War Mongering Just Runs In The Family

Biggest Guy just suggested I link to a paper he tossed off that explains why – in international relations theory – we’re screwed if the aliens ever show up. (think Jonathan Swift)

The funniest thing is that he always slams me for my political positions in our family discussions. Take that, son!!

Actually, he really just wants to go to Mars…and he’ll use any argument to get a program started that will get him there.

Shameless Pandering For Meaningless Awards

I’m a big SRL fan, and their shows all have cool names like that.

Joe kindly pointed out that Glittering Eye was nominated for a Weblog Award; he neglected to mention that we’re up for one (Best Group Blog) as well, and it would certainly be nice to do well given the company we’re in as finalists…go drop on over and (shameless begging) vote for us!!

You can vote for us once a day, and you can be sure that all the TPM Cafe fans are!! (now I’ve been reduced to begging and tossing guilt…I don’t think I can go any lower…)

Wait…I can!! Think of it as Joe’s wedding present from you all.

Now I need to go wash these fingers.

Tony Pierce Has Got Me Defending Pajamas Media – Go Figure

There is certainly a lot of criticism floating around about Pajamas Media; personally, I see the business model and execution as sufficient and obvious areas where I’d take different approaches than Pajamas’ leadership.

But there are now some pretty outrageous charges being floated (and echoed) concerning the notion that they are some kind of Washington-funded CIA disinformation campaign.

I hate charges like this, because they are irrefutable, reputation-destroying charges aimed at removing people from legitimate dialog, and no one involved in Pajamas deserves that.

Now Tony Pierce is an O.G. blogger here in Los Angeles, and while I read his blog a lot when I was starting out – which was an interesting mix of fantasy concerning his love life and cold fact concerning work, money, and life in L.A.

But now he’s joined Joseph Mailiander and Juan Cole – who raised similar, more scurrilous (because more dangerous), charges against the ITM brothers in claiming that Pajamas might, just might be on the government payroll.

Now as far as Pajamas is concerned, I was there at the funding, so to speak. And I absolutely didn’t see anyone from Washington D.C. in the room; there was no one there but Chernick and his lawyers.

It’s certainly conceivable -if you watch too many movies – that a reclusive Los Angeles centimillionaire would be on the CIA payroll. But somehow I think the CIA tends to work through less colorful channels. because it’s certainly more likely that a reclusive Los Angeles centimillionaire saw something that has investment possibility, fit into his view of the world, and had the potential to be exciting.

Tony Pierce could have spent 60 seconds with Google and found out who was funding Pajamas and what he was about. I’m not sure if it is a more interesting fantasy to think otherwise, just laziness, or a desire to stir controversy (and traffic).

But let’s put a stake through the heart of this silly claim, and go on to discuss serious issues about blogs, the CIA, and the world in general.

Why Not Iraq

I went through the points raised in the comments to the post on “Why Not Iraq” below, and boiled them down to the list of ones I feel were the strongest (i.e. the ones that I felt had to be addressed to maintain my position).

# The war is unwinnable, because the insurgency is too powerful politically and militarily to be defeated within the time material resources and political will allow for the U.S. presence.

# The war is unwinnable because the Administration has no coherent plan.

# The war was a distraction from the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the fight against terrorism.

# We are creating Islamist terrorists throughout the Middle East by occupying Iraq.

# The war used up money and manpower which could/should have been used to secure our borders, airports, and ports.

# The war has cost us allies in Europe and the Middle East, and damaged our standing and ability to lead in the world.

# Saddam was deterrable, and so controllable, unlike the Islamist fanatics likely to replace him.

# Containment was working, and so there was no need to invade.

# America’s image is not that of a country that launches preemptive wars.

# Going to war was a violation of the UN Charter, and the US conduct of the war has been a violation of the laws of war.

# The Administration’s case for the war was selective, inaccurate, and based more in supporting the Administration’s already-made decision than in guiding it.

