Patriotism And Its Pathologies

Once upon a time, patriotism was a fairly simple thing. It was tribal identification writ large, an emotional attachment to a people and their land. In most of the world, where patriotism exists at all it’s still like this — tribal patriotism, blood-and-soil emotionalism.

A different kind of patriotism emerged from the American and French revolutions. While American patriotism sometimes taps into tribal emotion, it is not fundamentally of that kind. Far more American is the sentiment Benjamin Franklin expressed: “Where liberty dwells, there is my country”

Thus, most Americans love their country in a more conditional way — not as a thing in itself, but insofar as it embodies core ideas about liberty. It is in the same spirit that our Presidents and miltary officers and naturalizing citizens swear to defend, not the land or people of the United States but its Constitution — a political compact. This is adaptive in many ways; one of them is that tribal patriotism is difficult to nourish in a nation of immigrants.

In France, the ideology of the Revolution displaced tribal patriotism, just as it did in the U.S. But the French, roiled by political instability and war, have never settled on a political unifying idea or constitutional touchstone. Instead, French patriotism expresses a loyalty to French language and culture and history. It replaces tribalism not with idealism but with culturism.

America and France are a marked contrast with, say, Denmark. I chose Denmark at random from the class of civilized countries in which patriotism is still fundamentally tribal. You don’t become a Danish patriot by revering the constitution or culture of Denmark; you become one by being a Dane. Which partly means being a tribesman, connected to the Danish genepool, and partly means identifying with stories of past Danish heroism.

It hasn’t been easy to find a fire-breathing Danish patriot for at least fifty years, though. One of the effects of the terrible convulsions of the 20th century has been to discredit tribal patriotism. Many people in Europe, not unreasonably, associate it with racism and Naziism and are suspicious of anything that smacks of immoderate patriotism.

This is less true in the U.S. and France, precisely to to the extent that their patriotism does not depend on tribal feeling. Intense patriotism remains respectable in the United States precisely because it is primarily an ideological phenomenon not tied to blood and soil. At its best (a best which Americans achieve rather more often than most non-Americans understand) it manifests as a high-minded determination to secure the blessings of liberty not just for tribal Americans but for every human being.

All this is fairly generally understood in the United States, and not controversial. But American-style ideological patriotism has pathologies of its own. These are less well understood, and at the bottom of some serious fissures in American political culture.

The left-wing American historian Howard Zinn once asserted that “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” It is telling that this quote is often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson, the author of our Declaration of Independence, because it does sound like something Jefferson (who famously opined that he thought the infant U.S. might require periodic revolutions every twenty years or so) might actually have said — even though it is not in much doubt that he would reject almost every other feature of Zinn’s politics.

Embedded deep in the American model of patriotism is the notion that it may be expressed by a passionate determination to reform or even completely upend American institutions in service to the ideals behind them. This is not, as far as I can tell, true anywhere else in the world. It would seem an alien idea even in modern France, where the excesses of the Jacobins irreversibly tainted that sort of fervor with blood.

I respect that tradition of patriotism by dissent because I am part of it. I’m both an American patriot and a libertarian anarchist. I both love my country and would cheerfully abolish its government and many of its laws as soon as practically possible, in service of a higher loyalty to individual liberty; “Where liberty dwells, there is my country”. Even Americans who disagree strongly with my political stance have no real difficulty understanding how it is compatible with American patriotism.

But patriotism by dissent can take a much stranger turn. An influential minority of Americans now behave as though loving their country as it might be in the imagined future, where everything they don’t like about it is fixed, excludes loving their country as it actually is!

There was a flap in October 2007 when would-be Presidential candidate Barack Obama said that he stopped wearing an American-flag pin after 9/11 because he thought doing so had become a “substitute for…true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.” In doing so, Obama (who founded his candidacy on opposition to U.S. war policy in Iraq) was clearly equating “true patriotism” with the patriotism of dissent.

Many Americans bridled at this, feeling that the real subtext of Obama’s refusal to wear a flag pin expressed a lack of love for America as it actually is. Matters were not helped when his wife Michelle responded to a string of primary victories by saying “for the first time in my life, I’m proud of my country” (emphasis added). There was widespread feeling that one of the qualifications for anyone aspiring to live in the White House should be a rather less conditional love of country than this.

The question Barack and Michelle Obama’s behavior raised is not a new one. Can one reasonably be called an American patriot if, even recognizing its imperfections, one doesn’t love America as it is? Obama, for his part, must have concluded that most Americans would answer “no”. At least, I think that’s what we can deduce from the fact that he started wearing a flag pin again — and whatever else can or cannot be said about Obama, he is extremely good at reading and reflecting the expectations of his audiences.

