Saturday, May 24, 2003

HIATUS: Blogging will be light to nonexistent for the forseeable future, as far as I'm concerned. This is partly because I have a bunch of work due at the end of next week, but really because my PC's ethernet card broke; and they apparently no longer make or sell cards that are compatible with my antiquated system (I'm still running on Windows95). So, I'm limited to the public computers here -- the nearest of which to my room are located in a windowless basement cubbyhole which is generally kept at around 90 degrees fahrentheit. And even the more comfortable e-mail/internet outposts available to me are less than lush in their capabilities.
This is probably just as well. I feel that my blogging has of late -- well, maybe not just of late -- not brought out the better angels of my nature -- or my style. Hopefully, I'll be able to get my own computer hooked back up to the 'net soon -- and return a renewed and refreshed, nay, even a reborn, blogger. Or at least return.
Until then ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

TERRORISM* HITS HOME: There has been an explosion in a classroom at Yale Law School (word via Patrick at OxBlog, who's been ON the story; alas, the permalink isn't quite working. It's also around the media -- BBC, CNN, NY Times, New Haven Register, take your pick). It seems that the explosion was caused by a 'device' (bomb), and that no-one was hurt. I certainly hope the latter is true.
Now that it seems fairly well established that no-one was injured or killed, and I don't have to be worried about the various people I know -- and various people I don't know -- at the Law School, I can feel angry. Angry, and powerless; I'm across the ocean, and even if I weren't, there'd be nothing I could do.
Well, I'm glad everyone seems to be physically safe. And I hope they find the bastard(s) who are responsible.

*There's no evidence of international terrorists being responsible for this, as yet; still, I think that setting off bombs is definitely terrorism, regardless of who does it, or for what purpose.

ADDENDUM Jeremy Reff has taken me to task for my use of the term terrorist here. Now, admittedly, the whole post was hasty, and I should have known better than to let fly with such a comment. And Jeremy's thoughts about the meaning of terrorism are interesting, and admirable#y reasoned, and very good to have; he's probably right in dissenting from my (mis)use of the word.
That said, I can only point out, in my defense, that I was using the definition of the word provided by the OED (well, the second meaning provided; the first uses the word in its most stringently narrow and specific sense -- to refer to the methods of government by terror used by the Revolutionary Government of France, that is, the Terror.) According to the OED, terrorism is 'A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized.' I think that setting off bombs is certainly a way of intimidation and striking with terror, even if not for political purposes (that would be POLITICAL terrorism. Adjectives are nifty things -- though admittedly one can be far too fond of them, as I, alas, am.)
As for the whole 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' canard -- well, of course. Terrorism describes a particular means; 'freedom fighter' claims or alleges, at least, a particular end. Now those engaging in terrorism may or may not actually be seeking freedom (Al Quaeda sure as hell weren't when they flew into th WTC), and they may or may not claim to be doing so (I don't think Al Quaeda ever has; the first terrorists to be called by the name, so far as I and the OED can tell, the Jacobins, certainly did -- liberty, equality, fraternity, and all that), and their goals may or may not justify terrorism. But, we shouldn't be unwilling to call the means by their proper name just because we also admire or wish for the ends -- and we should not deny that people may be honestly pursuing genuinely noble ends even if we abominate the means.
So, to take Jeremy's example, yes, I think the ANC and the Irgun were terrorists, to the extent that they used terrorism (they were also fighting against others who used terrorism, often to a greater extent, and for less good purposes). And I don't see what's gained by refusing to acknowledge that.
As for when, if ever, terrorism is justified: that's a question which bothers, and sometimes even torments, me. I don't have an answer, and I'm not sure if one exists (though if Jeremy can find it -- as, knowing him, he just might -- I'd be most grateful!). But we should at least confront the problem, by calling things by their proper names.
(But why should things' proper names be determined by an appeal to the authority of the OED? Well, that's a good question, actually. But, um, I'm not really in the right place at the moment to start contesting the cultural authority of Oxford University Press!) [Explanation of this last little private-language game: Josh's tuition at Oxford is being partially funded by OUP, for which he is, therefore, a shill, and readers should be aware of this -- Ed.] (Oh dear ... I've been in the blogosphere long enough, I've picked up Mickey Kaus's 'Ed.' comments conceit. Dear god, no!)
(Sorry, folks; but, hey, I've been discussing terrorism, I've been getting pompous, and had to at least try to inject some humour)