# The pre-war planning ignored virtually all post-war issues, from the military to the political to the economic to the humanitarian.

I’ll plead bias, even though I did the best I could, and am open to ways that this list should be edited or changed. Take a look at them, and over the week, I’ll start responding to them one or two at a time, and a discussion will hopefully break out.

James Dobson Reviews 50 Cent

As a side note, let me register my amusement that The Washington Post has started a new online military affairs column…and the lead columnist is William Arkin.

I’d meant to blog about him when he was first starting out, and the L.A. Times was using him – and his email address was an igc.org one. Here’s the last paragraph and credits for a 2003 column of his in the L.A. Times:

The real revelation in the released document is that a preemptive war was justified on very weak evidence. The Bush administration decided Hussein had to go, but it hid behind flimsy intelligence to pretend that the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction was a justification for war.

Credit: William M. Arkin is a military affairs analyst who writes regularly for Opinion. E-mail: warkin@ igc.org.

So let’s go to www.igc.org.
It’s “The Institute For Global Communication,” home to:






Look, Arkin’s a pretty good writer, and a veteran. But if you look at his opus in Google, you find him on the anti-military side of almost every issue that’s come along since the 1980’s.

And to appoint him lead blogger on military affairs for arguable the leading newspaper in the country certainly looks a lot like appointing ‘Focus On The Family’s’ James Dobson as the lead rap music critic.

I’m not saying that the major media are liberal, or biased against the military or anything. But this sure makes a good case for it.

Harry’s Place hacked

Harry’s Place has been hacked.

Norm Geras dropped me an email, and notes it – with amazing civility – on his site, along with a plea for better behavior, which I’ll echo.

“The guys there ask the hacker to reinstate their website immediately. They regard this as a disgraceful attack on freedom of expression in the blogosphere. To which I add my own voice. Please spread this message.”

The Centripetal vs. the Centrifugal Web

I was trying to explain to someone the core difference between my model of Pajamas Media and the one being implemented, when I reached for a metaphor and found that it worked, so I want to write it out before I lose it.

Up until the rise of the blogs, the media was centralized in large masses; these masses grew, shrunk, evolved and changed, but the basic rule was that there was a sharp boundary between the ‘generator’ of information and the consumer of it. We might get a half page of letters to the editor, but otherwise, we’d read what had been printed for us.

Alternatives constantly grew – the alternative press, local content cable – but quickly topped out in audience or were abandoned by the forces of the market or the fatigue of those whose labor of love they so obviously were.

Then, the web, and blogs.At first, the web tried to be like Big Media (Slate, Salon, MSN, Yahoo), and to a large extent, it has succeeded. Centers of mass have been created on the Web that rival traditional media outlets in reach, and those traditional media outlets – network television and newspapers – have been fragmented in one case, and starved in the other.

Then blogging.

Blogging is, in a way, simply the maturation of the ‘personal web’ vision of Geocities and all those Dot-Bomb pioneers.

But, unlike Geocities, it has ignited, in authorship and readership. So now what?

Well, there are two visions.

One is centripetal, gravitational. The other model is centrifugal, dispersive.

The gravitational model implies that the big will get bigger, congregate, consolidate. The ‘community’ of bigger sites will increasingly drive conversation between themselves – much as the Washington Post and New York Times did – and, in theory risk starving the smaller blogs of attention and traffic.

It’s a pretty traditional model, and it seems like a logical, somewhat safe bet is to assume that this is the direction that blogging should head. It becomes more like Big Media, as Big Media gets bloggier.

The dispersive model implies that the big will themselves begin to be starved for traffic as traffic is continually dispersed between large sets of smaller sites. Technology (my notion of a ‘follow me’ button on browsers, as well as some other things I cooked up) begins to make it possible for me to have sites suggested to me behaviorally, rather than as the result of my searching for specific concepts or ideas. I can find them by searching for like-minded people, and by looking to see what they are looking for and at.