At its extreme, patriotism by dissent becomes a kind of anti-patriotism in which dedication to an imagined America-that-might-be produces actual, destructive hatred of America as it is and has been. Unreasoning, extreme patriotism is sometimes called “chauvinism”, after the Napoleonic French officer Nicolas Chauvin; for this kind of anti-patriotism I shall analogously coin the label “chomskyism”, after a well-known U.S. radical who appears to embody it.

Chomskyism is not a phenomenon entirely exclusive to left-wingers. It can be found in the darker corners of the hard right as well, especially in the fever swamps that begin near Pat Buchanan and extend towards the “white nationalist” movement. These people remain, however, distinct from actual neo-Nazis or fascists, who fail to be patriots of dissent because they have no investment at all in the American ideal of liberty.

But my choice of Noam Chomsky as an icon does reflect the fact that chomskyism is far more a phenomenon of the American left than of the American right. It is near impossible to imagine a conservative presidential aspirant refusing to wear a flag pin, or explaining that refusal as Obama did.

On the other hand, what one might call a sub-clinical version of chomskyism is extremely common among mainstream left-liberals. Many seem embarrassed by the symbols of patriotism, or incapable of expressing love for their country without feeling obligated to engage in a great deal of semi-ritualized breast-beating about its past and present flaws.

One may reasonably ask why this matters. Is patriotism important? Supposing it is, to what extent is chomskyism really a problem?

I will tackle those questions in a future post focused less on history and observation, and more on questions of ethics and values.

155 thoughts on “Patriotism And Its Pathologies

  1. I don’t think that we can divorce Chomskyism from radical environmentalism, either. Part of the reason that I’m as patriotic as I am is that I can look outside and see the skyscrapers and roads that have been created here that have NOT been created in Afghanistan, for instance. And although they HAVE been created in western Europe and other places, there are other things such as software, that are not as visible to such a brief glance, in which we have the advantage over those places as well. To me, America is prima facie a winner, and that’s why I, along with most Americans, have more than a soccer match patriotism.

    The radical environmentalist, however, sees the same things I do and hates them. To him, they are just blights on the landscape. He has no appreciation for the hard work and hard thinking necessary to make such things.

    That in itself is an interesting pathology: why is the admittedly fascinating science of a snail darter so much more interesting than the fascinating science and engineering of a hydroelectric dam? I think part of it is that many, having little knowledge of engineering or even pure science (outside of mass-produced sound bites they’ve obtained from others), honestly thinks that the dam, like the pyramids, was produced by little better than slave labor–that is, underpaid and ignorant workers putting concrete blocks on top of other blocks. This is why the literati make up such a disproportionate section of Chomskyites: they CAN’T CONCEIVE of work that is both physical and mental.

    The radical environmentalist suffers from the inability to distinguish penicillin from mold, and therefore cannot appreciate the former (and yes, I’m aware of the problems of antibiotics). In all probability, he has little concept of life before technology; he probably thinks it was like an endless fun camping trip. (Which, by the way, shows just how out of touch he is. Camping today consists of most of the amenities of modern life, obtainable at the convenience store–and it STILL gets very old after more than a weekend. The reason so many people camp by lakes is largely the fact that swimming, while not up to the standards of a good shower, does at least inhibit body filth somewhat. To get really clean, you need to hand-wash yourself–a major pain in the ass).

  2. As David Brin has observed, this may be part of why the left loses elections. After racism and sexism have been virtually banished, conservation efforts have saved species, and a great many collective programs have worked wonderfully*, the left still abases us with guilt, never optimism.

    * Don’t jump on me here: the left hand of civilization is clumsy, sometimes murderous, but capable still.

  3. I’d love to hear you expand this topic to cover your thoughts on America First, Charles Lindbergh, and what it means for Democracy that the majority of Americans did not want involvement in WWII even after France fell. (Obviously I don’t think the anti-war movement has changed much.)

  4. > It hasn’t been easy to find a fire-breathing Danish patriot for at least fifty years, though. One of the effects of the terrible convulsions of the 20th century has been to discredit tribal patriotism. Many people in Europe, not unreasonably, associate it with racism and Naziism and are suspicious of anything that smacks of immoderate patriotism.

    I think Ireland and the likes of Sinn Féin and the provisional IRA are a counterexample here. Ireland’s radical patriots seem to center their pride around Catholicism and being of Gaelic (or more generally, non-Norman) descent. This strikes me as odd given how much Ireland has to be patriotic about in the American/French sense: throwing off their colonial shackles after EIGHT HUNDRED YEARS of insurgency, with some people still alive who remember it firsthand.

  5. >I think Ireland and the likes of Sinn Féin and the provisional IRA are a counterexample here.

    Hmmm. After considering the matter, I agree they are, but not quite as strongly as you may think. The Provos, in particular, stopped being a ‘patriotic’ organization in any more than the most superficial sense long ago; they got subverted by the Soviets during the Cold War and their ideology is actually hard-Marxist, a fact they are careful to conceal from their gullible (and mostly American) donor base.