The ever-righteous (but, bless him, never self-righteous) Steve Sachs has a post on France's shameful foreign policy record on his excellent (and too infrequently updated) blog. Steve does a particularly good job detailing France's shady dealings with Saddam's Iraq -- which, of course, is the most relevant of that country's many offenses to current-day events. He also mentions France's support of various dictators. However, as well as he covers most of France's misdeeds, he does overlook one particularly important item: France's shameful culpability in the Rwanda genocide, which is detailed in this harrowing London Review of Books essay from 2001 (reprinted, online, in the Guardian); it's an unpleasant read, but -- like the material Steve links to -- a necessary one.
Then there's the matter of France's repeated attempts at nuclear testing. Dubious in themselves, these incidents have involved France in more serious wrong-doings, and actual criminality -- the dynamiting of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior by French agents in 1985, in which one person was killed.
One can understand why many would be distrustful of the US's claims to speak and act out of a wholly disinterested commitment to human rights; but why anyone would be at all trusting of France, or believe them to hold a moral upper hand over the US, is beyond me. (Now the Brits on the other hand ...)

SOUNDS LIKE MY IDEA OF HELL: According to this AP report, the US is 'torturing' Iraqi prisoners by forcing them to listen to hours of heavy metal and children's shows music (theme from Sesame Street, etc.)
Well, I know that'd make ME crack in about 5 seconds. I mean, Enter Sandman I could take for a time, but Sesame Street?!?!
The article of course doesn't specify who the prisoners are; but I hope that they're Ba'ath party officials who have done really bad stuff. I mean, think of the beauty of it: people who served a regime that tortured prisoners by electrocuting them, beating them, raping their wives and daughters in front of them, pouring acid on them, and feeding them feet-first to shredders -- being subjected to the horrors of THE THEME FROM SESAME STREET.
That's progress. And it's a symbol for why, for all that I think the Bush administration has done wrong, and will do wrong, in Iraq, I think Iraq is better off now than it was a few months ago -- and that the war was worth it.
(Typical Sitting on the Fence cautious disclaimer: of course, with the Bushies running the show, and given all the problems facing us in Iraq, things could go pretty sour, to the extent that Iraq could wind up as badly off as it was under Saddam. But, for the time being, I'm really hoping that the ultimate results of the war will, on balance, be for the good.)

FIRST -- TIME -- EVER! Something in the Weekly Standard that my co-blogger Rob can ACTUALLY AGREE WITH!
Somewhere, right now, a pig is taking flight.
I'll leave further blogging on Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Rob's capable hands.

