I know that you believe that Pawlenty wouldn’t win anyway, which I agree with, but do you think that ANYONE could beat Obama on the youth vote this time around, since a large reason why he won the last time was because of a fired up youth population?
Short answer? No.
But I’d like to dig a bit deeper. Here’s Pawlenty’s quote in context:
President Obama is going to help us (get the youth vote) because a bunch of people that voted for him last time feel duped, and they aren’t going to sign up again for dupe version two. The excitement around his rhetoric that has now soured into the reality of his, in my view, flawed leadership, is now evident for all to see.”
Pawlenty adds, “For a candidate, I am relatively young. I have a more recent connection to the younger generation than some have or might have had in the past.” Tim Pawlenty is 50. He was born during the Eisenhower Presidency. He’s “relatively” young in the same way that he’s “relatively” likely to be the next President. He’s neither.
But the first statement is worth examining. Obama recieved a lot of support from the youth vote. There has been some genuine disappointment amongst Obama’s supporters—though most of the criticism comes from guys like Pawlenty (or Jeff Miller) who never liked Obama, anticipated that the people who did like Obama would turn on him, and feel deeply disappointed that this hasn’t actually happened despite all the things that Obama totally didn’t do the way they think he should have done it.1
Let’s talk briefly about the youth vote, whether it could concievably go to somebody other than Obama, and whether that person would be a Republican. The last one is pretty simple. The young, liberal Obama voters who might concievably be disappointed aren’t disappointed because he’s too far left. If they’re really upset, they might vote for the Green Party. They might vote for a primary challenger to Obama. They might just stay home. But they’re not going to vote for the Conservative. The best the Republicans could hope for is wide-spread apathy on the left combined with high turnout among the conservative youth. But Pawlenty is delusional if he expects a reversal of long-established demographic trends. The youth aren’t stupid, Tim. Having a Facebook account won’t make them forget the issues they actually care about.
And according to Reuters, we’re arming the rebels.
Am I right yet?
As I recall, your position was that this is an imperial war for oil. I don’t think you’re right there. If this were about resource extraction, we’d be on the other side. To the extent that your point was that this could go horribly, horribly wrong, we’re in total agreement. I don’t think this is a disaster yet—but it’s not all cupcakes an democracy.
Today, in a move that was Totally Not Racist™, Beavercreek, Ohio’s city council unanimously rejected a proposal by the regional transit authority to put three bus stops near the mall. The city council members “cited problems that they say occur at malls with bus stops.” “Multiple council members brought up safety concerns as a issue.” You can read between the lines as well as I can.
This is a good example of how complaints about the “process” are used to mask very nasty practices. The city council apparently raised an absurd number of questions, demanded extra ridership studies, and insisted that the open air bus stops would require CCTV and air conditioning. It’s a lot like John McCain’s refusal to support a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell appeal because he didn’t have enough information … even when he’d repeatedly been provided with the information he previously said he needed. “I’m not saying I’m for blatant discrimination … I just think we should study the issue a bit more. I mean, we’ve got a long history of bigotry here. Do we really know what would happen if we stopped?”
Sounds like things are ripe for a dark horse run by Dan the Conservative.
The inside word is that Dan the Conservative has been having trouble taking any of these hopefuls seriously enough to back them. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s 35—which would prevent him from being President.
Beyond that, I think he’d be a comparably credible candidate to some of those who’ve entered the race.
How likely do you think it is that the presidential election will go the way that the mid-term elections went?
Extremely unlikely. In 2008, the Democrats had massive and unsustainable gains with a highly energized base. In 2010 the Republicans voted their frustration and many of the 2008 voters stayed home. In 2012, Obama will be back on the ballot and it will be hard for one party or the other to have the sort of lopsided turnout the Republicans mustered.
It’s also pretty likely that the recovery will have picked up a bit by November 2011 and people may be more optimistic than terrified.
The probable candidates running in 2012 either mistakenly believe they’ll sink that half-court shot2, realize they won’t be remotely viable in 2016,3 don’t expect to win but think they might be able to draw attention a specific issue,4 or think they can raise their national profile.5The probable candidates running in 2012 either mistakenly believe they’ll sink that half-court shot[^2], realize they won’t be remotely viable in 2016,[^3] don’t expect to win but think they might be able to draw attention a specific issue,[^4] or think they can raise their national profile.[^5] It’s nearly April 2011—and we still don’t have a good grip on who’s in and who’s out. In January 2007, I wrote this piece which completely failed to identify the winners6 but successfully identified all the front-runners. There could also be a set of others who realize how soft the field is and think that them might actually have a chance this year.7
So which pair would be most viable in the general election? This is sort of like voting for high-school superlatives. The guy chosen as “most likely to be President” is still extremely unlikely to be President. I’ll go with Romney/Cain. Romney can speak credibly about the economy. Cain can speak credibly about business and can appease the crazy conservatives.