    On the other hand, your more general point about Ireland is pretty valid. It may be the only place left in Western Europe where old-fashioned tribal politics still has bite. Good correction.

  6. Another thought about Ireland: I think tribal patriotism was sustained there for a long time by a combination of (admittedly, justified) resentment of the British and economic stagnation.

    If I’m right, one of the effects of the Irish economic boom will be a shift in the tambre of Irish patriotism, somewhat away from ethnic tribalism and probably more towards something like the American version — or, I think, even more likely the French culture-centric one.

  7. >I’d love to hear you expand this topic to cover your thoughts on America First, Charles Lindbergh, [etc]

    There has always been a strain of isolationism in American patriotism that conflicts with both our idealistic urge to spread the blessings of liberty and geostrategic thinking about what we need to do over there to keep other peoples’ messes from spreading here.

    I think that isolationism was easier to maintain before airlines and modern communications. Yes, OK, there is some evidence that America First was run by German agents of influence, but they had firm ground to build on — back then a lot of perfectly honest Americans thought the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were wide enough to keep us out of trouble. Nobody could really believe that fifty years later, even without 9/11 as a deminstration.

  8. > I think tribal patriotism was sustained there for a long time by a combination of (admittedly, justified) resentment of the British and economic stagnation.

    Ireland’s experience with British rule is somewhat unusual. Most of Britain’s colonies, despite whatever injustices they suffered, benefited in the long run due to their exposure to British common law, which was generally a damn sight more civilized than whatever it forcibly replaced. Not so for Ireland, which already had Brehon law. They didn’t need the British talking down to them in that area.

    > gullible (and mostly American) donor base.

    Yeah, no kidding. The IRA almost tricked me into signing up with them a couple weeks ago. I was looking for Irish lessons, since I’m going on vacation in Ireland next month and want to visit the Gaeltacht. One of the IRA’s sister organizations advertises a free online course, but requires registration first. Good thing I poked around the “about us” section before I filled it out.

  9. Also, perhaps the Basques are another example? I don’t know as much about them so I’m not as sure. But if so, then it’s worth noting that another thing Ireland and Spain have in common is that they were neutral during WWII.

  10. “At its extreme, patriotism by dissent becomes a kind of anti-patriotism in which dedication to an imagined America-that-might-be produces actual, destructive hatred of America as it is and has been.”

    Sort of like the man who says that he only beats his wife because she disappoints him so. It pains him that she could be so much more.

    Funny, the left doesn’t have any trouble at all in calling him a jerk.

  11. >Also, perhaps the Basques are another example? I don’t know as much about them so I’m not as sure.

    I don’t know either. I’d have to do some research to find out.

  12. I’ve never been able to understand the Communists’ infiltration into Spanish Basques. If there was ever a group whose entire culture screamed “Better Dead Than Red,” it’s the Basques. We have a lot of them here in Nevada, and if there ever were a group that seemed genetically destined to be rugged individuals, it’s the Basques. I was originally going to say “destined to be rednecks,” except that I realized that most people not familiar with red-state types have a lot of preconceptions about “rednecks.” Basques in this area are not usually excessively aggressive, but they do tend to be “strong silent” types and very much outdoorsmen.

    Yeah, I realize that the USSR funded any group with a grudge. Nevertheless, Communism did tend to thrive in areas where the local populace was already preconditioned toward collectivist economics, such as sub-Saharan Africa and American Indian populations in Latin America.

  13. “Chomskyism”
    Thank you for this. There has been a need for a symbol to capture the “semi-ritualized breast-beating about its past and present flaws” as you put it. That’s actually quite a mild expression. I wonder if you had first written “demoralized, masochistic, guilt-ridden, emasculated, post-modern, and faintly nihilistic”, and then toned it down.

  14. >I wonder if you had first written “demoralized, masochistic, guilt-ridden, emasculated, post-modern, and faintly nihilistic”, and then toned it down.

    No. Though I could have. :-)

  15. I agree, Americans are patriotic in a way that defends their constitution, their freedom, their values. The reason for this type of patriotism over any other is, well, because America is not their native country. It is in fact the motherland to a race of people who in many ways were screwed over by the immigrants from Europe.

    The American Constitution is certainly something worth defending. But for various reasons, the Americans should in my opinion feel ashamed of themselves. When the United States declared independence, one of the principal values of the new Constitution was secularism. However religious these remarkable men were (and I have no reason to believe that they were all atheists; some surely were religious), one thing they did passionately stand for was secularism, and in particular KEEPING RELIGION OUT OF POLITICAL MATTERS. This, along with several of the other values central to the Constitution, has gone out the window. There is hardly senior politician in America who would admit to being anything other than highly religious. The United States may technically be a secular nation (and there aren’t many in the world), but in the Western world there are very few countries as religious as America.

