How low can they go?

Here’s another one for the file marked “Bush’s opponents are so
deranged that they are good reasons to support him”. At The Corner,
via InstaPundit, Tim Graham has this
report:

Driving in, I had to sample some “progressive talk” on the SOTU [State of the
Union address]. At the Stephanie Miller Show, they were laughing about (and
playing an audio montage of) how many times Bush used the “F-Bomb” last night.
That’s their strange description of the word “freedom.” They also mocked the
mentions of “liberty.”

This is a symptom of how degraded the soi-disant “progressive” wing of
American political culture has become. I don’t like George Bush much, but
as long as his opponents behave like this they make him look like the least
nasty choice.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe “respectable” liberals and the Democratic
leadership will actually come out against treating the words “freedom” and
“liberty” as obscenities or jokes.

I’m waiting…

(…the sound of crickets chirping…)

42 thoughts on “How low can they go?

  1. C’mon, you get ridiculous discussion from both parties on talk radio. If you are looking for intelligent or respectable discussion, talk radio is the not the place for it (except NPR).

  2. So, Rob, are you trying to tell me that you think right-wing talk radio would treat the words “freedom” and “liberty” as obscenities or jokes?

  3. I think the amusement is derived not from Bush’s words, but from the gap between his words and his actions. He wants to break our dependence on mideast oil? He wants to end scandals in Washington? He wants to shrink government? That’s not obscene, it’s hilarious.

  4. To right-wingers, those are just Platonic ideals which have to be adapted to an imperfect world. To libertarians, perfect freedom is possible.

  5. Right-wing talk radio would use other, equally noble and important words as obscenities or jokes.

    Talk radio exists for pandering to the very lowest, and can only get ratings that way. Rob probably doesn’t listen to talk radio of either side for this reason. I haven’t listened to it for years for this reason. Don’t look to talk radio for leadership on any side. That means not taking them to be representative of their political faction.

  6. This is rather intriguing.

    I suspect that defining a man by the enemies he makes is a rather inexact way of making decisions about him. (Think of the enemies, for example, of our previous President.)

    But it tells you a lot about those enemies, as well as telling you a little about the man.

    Is there any fodder for a sociological post there, or would you be covering ground you’ve already gone over many times?

    WRT to the derision of “freedom” as a foul word, or at least deriding Bush for using it the way he does:
    I suspect that your average right-wing radio host has a set of words he can expect to hear in a speech from his political opponents, that he can deride their use or misuse of. Hopefully he would do it in a way that would help listeners think the issue through, rather than just get a laugh at the joke that the radio personality assumes is funny.

    Is there any liberal/leftist commentator who can say what is actually wrong with the President’s use of the word “freedom”? More importantly, have they?

    Or is it the kind of joke that only makes sense when you buy into the idea that Bush is the least-intelligent President that this nation has ever suffered through?

  7. It is Yang worship word. You will not speak it.

    Seriously, Bush has turned it into a joke by wrapping himself up in it while he systematically guts individual liberty and freedom at home. So yeah, Bush using it like a British punk uses da real F-bomb is at the very least darkly ironic. It’s like Clinton talking about morality, or Bush talking about fiscal conservatism, or Bush talking about respect for the rule of law, or Bush talking about learning proper English, or Bush talking about free trade, or Bush talking about an exit strategy, or Gates talking about innovation, or Bush talking about how drug use will prevent you from achieving high office.

  8. Come now, Eric, you are above this.

    You know full well that “treating the words ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ as obscenities or jokes” is not their point in criticizing Bush’s use of these words. “Dropping the F-Bomb” implies using the word freedom purely for dramatic effect, as opposed to talking about it with any sincere idealistic substance. Calling it an “F-Bomb” is the speaker’s way of deriding not freedom itself or anyone’s love of it, but what the speaker finds to be a hypocritical invocation of it for PR purposes. Nobody (even on talk radio) is dumb enough to try to win over popular opinion in America by dissing freedom. What they really meant is obvious, and you are too smart to have misunderstood it.

    You deliberately dressed that sheep in wolf’s clothing and it was transparent, cheap rhetoric. By your own arguments we all ought to root for the liberals now, as long as their “opponents behave like this.” :-)

  9. Gulli, I agree with you that Suzanne Miller and her friends probably meant something like that. And I still find their behavior unacceptable.

    Their shallow, left-wing-partisan rationalizations do not cut any more ice with me than would a right-winger’s rationalization of (say) blatantly racist speech as a parody of some politician’s behavior.

  10. Great; then the higher ground must be ripe for you to take. With this particular blog entry, well, you didn’t. :-)

  11. Two words: Freedom Fries.

    It wasn’t liberal talk show hosts who perpetrated that obscenity.