THE CLAWS COME OUT! I appear to have offended Brian Leiter, who has, as is only right, responded with a robust counter-punch to my less than kind words about him. It's also only right that I respond to Prof. Leiter's criticisms; I do so, not out of a wish for combat, but because I do think I have a responsibility to back up, or defend, what in retrospect was an overly ad hominem post (though I still think Leiter's original attack on Strauss was also largely ad hominem).
1.Prof. Leiter's first criticism is that he doesn't know who I am. I've since sought to correct this, by adding a post about myself -- you can find the link near the top of this blog. Of course, I'm not sure that this really affects the force of my arguments; but if Prof. Leiter or any of his readers -- or mine -- are curious, there the information its.
Prof. Leiter also accuses me of 'smearing' Myles Burnyeat for 'representing a particular approach' to scholarship. This leaves me dumbfounded. How is 'representing a particular approach to scholarship' a bad thing? Don't we all? *(Well, I try not to; but, then, I also am not a person of any intellectual weight). And Prof. Leiter is quite right to point out that I don't offer a substantive critique of Prof. Burnyeat's interpretations or approach. Of course I don't; that wasn't the point of my post. I respect Prof. Burnyeat's work a great deal, and never said I didn't -- indeed, I went out of my way to say that I think he's probably largely right (for which Prof. Letier also attacks me; ah, there's no pleasing some people!); I think his approach has many merits, and he employs it well. I've no objection to him reading texts or evaluating arguments in his way, which is deeply informed by Anglo-American intellectual traditions, both philosophical and philological. My beef isn't with Burnyeat at all, or with Anglo-American philosophy, or Anglo-American classical scholarship. My objection is to those who refuse to accept the merits of any alternative approach, and who seek to bar it from the discipline and title of philosophy. My argument wasn't for or against any single approach; it was for greater intellectual tolerance, generosity, and eclecticism.
2. Prof. Leiter says, if I read him right, that it isn't necessary to develop a critique of Strauss in a message to other philosophers, since they all already agree that Strauss is wrong; it's only necessary to 'alert them to misleading coverage of political philosophy in the popular media' -- that is, the suggestion that Strauss was actually a 'philosopher' or 'classicist'. In other words, his original post was just an announcement to those who shared his views that their assumptions had been defied by the media. Fair enough. But the condemnation of failure to agree with Leiter and those who share his opinions as wrong, misleading, misled, fraudulent, and intellectually unserious seems to me a heavy charge, which requires substantiation; otherwise, it seems to me a mere assertion of prejudice and dogma.
3) Prof Leiter says that he's read Burnyeat's review of Strauss's works, as well as some Straussian works on Nietzsche (he cites one, Peter Berkowitz, who is only a semi-Straussian, and no others; but never mind. Given my own experience with misreadings of Weber by some of Strauss's admirers, I'm willing to grant that it's quite possible many of them also misread Nietzsche. I don't know, though, whether his attack on Berkowitz -- who, I'll confess, I know, and like very much -- is fair; I don't know enough about Nietzsche. I do know a little about Mill, though, and from what I know Berkowitz's reading of Mill is perfectly fine). He does not mention having read Strauss's own works on classical political philosophy, or Medieval Jewish and Islamic thought, or modern political thought up to Nietzsche (about whom Strauss thought much, but wrote little). Again, when Leiter can cite chapter and verse of Strauss's own works, and explain why they are not merely contentious, but tendentious -- not merely philosophically controversial, but worthless as scholarship -- I might actually be convinced; until then, it does seem to me that he's making claims that are rather grander than any of the evidence he supports seems to confirm.
Prof Leiter also refers to me as 'petulant'; perhaps. But he doesn't come across as all that generous of spirit or restrained in expression himself. Prof. Leiter accuses me of not making any substantive arguments; so far as I can see, he hasn't made any statements that one can make substantive arguments about: he has merely asserted his opinions. So have I; but I haven't claimed that my opinions -- as Prof Leiter emphasises, my problems -- are the authority for what is philosophy, and what isn't. Prof. Leiter accuses me of being self-absorbed ; and perhaps I am. But I don't pretend to think that I have the right to pronounce on what's intellectually valid or acceptable, and what isn't; and I don't expect the whole of the philosophical community to hang on my every word. Self-absorbed, maybe; self-besotted, at least, I'm not.