    “I invaded Iraq because God told me to..”

    Fuck off, religion has gone too far in America. Various key values established during the Declaration of Independence have been lost, in my opinion.

    As a last thought, I’ll say that Britain is probably one of the most patriotic countries in the world. On many levels, in fact.

  16. Dave:

    >religion has gone too far in America

    With all due respect, that’s just nuts. Without Christianity, America makes no sense. America works because her government (usually) respects the rights of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Where on Earth would we get such rights from? From tradition? Traditions change.

    From popular consensus? Public opinion changes.

    From utility (because it works)? Rights don’t always work (depending on what you mean by work).

    Christians believe, without any evidence whatsoever, that God created the world (and ourselves in it) out of love, and that He filled it with proximate, intermediate causes (natural laws) which could be mastered by reason, in order that we might be able to exercise free will in deciding whether to love Him back.

    If the Christian proposition is true, then we can logically infer that God wants people to be politically free, in order that genuine love of Christ might spread. After all, if tyrannical government forbids the spread of Christianity, as it does in Saudi Arabia, then love of Christ will be hobbled and stifled.

    If, on the other hand, a tyrannical state mandates belief in Christian doctrine, then people would profess love of Christ out of fear of prison or execution, but probably not out of genuine affection.

    Therefore, Jesus (assuming he exists) wants you to be free and defend the liberty of others. Or, as Voltaire allegedly put it, to disagree with what I say, but defend to the death my right to say it.

    If Christianity is bullshit, why would you do that? Are you stupid? What good is my right to say what I want going to do you when you are dead?

    Thus, religion can never “go too far” in America. It can go ASTRAY, lose sight of it’s purpose. It can get too lackadaisical or too puritanical, but it can never go too far.

    If Christianity, or something very like it, isn’t true, then there is no reason for this country to be here. And nations and persons which have no reason for being soon stop.

  17. I read somewhere an immigrant from Eastern Europe who told his children they were leaving the homeland. The reason was that they loved freedom, The ability to to get ahead without being stuck in a class that prevented mobility. He told his children that they were Americans and that they should go to their country.

    That made perfect sense to me. Being American is really an identification of ideas. Self reliance , freedom, the ability to suceed or fail. The ability to choose what you want , where you want to live. It hard to to tell everything that it means to be an American. But many in other countries are Americans that just have not come over here yet.

  18. Dave, I have to wonder why people continually bring up the idea the Christianity is running the US and we are somehow a out of control theocracy. The church and state ARE separate in the US. We have no national church (unlike say England), we have no requirement for any leaders to be members of any religion, we legalized abortion, we have no special Congress made up of religious scholars who can override Congress (unlike Iran).

    Did/does religion have an impact on the US? Sure it does. Does it RUN the US? Hell no, not even close. We have a religious section in this country that is very LOUD, and we have had leaders who tend to be more closely aligned publically with their personal religion than others, but we have never had a President suspending the Bill of Rights because it goes against “God’s Will.”

    Religion gone too far? I think you are in the wrong hemisphere for that statement. Try something closer to home, say IRAN, for a much better example of religion going too far.

    Ur, unless you include the environmentalists/global warming crowd as a “religion” which I can also see. In that case, you are VERY correct that they have gone way to far.

  19. “and I have no reason to believe that they were all atheists; some surely were religious”

    LOL. Whereas I have no reason to believe that they were all religious; some surely were atheists. However secular these remarkable men were, on thing they did passionately stand for was the Biblical principle of ‘Rendering unto Caesar the things that are of Caesar, and unto God the things that are of God.’ They’d read thier Pauline epistles well and knew that God had ordained both secular and religious authorities and wisely decided TO KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF RELIGIOUS MATTERS.

    “There is hardly senior politician in America who would admit to being anything other than highly religious.”

    To my knowledge, at the time of our founding, there was one leading American figure (Thomas Paine) who would admit to being anything other than highly religious. There were some others who weren’t religious, but they mostly kept thier opinions to themselves if they planned on running for public office. Notably, Paine wasn’t running for public office, and his brand of radicalism was probably more influential on the French revolution than the American one.

    In the Western World there are very few countries that have ever had religion quite like America, because the American religious experience while not completely free of tribalism, is so comparitively free of tribalism that we may remark on the lack of tribalism as one of the key features of American religion. And, this is probably the nadir of American religiousity. Alexis De Toqueville, a Deist himself wrote, “It’s obvious there still remains here a greater foundation of Christianity than in any other country of the world to my knowledge, and I don’t doubt but that this disposition still influences the political regime.” I certainly wouldn’t claim today that there is a greater foundation of Christianity in America than in any other country in the world. That distinction has passed on to the developing nations which have largely converted to the American form of Christianity through the efforts of American missionaries. In America itself, Christianity is rapidly becoming moribund, although still far from the death bed we see it on in Europe.