    More generally, under the Bush administration, “freedom” has become the new “think of the children”. Want to strip down the constitution? “It’s for freedom!” Political opponents criticizing your strategy? “You’re against freedom.” Want to give huge no-bid contracts to your campaign contributors? Torture suspected terrorists? “Freedom is on the march!”

    Do you seriously think that opposing and ridiculing that kind of rhetoric is something contemptible?

  12. I hope, Eric, that as a libertarian scholar of American intrapolitics with stated (and very valid) critiques of both conservative and liberal platforms, you are aware of the reality that “freedom” means different things to the right than it does to the left?

    Therein lies your clue to liberal revulsion at the conservative “F-bomb”….

  13. Quote: “freedom” means different things to the right than it does to the left?

    This isn’t a question of the “meaning” of words. To the conservative mind the error is to turn an abstraction into an idol. See, for example, Roger Scruton’s esay on Burke and the French Revolution “Man’s second disobedience” (in _The Philosopher on Dover Beach_):

    “The Revolution placed its gods on earth and, and described them in ‘the language of man': liberty, equality fraternity. Yet what do those idols amount to? The pursuit of them was to destroy every imperfect human value … These abstractions stepped down into the world of men from the sphere of metaphysics and laid waste the patient work of centuries, finding nothing in the merely empirical world that could match their own geometrical perfection.”

    Also, see Conor Crusie O’Brien’s brilliant Burkeian critique of Thomas Jefferson and his concept of liberty in _The Long Affair_, by which Jefferson at one point, before he pulled back from the brink, seems to have worked himself into a state of blood intoxication.

    Or, for that matter, take a look at George Will’s column on the State of the Union address:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/30/AR2006013001159.html

    From the Burkeian point of view, defending the freedoms an Englishman enjoyed under the Common Law would be one thing; throwing your hat after “freedom” – a undefinable, unattainable abstract universal quite another. In any case, one always has to see a situation in the round and master its detail, which is why it is possible to welcome one revolution (the American) and fear the consequences of another (the French).

    But none of that is particularly relevant to the original post, which is primarily about the reaction to the president by “progressives”. FWIW, I’d say it was an unremarkable speech, but the reaction from the “progressives” was doubtless as trivial and posionous as their reactions, unfortunately, usually are.

  14. Wow, this is the first blog entry I’ve seen where nearly all of the insight comes from the comments.

  15. A quick read of Orwell explains the weight of the intentions of these lefty jesters. The real story of the 20th century will be “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Lie.” The inability of the American mind to dissect rhetoric and propaganda combined with Toffler’s Third Wave (information overload on top of geometricaly increasing rapidity of social change) has made a sham of the once noble “We the People” concept.

    Now as for Burke, I recall a presumption of the capability to identify “good men” and “evil” and a rather dim view of “doing nothing.” Considering the naivte of the average American with respect to international affairs (“Chile ? Where they live in mud huts ?” – btw- I think she is Soooo Cool !) Burke is wrong. Better to do nothing.

    Delightful thread.

  16. > Two words: Freedom Fries.

    What’s obscene about that phrase?

    Granted, using that term had about as much effect as burning a flag, but since when were pointless gestures obscene?

  17. What’s obscene about that phrase?

    It’s taking over a supposedly universal term to try to make a partisan point. But I don’t see anything particularly obscene about the ‘soi-disant “progressive”‘ comments about F-bombs either. Unless you’re into investing terms like freedom (and the President’s use of them) with sacred associations, of course.

  18. I can’t believe this is the same esr who did the Hacker’s Dictionary ( which I still own and love..)

    Come on Eric!, Bush uses the word Freedom like a sop! Tell me you’re more savvy then this..

    Perhaps you’re joking? An ironic post, no?

    Stephanie Miller’s jibes on Bush are completely appropriate, and being offended by them is a sure sign of moral and social blindness.

    And compared to the blistering and hateful vitriol of the right wing in this country, Miller is pretty damn tame

    Try a side by side of any random 5 minutes of Stephanie Miller and the same sample of a Bill OReilly or a Joe Scarborough. The right wingers are angry, derisive, insulting, nasty and truculent. Miller is merely tasteless.

    I still can’t believe there is a real hacker behind that post. It’s so… disconnected.

  19. Nice shot, Michael, but you still missed.

    The progressive view of freedom boils down to freedom from poverty, violence, oppression, and lack of health care; a ridiculous promise for government to make but at least it’s egalitarian.