It may be true that some of my criticisms of Prof Leiter were 'sophmoric', though I don't think that the point I was trying to make -- that there's more than one way to do philosophy, and that if one's going to claim that the work of a scholar or school of scholars is invalid, one should back one's claims up with something more than appeal to authority -- is sophmoric. But then, I am young, I am foolish, I am no doubt too innocent in the ways of the world and too quick to give vent to my righteous indignation when I regard something as unfair.
Prof. Leiter, on the other hand, is a distinguished and incisive legal philosopher and Nietzsche scholar, the author of myriad influential and sophisticated articles and books, and a respected authority on the academic job market.
And yet, apparently, he has enough free time to devote to such unimportant tasks as calling an unknown graduate student bad names for having the temerity to question, not Prof Leiter's authority, but the way in which he uses it to declare those with whom he disagrees anathema to philosophy, on a webpage which a handful of people at most read. Prof. Leiter must indeed be a remarkable man -- as well as a very generous one -- to take so much time in responding to the criticisms of one so insignificant and devoid of merit as I am; it would no doubt be too much to expect him to also provide rational arguments to back up his contentions, so I don't fault him for failing to do so. I am, rather, grateful to him for his attention. (Especially given his opposition to blogs -- which is no doubt why he doesn't include a link to my post, so that people can actually read what I wrote. [No doubt to spare me the embarassment of his readers actually reading my argument in all it's humiliating immaturity. He really is TOO kind!] I, on the other hand, am quite happy for my readers -- who are far less numerous than his -- to read Prof. Leiter's side of the argument, and draw their own informed coclusions. But no doubt Prof. Leiter's practice -- of presenting only his own account of his opponents' views, plus his own -- is the more intellectually sound one)
But I hope Prof. Leiter won't take too much umbrage at this, or waste any more of his time on me -- time which would be far better spent on his heroic efforts to keep track of the academic pecking order; and best of luck to him in doing so.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Hey Josh,
Well, I was reading your last two posts, and it got me thinking. I have no knowledge of the whole Strauss thing, or the potential anti-semitism that fuels it, so I'm not going to weigh in on it directly. I will say that I generally agree with your point, but it makes me wonder: "How much influence do any intellectuals have?" and more specifically, "How much influence do any intellectuals have, on the Republican Party?" I am not capable of addressing either point, BUT I have to say that the answer to the second question may approach zilch. I think the Neo-Conservatives, the States-Rights Constitutionalists, and the Libertarians who all flock to the Republican Party and try to justify their policies are largely the intellectual icing on a big Nationalistic Macho, Southern Racist, and Corporate Interest cake (Friedman uses analogies, I too use analogies. And yet no one asks me to write for the New York Times.)
Now, I like cake, specifically the chocolate cake of racial integration, with social safety net chocolate icing applied equally to each of its layers, and the rainbow chocolate sprinkles of religious, personal, and political freedom. Yes I like chocolate, and I like partaking in the cake of Democrats. However, this Republican cake is at best a funnel cake, with an intellectual vanilla icing that uses too much sugar and fails to cover the rancid taste of the doughy goo of social disfunction, produced from dry milk and eggs of inequality and the knock off flour of tyranny. SO, I don't like this cake nor its icing.
Now, what's my justification for calling these right-wing intellectuals the icing on the Republican cake? Quite simply, the Republican party seems to ignore them. Sometimes they use their advice (such as attacking Iraq), but it often seems like these events can be easily explained as either satisfying some corporate interest or some short-term electoral interest. Specifically, Bush attacked Iraq because he needed to do something about terrorism and he knew it would play well with the public. As soon as the intellectuals demand something that does not fit either of these two interests (such as an actual sustained effort to rebuild Iraq into a functioning democracy) the Republicans seem less concerned. When the intellectuals demand something that is politically UNPOPULAR, the republicans just ignore it (witness Afghanistan and our refusal to commit sufficient troops or push for real democratic reform). Look at the Libertarians. The Republican Party attacks our individual rights. We need sodomy laws? We need the government to watch the books we check out? Aside from the tax cuts and less environmental regulation, what are libertarians getting?
Are Democrats any different? I think yes, though I'm not sure. Certainly, Democrats in general actually cater to the Intellectuals of our nation. They have to be more responsive. Also, Democrats seem to actually stick to certain intellectual principles and allow them to guide them. Now, I'm not saying Democrats do unpopular things for intellectual reasons, but I DO think the Democrats do neutral things for intellectual reasons. Maybe I'm just blind at this point. I do know I want some cake.

