SocraticGadfly: 10/24/04 - 10/31/04

October 29, 2004

My critique of Imperial Hubris

While I am more pacifistic in nature than ‘anonymous,’ I yet think he has some good ideas.

Part I – Policy
First, we either believe we’re in a war or not. We don’t fight it half-hearted or half-assed. We fight it where it should have been fought (Afghanistan – then real Middle Eastern problems not including Iraq), and we fight it without being restrained by allies.

Second, we stop playing Gulliver to Israel’s Lilliputian tie-down. Period.

I’m not saying we should abandon Israel to the Arab world, and Anonymous doesn’t get into policy prescription details.

But would could do like Bush Senior – freeze foreign aid to Israel. But let’s make the unfreezing contingent on a lot more movement than we did in the past.

Part II – errors
He’s got one minor one and one historically big one.

The historic one? He somehow claims Britain, not Turkey’s first secular leader, Atatürk, abolished the Caliphate in 1924. For someone claiming Middle Eastern CIA analyst expertise, that’s a credibility-damaging error in my book.

While as a skeptical progressive, one who rejects both liberal and conservative forms of American exceptionalism, I’m not sanguine about Muslim-world progress toward secular states or democracies, let alone a combination thereof, the fact that Turkey did it – and started the ball rolling itself – shows it can be done. Anonymous’ historical mistake, assuming he stakes some of his analysis beliefs on it, has consequences.

Second, he misspells Paul Bremer’s last name.

Part III – Critique Proper
In my opinion, to use a phrase, I’d call Anonymous an internationalist paleoconservative. Bush Senior with lots more conejos? Nixon if he’d been elected in 1960?

Support for this includes his contra-Kerry statement that, within the country's foreign-policy establishment, a sort of Euro-veto does exist.

He’s definitely religiously conservative, as he talks about “the Pillsbury Doughboy-version of Christianity now on offer from the Vatican and Canterbury.” He clearly intends the phrase to be pejorative, given that it is gratuitous.

At the same time, he skewers Zionism and American fundamentalists and allied evangelicals who support it, so he is probably from a more mainline denomination.

His American military references to Lee as well as Grant, and the valiant efforts by both Union and Confederate soldiers, without referring to the context of the Civil War, paints him as a Southerner.

A, B, and C together add up to someone who in his own way at least comes close to using Crusade-type definitions on how we should fight this war.

I have websites identifying him bookmarked at the office, but I’m deliberately writing this from home.

That said, his bottom line critique that bin Laden hates us not for who we are (secularism, short skirts for women, etc.) but what we do (imperialism, support for Israel, support for corrupt Middle Eastern states) has a lot of truth in it.

Does our war against bin Laden have to be as total as he claims? I’d like to try more guns, better used (another critique of his) andmore flowers at the same time, at least for now.

And, if we fight that ruthless of a war, can we win it without it, in fact, becoming apocalyptic? Unfortunately, Anonymous remains silent at this point.

Imperial Hubris is not pro-Kerry

People who touted this book earlier this year as a cogent antidote to the Bush foreign policy are only half-right.

The author, ‘anonymous,’ has plenty to say about what Kerry has pledged as part of his foreign-policy perspective as well.

For example, he repeatedly excoriates the idea that a criminal-justice mentality is the way to ‘attack’ bin Laden.

In essence, he says bin Laden is not a criminal thug; also, contra Kerry and Bush, he is not a terrorist.

Instead, he’s an insurgent, first and foremost, like the Viet Minh, if we want to dip back into our own history. He will use terror for psychological ends, but ultimately is a guerrilla/militia/paramilitary insurgent leader.

I believe that liberals’ embrace of their own, nonconservative form of American exceptionalism, as noted here, is part of the problem.

What's wrong with this headline?

From the Oct. 29 New York Times:

"Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache"

Doesn't anybody know how to use apostrophes?

October 25, 2004

Liberals and conservatives

Most liberals of today are wooly-headed and most conservatives are Bush cultists. See my post below for more on how this applies to American exceptionalism.

The fourth person of the Trinity?

One could be excused for thinking that about George W. Bush, the way many of his partisans blindly believe he can do, and has done, no wrong.

Liberals and American exceptionalism

Liberals generally don’t oppose American exceptionalism, just various conservative versions of it.

The Iraq war, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern affairs show liberals usually disagree on the methodology to be used, but agree with spreading not just American democracy but all of its sociological trappings. Implicit in this agreement is the common believe in American exceptionalism, namely that these ideas are worthy of being spread.

But are they? From our point of view, it might be great that women aren’t forced to wear burkhas, but here in America we went more than 130 years from the adoption of our constitution to women having the right to vote across the country, let alone the sociological changes that followed from that.

And yet, we blithely expect that we can change Afghanistan on the fly.

In many cases, it’s probably more that “they” laugh at us, or shake their heads at us, rather than, or at least before, they hate us.

October 24, 2004

Let’s remember Halliburton was Clinton’s fault too

The Clinton administration hired Halliburton — then run by Dick Cheney — as the logistics arm for the war in Kosovo. Halliburton's contract started out as a $180 million deal but soon mushroomed to more than $2.5 billion as the company built Camp Bondsteel and other military facilities on lavish, cost-plus terms. Even Mother Jones admits privatization picked up substantially under Clinton.

Clinton also signed into law the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, specifically lobbied for by Big Oil.