Postmodern classic?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Still on hiatus

But I ran across this post at (where else?) the Belmont Club and it almost made me cry. I'm hardly sentimental, but such a clear vision of the future! If only I could articulate something like that... in full, below, 'cuz I know you normally wouldn't follow my links. Also in the comments was a link to this article on modern Marxism. Anyhow, please read this. Even if I don't come back for a while on this blog.

Liberal Internationalism

Peter Beinart and book reviewer Michael Tomasky debate whether it's possible for liberals to lead the fight against terrorism without repudiating the invasion of Iraq at Slate. Beinart argues that the war on Jihadism remains the right war; whatever the merits of OIF may have been. "Your basic point," he says to Tomasky, "was that while my argument about liberal foreign policy may be valuable, you're not prepared to engage with it—because I vocally supported the war in Iraq". Beinart rejects this but he concedes, however that it would have been better to fight Jihadism in the Cold War liberal tradition—with its focus on legitimacy abroad and self-improvement at home—provides the principles necessary for winning the struggle against jihadism today ... it inclines liberals to support powerful international institutions—as they did at the dawn of the Cold War—not only because America cannot manage international problems alone but because we do not want unrestrained power. Because liberals recognize that America is not immune to imperial temptation, we build in the restraints that distinguish us from the predatory powers of the past. Second, recognizing that American virtue must be proved, not asserted, leads liberals to talk differently than George W. Bush does about democracy.

Tomasky on the other hand, refuses to address the question of how to fight radical Islamism because the debate has been poisoned. He regards OIF as making any liberal attempts to fight Jihadism futile. The soup has been ruined. No further point in stirring it. The only way back lies in throwing out the batch and starting from scratch. Bush's Iraq and "the warriors" have made it impossible to contemplate 'fighting the good fight' against the theocrats and made it impossible even to intervene in Darfur. Only after Bush's legacy has been scraped down to bare metal can one start again.

Is that will there now in either Democratic leadership or the American people? It is not. And the fact that it isn't is not the fault of the "abject pacifists." It's the fault of the warriors. It's because of Iraq. The war in Iraq is why we "missed" Darfur, a moral error that your magazine (under new editorship) recently lamented. And the war in Iraq looms over our national future. I fear that it renders the grand visions for liberal internationalism that you and I share useless nullities, for a generation, maybe more. That is the tragedy of Iraq; that's why I dwelt, and dwell, on it. And I tremble with fear—not for "my" side, but for the country and the world—that, should a Bush administration and an Iraq come around again, we will have forgotten everything I just said.

John Kerry agrees with Tomasky. The Boston Globe reports:

By Rick Klein, Globe Staff | June 14, 2006 -- WASHINGTON -- Senator John F. Kerry is placing himself at the center of congressional action over the war in Iraq this week with a crisply worded resolution to require President Bush to withdraw almost all US troops by the end of this year. The measure has exposed Kerry to attacks from Republicans and some Democrats, as critics rushed to tag the plan as a "cut-and-run" strategy. But it also has made him a rallying point for antiwar activists. ... "My friends, war is no excuse for its own perpetuation," Kerry said before a group of cheering liberal activists who had gathered in Washington yesterday for a "Take Back America" conference. "It is essential to acknowledge that the war itself was a mistake -- to say the simple words that contain more truth than pride. . . . It was wrong and I was wrong to vote for that Iraqi war resolution."

A New York Times article indicates that the Beinart-Tomasky debate, far from being academic, is actually the central issue dividing Democratic National security policy as reflected in the differences between Hillary Clinton (cast in the role as Beinart) and Barney Frank, John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi (and now Kerry) as the collective Tomasky.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, faced boos and shouts of "bring them home" from an audience of liberal Democrats here on Tuesday as she argued against setting a deadline, wading into what she called a "difficult conversation." Thirty minutes later, the same crowd applauded wildly as Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, the party's 2004 presidential candidate, implored the Senate to back his call for a six-month deadline for withdrawal, and said he regretted his initial support for the war.

Tomasky may be right though not for the reasons he thinks, when he says that "the war in Iraq ... renders the grand visions for liberal internationalism that you and I share useless nullities, for a generation, maybe more." Liberal internationalism faces what might be called the "body disposal problem". Post-Saddam Iraq, with it's internationally recognized government, constitutes an embarassing counterexample of what liberal internationalism has declared impossible to achieve. A President John Kerry would have to brazen out any invitations to Baghdad, pretending not to recognize that he is visiting a government he had done everything in his power to strangle in its crib. Even a semi-successful Iraq will have the same terrifying effect on liberal internationalism as the collapse of the Berlin Wall had on the "permanent stability" of the Cold War. The only way around the guilt of wishing Iraq to fail is to assure oneself that it was never possible for it to succeed in the first place. But it's inconvenient and one sympathizes with Tomasky's desire to make it all go away.