This isn’t quite the right sports metaphor, but I’m not very good with sports metaphors. Is there a sport where you jump to near-certan death clutching an American flag in one hand and your junk in the other? That’s the sport I mean. ↩
This is Palin, if she runs. I don’t think she will. It might also be Tim Pawlenty. ↩
You can also find this piece by doing a google search for “Congratulations President Giuliani.” I may be the only guy who made that prediction and hasn’t gotten around to scrubbing the Internet of the failure. ↩
Politico keeps running articles referring to “TPaw.” It’s like John Edwards political career has risen from the dead as a conservative. Except that he might also think he’s the second coming of Vanilla Ice.
The guy doesn’t have a chance. He’s a disingenuous panderer. TPaw. Phaw.
I made it through that phase of my life without once eating Ramen noodles made with coffee instead of water. It never occured to me that this would be an easy, albeit absolutely disgusting, way to simultaneously solve the need for food and caffeine. Now I’m an attorney—and Coffee-Ramen isn’t the sort of thing attorneys do. At least, it’s not the sort of thing they would admit to doing.
… although there’s probably an al-Qaeda commander somewhere who’s absolutely livid about this as well. “Our guys are fighting hand in hand with the lovers of the demon democracy? What is this world coming to?”
What if one does not care to take responsibility for either? What if I have the means to buy reasonable access to medical care but decide not to? Can’t society let me suffer the consequences of my own risks?
That last sentence is worded a bit strangely. Of course society can. The question is should it? On a related note, the word let is typically used in a permissive rather than restrictive sense. The real question is should society require people to suffer the consequences of their bad decisions. Or, to phrase it slightly differently, do the bad decisions of others relieve us of our existing responsibilities toward them? Are we excused from exercising a duty to others if they have not exercised a duty to themselves? Should we require the reprehensibly irresponsible to suffer and die because they deserve to suffer and die? Are we still comfortable with our answer if it turns out to be a death sentence?
Ultimately, we have no access to the internal deliberations of others. And the failure of others to do the right thing does give us free license to spurn our social and civic responsibilities.
It might be, however, that the best way for us to fulfill those responsibilities involves making it easier for others to take action. We can try to figure out why the guy who could afford to pay for medical care decided to buy a boat instead. Did he know the risks? Did he have adequate information about the availability of affordable health care? Did he think he would be able to afford to pay out of pocket? If it was an information problem, we can take steps to ensure people have access to sufficient information. Is it a cost problem? We can provide incentives. Is it an inertia problem? We can change default choices. Is it an impulse-control problem? Is there a simple way to address that? Ultimately, though, we need to consider all of these things through the lens of what we must do for society. And if we can’t solve the problem by changing the behavior of others—or if we determine that changing the behavior of others would require policies we deem too oppressive—we still have a responsibility to care for the suffering whether or not we feel they deserve to suffer.
“Don’t let best be the enemy of better” does not apply. We aren’t throwing back starfish until our arms get tired, to invoke a parable. We’re cannily choosing areas of intervention based on the presence of significant rare earths (Afghanistan), oil (Iraq and Libya), or strategic interest (Israel). These are not random decisions made on a best-efforts basis; they are well-considered choices on the part of a resource-starved superpower.
There are no coincidences, and it is not simply seizing a moment in time when a dictator lurks outside a Benghazi. We don’t care about those people, unless there is something for them to pump or mine. Then, suddenly, America is a global friend of human rights…to work…for our corporations…in our national interests.
Correlations is right to note that the U.S. rarely does anything solely or even primarily out of a concern for human rights. Unfortunately, I think Correlations falls for the very fallacy he’s condemning in attributing U.S. policy to national self-interest. Just as the United States is not an enlightened and benevolent do-gooder righting the wrongs of the world, the United States is also not a Machievellian fat cat slurping up the world’s oil supply milkshake-style. To find a more appropriate avatar for our foreign policy, you’ll need to look much further down the evolutionary ladder. Consider slime molds.