This is much more of an emergent model; it imposes no order, deliberately selects no up-and-comers, it simply builds an infrastructure and turns people loose within it to act as people always do.

There was a story I recall hearing in grad school about a landscape architect who never laid down paths when first designing the landscape for campuses of buildings. He’d simply plant the whole thing with grass, and wait a year or so to see where people made the paths.

That always seemed like a good idea to me. So does the centrifugal model, and building tools to both facilitate and profit by that model.

Damn! I Hate It What that Happens!!

I’d been working on a piece on planning and the war in Iraq; the short form is that the demand for a comprehensive Big Plan is, to me, a likely formula for disaster. The reality is that a collection of small plans, combined with a few basic principles is the likely path to success.

I’d been planning on hanging this on Berlin’s ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox.” No, I swear it, and I had no idea that there was just a book released on the subject (Tetlock’s ‘Expert Political Judgment‘), or that Dan Drezner and Kevin Drum would comment on it so intelligently.


What Are The Major Arguments Against The War In Iraq?

I want to take a few days and assemble them (the core arguments against the war) in one place and then take a few more days and respond to them and see what kind of discussion ensues.

I think this is a critical and timely effort because – largely – I feel a sentiment solidifying in the discussions I overhear; I see it in the news media. It is the presumption of defeat, of surrender, of hopelessness.

I’ve argued for a long time that this negative view is in no small part a matter of intellectual fashion as much as that of political advantage. It’s not cool to believe in progress any more; all progress does is make the indigenous people suffer, destroy the environment, and so on ad nauseum. And more, because our political leaders fantasize that they are in separate boats – or better, are like Siamese twins who hate each other and believe that if only the other would die, all would be well – there can’t be a possibility of progress, because that would acknowledge some success by the other side.

But regardless of my own feelings, the sentiment is real, it is abroad, and – to be honest – it looks like it’s washing other sentiments away before it.Right now is, I believe, the critical window for our national attitude toward the war. We’re tired of it, horrified by it, subject to the endless litany of those who believe it to be a failure. And so we will decide – to push forward and (I believe) prevail, or go “Oops! My bad…” and pull back, amid hollow declarations of victory.

Can you tell which side I’m on?

But at the same time, it’s not enough for me or anyone else to simply stand on our self-perception of rightness. So let’s have a discussion.

First, what I’d like to do is simply list the core arguments against the war. Then I’d like to list my own response to each of them and let the fur fly.

So here goes. These are, in my own mind, the strongest, most central arguments against the war. Please add your own in the comments, and I’ll generate a final list. Note the rules, however:

# America has never before engaged in a pre-emptive war; this war was pre-emptive and thus morally outrageous.

# We entered the war because of the Administration’s lies.

# The war was illegal.

# The war was a distraction from the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the fight against terrorism.

# The war used up money and manpower which could/should have been used to secure our borders, airports, and ports.

# The war has cost us allies in Europe and the Middle East, and damaged our standing and ability to lead in the world.

# The pre-war planning ignored postwar humanitarian issues.

# The war is unwinnable, because the insurgency is too powerful politically and militarily.

# The war is unwinnable because the Administration has no coherent plan.

# The war is costing too many casualties, both in our own forces and Iraqi civilians.

There are certainly more, and I’d like to ask you to list them in the comments below. But – this is my house, and there are house rules.

# No snark. If you have to ask, don’t post it. We’re looking for honest, direct expressions of the best arguments against the war. If, like me, you’re pro-war, you’ll have a chance to counter later on. If you’re anti-war, you’ll have a chance to defend later on.

# No moonbattery. Yes, there were Jews in the WTC, and no, the Pentagon wasn’t hit by a missile. If you post this kind of stuff, I reserve the right to mock you within your own comment, and others certainly will in the comments that follow.

That’s about it. Let’s see what develops…