Moran on Iraq

A lot is being made of Rick Moran’s excellent series of posts on Iraq over at Right Wing Nuthouse.

Sample reaction, from Newshogger:

The big news over on the rightwing blogs today is Rick Moran, of Right Wing Nut House, recanting his support for Bush’s occupation of Iraq. Rick blames the incompetence of Bush’s policy and its execution saying that waning US support for that incompetence “will ultimately doom our efforts to take any military success achieved via the surge and turn it into progress on the political front.” Perhaps with another dozen or so Fiedmans, Rick says, Bush’s failings could be turned into success, but those Friedmans will not now be allowed by the American people.

If you actually read Rick’s post, it’s far from clear that he’s sitting and supping with Dennis Kucinich just yet. Actually, he’s come to pretty much the same conclusion I have – that the war is likely to fail because we can’t maintain the political consensus necessary to stick it out.

Here’s Moran:

If we had 3 or 4 years and the political will to maintain troop levels where they are now, then we would have a real chance to make the difference. But our commitment to the military aspects of the surge will be measured in months, not years. By early fall, the race for President will be in full swing and the obvious lack of political progress in Iraq will increase calls for some kind of redeployment – probably from even some Republicans.

He has no useful prescription, except that the political forces here in the U.S. need to play together better (note that I don’t either…).

For now, the imperative is preventing unmitigated disaster. It may involve giving in to the Democrats and withdrawing some of our troops and redeploying some others. Is the President a big enough man to do this? Or is he more in love with his legacy and would therefore resist changing course to reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground and in the councils of government in Iraq?

Yeah, that’s just fricking great. We’ll come up with a solution that mollifies the warring political parties here while ignoring the realities of the real warring parties in Iraq. Maybe not.

Rick’s not wrong about his analysis. But his prescription is pure poison.

More Cognitive Dissonance at MyDD

Chris Bowers – June 2006:

Stop thinking that the best way for progressive activists to help the progressive movement is for those activists to live in poverty. You can’t do your best work when you struggle to pay your bills. When it comes to blogging, you can’t do your best work on a dial-up modem in a studio apartment, a ten-year-old computer chair and a five-year-old cell phone. If you want to keep the best and most effective progressive activists in the field of activism rather than the private sector, don’t tell them they need to live like monks.

Chris Bowers – April 2007:

In one of my very first major posts on MyDD–a post which I paid $25 to write at a Kinkos in Modesto, California as there was no other way for me to get online–I posited the political blogosphere as the avant-garde of political and opinion journalism. Considering that it is now quite old in blogosphere terms, and the conditions under which I wrote it, I am surprised at how well it still stands up. Here is an excerpt (emphasis in original):

While the poetic and artistic avant-garde sought to relocate the primary purpose of art away from the aesthetic function, I had a very difficult time figuring out what the Blogosphere sought to do differently than the Political Opinion Complex. However, at long last I think I have it.

While the corporate funded Political Opinion Complex seeks to distribute information primarily for the purpose of consumption, the primary goal of the Blogosphere is to distribute political information for the purpose of agitation / direct action. The POC only wants you to consume what it produces. The Blogosphere seeks for its consumer to act after, or even as a result of, consumption of its product. To put it another way, The Blogosphere is a counter-institutional formation that seeks to relocate the primary purpose of political and opinion journalism in agitation toward action rather than in profit-based consumption.

Three years later, I no longer agree with some of the specifics of that formulation, but I still subscribe to the general sentiment (for example, I wrote something similar in an article for the BBC last October).

I’ll skip over the lame ‘vanguard’ trope, which was fresh back in 1902.

It reminds me of all my artist and writer friends who are frustrated that they can’t make a living doing their art. But they, at least, lack the arrogance to presume that they are owed a living.

And I’ll suggest to Chris that he flat misses the point of the modern political & advertising message machine – it is exactly to get people to act. What’s different about the Internet is that the space for action and nature of the action desired changes, and the expectation is that because you’re a customer, you’re also a part of my marketing team.

Now, one of the things I do is to help companies do this. It’s rapidly becoming a platitude among people who are knowledgeable in marketing.