Our foreign policy isn’t controlled by a single, organizing mind. It is more a collection of stimuli and responses. Some legislators want to show U.S. dominance. Some guy on the media thinks footage of bombs exploding are cool. A few industrialists want to build more cruise-missiles. A collection of bloggers want to do something, anything to help the Libyan opposition. Some folks remember the Lockerbie bombing and want Qaddafi to suffer for it. People get nervous about spiking gas prices and either invest in oil futures or demand that somebody do something immediately. It just turns out that we’ve got a couple aircraft carriers in the area—and when you’ve got an carrier group, everything starts looking like a no-fly zone. An academic writes about the importance of setting a precedent. Some pollster determines that the public supports some kind of intervention—even if it doesn’t know what that would mean. Somebody else opposes it. A campaign jokes that dropping a few bombs on Libya would sure help the President’s poll numbers. Qaddafi goes on TV and starts saying crazy things and we all get sort of mad. The Secretary of State wants to get involved. The Secretary of Defense worries it would be too expensive—but the media challenges him. Some guy in intelligence says Qaddafi will probalby win—and some senators want him fired for herasy. Suddenly we need to make a decision, we do, and it’s raining bombs on Libyan tanks. There are thousands of reasons for every foreign policy decision we undertake. But reasons do not make a decision reasoned or reasonable.
The good news about slime molds is that they’re ubiquitous. They play a vital role in the lifecycle of forests. While they’re not intelligent—they’re reliable. We can figure out why they grow where they grow and in the way they grow. And we know what they respond to. Slime molds might grow on rotting wood—but not if the pH is too high or the temperature too extreme.
Among other things, our foreign policy responds to perceived human rights violations. It doesn’t respond in all circumstances. It might intervene when human rights violations confirm previous prejudices. It might not intervene when the humanitarian cost would be too high. We would be wrong to ascribe any intervention solely to concern for human rights. But any effort to find a single, simple reason for any U.S. foreign policy action is simply post-hoc rationalization. If there is any guiding mind behind our foreign policy, it is, at best, loosely in control.
Individual Responsibility and Civic Responsibility
There is nothing inherently wrong with individual responsibility. If we can’t keep our own house in order, it’s likely that we’re failing to fulfill a whole variety of social duties. Unfortunately calls for “indivual responsibility” tend to simply be an abdication of our responsibility toward others. It is just another way to say, “I’m not my brother’s keeper.”
Lambasting others for a perceived failure to “take responsibility” only makes sense if we assume that we have an overarching responsibility for others. If we’re all on our own and everybody else can go screw, the successes and failures of others are none of our business. They only become part of our business to the extent that they interfere with some broader, collective goal. If you believe that we have a civic responsibility to ensure reasonable access to medical care for everybody, we might encourage those who can to take responsibility for their own care if that is the most efficient and practical way to ensure universal care. On the other hand, if we don’t believe we have a responsibility to ensure greater access but nevertheless lambast people for a failure to take individual responsibility, we’re just being jerks.
Correlationstonone has raised a bunch of important questions. Like a jerk, I’m going to offer very short answers to all of them. His questions are in bold.
Is Libyan intervention self-interested or a human-rights-positive move? No. Libyan intervention is self-interested and a potentially human-rights-positive move.
Do we face a hard choice between the suffering of the poor and a transition to clean energy? Not really. Dirty energy already disproportionately affects the poor. Clean energy is labor-intensive but resource-cheap, which means it creates a whole lot of reliable jobs.
Can nuclear power be considered part of the future of American progress? Yes. Nuclear catastrophe is to a plane crash what coal pollution is to a car crash. Flying and nuclear are scarier but still safer.
How do we handle immigration without discriminating, creating an untenable bureaucracy or security system that will be dug or sailed around, or raising international tensions? Increase employer-side enforcement, provide a path to citizenship for those who are here. Stop deporting five-year-olds.
Are drugs like marijuana a worthy cash crop that areas like California and Pennsylvania can turn to in times of falling tax revenues? A little bit—but they’re not a magic bullet.
I just turned 18 and will probably register to vote soon. Now I recently started reading the political blogs here. Partially I used to read the occasional piece online, and partially because of a Government class. Now I used to "be" republican when I was about 13 and pretty much agreed with everything my parents said, but recently I have noticed very convincing arguments. For a short period I "was a libertarian", but I've been considering registering democrat. Though I would have to note that Mr.Green party occasionally has convincing arguments(although I whole heartedly disagree with the whole abortion thing.)
SO THE ACTUAL QUESTION: What did you register to vote as and why? I mean to some point it really doesn't matter, but I was just interested to hear what my favorite political blogger would say if you are willing to answer.
Registration depends a whole lot on what your states laws regarding primary elections are and who you want to receive a lot of political junk mail from. Alternatively, if you want to help a party like the Green Party get its numbers up to be taken seriously, you might consider registering Green.
I have been, at various points, registered as just about everything. In college, I some how managed to get registered as part of the Green-Rainbow party in Massachusetts. I might have been briefly registered as a Republican in order to vote in an actual 2008 Presidential primary. In the 2010 primaries I voted in the Democratic primary to support a city council candidate I wanted to support.
