What’s Winds About?

Blogging has been kind of back-and-forth for me (my personal and business lives are kinda hectic and take priority), and I’ve been trying to settle into what I want from this next phase of my blogging; I wanted to discover a voice in the first phase, got caught up in the debate over Iraq in the second, and now want to step back and think about what I want from this next one.

I’m more ‘establishment’ now – a get published in a newspaper and invited to political conference calls and to faraway conferences (more on that when it solidifies). But I’m not terribly interested in a career as a pundit (maybe if my day job paid a lot less…) or likely to get invited to make one as a research fellow. So I don’t see a career track in this for me.

A big part of what I’ve gotten from it is a sense of ‘place’ – that Winds has become kind of my neighborhood bar where I can go in on the way home from work, order a drink or two, and talk with a consistent stream of folks who I’m interested in hearing from and who are interested in hearing from me. I like that (my wife and a few of my clients who have Googled me may wonder if I like it a little too much – I’m aware of Hesiod’s warning never to spend too much time gossiping at the smithy), and in many ways it’s the biggest benefit I get from blogging.So let me talk a little bit about what I like about this place and what keeps me sticking around.

It’s not agreement, because that’s typically boring. I try and have a fairly wide range of people here, and have offered (and will continue to offer) guest posts to people who disagree with me and make interesting arguments in doing so.

There is an element of tone; I’ve hammered some of my co-bloggers in the past about it – we’re all pretty smart people and I presume that we all have something interesting to say – and that none of us have (or would disclose) secret insight into the plans or thinking of the US political leadership – or that of Al Quieda. We’re armchair gentleman-adventurers, and that’s a fine thing because I’m more convinced than ever that the battle that matters is the battle for the hearts and minds of the folks living in the West – of our neighbors. If we can – collectively – come to a position that makes sense, I think matters will go far better for us.

I’ve had heated debates with Tom Holsinger and Joe over Iran, and over whether there would be a wider war in the Middle East by the end of 2006 (there hasn’t been but may still be). But they made their case, and stuck around to defend it. We had some great discussions – with a lot of viewpoints, a lot of heat but very little smoke and a large portion of what was called ‘graciousness’ – a mutual acceptance of each other’s rights to our views and ownership of the positions we all take.

And in thinking about it, that quality of discussion – often critical, sometimes pointed, but both with some clear underpinning of respect and with a strong commitment to make an argument, not just to make pat statements – is what Winds and blogging are all about to me. I’m no angel, and certainly won’t claim to be perfect in doing that. But I hope you’ll agree that I always try, and that when others show it, I honor them for it.

That’s what I want Winds to be. I have no interest in being a party organ – for either party – but I do believe that the skills I learn and that others learn here and in places like this will help change politics. I do believe that the relationship sand networks that grow out of places like this have a better chance to make change happen than the overtly partisan blogs – which I think are really jockeying at the table of the existing system looking for a place closer to the meat platter.

So while I chew on my personal goals in doing this, let me add one that I’m certain of – of being a part of a place where those things can and do happen. Snide bitchslapping is satisfying – in a kind of empty way – but it tears down the kind of discussion we need to have, and I’ll commit here both to engage in less of it in the future, and to publicly poke at others who do.

35 thoughts on “What’s Winds About?”

  1. Good job, Marc. I appreciate Winds for many of the same reasons you do, and I appreciate the efforts you and Joe put into maintaining a certain degree of civility among people who often disagree. That makes a good neighborhood bar to drop in on from time to time.

    All the best …

  2. You know, A.L., for as long as I’ve been reading this blog you’ve been “snide bitchslapper” in chief.

    Now that you’re discredited — from your credulous acceptance of Rumsfeldian easy-bake war doctrines, to your toadying of the administration, to your attacks on anyone who questioned the conduct of the Iraq war — you want an end to snide bitchslapping.

    Yeah. I’ll bet you do.

  3. #3

    Sounds like the Republican minority calling for “bipartisanship and civility” now that the Dems are running the show, doesn’t it?

    The parallels are telling.

  4. Well. Comments 3 through 5 certainly put a damper on the overwhelming, fever-pitch self-congratulationathon that poster Beard had whipped up.

    To get the proceedings back on track, I’ll venture that A.L. offers a reasonable and attainable vision of what a blog can and should be.