The difference between Chris and I is that I acknowledge that it’s a living – an interesting and lucrative one – and he purports that what he’s doing is, in essence, art.

Bowers’ defense will doubtless be that his ’cause’ differentiates us.


I’ve got a ’cause’ for Chris. It’s defending the ideal of America against a faux political avant-garde that’s in it for the money. You’re no different than James Carville – except that he’s won some elections, he gets paid more, and he’s a better writer.

Carter Sells His Soul

Alan Dershowitz on Jimmy Carter and the appropriate response to Mearsheimer and Walt.

I have met cigarette lobbyists, who are supported by the cigarette industry, and who have come to believe honestly that cigarettes are merely a safe form of adult recreation, that cigarettes are not addicting and that the cigarette industry is really trying to persuade children not to smoke. These people are fooling themselves (or fooling us into believing that they are fooling themselves) just as Jimmy Carter is fooling himself (or persuading us to believe that he is fooling himself).


Barak Obama’s Foreign Policy Speech

Obama gave his ‘Big Foreign Policy’ speech yesterday, and a transcript is up on his website.

Rhetorically, it’s a good speech. I agree with a lot of what he says, and love his reclamation of the American role:

I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so.

He says other things that ought to resonate with the readers here – he wants a bigger, more lethal military, and he expressly reserves the right to act unilaterally if he believes the justification is there.

The elephant in the room remains his – I believe – fundamental misreading of the roots of the challenge we will face in the next decade.He says:

A recent report detailed Al Qaeda’s progress in recruiting a new generation of leaders to replace the ones we have captured or killed. The new recruits come from a broader range of countries than the old leadership – from Afghanistan to Chechnya, from Britain to Germany, from Algeria to Pakistan. Most of these recruits are in their early thirties.>
They operate freely in the disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world – the impoverished, weak and ungoverned states that have become the most fertile breeding grounds for transnational threats like terror and pandemic disease and the smuggling of deadly weapons.

Some of these terrorist recruits may have always been destined to take the path they did – accepting a tragically warped view of their religion in which God rewards the killing of innocents. But millions of young men and women have not.

Delivering on these universal aspirations requires basic sustenance like food and clean water; medicine and shelter. It also requires a society that is supported by the pillars of a sustainable democracy – a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force. It requires building the capacity of the world’s weakest states and providing them what they need to reduce poverty, build healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. And it requires states that have the capacity to fight terrorism, halt the proliferation of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat such deadly diseases as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

He’s right and he’s wrong here, I believe. The movement we face is both something that is fertilized by the kinds of conditions he describes above – and yes, we would go far in choking it off if we were to fix these conditions, and we should.

But it is also carefully nurtured by state actors who harbor, support, and subsidize its growth for their own relatively Westphalian reasons.

I believe we face a movement seeded and nurtured by both the conditions in the ‘edge states’ and by carefully executed support from states which are not and should not be considered ‘failed’.

When I understand how Obama proposes to deal with that, I’ll be able to unqualifiedly support his foreign policy.

OK, Here’s The Second-Dumbest Thing I’ve Read This Week.

The French elections just pushed forward a center-left (by French standards) and right (by French standards) candidates to the final elections.

Heather Hulbert, writing at says:

And the far-right Jean-Marie le Pen falls to 10%, far below the second-place showing that so embarrassed France last time. So much for the SPECTER OF ANTI-IMMIGRANT SENTIMENT LEADING TO RIGHT-WING TAKEOVER.

Um, Heather – do you know was racaille means? Or the implication of nettoyer la cité au Kärcher??

Sarko is popular in no small part because he’s mainstreamed Le Pen’s positions, and wrapped them in a palatable personal history.

Hulbert’s source – a immigrant to France – even makes this point, but somehow it got missed:

Maybe the biggest story is the (relative – sadly not total) collapse of the Front National, which slid back down to 11.1%, about what it used to score in parliamentary elections in the 1980s and early 90s. Probably partly a reflection of the tendency to flee the fringes, but also maybe due to Nicolas Sarkozy taking over much of the security and immigration discourse of the party and making it his own.