OH, SO THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT! In an excellent article in TAP John Judis makes a case that every moral philosopher (or would-be moral philosopher) will bless him for (assuming the problem of whom to invoke in the blessing can be resolved...): that the argument over whether the US and its allies' invasion of Iraq was justified or not hinges on the conflict between Kant's moral philosophy and that of utilitarianism. It's basically a matter of deontoligical morality vs. consequentialism -- that is, between the belief that actions should be judged by their inherent rightness or wrongness (determined by whether they conform to a universalisable moral principle or not), and the belief that actions are justified by the results they get. The view that the ends justifies the means vs. the view that only moral means are acceptable, even if it gets in the way of achieving desirable ends.
Judis makes a good case that Bush and company deliberately misled the American people (and others) about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his supposed arsenal of WMDs. In short, they lied, and went to war for reasons other than those they claimed they were going to war for. And while we can't be sure of their true motives, Judis seems to think that they probably had to do with a geo-political vision of American hegemony. Well, maybe; I think W., Cheney and co. are capable of such things, though I'd like to believe that they also genuinely care about democracy and human rights (and will begin doing so once they stop mucking up Afghanistan and manage to avoid the mucking-up of Iraq that they seem to be started on).
But, be that as it may, it is clear that the war on Iraq was a pretty nasty affair in a number of respects. For one thing, it did involve a lot of suffering. And the Bush administration does seem to have pursued and prosecuted war through some pretty dubious means (I'm talking mainly of their 'public-relations' campaign -- or 'disinformation' campaign, depending on how you look at it, not the actual military actions, which seem to have been fairly humane as far as war goes -- which is to say not very, but some effort seems to have been made to reduce innocent and needless suffering, with some success). So, the question is, does the fall of Saddam Hussein justify the employment of dubious means out of dubious motivations?
Kant would say no; Mill would say yes (well, maybe).
Hmm. Maybe the fact that I've always been sort of torn between deontology and consequentialism explains why I've been ambivalent about the war all this time. Good to get that figured out. (In fact, in the thesis I'm currently supposedly writing, I argue, among other things, that Isaiah Berlin's version of political liberalism incorporates a similar ambivalence, and involves an attempt to draw on good elements from both the Kantian and Millian traditions of thinking, not about morality in general, but about liberty. Just in case anyone was interested.)
So, the obvious question is: who's right here? And the obvious answer on my part is, um .... what are the options again?
Seriously, though, I think that if one thinks about it, and isn't a moral philosopher by profession or inclination (sorry guys ...), it's pretty clear that both Kant's and Mill's positions are flawed. The only valid answer to the question 'do the ends justify the means' that I can think of is 'Depends'. Depends on the ends, depends on the means; depends on what's likely to happen, and what does happen. Some means are just intolerable; they are so inherently bad, that, no matter what good they might accomplish, they should be ruled out. And when bad means do wind up being necessary to achieving means that do justify them, we should still acknowledge that to have to employ them is an evil and a tragedy, and do so with due humility and sorrow. And caution; since we can seldom know whether we'll be succesful, or be sure that if we are it'll really be worth it (this is the standard line against consequentialism -- and for a reason: it's valid). On the other hand, to foreswear all dubious or destrucitve means is a recipe for impotence; and when those who seek good ends paralyze themselves, they sin by letting those who have no scruples about either ends or means -- the Ba'ath, say -- triumph.
So, it's always a tough call -- and certainly was in this case. We won't be able to make convincing arguments about whether this last war was worth it or right for some time yet -- not for years. And we won't know for sure whether it was worth it or right for centuries -- and even after centuries, I doubt our descendents (if humanity survives that long) will be able to decide the question with certainty. (Then again, they may: most people seem to agree that World War Two was, on balance, justified. I doubt that such consensus will emerge about 'Gulf War II' though).
Anyway, Judis says a lot about this in his article -- and a lot more. You should read it.