    How many Presidential prayers, speeches, and declarations do you want me to trot out in evidence that what you think is totally new is in fact rather less than even par for the course?

  20. I would posit Canada and (possibly) Australia as places where non-traditional nationalism exists also. For those, however, the basis seems not ideological but cultural. “This is the sort of people we are” nationalism rather than “this is what we believe” nationalism or “blood-and-soil” nationalism. Very weak tea, but it seems to work for them.

  21. >Without Christianity, America makes no sense.

    The Founding Fathers disagreed with you. In an early diplomatic letter to the Knights of Malta, George Washington and John Adams wrote: “The United States is in no way founded upon the Christian religion”. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.” There is no mention of God or religion in the Constitution except in the First Amendment’s requirement for freedom of religion.

  22. I mostly agree except… are you going to tell me the french are not tribal? no, sorry they are very tribal, at least as much as the dutch.

    Also I think it helps to remember that we have had an odd reactionary tradition of revolution, in that many of our revolutionaries could plausibly claim that all they are really doing is making us live up to our ideals, or restore rights lost. This started with the American Revolution, where mostly we were throwing the doctrines of Locke right back into England’s face.

  23. But patriotism by dissent can take a much stranger turn. An influential minority of Americans now behave as though loving their country as it might be in the imagined future, where everything they don’t like about it is fixed, excludes loving their country as it actually is!

    Thank you for expressing this. You’ve said concisely here what took me months and months of thought to realize as my left-leaning friends kept saying things that made me totally baffled. This was it.

  24. Dave, you’d have difficulty finding a single one of our founding fathers who did not regularly appeal to a higher power in his writings. This includes the Deists. (I wish you good luck in finding so much as a single atheist.)
    While our Revolution was not religious in nature, it was certainly informed by religion. And several of our founding fathers explicitly remarked about the necessity of a moral populace.

    If there is any philosophical question posed by government, it is “what is the good, and how should it be best sought?” This necessarily touches upon religion.

    In the writing of our Bill of Rights, it was injected that the church should not be an arm of the state. And the Constitution states that no “religious test” may be required of office-holders. Preventing the government from becoming an arm of the church.
    These are arguements for secularism. But they most certainly do not preclude religion from having a role in the great debate.

  25. esr: I don’t read Dean to say that America was founded as a Christian country or even that Christianity is necessarily true (“Jesus (assuming he exists)…”), but rather that American political philosophy as exemplified by the notion of the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” intersects with the tenets of Christianity in ways that the Founding Fathers were aware of and approved of. It’s true that a similar–I’m tempted to say “isomorphic”–argument with respect to Scots natural philosophy can, and I believe should, be made. Whether one takes from that that the “good parts” of Christianity can be found in other, even secular, traditions or that God exists and instilled knowledge of His laws in man, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find them in many cultures and traditions, tells us more about the person making the claim than about God or Scots natural philosophy. :-)

  26. On the role and influence of Christianity in the founding of America, the truth is surely somewhere between the two extremes just articulated. It is hard to imagine America without the influence of, say, John Locke. Now John Locke was a Christian, though I imagine by Jefferson’s standard not an “orthodox” one. Could we at least say that many of the ideals of the founding fathers were significantly influenced by Christian traditions and philosophy? That’s not the same thing as saying that it was “founded upon the Christian religion.” I have no problem reconciling what Washington and Adams wrote with the truth that Christian traditions and ideals strongly influenced the ideals upon which our nation was founded, and that these ideals are not to be found in certain other religious traditions.

  27. > In an early diplomatic letter to the Knights of Malta, George Washington and John Adams wrote: “The United States is in no way founded upon the Christian religion”

    In context, this was while engaging in diplomatic relations with explicitly Muslim nations in an attempt to stop the preditations of the Barbury pirates upon American shipping. It didn’t work. Thomas Jefferson tried a wholly different approach, that was ultimately much more successful.

    > Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature.”

    Thomas Jefferson spoke warmly of religion and churches on other occassions. Even donating to those he approved of.

    The two example that you’re able to pull are dwarfed by the counter-evidence.

  28. >Is Chomskyism the same thing as Utopian Personality Disorder?

    They are, at least, very closely related.

  29. >The two example that you’re able to pull are dwarfed by the counter-evidence.

    Counter-evidence like the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion, eh?

    You’re doing a good job of reinforcing my stereotype that religious believers are utter idiots.