If it’s all the same I would register as an independent—then vote for the best candidates. I’m pretty skeptical about the party loyalty bit. If you need to register for a particular party to vote in a primary, choose which primary you want to vote in. This may not be who you would ultimately support in the general election. For example, the 2012 Republican presidential primary will be a lot more exciting than the 2012 Democratic primary. On the other hand, an unfortunate party registration can come back and bite you later if you want to run for office.
“In the case of Bahrain, too, U.S. national interests trump universal values. The tiny island, connected by a causeway to Saudi Arabia, is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, there to guard shipping lanes that carry around 40 percent of the world’s tanker-borne oil. Saudi Arabia sent more than 1,000 troops into Bahrain to help the royal family in a ruthless crackdown on dissent.”—
I’m a bit puzzled by the common assumption that if we really care about universal values we must either intervene militarily in every case where those values are under attack or none of them. Why can’t we be selective about this sort of thing.
Bombs kill people—whether they’re dropped in the name of universal values or for some less glorious reason. Destroying the world economy will also lead to a lot of death. At some point, universal values or no, it’s just not worth it. Is it so inconceivable that it might be worth it in Libya, where the risk of touching-off World War III is relatively low but not worth it in Bahrain or China?
That’s okay? Really? Starting a war without a long-term goal, exit strategy, or sense of who is in charge? That’s all okay?
I don’t expect a President to have every answer before he launches a war. I do expect him to have these answers. I can’t believe that you don’t.
I am 99.99% certain that Squashed would not have been “okay” with these things if John McCain were President. Now, Squashed might respond that he doesn’t trust McCain’s judgment as much as he trusts Obama’s. I’d say that leading a country into war without debate or discussion because you’re unable to answer three questions above shows a pretty appalling lack of judgment.
The only “rushing blindly” I see is Obama’s rushing blindly into war. Which I thought he was against.
First, I’m not at all saying that our intervention in Libya is okay. I’m genuinely torn in my support/non-support for the action as a whole. I’m simply saying that the current uncertainty is not a good reason to oppose the action.
While there is some uncertainty about these issues, I don’t mean that they’re completely open questions.
Who’s in charge?
The United States is commanding the operation. After that, whomever the baton is handed to will be in charge. I believe it is likely to shift to some permutation on the NATO command structure shortly. There isn’t a vaccuum of leadership. It’s just that the long-term leadership is still being sorted out.
What’s the exit strategy?
We’ve got a bunch of ships in the Mediterrean. We can sail them to wherever we want to sail them once we’ve either accomplished our goals or reevaluated whether we want to accomplish those goals.
What was the goal?
Blunt Qaddaffi’s advance, protect civilians in Libya, assess the situation in light of new developments, come up with a longer term plan in response to what happens
Will Qaddafi remain in power? Maybe. Will allied ground forces join the rebels to march on Tripoli? Probably not while the U.S. is leading. Will increasingly severe sanctions limit Qaddafi’s ability to make war on the rebels? Probably. Will we arm the rebels? Not likely—but somebody else will. Will we recognize a rebel government? It depends what government is formed. Will we provide air support for armed rebels marching on Tripoli? I don’t think that’s decided yet.
Whatever decisions the allies reach, the first steps were clear. Knock out Qaddafi’s air defenses and blunt his attack on Benghazi. It’s also clear that delaying an additional day wasn’t a real option. Qaddafi was poised to capture Benghazi—perhaps in a matter of hours. There was not time for a vigourous national debate like we had before the Iraq War. If we were going to intervene in Libya, a specific and limited action was necessary without further delay. The window between our obtaining important international support and Qaddafi securing total victory was excruciatingly narrow.
There have been quite a bit of anxiety about the uncertainty surrounding the Libya intervention. Some important questions are still open.
What’s the long-term goal?
Who is in charge of the international operation?
What’s the exit strategy?
Obama has been criticized for failing to provide clear answers to the questions. Ninety percent of this criticism is pure political sniping. “I don’t disagree with what Obama is doing—but I’m gravely concerned that he hasn’t made enough irresponsible statements about the uncertain future to ensure that I’ll be able to criticize him in the future for being wrong.”
There aren’t answers to these questions yet. That’s okay. We’re better off with a bit of temporary uncertainty than we are rushing blindly toward a hastily chosen goal.
“Finally, there’s all the handwringing over why we’re intervening in Libya but not Bahrain or the Congo or Yemen. Please. Muammar Qaddafi is a terrorist and thug who’s been on practically everyone’s shit list around the world for decades. He has no allies, no friends, and not much firepower. Getting rid of him looks like a doable mission, and there’s no one really opposed. Other places either don’t look very doable or else their autocrats happen to be U.S. allies. Maybe that’s not the most honorable reason in the world for leaving them alone, but it’s a reason followed by pretty much every national leader since the first nomad planted a wheat field in Ur and settled down. We shouldn’t act quite so wide-eyed and shocked that the United States does too.”—Kevin Drum, who actually doesn’t like the intervention in Libya, also doesn’t like some of the sniping at President Obama over Libya. Read his case in “Griping About Libya.” (via motherjones)
This text has been circulating today along, along with the implication that President Obama has abandoned the principles on which he campaigned by authorizing a military attack with out an authorization for the use of force from Congress. I don’t think it’s anything that exciting.