    The conservative view of freedom boils down to the freedom for certain groups to make a profit, at the expense of other groups’ freedom. There are vast economic incentives for those who can pull the levers of power to be engaged in perpetual war… Oil is a major part of it but only the beginning…

  20. Jeff, I think I can boil the definitions down even further:

    To progressives, freedom means you can do whatever I (the Nanny State) will allow you to do…. (Anything that is not forbidden is compulsory)

    To conservatives, freedom means the ability do whatever doesn’t interfere with another person’s rights…..

    and, OBTW, very few people in this country get zero health care, it just isn’t free…..

  21. Here’s my brilliant socio-politico analysis of the situation: Bush’s opponents are a bunch of sore-loser crybaby pussies who will take every and any opportunity to swipe at him — if no such opportunity exists, they will invent one.

  22. demindepublican, you said it, buddy:

    http://msnbc.msn.com/id/11009379/

    Currently I’m of the opinion that the Murkan political system has the capacity to anaesthetize our bullshit detectors like a brain-hax0ring parasite wasp:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2006/02/03/wasp_performs_roachb.html

    but unlike the wasp, there is strong evidence of intelligent design in the Murkan instantiation of normotic illness. The question then becomes: Cui bono? Follow the money and you will uncover some disturbing answers….

  23. I don’t buy the argument by Sandy and Covaithe make at all. I’d love someone to explain to me how Sandy can take herself seriously when she says:

    “Bush has turned it [freedom] into a joke by wrapping himself up in it while he systematically guts individual liberty and freedom at home.”

    Bush is “gutting” liberty? So two individuals – two – are held for some period of time as enemy combatants without charges. Oh, and if A.Q. calls you in the U.S. we now know that you’re likely going to have your conversation listened to.

    Seriously?

    “Gutting” liberty would mean that you’d be getting a knock on your door tonight – late tonight – just for making these comments. “Gutting” liberty would mean a widespread crackdown on the practice of the Islamic faith or broad prohibitions on speech. “Gutting” liberty would mean the confiscation of firearms, the ‘disappearance’ of hundreds of political opponents and political murders to send a message.

    Does it *ever* occur to you that your statements are shown false simply by virtue of the fact that they are being made in open public forums?

    Ferchrissake, Grow up, will you?

    Bush has committed to the largest military venture in a generation in an effort to remove a brutal, murderous thug and to build a democratic state in Iraq and all you can see is that Halliburton may have gotten some contracts? What is wrong with your priorities? Halliburton got similar contracts when Clinton sent troops to Bosnia – its just what they do. Truly, how can you possibly look at the entire scope of the challenges sweeping our world and end up fixating on the rights of lethal fundamentalist whack-jobs in Gitmo and whether Halliburton is making any money??

  24. “Gutting” liberty would mean the confiscation of firearms

    You mean like the ones that were confiscated in New Orleans? You know, under the leadership of the Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco? Dude, come on — that was totally Bush’s fault. Proof:

    Bush is president.
    Something bad happened.
    It’s Bush’s fault.
    QED.

  25. Sorry Pete…I forgot ;-)

    Hey – one of Stephanie Miller’s compatriots has *really* summed things up very nicely in a picture that you gotta see:

    http://powerlineblog.com/archives/013041.php

    (Seriousness note for folks on the left: No, I’m not serious here and yes, it is unfair to associate this Islamonazi with Stephanie Miller. I guess, as Grubert says, I’m being “angry, derisive, insulting, nasty and truculent.” It’s just that you guys leave yourselves open to this by having priorities that are always A) wildly skewed and B) reflexively anti-Bush. So, sometimes, we just like to have a little fun when your critiques of Bush line up precisely with those of these murderous thugs.)

  26. “Gutting” liberty would mean the confiscation of firearms

    Most liberals aren’t quite as convinced that the availability of firearms is the only thing sustaining liberty as the average gun-fondlerenthusiast.

    Bush has committed to the largest military venture in a generation in an effort to remove a brutal, murderous thug and to build a democratic state in Iraq

    That’s certainly what he’s *said* he’s trying to do. I guess it’s partly the way you guys are prepared to take what he says at face value, no questions asked. Only Democratic politicians lie, I suppose. About things central to the national interest, like blowjobs and stuff.

    It’s just that you guys leave yourselves open to this

    We leave ourselves open to you making yourselves look like you’ve got no sense of proportion?

    Stuff like that is preaching to the choir.

  27. Whatever dude. Molon labe, you hippie freak.

    As for Clinton — that crap was way over blown. Like Chris Rock said “It was a blowjob, man! They didn’t need to take that to the supreme court! They coulda used the people’s court!” Although I suppose a case can be made that lying before a grand jury is grounds for impeachment. I guess that makes me ambivalent on the issue.