OK, OK. In my last post I made a few comments suggesting that focussing on the influence of Leo Strauss (slight, at best) and Albert Wohlstetter (probably considerable) on current US foreign policy might have something to do with the fact that both men, and their 'acolytes' (real and alleged), were/are Jewish.
Well, um, I think it probably is.
Some (including my sometime classmate Eric Tam [Permalink of course not working], who was less enamored by Strauss when we read him together at Yale than I was) have accused those who have suggested such a thing of over-reacting, and preventing reasonable discussion.
Well, OK. Let's try to be reasonable here. Note the following:
1) Our government's policy is ultimately the responsibility of the President -- who at present is a sort of loopily born-again Christian who seems to be among the last people one would think would be deeply influenced by abstruse academics of whatever ethnicity. Military policy is largely the responsibility of teh Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense; in the case of the war on Iraq, the Vice-President -- a former Sec of Defense -- also had a good deal of influence, according to many reports. None of these people is Jewish -- and non studied with, or has probably read much, Wohlstetter, let alone Strauss.
2)Those in or close to or supportive of the administration who did study with Wohlstetter or Strauss are almost all Jewish. Of them, one, Paul Wolfowitz, actually holds a prominent position; two others, Abram Shulsky and Richard Perle, are known to have been in positions which gave them influence over decision-making; and one, Bill Kristol, has been a prominent supporter of the administration in the media.
3) None of these latter group has the power to set policy; they can only do so by convincing their superiors.
4) It appears that everything that has been done, has been done because those at the top -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld -- wanted it done; and, in fact, where the powers at the top have been more dubious about projects than the 'neo-cons', the neo-cons have generally not gotten their way (look at how democratization, and Ahmed Chalabi's bid to become puppet-king of Iraq, are going ...)
5)Yet, in these articles concerning Strauss or Wohlstetter's influence, it often seems as if Paul Wolfowitz single-handedly controls US foreig policy -- with some help from Perle and Kristol. This seems a very fanciful idea to me.
So. What I conclude from all this is that the disproportionate and, frankly, unrealistic emphasis on certain individuals' power in articles about the influence of Strauss and Wohlstetter has to be motivated by something beyond the factual reality of the situation. Sure, they and other neo-cons have had a lot of influence, and have been very prominent lately; and it's always interesting (and to journalists and intellectuals, rather flattering) when academics and pundits seem to have an impact on policy. Fair enough; I'm not against tracing the ideological origins of the Bush administration's policies. But why do these accounts consistently focus on one particular handful of officials, pundits, and policy-intellectuals -- most or all of them Jewish? And why have so many people gotten so smitten with the Strauss story, which has little basis in fact -- to the extent that Strauss's philosophy has very little to do with recent US policy?
Well, I'm sorry, but the fact that conspiracy theories about Jewish and/or intellectual elitist cabals controlling the government have often been pretty popular for the past 200 or so years does seem sort of relevant here.
But, why make such a fuss over it? I mean, it isn't like anyone is explicitly accusing the Jews as a community of controlling US foreign policy? Well, except maybe for one or two people. And of course there's sort of queasy-making talk about the Israel lobby from some quarters. But, hey, it's not like anti-Semitism is a problem, right?
Well, actually, no. Forget for a moment about the various acts of anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism in Europe. What about the rabid anti-Semitism that persists, often with government support, throughout the Middle East? What about teh fact that recent terrorism in Morocco seems to have singled out Jewish targets? Is this insignificant? Does this not reflect a considerable durability on the part of anti-Semitic hysteria? Are these people wholly unaffected, in this day of globalized information flow, by speculation in the US media? In such a situation, is suggesting that US policy follows a blueprint set by a bunch of intellectuals with names like Wohlstetter, Strauss, and Wolfowitz likely to meet the response of 'Oh, those Germans!'
Well, maybe I'm over-reacting. After all, I honestly have never felt unsafe or discriminated against or the object of prejudice because of being Jewish, either in the US or in Britain. And in the past I've also been bothered by attempts to, if not silence, then de-legitimize (fair and necessary) criticism of Israel by instantly and vociferously alleging anti-Semitism (or the tendency of certain people I know -- or am related to -- to grumble about anti-semitism at meeting the slightest inconvenience).
But, I must admit, I'm a little worried by all this, a little iritated.
Can't imagine why. I mean, it's not like anti-Jewish conspiracy theories have ever led to violence in the past. It's not like members of my own family were slaughtered like animals by regimes built on hate-mongering against the Jews. It's not like many Jews today are subject to murderous attacks because of their ancestry. It's not like there have always been people who murderously hate us and have wanted to wipe us off the face of the earth, and still are, and they're armed and organized.
No, it's not like. It is.
Given that, I don't ask for 'sensitivity' on the part of the media. What I ask for is responsibility. And, lately, I think speculation on the influence of Jewish intellectuals on US policy has not been responsible.