  30. Eric,
    Thanks for this. Excellent, especially creating a name ‘chomskyism’ for this pathology.

    Dave, you are grossly (and sadly) mistaken. The Founders were (basically) all extremely religious men. But they were also intelligent. The examples of English history were well known and recognized: bloody Mary, the catholic, burning ‘heretical’ Anglicans, the problem of Charles 1, Cromwell’s inter-regnum with puritanism rampant, then the revisited problems with the (actually catholic) Charles II and James II, resulting in abdication and replacement by William and Mary. Those events resolved with the Act of Settlement, which denied the monarchy to any catholic, a condition which continues to this day, and provided for religious freedom for Englishmen. That century and half of strife arose basically from the idea that the ruler could/might enforce HIS religious preferences on his subjects through the use of the power of the state, or require religious conformism as prerequisite for office.
    It was that exact problem which the Founders dealt with by adding what is now known as the ‘doctrine of separation of church and state’. That “doctrine” has been maliciously expanded over the years, such that the invocation of the concept of God, by way of a prayer. in a school or elsewhere, results in some chomskyite having an attack of the vapours and filing a lawsuit.
    In fact, the US could not have come into existance without the religious and moral grounding which the Founders exhibited throughout their writings, including the Declaration of Independence.
    The Founders recognized that governmental power requires a moral dimension for its proper use, (necessary in continuing to obtain and keep ‘the consent of the governed’). That moral dimension is based upon a Christian moral structure, as explained in the political realm by the writings of Locke and others.
    All that points towards and results in the freedom and liberty which is the essence of Americanism.

    I’m not the first to note it: see the bloggings of Stephen Den Beste and Bill Whittle, but the essence of American ‘melting pot’ patriotism is NOT tribal, like many other countries, and NOT genetic like Norway or Denmark, but INTELLECTUAL: an adherence to the concept of true individual liberty and freedom. Somewhere at Den Beste’s USS Clueless, there was a thread and comments which resulted in Stephen making the comment that there are ‘lost’ Americans all over the world: people who believe in the concept of America, but who do not live in the USA.

    Dave, you exhibit an almost paranoid dislike and fear of religion, that you make me wonder if you really are an ”American” in the sense I have just given. And I’m leaning on ‘not’.

    Dean, you are wrong. There is every reason for, and many reasons why the US can and should exist, *whether or not Christianity is true*. There are other religions which adhere to the precepts of what we call Judeo-Christian morality. (and you have just pissed on all of the concepts which the early Christian world inherited, borrowed and stole from the Jewish traditions it was based on. And if I remember correctly, one or two of the Founding Fathers were professed agnostics.

    From the viewpoint that American patriotism is an INTELLECTUAL patriotism at heart, it is easy to understand why the chomskyites (chomskyismites ??) do not “love” America. Generally they are against freedom, especially intellectual freedom, but including the freedom of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. As examples: gun control, political correctness etc. Their dissent is not that something is wrong and could be changed to bring it closer to the ideal, but that something is not perfect and therefor it is all wrong and should be torn down. Of course, no replacement is brought forward.

    Eric, I especially liked your phrase “in the fever swamps that begin near Pat Buchanan…”

  31. ‘Dissent is the highest for of patriotism’ until it’s dissent from the Left’s political nostrums, or its candidate, or its President. Then it’s ‘divisive’, ‘unacceptable’, ‘an outrage’, ‘mean-spirited’, unhelpful’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’ or ‘fascist’. Cue the faux-outrage, demands for apologies, calls for ‘hate speech’ laws, campus ‘speech codes’ and media intimidation.

    We’re already seeing criticism of Obama dismissed as racist attacks. Repressive tolerance at work, folks.

    The same folks who yammer on about ‘stifling of dissent’ — on nationally telvised news programs or in the pages of our largest newspapers, ironically — are silent on renewed interest in the Fairness Doctrine. The same people who’ve insisted that Bush and Cheney are busy building a police state have no trouble with the metastasizing body of laws restricting individual freedom, interfering with family life and putting more and more control over ecnomic activity into the hands of unelected bureaucrats. The same cultural mandarins who sniff that Piss Christ is art worthy of public funding and anyone who complains is an intolerant crank will denounce the Motoons as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘insulting’, enough so to be nearly banished from publication.

    I could go on, but you know the drill.

    On a related topic: Just what is it about Europe that always has our elites swooning like insecure teenagers? Is it those paper-thin democracies, barely a half-century old and now subsumed by an unaccountable political aristocracy in Brussels? Or maybe it’s that famous knack for diplomacy and global order maintenance, evidenced during the last century by a pair of world wars, the introduction of industrialized genocide and the immiseration of half the planet by the miracles of communism. Or is it the style with which they conduct their cheap moral grandstanding, from the safety of security ultimately guaranteed by people they despise? Or is it the rationed health care that’s somehow virtuous because it’s ‘free’?

    Thatcher was right. All of the bad ideas — the ‘isms’ — come from Europe. Which, of course, means they’ll find ready purchase among our so-called leadership classes.