    Re: Unpleasantness in the Middle East, Insty linked an essay by Israeli historian Benny Morris that should turn into a must-discuss among armchair foreign policy wonks. “This Holocaust will be Different.”:http://pajamasmedia.com/2007/01/the_second_holocaust_will_not.php

  5. takhallus – I’m happy to accept links pointing to it. I have made (and will continue to make) some pretty strong arguments when I think people are tellingly lame (Yglesias)…but the intent is to make arguments that can be responded to and ought to lead to some greater understanding rather than to simply silence people.

    And the GOP simile is silly – all parties out of power make the same claim, and it’s in response to the recent (since the 70’s) bipartisan tendency to crush the opposition.

    But political history will have to wait a bit.

    A.L.

  6. Sure this is a very pleasant website to discuss and get informed. In some matters that might come out in the following months, it’s been the leading source in English language.

    In addition, you can learn or recall useful English vocabulary.

    Snide bitchslapping…

  7. Google says that we all have a long way to go to fulfill takhallus’s and Andy X’s estimation:

    bq. Your search – “snide bitchslapping” – did not match any documents.

    bq. Suggestions:

    * Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
    * Try different keywords.
    * Try more general keywords.

    Seriously, whatever AL’s faults might be, someone might benefit from recalibration. Of the recent contributors to Winds (as article posters), I’d find a different candidate for Most Snide. Since that person has already been taken somewhat to task, I’ll not pile on.

  8. Blah, blah, blah:

    Now that you’re discredited — from your credulous acceptance of Rumsfeldian easy-bake war doctrines, to your toadying of the administration, to your attacks on anyone who questioned the conduct of the Iraq war — you want an end to snide bitchslapping.

    You forgot to mention that he hanged Saddam Hussein. At least, I think one of those guys in the video is him.

    Still, I much prefer A.L. to people who put petty political spite above all other civilized values. Though I have no idea what sort of values his detractors embrace – maybe idiotarian politics is the best thing they’ve got.

    I’ve got to hand it to A.L. for being an anti-idiotarian liberal in this day and age. The difficulty of doing this is demonstrated by the regular attacks on him by people who demand unquestioning loyalty to whatever the Democratic Party pretends to believe this week.

    I’m still not sure the Democratic Party holds a future for A.L., but maybe he’ll prove me wrong. I sympathize with him the way I would sympathize with someone who still loves an abusive, alcoholic, and adulterous wife. I can picture her following him around with a glass of gin in her hand and mascara running down her face, shrieking at him about Rumsfeld.

    But he’s too much of a gentleman to just bitch-slap her. I think that’s what she hates most about him.

  9. JTFR, I would not have put Armed Liberal anywhere near the snide bitchslapper basket, unless he appears in his comments under a pseudonym. I will say that the quality of regular commenters have varied considerably. I myself probably haven’t helped; I’m somewhat at a loss to deal with people who expect dhimmitude for America or their opposites, who lust after a grand (nuclear?) war against everything Islamic.

    I would also say that many persons who shared A.L.’s orientation towards the Iraq War in 2003 have very different views from his today.

  10. Seems like a nice place to me.

    Glen, if I may speak as another Democrat who refuses to leave the party — this is the party of Thomas Jefferson. It’s the party of James Jackson. It’s too good for a lot of the people who run under its flag these days.

    Somebody has to defend the old way. I’m not sure that’s quite what AL has in mind, but it does for me just fine. There’s a high and fine tradition here, which some of us love too much to abandon.

  11. A.L., I hope you keep blogging. I think you are one of the few liberals with any sanity regarding matters of national security, hence you have credibility and my attention. You also avoid mindless hysteria and rhetoric. In short, your site is a good example of proper dialog and debate. You give me hope that other liberals can mature, too.

  12. FDR and JFK were also Liberals and Democrats, and also not afraid to believe that safety at home depends on projecting strength abroad.

    That being said, JFK’s been dead for more than 40 years. Don’t know if any of the current LibDem leaders can even conceive of our country being in any way endangered.

  13. AJL #14 —

    Graciously spoken, er, typed.

    bq. I would not have put Armed Liberal anywhere near the snide bitchslapper basket, unless he appears in his comments under a pseudonym.

    Unless he uses his uber-powers to rebuild Winds’ site after every one of his snidely anonymous bitchslaps, or keeps a stable of otherwise-unused IP addresses for sockpuppetry, I can assure you that that is not the case.

    …Except that, of course, I might be one of those puppets…

    ;-)

  14. Grim:

    Glen, if I may speak as another Democrat who refuses to leave the party — this is the party of Thomas Jefferson.