    BTW, stop trying to be witty. You’re not laconic enough to make it work. It’s like a mongoloid trying to draw a political cartooon — your better off just saying what you mean. BOHICA.

  28. Adrian10 – you make some reasonable points.

    Regarding gun fondlers – I’ve never owned a gun in my life but it strikes me that history provides numerous instances in which political oppression has been either preceded by weapons confiscation or enabled by the relative defenselessness of the population. I’d love it to be otherwise but the truth is that far more people were killed by their own governments in the 20th century than were killed by the bloodbaths of WWI and WWII. While I don’t believe that it is likely that countries such as Canada and the European nations are likely to fall into oppression because gun ownership is low, the same doesn’t hold in many other times and places. I’m simply not willing to ignore such facts – inconvenient though they may be.

    Also, you are certainly correct to observe that Bush has *said* he invaded Iraq to remove a brutal dictator and build a democratic state. I guess its *possible* – as you apparently believe – that he did it to give big contracts to Halliburton (or some other, equally nefarious reason) but I’m at a loss to explain why you doubt him. If someone says “I’m going to do A because I believe B” and then goes out and does A and gives speeches in support of B, then it seems reasonable to take them at face value (your “no questions asked,” of course, is gratuitous: you have no idea what questions I’ve asked).

    That is, Bush has indeed deposed a murderous thug and has taken all of the steps necessary for the Iraqis to establish a democratic state. Thus I think I have a *pretty good reason* for taking him at his word. Explaining it all as a sop to Halliburton (or big oil, etc.), on the other hand, strikes me as extremely unlikely. You have to ignore everything that Bush has done and said and instead substitute a nefarious plot hidden from everyone but a secret cabal. Your evidence for it strikes me as essentially the same as the “secret plots” that the John Birchers were so fond of back in the 1960s (or even the “Blue Helmets and Black Helicopters” conspiracies still annoyingly common in today’s far right).

  29. BTW, stop trying to be witty.

    You’re not the target audience, hth.

  30. Hey, I seen them black helicopters, man.

    Stupid traffic report guy, trying to be a badass…

  31. I’d love it to be otherwise but the truth is that far more people were killed by their own governments in the 20th century than were killed by the bloodbaths of WWI and WWII. While I don’t believe that it is likely that countries such as Canada and the European nations are likely to fall into oppression because gun ownership is low, the same doesn’t hold in many other times and places. I’m simply not willing to ignore such facts – inconvenient though they may be.

    I just think it’s silly. Governments have battlefield systems, and I wouldn’t bet on a bunch of self-trained chubby guys in camo against those no matter how much local terrain knowledge the latter have. Governments of developed countries don’t need to rely on weaponry to control their populations, anyway – all they have to do is to cut off a few utilities.

    I guess its *possible* – as you apparently believe – that he did it to give big contracts to Halliburton (or some other, equally nefarious reason) but I’m at a loss to explain why you doubt him.

    I think he probably wanted to establish a pliable client state where America could maintain bases to replace the ones they left behind when they pulled out of Saudi (as requested by Osama). The desire to intimidate a few other nearby parties may have played a role. I suspect Saddam’s selling oil for Euros wasn’t too popular either – note that the Iranians have also said they intend to open a Euro-based oil bourse next month, and things seem to be coming to a head there just in time.

    Of course, this could all be a string of coincidences. But Halliburton’s profiteering strikes me as merely a side benefit, and afaik big (multinational) oil had a lot of reservations about the invasion, and was barely consulted in any case.

    I think the American government normally acts in what it perceives as its own interest. Sure, democracies springing up like weeds across the region in the wake of a successful Iraqi transition would be in their interests as long as they didn’t all elect rabid mullahs. It just doesn’t seem very *likely*, that’s all.

    (your “no questions asked,” of course, is gratuitous: you have no idea what questions I’ve asked)

    No, certainly, I was just grouping you with some of your fellow travellers there – ‘you guys’. It’s clear you’ve done more reading than a lot of them.

    That is, Bush has indeed deposed a murderous thug and has taken all of the steps necessary for the Iraqis to establish a democratic state.

    All of them? There are a few doubts about that as well. A lot of people think democracy is something you take for yourself rather than something that’s foisted on you by well-meaning outsiders, the German and Japanese examples notwithstanding. And the fact that all the power in Iraq stems from control over a single resource doesn’t auger well for the spreading of the wealth that democracy is likely to require in the medium term. Jerry Pournelle has written some interesting things on this.