  32. Or, as Voltaire allegedly put it, to disagree with what I say, but defend to the death my right to say it.

    If Christianity is bullshit, why would you do that? Are you stupid? What good is my right to say what I want going to do you when you are dead?

    Because in purely practical terms it is in fact a good bargain. Vast majority of people who jump into river to save someone from drowning do not end up dead, but some do. Those who do lost out, but on the balance society where people are willing to save drowning victims is more successful than society where people do not — and actual rescuers still benefit.

    Likewise “defend to the death” right to free speech very rarely actually comes to that end — but people’s overall willingness to do so makes for a healthier, more successful country. Call me cynical, but I suspect that if majority of people attempting to defend others’ right to free speech DID end up dead, the practice would become rather unpopular.

    But it is not, and remains — in the long term anyway, — a good bargain for the defenders of free speech.

    I am not a Christian, BTW.

  33. Eric understands my point. Dean, it seems that you are ignorant in some respects over what the American Constitution is all about. As has been made clear, America is NOT a Christian country. It has no official religion, as the UK does (as do most other countries in the world). It is secular. It is a fact that at least several of the Founding Fathers of the United States were atheists; some perhaps were religious. But regardless of this, they were all secularists; you apparently did not even know this, but I’m sure you’re not alone in this respect.

    Dean, I can tell by some of your absurd remarks that you are religious, and by the looks of things, very religious.

    For example, “Without Christianity, America makes no sense.” What is that supposed to mean? It made perfect sense when it was founded hundreds of years ago. I repeat, America is SECULAR; it was not founded with any religion in mind.

    “If Christianity, or something very like it, isn’t true, then there is no reason for this country to be here.” Again, America wasn’t founded on religion, or even nearly so. I’m not a Christian and I don’t believe in god. Should I just kill myself then? You seem to imply that life just isn’t worth living without your jealous, vindictive god. Dean, I’m not living for your silly little god. I’m just enjoying my life on this earth while it lasts.

    “If Christianity is bullshit, why would you do that? Are you stupid? What good is my right to say what I want going to do you when you are dead?” You’re just one of the many people who believes that atheists don’t have morals. I’m not stupid, I’m intelligent, seemingly a lot more intelligent than you, at least in the subject of this particular blog post. What you’re talking about are basic Human Rights, which apply to everybody regardless of culture, religious beliefs, and whatever else you care to name. Religion has nothing to do with Human Rights. Wake up.

    Your political beliefs are strange, even for a Christian. I’d like to try and save you from the prison that is religion, but it seems that you’re now too far gone to be helped. You’re indoctrinated. I genuinely would like to save you from spending the rest of your life worshipping this spiteful, hateful god of yours – one which I’m certain doesn’t exist, but even in the extremely improbably event that he did, wouldn’t be worth worshipping anyway, for he is a pathetic figure.

  34. >This is adaptive in many ways; one of them is that tribal patriotism is difficult to nourish in a nation of immigrants.

    I suppose that’s true, but at the time of the Revolution I doubt tribal patriotism would have made sense in any case. I don’t think the colonists perceived tribal differences between themselves and the English, certainly not enough to place them in different “tribes.” Indeed, I think it’s fair to conclude from the Declaration of Independence that the Founders’ main objection was that they had been frustrated by the King in their repeated attempts to live as Englishmen.

  35. >I don’t think the colonists perceived tribal differences between themselves and the English

    Agreed. My point was only that a more tribalist model of patriotism would have become very difficult to sustain during the great immigration waves of non-Anglo-Saxons that followed.

  36. The nation’s character is most assuredly a Christian one, whether or not the Founders wished it to be so. From the first settlers to the vast waves of European immigrants in the early 20th century, the most prevalent characteristic of the US citizen has been the religious creed: some form of Christianity. The Founders were mindful of this, which is *why* they wanted to separate Church and State: not to weaken the relgious beliefs of the citizenry, but to keep the State from *interfering* with the relgious practices of the people.

    I personally think that the character of the nation is more a product of the Civil War than the Founding itself. It was the Civil War that forged us into one nation. As Shelby Foote says, we went from being “the United States *are*” to “the United States *is*”. And the war was fought, among other reasons, to assert a man’s Divine right to be free. Even Lincoln, not the most religiously observant of men, often appealed to God as the source, final arbiter, and judge of mankind. America *is* a Christian nation, in blood and bone and sinew.

    And yet this Christian nation enshrines your right to pray to whatever God you wish (or none at all, as the case may be). It recognizes “natural rights” (i.e., given by God) that the government may only *enumerate*, not *grant*. The government cannot *grant* you a natural right; it must exist to protect the rights you were born with. This is the genius of America.

  37. Orwell wrote a fantastic article about Patriotism and Nationalism (available at http://www.george-orwell.org/Notes_on_Nationalism/0.html). It was written write after WWII and yet it’s descriptions of observations are frighteningly close to what we see today.