Obama had just been asked about the circumstances under which the U.S. might attack Iran. Thus the presumed attack implicitly hung on some potential threat to the United States. Obama said that a distant threat such as the continued development of a nuclear program would require a Congressional consultation but an imminent threat (such as a nuclear missile being moved to the launch pad) would not. The standard for preemptive (but defensive) attacks is “imminent threat to the nation”. In adopting this answer, Obama seems to be implicitly accepting the War Powers Resolution.
The Libya situation hinged on a different issue. There was no time for a formal congressional consultation. The President needed to either act immediately or not act at all. He chose immediate action, purportedly to prevent violence against Libyan civilians. Whether or not we think he made a good choice, it’s pretty clear that there wasn’t any additional time for deliberation. Consultation was not possible. The requirements of the War Powers Resolution were met.
The War Powers Resolution is an explicit Congressional authorization for the use of force in a situation exactly like that in Libya. I doubt even Candidate Obama would dispute that. Because Congress already acted, it’s not even a unilateral action by the President. The action was pre-approved.
“The other complaint I’m getting is that my gripe about using the “humanitarian” excuse is shallow. “Just because we can’t intervene everywhere to save the people doesn’t mean we can’t intervene somewhere.” To that I’ll just say that when you use this rationale in a blatantly cynical way, you not only abuse and cheapen the whole notion of humanitarian intervention, you create even more cynicism about humanitarianism in general. Being a humanitarian only when it suits your own interest isn’t humanitarianism, it’s opportunism.”—
Some of the debt collection firms appear to have various tiers of attorneys. One person is in charge of filing complaints and getting default judgments. If you answer a complaint, you get to the person whose primary responsibility is beating up on pro se defendants. Once you convince that person that you’re serious, you get to a litigation team whose responsibility seems to be dealing with actual lawyers. If you do well enough against them, they bring in a big-name law firm.
Anybody Mike Tyson Punchout? It’s a lot like that.
Slightly Longer Answer: For the most part. Only sort of. It doesn’t really matter.
The U.S. Constitution is pretty clear that the President is the civilian leader of the Militery.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States
In light of that, there aren’t a whole lot of limits on that power. Of course, the power would be limited if we didn’t have a standing army or if the militia had not been called up.
Except that Congress gets to declare war:
The Congress shall have Power to … declare War….
Also, Congress can check the President by not giving him an army, navy, or by not calling the militias into service.
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
It sure looks like the drafters didn’t intend for the U.S. to have a standing army. Instead, it appears that states were intended to maintain individual militias. The navy, of course, is a whole lot more difficult to dismantle every few years. Warships can’t just go home and be yeoman farmers. If the President doesn’t have an army, he can hardly abuse its use. And … presumably they wouldn’t call up an army just to have it sit around and colonize people. Right? The Continental Army was disbanded and that was the end of a standing national army … for about fifteen years.
We don’t even declare war anymore. We just have a massive military to hang out and do whatever militaries do. Congress has effectively ceded that particular check and balance. Except that for The War Power’s Resolution. This resolution essentially tells the President that he’s supposed to consult Congress, to the extent possible, before getting into foreign military involvement, that he needs to notify Congress (in writing!) within forty-eight hours of starting such an entanglement, and that the military involvement can only go on for sixty days (plus a thirty-day withdrawal) without an authorization for the use of military force from Congress. In this case, further congressional consultation was not possible because time was critical. Congress was notified. And we’re no where near that sixty day mark. Obama is okay under the War Powers Resolution.
Of course, even if he wasn’t, it’s not clear that the War Powers Resolution is actually constitutional. It represents a pretty reasonable compromise, though, so it’s a good fiction to pretend that it’s binding. It also avoids a constitutional crisis—which is a big point in its favor.
Is the Libya intervention Constitutional? Do triangles dream? If the question even makes sense—we’re about two hundred years too late to worry about it. We’re way past the vision of the drafters. The founders are dead, guys. We’re on our own.
There are several important points of disagreement between us, but I’ll begin with the most obvious. Dan says that he’s “not a very good pacifist.” From that point forward, we run into a serious problem wherein we are likely going to simply talk past one another. Whether of the good or not very good variety, pacifism and my post on Libya just aren’t going to work together. Dan is some sort of a pacifist and I’m simply not. So I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think that most of our problems should be solved diplomatically … but I don’t just throw up my hands and say “Shucks!” when diplomacy fails.