    Your evidence for it strikes me as essentially the same as the “secret plots” that the John Birchers were so fond of back in the 1960s (or even the “Blue Helmets and Black Helicopters” conspiracies still annoyingly common in today’s far right).

    Well, we’re all working with incomplete information. One thing I believe in (or more accurately, I’m concerned about) is oil depletion, which would help to explain a putative Bush desire to control a chunk of the Middle East indefinitely. He’s certainly had it explained to him by people like Matt Simmonds, though it’s hard to tell how much he’s taken on board. The sanguine belief of some here that the market will magically bring substitutes on line as oil declines is something I’m unable to share.

  32. Their shallow, left-wing-partisan rationalizations do not cut any more ice with me than would a right-winger’s rationalization of (say) blatantly racist speech as a parody of some politician’s behavior.

    Parody, at least, has an element of truth to it, which is what makes it amusing.

    treating the words “freedom” and “liberty” as obscenities or jokes

    If the words “freedom” and “liberty” are to be treated with such reverence, how much more deplorable then, is it to use them in a manner that has such obvious partisan and agendized meaning? If I had to choose between implementing sacred memes as either propaganda or as critical satire, I would have to say the latter seems less offensive to my senses.

  33. adrian –

    Thanks for responding. A couple of points – some of which we agree on, some we do not.

    “I think he probably wanted to establish a pliable client state where America could maintain bases to replace the ones they left behind when they pulled out of Saudi (as requested by Osama). The desire to intimidate a few other nearby parties may have played a role.”

    I think there is a big grain of truth here. As idealistic as it may be to institute a democratic state, a bit of intimidation is certainly part of the deal. The really, really difficult part of all of this is that we are not really opposing “al Queda” or Osama; we are opposing a powerfully resurgent Islamic consciousness, newly empowered by billions in excess oil profits. Recent estimates are that it cost the Saudis about $4-4.50 to pump a barrel that they can then sell – right now – at about $68.

    So think about it: take several absolutely uncompromising medieval theocracies (Saudi Arabia, Iran) or failed police states (Iraq, Syria), pump them up with 40s-era anti-liberal propaganda and anti-semitism (see my essay at http://Wildmonk.net if you are interested in this point) and then give them unlimited cash. *Of course* the situation is extremely volatile. In polls, fully 10% of the Islamic world thinks that democracy is intrinsically blasphemous (with the figure being far higher among religious leaders, I assume). Democratization is a noble experiment but there is *no* guarantee it is going to succeed when so many fanatics are committed to its failure (which agrees with your other, later point as well). The problem is that, if it fails, we’re in for some extremely troubled times. Make no mistake, the Islamic radicals have a lot more balls than common sense and, unfortunately, a lot more mojo working for them than the West. But, if pushed to the wall, we are quite capable of extraordinary violence and even the decimation of the target Islamic populations. *No one* wants to do this right now (at least no one with any heart) but an astonishingly large proportion of the Islamic world seems hell-bent on forcing the issue.

    “I suspect Saddam’s selling oil for Euros wasn’t too popular either – note that the Iranians have also said they intend to open a Euro-based oil bourse next month, and things seem to be coming to a head there just in time.”

    Well, I’m sure the US financial markets crowd doesn’t like the idea, but it strikes me that A) the Iranians have some significant barriers to implementing such a change in a worldwide market that simply doesn’t work that way and B) the Iranians seem to be working quite hard enough, thank you, to call the fire down on their *own* heads. So, yeah, it might seem that things are coming to a head ‘just in time’ but there just seem to be many (and better) other explanations. BTW – I just finished a pretty good piece by a financial markets guy on why the Iranians would have a very tough time forcing oil resources to be placed on the market in Euros but, unfortunately, I cannot find the link! It seemed pretty convincing but I’m not an expert in financial markets.

    “Well, we’re all working with incomplete information.”

    You know, I wish I could get everyone to see exactly this point. It always strikes me as incredibly presumptuous when you hear people pronounce emphatically that they know Bush (or bin Laden or Blair or Saddam or any other actor) did X because of whatever favorite explanation they have for the world. The world is a damn complex, unpredictable place and most of us work in a state of profound ignorance about all of the factors that influence probable outcomes. Hell, I spend 6 years just trying to capture probabilities from evidence in one tiny segment of one area of the world (I was in AI work for Naval Intelligence) and we never did build the system that we had envisioned!

    “The sanguine belief of some here that the market will magically bring substitutes on line as oil declines is something I’m unable to share. ”

    Well, I think the idea is that, as prices rise (either due to resource depletion or due to political turmoil) then money will flow in to other areas of research. Think of it this way: there are lots and lots of very smart people in the world. If Bush (or any political big cheese) says “I say we do hydrogen cells and I’m backing it with a ton of money and withdrawing money from everywhere else” then you *know* – just by the laws of probability – that he’s probably just screwed the pooch. He’s damn likely to be wrong. No matter who he has advising him, they can’t know as much as 1000 smart people working their own passions and visions.