Unfortunately, there are even more bodies lying around defying disposal, and the most prominent of these is the decaying corpse of the Cold War world. Niall Ferguson in the Opinion Journal is not even sure of the survival of American power in the face of growing global chaos. He argues that in a world where America has "feet of clay"; "Old Europe" grows older; China faces its coming economic and demographic crisis; and Islam proves that it is only capable of fighting itself -- it will not be a question of supporting "powerful international institutions" but finding any effective institutions that will work at all.

The defining characteristic of our age is not a shift of power upward to supranational institutions, but downward. If free flows of information and factors of production have empowered multinational corporations and NGOs (to say nothing of evangelistic cults of all denominations), the free flow of destructive technology has empowered criminal organizations and terrorist cells, the Viking raiders of our time. These can operate wherever they choose, from Hamburg to Gaza. By contrast, the writ of the international community is not global. It is, in fact, increasingly confined to a few strategic cities such as Kabul and Sarajevo.

Tigerhawk points out that Pew research data showing a decline in public support for the War on Terror in Western Europe counterintuitively suggests it actually grew more popular from 2003 to 2006 in "frontline" countries.

Country 2003 2006
Jordan 2% 16%
Indonesia 23% 39%
Pakistan 16% 30%
Russia 51% 52%
India n/a 65%

The question of whether "liberal internationalism" really reflects the aspirations of the Third World and isn't largely implicitly and perhaps unconsciously Western European in orientation requires going back to the Second World War, which was welcomed in its way by independence movements throughout the Third World as ringing the death-knell of European empire. Support for Hitler in the Middle East was far from trivial; and many Asian "nationalists" immediately came forward to collaborate with the invading Japanese. If the Second World War were run to the same popularity standards as the GWOT the results would probably not be very flattering to Europe. The Atlantic Alliance was started by a rather exclusive club and while that does not invalidate it, it would be well to remember its provenance in a world where India is poised to overtake France.

The Beinart-Tomasky debate falsely revolves around the issue of Iraq when in fact it should revolve around whether the liberals have a strategy for dealing with the growing chaos and dysfunction in the Third World of which radical Islamism is simply an instance. Iraq only seems central to the debate because it has precipitated a crisis within liberal internationalism that can no longer be ignored. The world that gave rise to the Cold War; that gave international institutions "legitimacy"; the bipolar power alignments that made these institutions effective -- all of it -- is fading away. Long after George W. Bush's presidency is over the question will remain: can liberals and only liberals fight the global war on terror and make America great again?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Temporary hiatus

Trying to plan a few things amidst the desert called Iraq... kind of difficult to figure out your life as a part of the American imperialist plans to dominate the world!

So I probably won't post for a little bit. I want to- I'm not happy with General Casey and his vision of Counterinsurgency-lite(TM), but that'll have to wait. Baghdad is making some funky decisions that seem to have less and less to do with conditions on the ground. Nothing is perfect for sure, but something really stinks.

Here's a few links of interest before I run off. Counterterrorism blog compares the punditry advocating who's winning; The West or Al Qaeda? Some locals are perceiving a change after Zarqawi, and in their relationships with Americans during these hard times. Here are some posts just to give you a better feel for the area; Midnight discussing a Lazy Sunday on his camp, and Lieutenant K talking about a run to the Government Center in Ramadi.

Anyhow, I should be back, but right now I'm busy.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Posting limitations

Had a mission in the morning. I would tell more but I don't violate OPSEC/PERSEC (Operational and Personal Security) online- that is, posting details that an informed person could use to generate an accurate description of our activities, as well as any information that could identify me and be used against me. This is not because I do any kind of secret activities, it's more just standard professionalism in this line of work. Consequences can be pretty high: worst case leading to compromising security and death, or just losing my job. But unfortunately it makes for a dull blog at times since I can't really get into the specifics of what's going on besides some vague platitudes and occasional pictures.

In the meantime, trying not to think about coming home next month. Got to get a little sleep before I get on. A 'troll' in a Mudville Gazette comment said I didn't know anything about Marxism- no! Must... resist... urge... I will restrain myself. Even the Manxome one doesn't want me to start my treatise on Karl Marx inspired collectivist utopia evolving into Leninist authoritarian populism! I suffered through those tomes and so will you!

Nah, I'm really tired.

ADDENDUM: Here are some links, discuss amongst yourselves.

