they can be accused of blurring the lines with the ChiComs and Castro.  Now, the Jacobins might be a different story….I can almost see Thompson’s bumper sticker now: “Vote Thompson: He’s Not Like Robespierre!”  Or “Vote Thompson: He Will Never Expropriate Your Farm!”  (That’s the job of development corporations, after all.)  

After having shown that Thompson would be a lax manager (probably the last thing the government needs after eight years of cronyism and incompetence) and a non-communist (always a plus), Mulhern then takes satisfaction that, supposedly alone among his rivals, Thompson is the only candidate who will really attack Iran.  Apparently Podhoretz signed up with the wrong team.  Thompson rattles that sabre like nobody’s business, and this, we are told, is what makes him the superior candidate rather than an unfortunate and embarrassing old man with nothing credible to say. 

Then there is this:

How many politicians can talk about Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind in terms which indicate that he has both read and understood it?

I don’t know how many could do that, but then I don’t know how many could have actually absorbed the lessons of The Conservative Mind and endorsed such hideously imprudent and unwise foreign policy decisions as Thompson has over the past few years. 

This was news to me:

Try to wrap your mind around the reality that coming off like an old coot having a conversation as he whittles next to the pot-bellied stove down at the country store is an excellent way to attract most American voters.

So that’s going to be the new hallmark of the Thompson campaign–a pot-bellied stove to replace his pickup truck.  But will he have it painted red?

Thompson ‘08!