This isn’t because I think that war is good and that, in the end, everyone comes out a winner. It isn’t because I won’t curse or because I somehow view the world through rose-colored glasses. But I also don’t believe for one second that just because people are killed by war that we should somehow prefer to let people be killed by our insistence on not-war.
The choice that Dan seems to desire is between war and peace … but that’s not actually the choice. The choice is between people being killed and people being killed. I don’t want to sugar-coat that at all. In both instances, people die and it’s violent and bloody and awful. But in one instance — when we eschew intervention — the people who generally die violently are those who are attempting (and failing, due to inferior military capabilities) to throw off a tyrant. In those instances, it’s my position that to fall back on pacifism because war is awful amounts to something of a moral failing insofar as it amounts to siding with the tyrant.
The New York Times has a slideshow of amazing pictures today. In addition to scenes of bombed-out civilian and military vehicles, they include a picture of a man standing with his arms spread, shielding a second, clearly-unarmed man. Another man aims an automatic rifle at both of them—though he doesn’t appear to be sure how to hold it. To the side, a fourth man is slowly approaching the man with the gun, holding out his hand in the international gesture for “stop for a minute and think about you’re doing before somebody gets killed.” The caption tells us that man being shieled is “a suspected Qaddafi supporter.”
Please don’t interpret any of this as encouraging anybody to take one side or the other in the question of whether or not the Libyan intervention is a good idea. There are some fantastically persuasive arguments on both sides—and I’m straddling this fence so hard it’s starting to chafe. Fortunately, I’m a guy with a low-to-middling traffic blog and I don’t need to make up my mind in a timely fashion. Others don’t have that luxury.
With that said, I want to address two issues that I think Ari’s analysis has missed. First, intervention can, at times, exacerbate a humanitarian situation. Second, even if a military intervention is a lesser-evil than standing by, it is still an evil. By supporting it, we become complicit in the inevitable, albeit unintended, consequences of that intervention. We should remember that.
“The Libyan military on Sunday called an immediate cease-fire after allied forces pounded one of its convoys near Benghazi and, according to U.S. officials, significantly degraded the regime’s air defense capability.”—
The next seventy-two hours will determine the course of the next few years in Libya. “Cease-fire” could mean one of three things. First, it could mean nothing—like the “cease-fire” the Libyan army proclaimed to give it cover for a mad dash into Benghazi before the allied missiles started falling. Second it could be a semi-delusional, “let’s have a truce and call it a draw” gesture. At this point, the Libyan army is not really able to credibly fire back at the allied forces. “Cease-fire” really means, “please stop firing at us.” Third, it could be the functional equivalent of surrender.
What happens if or when the Libyan army is in retreat or full route? If the rebels march on Tripoli, will the allies intervene? Will the two sides be separated? What happens next?
The Libya intervention is not repeat of the Iraq action.
While the parallels are certainly worth discussing, there are some very significant differences.
The Libya action includes a broad international force and a reasonable compliance with a U.N. mandate. (There will be a fair amount of discussion about whether the action remains within the bounds of that mandate—but I highly doubt that anything will happen outside the bounds of what every single member of the security council envisioned when they voted for it. They may have been careful with their wording to ensure they could distance themselves from the action later—but they knew what the game was.)
There are no U.S. ground forces in Libya. (It’s possible that there will be some minimal number of U.S. ground forces in an advisory or logistical capacity at some point. There may even be a reasonably large international force. But it won’t exceed 1% of what we have in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The action comes in response to a genuine popular revolution. The claim that the rebels in Libya wanted international military assistance is true this time. While the pro-Qaddafi forces certainly are larger than Qaddafi and his immediate family, they also seem to be a minority. We’ll shortly see how small a minority.
On the topic of pornography, the endorsement, or at least acceptance of (certain types of) adult material seems to be something of a liberal mainstay. But a Christian morality normally opposes such material. What is a Christian liberal or a liberal Christian to do?
This may be the best anonymous question I have ever received. Religion, politics, and porn.
I don’t think that endorsement of pornography is a liberal mainstay. Few (if any) people think it’s like a vitamin that’s good for you whether you want it or not. But there is a whole lot more acceptance of porn on the left than on the right. (I suspect the consumption of porn is pretty evenly balanced.) The main questions are thus:
Should we consume pornography ourselves?
Should we try to prevent others from consuming pornography?