When people ask me why I don’t have more respect for my betters – for the people who make their livings as policy analysts in areas where I’m a rank amateur – it’s because I keep reading nonsense like this.

I’m not afraid of an Islamic takeover of Europe. I’m much more afraid of a resurgence of European racism and violent nationalism. they’re much much better at that than we are. And I’m even more afraid of our clueless foreign policy apparachniks and their patent inability to see or think clearly.

Someone Give Me Newt’s Address, And I’ll Send Him A Copy of ‘Devil In A White City’

Look, Newt’s position on the cause of this tragedy is just silly (skip ahead to 3:38). The rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in the US was 5.1/100,000 in 1960 (surely the idyll of the Country Club Republican). In 2004 it was 5.5. We’re hardly Sodom, Newt.

I’m someone who thinks there are interesting intersections between anomic young men and modern philosophical thought that may lower the barriers to bad behavior, and provide a kind of ideological armature for the nihilistic acts of rage they choose to commit. But to blame the kind of acts the VT murders represent on any philosophical position – be it postmodernism, liberalism, or Rotary membership – is just stupid and foolish and skirts being disgusting. The killer was an insane young man who could and should have been identified and helped (or at least stopped) long before last week, and no philosophy, political position, or educational fad made him crazy and evil.

We have had evil people who have done horrible things since there have been people. Newt’s a Christian, he ought to get that.

(‘The Devil In A White City‘ is the violence-porn bestseller about a charming mass murderer active in Chicago during the World Fair of 1893. I’d also suggest ‘Everything Bad Is Good For You‘ as a followup.)

(h/t The Moderate Voice)

What To Name The Tiger?

So it’s been over a year since I’ve bought a motorcycle. And I’m not using the KTM fully by riding offroad. And I really like Triumphs, and Triumph has come out with the new Tiger 1050.

I’m hoping mine will be here in a week.

Scorched Yellow with ABS, it’ll look pretty much like this:


Which gave me the problem of naming it.

I’ve always named my bikes, and given them vanity plates with their names,.

My MuZ Baghira is “Thalia“. The KTM is “Metternich“.

So what to name the Tiger?

My first thought was Montecore, the tiger that attacked Roy. It’s a cool name, and ironic, and a good reminder that the bike is dangerous. But it felt like bad karma. A friend suggested Chompawat, after the famous man-eater, but again – bad karma.

Hobbes? great – a twofer – Calvin and political theory. But no way to get it – and kind of cutesy.

Think, think, think. Think about great cartoon tigers – and hey!!

Thomas Nast and Walt Kelley!!

Meet Tammany Tiger.

OMG! I Get To Catch Eugene Volokh Out On A Citation!!

Law Prof. Eugene Volokh engages a friend:

I was corresponding with a friend of mine — a very smart fellow, and a lawyer and a journalist — about concealed carry for university professors. He disagreed with my view, and as best I can tell in general was skeptical about laws allowing concealed carry in public. His argument, though, struck me as particularly noteworthy, especially since I’ve heard it in gun control debates before:

Forgive me, but I’m old-fashioned. I like the idea of the state having a monopoly on the use of force.

I want to claim that this echo of Weber (who said “Today … we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”) is utterly inapt in gun control debates, at least such debates in a Western country.

Volokh proceeds to make a strong set of arguments as to why individuals should be allowed to use force even in light of the Weberian claim, and you ought to go read them.

But all he needed to do was to quote Weber accurately.

Here’s the part everyone cites, from ‘Politics As A Vocation‘:

‘Every state is founded on force,’ said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of ‘state’ would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as ‘anarchy,’ in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state–nobody says that–but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions–beginning with the sib–have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.

Here’s the part everyone leaves off:

Note that ‘territory’ is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the “right” to use violence. Hence, “politics” for us means striving to share power, either among states or among groups within a state.

There’s no need to explain the freedom of an individual to use force appropriately (i.e. in a state-sanctioned way), as opposed to the ability of an agent of the state to use force in a state-sanctioned way. We’re all agents of the state, in a sense.

…and that undergraduate Political Theory education is worth something!