Wretchard at the Belmont Club is posting up a storm. Whether it's current events, like the unrest in Iran that is getting no publicity in the major media outlets, or other interesting looks at the UN's effectiveness in East Timor or current deliberations over the utility of doing something in Sudan or journalism in Iraq (via Mudville Gazette)- he's covering it. Anyone who doesn't read his stuff is really missing quite an interesting look into the way our world is developing. In milblogs, Buck Sergeant has an interesting overview on explaining the military perspective from France to Iraq. Much better than crap where people claim to speak for 'Army families', haha...

The Toronto terror bust was quite a big deal, despite odd efforts from certain media outlets to edit their coverage of it. If you have a better explanation, I'd love to hear it by all means.

And over at Cato Unbound is an interesting article on modern economic development, as we move through different trends in different regions of the world. The author, Richard Florida, calls it the importance of knowledge, innovation and creativity- aka the 'Information Economy'. He focuses on how that puts differing emphasis on geographic locations, as those who can will move to places where they have more opportunities. I'll let the resident economists call me on that one, as I'm not a subject matter expert. For me, I find this human urge to classify different economic developments interesting. I don't think that it changes the fundamental human urges to interact as we do in the varying economic spheres of the 'market' (or even armed conflict in it's own way, but I digress). If, during the various modes of industrialization in recent history, we moved towards mass organization, infrastructure and resources; now we appear to be moving back towards the importance of individuals and their contributions to the world. A similar sentiment is observed in related fields, from philosophy to military organization. A new sort of humanism is arising, which might end up differently than we think. Or it just might end up for naught, as the 'Iron Law of Oligarchy' states.

Enough vague theorizing for the day. At least you missed my rant on Marx, haha!

Friday, June 02, 2006

On the reading of blogs

As you can see, I try to keep up with the news; domestic and international. And I'm fortunate to have the time to do so. We have a pretty steady internet connection so I can keep abreast of recent developments. I usually read some of the main media, like the WaPo, but mostly I stick to my favorite blogs. I use Mozilla, so when I open it my favorite 10 pages are automatically loading. I read fast, so I’ll scan them real quick, opening up the links that look interesting in new tabs. Once I’ve done that, I’ll have about 20-30 tabs open and I’ll go through and read them again- a little more thoroughly. If it’s not interesting I’ll just close the tab. If it is interesting I’ll read it again and compare it to the other ones, especially if they are talking about a certain subject- then I’ll try to find the opposite point of view. I try to record the best or most interesting here, for my readers elucidation as well as for later reference.

I love blogs; not just because of the post itself, which are of varying quality and authority (basically op/ed’s), but the comments can sometimes be even more informative. You can sometimes find a polite and reasoned argument, supported by varying facts and reports, and you emerge a smarter person. Sometimes not- they can just as easily disintegrate into food throwing or partisan echo chambers. It’s good when you find a blog that can balance the two. I like it when my readers contribute their opinions, even if it’s because they mostly disagree with me, haha… that’s why I loves ‘em. Every once in a while I’ll leave a comment on other sites, but I’m usually more of a reader. I’m not trying to make my blog into some high-traffic website for ‘fame and fortune’, it’s more of a communications board for me, my friends and family. When you’re as cool as I am, you need the people who care about you to bring you back to reality. Even if you’re right, most of the time anyways…(no smart words from Manxome or you'll get it punk)

That's nice, but today I'm not too happy. A few things stuck out for me. Watching TV at the gym, dining hall and back at the hootch I heard about the journalist who survived an IED attack and is now recovering in Germany- on MSNBC they listed who else got killed: the cameraman, the interpreter, and (an afterthought perhaps?) a US Soldier. Hmmm.

Then of course, Haditha keeps coming up. There’s been a bit more discussion, even if there hasn’t been any new evidence. Some people seem eager, it seems to me, to finally confirm what they’ve known all along- even if they know nothing about military justice. Is that fair? Well tell me (as posted in the comments of the Mudville Gazette)- on September 12, 2001, we were already being told that we couldn't broadbrush an entire group of people--Muslims--because of the actions of a tiny minority. Why doesn't this apply to the military?

It's frustrating. I had to tell my roommate to turn off the BBC- kind of like being at home and having to turn off NPR. Who can you trust to give you a straight story on it? However, those that have been here (even reporters? oh my) or in similar situations have some differing points of view. I will defer to those who have seen it. There's a lot to complain about here. But if you want to see what kind of troops we have, check Michael Yon’s site, as he revisits one of his teammates from Mosul. It’s time for me to move on when this shit still keeps on making me mad. I need a break.

In other international issues, we wonder about Mexico and immigration. How does Europe look to the future?

Always end in humor I say- today is Iowahawk promoting Al Gore’s recent environmentalist documentary. Let’s see what we can learn about humans involvement in the environment!

As always, comments- especially disagreements, are welcome. Let me know if you especially like or dislike certain posts I've linked to.