    The *best* thing the government can do is to A) fund basic research into energy production, B) keep the entire PROCESS as transparent as possible, C) not settle upon a solution too quickly, D) work with private partners who themselves have to put their money where their mouth is and E) use taxes to keep the price of oil stabilized at a price high enough that it makes sense for private companies to keep doing the hard science needed to replace oil as a primary energy source. Do all five and we *might* get alternative energy sources a few years earlier than otherwise.

    I do indeed believe that we’ll find a way to develop alternative sources. We’re just too smart a species to do otherwise. Personally, I’m thinking a broad deployment of modest-sized pebble-bed reactors to energize the electrical grid together with a conversion to plant-based renewable liquid fuels (ethanol and methanol). Ethanol’s traditionally been a political boondoggle but the chemistry of using it for liquid energy seems pretty sound. Even in the worst case it could be used as a way to capture electric energy from nuclear sources in liquid form to power transportation.

    Anyway – again – thanks for responding.

  34. The really, really difficult part of all of this is that we are not really opposing “al Queda” or Osama; we are opposing a powerfully resurgent Islamic consciousness, newly empowered by billions in excess oil profits. Recent estimates are that it cost the Saudis about $4-4.50 to pump a barrel that they can then sell – right now – at about $68.

    This Clash of Civilisations thing smacks of a self-fulfilling prophecy to me. It might apply to Iran to an extent, but the Saudis sound much more ambivalent. Their ruling class is more concerned with preserving their privileges than continuing to export the Wahabi badness they used to tolerate as a safety valve. They haven’t forgotten where most of the hijackers came from.

    So think about it: take several absolutely uncompromising medieval theocracies (Saudi Arabia, Iran) or failed police states (Iraq, Syria), pump them up with 40s-era anti-liberal propaganda and anti-semitism (see my essay at http://Wildmonk.net if you are interested in this point) and then give them unlimited cash. *Of course* the situation is extremely volatile.

    Saudi isn’t ruled by the clergy, and Iran’s not just a medieval theocracy – this President of theirs who has everyone throwing up their hands saying “Oh, he’s talking about annihilating Israel, how *terrible*!” (I reckon it’s for local consumption) was democratically elected. I consider the anti-Semitism flying around to be mainly overspill from anti-Zionism. The Muslim world didn’t participate in or fail to mitigate the Holocaust (though some of the writings of contemporary Zionists are quite eye-opening), and doesn’t have any of the guilt about it that suppresses anti-Semitism in the West. It’s regrettable and unsophisticated, but I can’t see the point in judging them the way we’d judge Westerners who came out with similar things. The West hasn’t exactly been in the forefront of spreading the democracy and equality in the region over the last few decades that might have forestalled this kind of crap.

    Iraq was on its knees before the invasion, too, and Syria is keeping its head down.

    But, if pushed to the wall, we are quite capable of extraordinary violence and even the decimation of the target Islamic populations. *No one* wants to do this right now (at least no one with any heart) but an astonishingly large proportion of the Islamic world seems hell-bent on forcing the issue.

    Another holocaust? I suppose it depends on what you mean by “pushed to the wall”. I like to think someone in the US chain of command would have the strength of character to mutiny if ordered to nuke population centres in circumstances where the US population hadn’t already been hit – or even if it had. This wouldn’t be M.A.D., after all. Iran’s monumentally unlikely to commit suicide by trying to nuke American cities in any case – I think they probably just want to have nukes so they can’t be pushed around so easily. Dunno about the Norks, they’re a little worrying.

    The best way to approach this would be for the American government to put serious pressure on the Israelis to denuclearise, followed by some sincere attempts by the other nuclear powers to fulfill their own obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Won’t happen, of course.

    Well, I’m sure the US financial markets crowd doesn’t like the idea, but it strikes me that A) the Iranians have some significant barriers to implementing such a change in a worldwide market that simply doesn’t work that way and B) the Iranians seem to be working quite hard enough, thank you, to call the fire down on their *own* heads.