    Well, no it isn’t. Parties as they function today did not exist in Jefferson’s time, who called himself a “republican” – in the ideological, not partisan sense.

    It was indeed the party of Andrew Jackson, which is not such a great thing, but would make an interesting change from what it is now.

    What it is now is not even the party that existed in LBJ’s time. It is not even the party that still existed when Mondale and Dukakis went down to defeat.

    But the question is not what either party is or isn’t, or used to be. The question is whether political parties serve the country, or the other way around.

  15. Mark,
    Today, the Democrat party is echoing the spirit of Kennedy … old Joseph Kennedy the defeatist ambassador to Britain that is. Teddy is a chip off dad’s block.

  16. At the risk of hijacking the thread…

    One of the unintended consequences of the Iraq War is the re-definition of “strong on American security” away from the bellicosity of the Bush Presidency. Perhaps we needed to train a larger army, or corps of civilian reconstruction experts. Perhaps we could not afford the tax cut.

    Armed Liberal is one of the few self-described “liberals” not to have soured on incompetent wars of choice as an exhibition of national strength. Even conservatives like John Cole and Greg Djerijian seem to me to have given up not only on Bush’s unbelievable botch in the execution, but on many of the principles on which George and Dick’s Excellent Iraq Adventure was justified. As far as I can tell, all of this emphasis on “strength” and “will” from the dwindling Bushbots, alternately whimpering about Islamic terrorism or boasting of the ability to annihilate it with everything else on earth says something about the smallness of its advocates, including (or rather, especially) Pres. Gameboy himself.

    As long as strong “national security” consists of blindly following of an Administration who were unable to attain any of their objectives (other than the dethronement and execution of Saddam “He tried to kill my daddy” Hussein) during a period of 100 percent Republican control, then Holy Joe Lieberman will be the only “Democrat” who meets your specifications. On a more comprehensive view, it’s hard to see why Jim Webb (as an example) doesn’t qualify. Remember Abe Lincoln was a fervent opponent of the Mexican War. This idea that national security means picking every available fight is a new and misguided construction.

  17. Yes, Andrew J, #14 was spot on. You seemed to disavow the snide bitchslapper modality (SBSM, for short).

    Said disavowal of SBSM seems to have lasted all the way to… comment #21.

    No risk of hijacking the thread with me. Try something a bit more levelheaded and I might bite.

  18. The things Marc talks about here aren’t just abstractions – as those who have seen the efforts of our “Marshals”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/006723.php know. Beyond them, just because you don’t see efforts to keep Winds that way, doesn’t mean they aren’t being made. Though we do appreciate and value the back-channel feedback we receive.

    “This post re: Michael Fumento”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009380.php being a fine example. I suppose I’ll spoil the suspense and note that Michael Fumento won’t be writing on Winds any more…

  19. James Jackson

    Who dat?

    Mark (#22):

    My take on “wars of choice” is that if your government is fighting a war of necessity, the government has screwed up.

    This does have a very appealing sound to it. On the other hand, it flies in the face of pretty much every variant of Just War that has ever existed. Care to elaborate on this? (If it’s not going to turn into a major thread highjacking, of course!) Is it as simple as you (wrongly, imo) thinking “necessity” must imply “no moves of any kind until our backs are to the wall”? Or something more substantially different?

  20. On the comment side, I think Winds works best when the commentors act as the group of hobos at the end of Fahrenheit 451, each of whom has committed some book (or body of knowledge) to memory solely for the purpose of passing it along. I look forward to Beard (#2) injecting some Edith Hamilton into the mix (I have that book in my library, but simply have no time to read it)

    It works worst, when the comments are merely complaints that writer x shouldn’t be writing about topic a or is refusing to write about topic b. Unless the writer is being paid to write on a specific topic, this is just inane stuff.

  21. Looking at the Democratic Presidential race, it seems to be that the main contenders are in the internationalist wing of the Democratic party, including Barack (“let’s bomb Iran”) Obama. It will be interesting to see how that plays out with a fairly isolationist base, buoyed by centrist, purge-hungry, Democrats.

  22. I very much dislike the rhetorical use of the phrase “war of choice” as it is consistently used by anti-war commenters. The implication is that any war that isn’t a war for survival is by definition an immoral war. (I grant that Andrew J. Lazarus was railing against “incompetent wars of choice”, but my guess is that he would be even more perturbed by a hyper-competent one. He can of course disabuse me of that assumption if he wishes.)