Regarding the first one, I’m generally anti-porn. There’s not a whole lot of benefit from it—and the lists of connected problems are pretty serious. I’m generally against anything that commodifies or cheapens sex to no end in particular. And porn is frequently about as bad as it gets for gender relations. That’s sort of a sub-issue. (Cross-reference, for example, the questions of whether pornography is never, always, or occasionally feminist.) If the question comes down to “should I be watching porn or doing something else,” I suspect the answer is usually doing something else. Nobody is going to accuse you of being a bad liberal for insufficient porn consumption. Should Christians be opposed to any depiction of nudity whatsoever (and put curtains around statutes)? I don’t think so. Can pornography screw up relationships? Certainly.
Regarding the second issue, the question is what sort of access restrictions are proposed. Is the proposal an outright ban on a certain type of pornography? (Say, child pornography?) Is the proposal a ban on using public funds for producing or accessing pornography? Is the proposal a sort of labeling law so people get some reasonable warning about what they’re about to watch. (Even if it’s something as simple as “nsfw”.) Should libraries filter porn? Should they filter porn on public computers if that allows other patrons to use the computers to do things like job searching that’s more central to the library’s mission?
I don’t think we ought to come down categorically on one side or another. Do Christians have a duty to make sure that nobody has access to any sort of pornography whether they want it or not? There are more important things to do.
Edit:FreeMarketLiberal correctly points out that I didn’t really answer question #2. The answer depends on what kind of restriction is proposed. Are there some things I would like to keep off of public billboards? Yes. Should we push for broader criminal enforcement of obscenity laws? No.
I would like to preface this post by mentioning how much I enjoy Ari Kohen’s writing on human rights. If you do not already follow his blog, I would encourage you to do so. He is writing is eloquent and informed. Even in the areas where we disagree, I have learned a lot from his perspective. When—as I am about to do—I take exception to something he has written, please read it in light of that profound respect.1 And if I drop a few f-bombs, I only do so to encourage a robust and honest dialogue.2
As I have mentioned before, I am not a very good pacifist. I’ve serious reservations about intervention in Libya—but when I hear about French fighter jets patrolling the sky above Benghazi and more planes arriving in the region from all around the world, I feel a certain deep joy. The world is pulling together to stand up against tyranny. For once, we’re using our military to do something right. This is the good war.
Except … war is never good. It may be necessary. I may be a lesser evil. But good? Don’t believe it. Ari writes an elegant defense of bombing Libya for human rights. He may be right. I might even agree with him. But the bullshit-to-candor ratio is way off—so I thought I would offer Ari’s post interspersed with some thoughts of my own. He writes:
I have to wonder: if there was ever a justification for intervention, wouldn’t it have to be the violent suppression of pro-democracy forces by an authoritarian dictator who unequivocally states that he is hell-bent on retaining power by any means necessary?
That’s a pretty broad criterion. It could justify military intervention in Iran, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Venezuela, Cuba, and possibly somewhere like China. It was already used to justify interventions in Iraq and (to a lesser extent) Afghanistan. It also could have justified a military intervention in Egypt or Tunisia prior to the resignation of the respective leaders. Of course, Libya’s the place we’re invading … because we can get away with it. It’s strategically important.3 And fuck Qaddafi.
Speaking of "lots of adjectives and latinate words,” how many lawyers know that there is a difference between "lawyer" and "attorney," and how many know what that difference is? It's hyper-common for people to use the latter exclusively, probably because it's one of those "latinate words" and sounds more sophisticated than that old Anglo-Saxon word.
I’m not sure there is a meaningful difference. Attorney, of course, has an additional meaning in the power of attorney context. But the most common usages of both words are interchangeable.
The choice of attorney is a fairly practical one. Attorney has a much better connotation. People tell lawyer jokes—not attorney jokes. Well, they might tell banker jokes now. We’re no longer the most reviled profession. Thanks, bankers!
Edit: jonathan-cunningham informs me, “Lawyers teach law and attorneys practice it :)”
Writing is a vastly underrated skilled among all professions, and each profession has it's own style. Politics has it's own style, which killed the literary style I had developed during high school and college (something I tremendously regret), and over the past two months I've been working with attorneys and their writing style has effected my blast e-mails, press releases, etc. I need to get out of politics so I can get back to the literary style.
I’d be cautious to believe that the writing styles of different professions are all that different. While different fields have a higher tolerance for certain kinds of bad writing than others, good writing across fields remains fairly consistent. It should be concise, precise, and as simple as possible. Law is willing to tolerate formulaic cliches more than most fields. Business seems to have a thing for trendy buzzwords. Politics really likes its cliches and inexact and unenlightening comparisons to previous political flubs. The humanities are perhaps too merciful to vague, sweeping, but poorly defined concepts. It’s not that these flaws aren’t flaws in any profession—it’s just that they’re more widely tolerated.