    It’s a bit more than just the financial markets. A lot of economists reckon the dollar is structurally overvalued due to its status as the oil trading currency, and the Chinese for one have a considerable interest in diversifying. A sudden slide in the dollar could take a whole bunch of parameters right out into uncharted territory. As for “calling the fire down”, the military options don’t look all that promising, and rumours of the outcomes of the wargames which have taken place don’t sound that good either. It’s right at the edge of Israel’s operational capabilities AFAICT, and although the Americans could obviously do a more thorough job, keeping the Straits open would be really tricky – the Iranians have some fairly up-to-date Russian kit, which may not be the joke it used to be. I strongly suspect any attack could lead to an interest rate spike and the bursting of the American housing bubble, which would have knock-on effects all over the place. Moreover, Iran itself produces something like 5% of world consumption, and the market’s pretty tight.

    Well, I think the idea is that, as prices rise (either due to resource depletion or due to political turmoil) then money will flow in to other areas of research. Think of it this way: there are lots and lots of very smart people in the world.

    I’m aware of the theory, but smart people mainly come up with technology, and technology isn’t energy. We’ve got societies which are very dependent on cheap energy. Ramping up replacements will take a long time, and none of the ones on the horizon look cheap enough to run the kind of economy (and maintain the level of innovation) that we’re used to. A lot of people reckon coal will save the day, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Anyway – again – thanks for responding.

    My pleasure, really.

  35. Adrian10 seems to be of the impression that it takes two to fight. (S)He is wrong.

  36. Now that’s laconic – verging on gnomic, in fact.

    Whatever can s/he mean?

  37. Adrian,

    I wish I were as sanguine as you about the intentions or ultimate brakes on the ambitions of the various Middle East leaders. I just can’t help but sense that there is a kind of blood rage that goes beyond normal geopolitics. It’s that sense of unease you get, for example, when you are around people who are *sure* that Evolutionary Biology is just a plot against God or something…a feeling they are just working from very different assumptions (not you and I – I’m referring to our political/philosophical assumptions vs. those of, say, Iran).

    As for Israel disarming: wow – I could not possibly recommend that position to them. I strongly doubt that the blood feud between Israel and its neighbors would end, or even be mildly lessened, by it taking such an action (witness the rise of the second Intifada at a time when Israel was trying to work within the Oslo accords). Indeed, I don’t think Israel’s security situation will improve substantially in our lifetimes and, should any of its neighbors acquire nuclear weaponry, a disarmed Israel would be toast.

    cya

  38. Back again…

    BTW – you say:

    “Saudi isn’t ruled by the clergy, and Iran’s not just a medieval theocracy – this President of theirs who has everyone throwing up their hands saying “Oh, he’s talking about annihilating Israel, how *terrible*!” (I reckon it’s for local consumption) was democratically elected. ”

    Well, S.A. isn’t technically ruled by the clergy but certainly you recognize that the full weight of the elite – include much of the state – has for years plowed enormous resources into the spread of the Wahhabi faith. This was really the point I was trying to make. With respect to Iran, you *do* realize that Ahmadinejad is essentially a figurehead beholding to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, don’t you? Entire classes of candidates were wiped from the election slates before the last election at the behest of Khamenei so I think it quite a stretch to argue that this is an example of democracy.

    Finally, I’m getting a bit uncomfortable here because, well, it *IS* “terrible” that Ahmadinejad is talking about acquiring nuclear weapons and wiping out Israel. I mean, how straightforward does the guy have to be before you admit that there really is a problem here? Please don’t tell me that you’re kind of iffy on the whole “survival” thing for the millions of people in Israel (not to mention that the people in Gaza, the West Bank and much of Jordon would also suffer or die in a nuclear attack).

  39. I wish I were as sanguine as you about the intentions or ultimate brakes on the ambitions of the various Middle East leaders.

    I think they can be engaged with if treated with respect. The US position seems to be “Our civilisation is superior to yours so we’re going to treat you like children”. And then they’re surprised when the children start getting a little older and wanting to do grownup stuff. There have been any number of chances to work with the Iranians which the Bush administration has spurned over the last few years, and now we’re just reaping what they’ve sown. The insincerity of the way the nuclear powers have treated their own obligations under the NPT doesn’t help from an international law perspective, either.

    I just can’t help but sense that there is a kind of blood rage that goes beyond normal geopolitics.

    There are certainly grievances which get played up, but I can’t see anything outside normal geopolitics about them. Look at the way Bush has played up 9/11.

    As for Israel disarming: wow – I could not possibly recommend that position to them. I strongly doubt that the blood feud between Israel and its neighbors would end, or even be mildly lessened, by it taking such an action (witness the rise of the second Intifada at a time when Israel was trying to work within the Oslo accords). Indeed, I don’t think Israel’s security situation will improve substantially in our lifetimes and, should any of its neighbors acquire nuclear weaponry, a disarmed Israel would be toast.