    Critics of the War in Iraq seem able to find countless motives for the Bush Administration’s pursuit of the war, but won’t address the simple hypothetical that the Bush Administration actually believes (or believed) that transforming Iraq through violence would reduce the long-term threat (and not coincidentally, the long-term suffering of Iraqis) that was represented by the pre-war status quo in the region. Instead, anti-war commenters tend to start from the assumption that the War was and is immoral at the root and argue from there.

    This is fundamentally a moralistic rather than a rational approach to situation analysis. I’m open to the idea that the war has been prosecuted for nefarious ends, but the evidence frankly doesn’t support any of the popular theories. Practically speaking, assuming any of the popular theories were true, the logical “war of choice” would have been against Venezuela. (Occam’s Razor is not the Democratic Underground’s friend here.)

    Of course, if the war was all about Oil, or about Revenge, or about enriching Halliburton, or whatever, personal attacks on anyone who supported the policy became not only fair, but practically required. Arguments assuming bad faith motives also allow proponents to elide the question of whether the status quo in the Mideast actually represented a threat, and if so what should have been done about it.

    “War of Choice” has become a catchall phrase to cover all the different ideas of the “real” motives for the Iraq War, and quite possibly in anywar. My feeling is that the energy spent on these arguments is at best wasted, and at worst actively endanger our ability to act offensively in our national interest, and even (or maybe especially) in the interests of humanity in general. Since the phrase “war of choice” has become so debased, I tend to dismiss anyone who uses the characterization as being fundamentally unserious about the issues being discussed.

  23. Mark, you make war sound like something so innocent as a vaccination program. That’s not how it’s been seen historically, nor, in view of the carnage and destruction, how it should be seen. Nor is “war of choice” in any way restricted to anti-war commenters. Here, for example, is pro-war liberal Thomas Friedman writing in support of the war [March 9, 2003]

    Fact: The invasion of Iraq today is not vital to American security. Saddam Hussein has neither the intention nor the capability to threaten America, and is easily deterrable if he did. This is not a war of necessity. That was Afghanistan. Iraq is a war of choice — a legitimate choice to preserve the credibility of the U.N., which Saddam has defied for 12 years, and to destroy his tyranny and replace it with a decent regime that could drive reform in the Arab/Muslim world.

    Assuming, arguendo, that the Japanese Declaration of War had preceded the attack on Pearl Harbor, do you see anything immoral or improper about their actions? How about Operation Barbarossa (again, discounting the sneak attack part)?

  24. Andrew, you make lack of war sound like peace. The truth is of course somewhat more complicated.

    You’re actually making my point pretty well, and seem to be answering Kirk that yes, the anti-Administration consensus is that a “war of necessity” is by definition one where are backs are against the wall (as they were in WWII).

    I’m not saying that Iraq wasn’t a war of choice. What I am saying is that I believe it was a moral choice, for the the reasons listed by Friedman. In addition, I believe your vaccination analogy is better than you realize. Some of us do believe that demographic, ideological, and technological trends in the Mideast have the potential to develop into a “back against the wall” situation for Enlightenment cultures. If we can fight this war and pre-empt the nuclear Jihad, I think that’s a good thing.

    So I’ve seen Iraq as a war with many just rationales. I’m willing to discuss whether or not we’re succeeding. But if you’re expecting me to be devastating with guilt for supporting a “war of choice” think again.

    It’s interesting that you would draw comparison between the actions of Japan in WWII and US actions in the Mideast. In one way, you’re correct; I’m sure that by the ethical system extant in Japan in the 1930’s, building an empire to enrich the homeland was seen as entirely just by the Japanese (or at least by those making the decisions.) We didn’t agree with the Japanese then, and we certainly don’t agree now. By our lights, the Japanese war against the Pacific Rim was unjust. And because Japan lost, that’s the consensus today. As a rule, that’s how war works.

    My question in return is, do you see the analogy as running deeper than that? Do you believe that America is acting in a fundamentally imperialistic manner, as was Japan? Do you see our motivations as being morally indistinguishable from the Japanese motives in occupying Korea, with all the attendant horrors that accompanied it?

  25. Once again, apologies. But I do think the questions about “good faith” go to the core of whether a blog discussion remains productive and enlightening or degenerates into vitriolic sniping.

  26. In view of #31, which I indeed agree with, I’ll wait for a more suitable thread to continue discussion with Mark.

    (But I am bookmarking this…)

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