I’m not quite sure what constitutes a “literary” style of writing. For some people “literary” means “excessively ornate.” Or “lots of adjectives and latinate words.” Fortunately, most literature doesn’t adopt all of these tropes any more than most architecture incorporates all the flourishes of the baroque. Literature differs from other writing perhaps because it is frequently an end in itself. It need not have any purpose other than its own.
On television, lawyers talk a lot. The good attorney carries the day with his amazing rhetoric and uncanny insight. In real life, most of legal practice is written. And most attorneys don’t write particularly well. Many don’t even realize that’s a problem. If you can write, you’ll have a huge advantage.
Learn to make your words two or three things at the same time. Think of it like singing in harmony with yourself. You want to show simultaneously that your client has suffered a serious injustice and is worthy of the court’s anger—and that the cold, hard law gives the court a way to act on its anger. You might demonstrate that you’re too professional to engage in a petty back-and-forth with another attorney while quietly landing a couple low blows. You can simultaneously call the other guy a bold-faced liar while assuring that you would never question the integrity of another esteemed member of the bar. It’s a skill worth developing.
In declaring a cease-fire a few hours after the UN imposition of a No-Fly Zone, “Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said Libya is ‘obliged to accept the Security Council resolution that permits the use of force to protect the civilian population.’”
And then here’s the part that simply makes no sense at all, but that is pretty much guaranteed whenever an authoritarian regime has been repressing its people in full view of the international community:
Speaking to reporters Friday in Tripoli, Koussa said Libya plans to protect civilians and provide them with humanitarian assistance and that it is obliged to protect all foreigners and their assets. He also called for a fact-finding mission to sort out the events on the ground.
I can only imagine that Libyans are surprised to learn that their government plans to protect them … from itself, one can only assume.
We’ll see how this falls out soon. Libya’s official government position has consistently been that the rebels were a small and violent group, possibly under some sort of Al Qaeda mind control. I would expect the Libyan government to go one of two ways. Either it could start making some grand and humanitarian gesture to try to prove that it was the good guy in all this—or the “cease fire” could be a smoke screen to delay action by Western powers with imperfect intelligence until more territory can be seized.
I read the news that the U.N. Had authorized airstrikes in Libya with a combination of dread an excitement. The dread was easy to place. This meant NATO intervention in an internal struggle in Libya. I’ll be happy to see Qaddafi go—but it’s not at all clear what comes next. Supplying freedom fighters with Western weapons has not always ended well for us. And let’s not kid ourselves that the action will be limited to “protecting civilians.” Our strikes will probably kill more civilians than ate dying now. (Though the consequences of a fully victorious, increasingly oppressive Qaddafi regime are more ambiguous).
So why the excitement? I felt the same thong at the beginning of the Iraq War. This is war—with all it’s hellish consequences, not one of my real time strategy games. I know all of this rationally.
But the story is irresistable. A nation casting off the yoke of oppression. A tyrant striking back. A plea for aid. We can help. we can bomb Qaddafi back onto the stone age And then? Free Libya. Happily ever after.
It’s a beautiful dream.syne this time it will end the way it was supposed to.
Don’t believe for a second that NATO’s probable bombing of Gaddafi’s forces will be done because it’s “the right thing.” Gaddafi’s continued control of Libya has become unacceptable to the West. Now NATO will do what NATO does. It may be necessary. It may be better than the alternative. But let’s not glorify it more than we have to.
This is not humanitarian intervention. This is realpolitik. This is regime change.
So … is Trumps supposed Presidential run a serious thing or just a publicity stunt? Nobody makes statements like that without some degree of self-parody … possibly excluding Donald Trump. Is there even a real man behind the image?
“The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, said late Wednesday that she had been working furiously throughout the day on language for a resolution that would authorize not just a no-flight zone but additional steps to halt the movement of Colonel Qaddafi’s forces.”—
I feel the same way about “Men’s Rights” or “Father’s Rights” groups that I feel about the “rational inquiry” people who think the government is hiding extraterrestrials. Extraterrestrial life is certainly possible. Even probable. Somewhere. But the UFO people are, nonetheless, chasing fantasies.
The “Men’s Rights” people are the same way. There may very well be a systemic bias against men in custody proceedings. There are genuine areas where disparate gender treatment hurts men. But that’s not really what’s motivating the Men’s Rights people.1 They’re more about being angry and reactionary at some real or imagined slight and trying to excuse their own anti-social behavior behind gender stereotypes and imagined victimhood. Or maybe it’s an attempt to form a community around the fact that women … you know … women, amirite?
"Men’s rights" are a smoke screen for men who want to blame their personal failures on somebody else. They’re not a real thing.
I’m not going to call them a movement. Movements go somewhere. The Men’s Rights people are just dudes with assorted grievances. We already have a movement to investigate and promote gender equity. It’s called feminism. ↩