[JEWISH] ACADEMIC GURUS BEHIND [JEWISH] GOVERNMENTAL CONSPIRACIES, TAKE TWO: The 'Leo Strauss is behind the fall of Saddam'* canard having apparently gotten old (well, it was circulating around for -- two weeks!), the Boston Globe has found another UChicago academic to blame everything on -- I mean, who may have had a profound impact on current US foreign policy: Albert Wohlstetter. His 'acolytes' include Paul Wolfowitz (hey, wait, this is sounding REALLY familiar ...), RIchard Perle (who I'm happy to note at least wasn't classed as a Straussian by most journalists), as well as several others (Well, it's a larger group than the actual Straussians in the administration; though talk of some of the figures mentioned having 'traveled in Wohlstetter's circles' makes me a little uneasy. What does this mean? I mean, there are plenty of people whose 'circles' I've probably traveled in through no real fault of my own; but I wouldn't necessarily want -- or deserve -- to be associated with them).
However, that said, there's an important difference between this and the 'Straussians control the world' fantasy. For there's actual substance here. Wohlstetter -- unlike Strauss, who wrote about the history of political philosophy -- actually thought and wrote about military policy; and the article -- which is a lot of fun, and very interesting, in its account of Wohlstetter's colourful personality and incisive, but often very grim, ideas -- makes a good case that many of his ideas are reflected in the approach to the war with Iraq (though why doesn't the article mention Donald Rumsfeld or Tommy Franks? Didn't they have something to do with war plans? Oh, wait -- I forgot -- this is another article about how Jewish intellectuals control the White House.)
Oh, by the way, Wohlstetter apparently was vehemently opposed to targetting Soviet civilians in hypothetical nuclear strikes and late in life 'railed' against ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.
Gee. What a terrible guy.
*Which, incidentally, may be one of the best things to have been said of him, despite its untruth.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

OPTIMISM VINDICATED! Ah, it's a great time to be a pro-war neo-con. Things are going so well -- and those silly Lefties have been so discredited! They predicted all sorts of wild stuff: that far from being a victory in the war against terror, the defeat of Iraq would set off a new wave of terror in the Islamic world, for instance, or that the US wouldn't turn Iraq over to Iraqis, as the Bush and Blair governments had promised, but instead retain control over Iraq itself indefinitely. Well, they've sure been proven wrong, haven't they?
What -- me bitter? Well, yes, a bit. I don't blame the war, or even the bumbling and dubiously-intentioned Bush administration, for all that's gone wrong lately; but it does reinforce my doubts about teh administration's ability, and willingness, to deal with dangerous realities and its own moral responsibilities; and it does reinforce the uneasy feeling I've had for the past months -- that my neo-con friends, in their anti-anti-war arguments, have been a little overly-optimistic. Of course, we'll see how things go from here; but right now, it doesn't look so good (and to those who are inclined to dismiss these problems as 'bumps' on te road to victory -- temporary setbacks which will be overcome -- well, I can't help but point out that that's what Marxists have always said about Communism's failures and crimes. Not to make an equivalence argument, or anything, but ...)

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