    I did say it wouldn’t happen. Thing is, they don’t *need* their nukes – their conventional forces are perfectly capable of dealing with anything they might face out there, and they’d be much more justified in using them to prevent others going nuclear if they’d denuked. The ‘blood feud’ (which in my view is driven by the contempt with which they treat the Palestinians, and is more about land than blood) is a separate issue. If Israel’s nukes are a major reason why Iran (and then Saudi, Turkey…Greece…the rest of the Balkans…) want them then why not bring them (the nukes) into it? America is perfectly capable of officially guaranteeing Israel’s security if something like that is needed.

    The alternative looks like being US or Israeli military action unless the Iranians blink first, that’s all – and that’s what I’m *really* not sanguine about. Lot of potential for unpredictable outcomes.

  40. Well, S.A. isn’t technically ruled by the clergy but certainly you recognize that the full weight of the elite – include much of the state – has for years plowed enormous resources into the spread of the Wahhabi faith. This was really the point I was trying to make.

    It’s been a safety valve, I think. An alternative to the democratic reforms which the US has never felt able to encourage them towards. Not that even Kuwait has exactly been taking giant steps in that direction, and you’d think the US would have a bit more leverage there.

    Entire classes of candidates were wiped from the election slates before the last election at the behest of Khamenei so I think it quite a stretch to argue that this is an example of democracy.

    Oh, I didn’t say it wasn’t flawed…but dismissing all the doubts a lot of people have about the last couple of US presidential elections (and the massive congressional gerrymandering that’s been going on lately) as tinfoil hat material is a little complacent in my book as well. There are several different groups jockeying for power in Iran, and the ideal of democratic credentials is clearly respected, whether 10% of the Islamic world thinks them blasphemous or otherwise. There’s a foundation there which a US administration with a bit of imagination could build on if they weren’t still living in 1979.

    Finally, I’m getting a bit uncomfortable here because, well, it *IS* “terrible” that Ahmadinejad is talking about acquiring nuclear weapons and wiping out Israel. I mean, how straightforward does the guy have to be before you admit that there really is a problem here?

    Well, you say yourself he’s a figurehead. I think it’s obvious his power is pretty limited – I read that he’s been trying to get people loyal to him into various positions and meeting a lot of resistance. I don’t see why his shooting his mouth off should be taken as official regime policy yet, is all. Anyway, Israel already has fairly well developed delivery systems, including submarine-launched cruise missiles afaik, so I don’t think the Iranians will be planning a first strike. I imagine they just don’t like the idea that as things stand Israel or the US could wipe them out at very little cost. Nor would I in their place.

    Please don’t tell me that you’re kind of iffy on the whole “survival” thing for the millions of people in Israel (not to mention that the people in Gaza, the West Bank and much of Jordon would also suffer or die in a nuclear attack).

    It won’t get as far as a nuclear attack if common sense prevails, admittedly a big if. I’m afraid a state which is specifically set up for just one of its component ethnic groups isn’t something whose existence I automatically view with enthusiasm, Holocaust or no Holocaust. I don’t think that the attitude that Israel’s so-called security trumps all other considerations is sustainable long-term, or that a stable Middle East can be developed on the basis of permanent Israeli military supremacy, either.

    ISTR Bush did mention something about the possibility of a nuclear-free Middle East a while ago. Mind you, he’s also said he wants to put a man on Mars.

  41. WildMonk said: Bush is “gutting” liberty? So two individuals – two – are held for some period of time as enemy combatants without charges. Oh, and if A.Q. calls you in the U.S. we now know that you’re likely going to have your conversation listened to.

    Following up on this, as I’ve said to folks commenting at The Liberty Papers and claiming that the US is now a police state run by the Bush proto-fascists, this is the most mild set of restrictions applied during a protracted war since prior to the Civil War. That doesn’t mean we should like it, or accept all of it since some clearly is over the top and unconstitutional. However, compared to the Japanese internment, rationing, censorship, propaganda, spying by the OSS and FBI on American citizens during WWII, the same sort of thing in WWI and the blatant suspension of constitutional rights during the Civil War, this is nothing. These people should go find out what a real police state is like first. Better yet, at little or no personal effort, read some history.

  42. What Sam said. What is an obscenity and a joke is those words coming out of Bush’s mouth. He promotes the neocon spectator version of “democracy” abroad (i.e., the right to choose which gang of suits will take orders from the World Bank), while foisting USA PATRIOT on us at home. To Bush and his cohorts, “freedom” means

    1) freedom to go shopping (“if you don’t go to the mall, the terrorists will have won”) and

    2) by definition, the objective of any war that U.S. troops are involved in.

    IOW, about the same thing “Freiheit” meant to Hitler.

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