    For example his statement about pacifism could describe almost any peace rally held in the Western world since 1965:

    “(v) PACIFISM. The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure
    religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to the taking of
    life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there
    is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted
    motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of
    totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that
    one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings
    of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any
    means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely
    against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule
    condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western
    countries. “

  38. Request to all commenters: Please, no more stuff about Christianity in America either pro or con. It’s off-topic with respect to my post and tends to drown out the analysis of patriotism that actually belongs in this thread.

    Don’t make me start deleting comments…

  39. So, if you are patriotic only to a hypothetical United States that might someday exist if you have your way, then, logically, you cannot feel patriotic about the United States that actually exists right now.

    Hence, dissent, having a raison d’etre of reaching that hypothetical United States, is not an inherent part of being patriotic to the actual country today, except insofar as today’s version holds the seeds for that hypothetical future.

    Christ, no wonder most of the “dissent is patriotic” crowd are friggin’ useless. Their brains must lock up about the third time around.

  40. There is no mention of God or religion in the Constitution except in the First Amendment’s requirement for freedom of religion.
    Super, but the Creator is in the Declaration of Independence.

  41. >the Creator is in the Declaration of Independence.

    Yeah, I knew somebody would bring that up. Whack! Thank you for playing. That “Creator” is the remote Deist clockmaker-god identified with natural law — at the time, actually an anti-Christian idea. The fact that these references were later misinterpreted by conservatives as Christian is deeply ironic.

    Now, everybody, please *shut up* about Christianity! At least, until I post my essay on the Founders and Deism.

  42. Jody, I don’t think they knew about the Big Bang back in 1776. It was probably widely assumed that something or someone must have created the universe, including us. They weren’t pushing religion in this statement – they were saying that having certain inalienable rights was simply human nature.

  43. I think many of those who practice the “Chomskyism” variety of patriotism view “loving your country” as the way that you FEEL about the country, while those practicing the more traditional American patriotism view “loving your country” as a commitment to ACT in ways that support and strengthen the country and the ideals espoused in the Constitution.
    If I feel angry about the policies of the current administration or the legislation passed by the current Congress, then I am unable to FEEL love for my country as it is, and must direct my patriotic feelings to the country as I would like it to be. However, I can ACT with love for my country in many ways, both in and out of the political arena, and I can act today, rather than wait for some imaginary future in which the world is ordered according to my wishes.

  44. I’ll respect eric’s dictum, but it’s hard to get away from relgion when discussing patriotism in the US sense because to many Americans the two are closely-related (“God and Country”).

    Anyway…

    The whole problem with the “progressive” ideal is that it seeks to attain some kind of Utopia (generally via some combination of government regulation, intervention, and outright social engineering). The problem is that these folks can’t even agree among themselves on what the desired end-state should be! Then there is the problem that Utopia means different things to different people — it is a highly individualistic vision. One man’s Heaven is another man’s Hell. Leftists cannot seem to get it through their skulls that human beings, and thus human society, is not perfectible. All a government can or should do is provide a space where its citizens can steer by their own stars and remain secure from extrajudicial threats. Any government that exists to impose a vision of “progress” on its citizens is a tyranny.

    This is the irony — “progressives” are often the most totalitarian, authoritarian people you will ever meet. I’ve often thought that “progressives” really don’t like individual human beings all that much. As individuals, people are just too hard to deal with; all those opinions, thoughts, talents, hopes, dreams. Much easier to deal with “the people”, those safe amorphous masses who can be neatly segmented and grouped and categorized. Much easier to feel tender towards “the people” and get the masturbatory thrill of doing something pure for “the people”.

  45. I thought your blogpost was extremely well-done, and I have incorporated it into my own post about a French rapper possibly being imprisoned for his anti-patriotic lyrics.

    If interested: Celle Que A Dit Non

    Despite the title, it is in English.

  46. >Hey, where did that comment go? It used to be here.

    A few minutes ago I deleted some comments rehashing the debate over whether or not the U.S. is a Christian nation. Those are off-topic for this comment thread, though they mean I will probably have to write that essay on the Founders and Deism sometime soon. This comment thread is for discussion and criticism of my post on Patriotism and its Pathologies.

  47. >Calling someone unpatriotic is just about the highest insult you can give. It’s not something we should be throwing around lightly.

    Twitchy, aren’t we? I haven’t called anyone ‘unpatriotic’ yet.

    Supposing I did, it would hardly be “the highest insult”. I can think of many worse. “Totalitarian”, for starters.

    I think most of your indictments are hyperventilation and hysteria. To take an obvious example, it is certainly not the case that the U.S. is randomly torturing people who merely happen to Muslims. Even supposing we accept a very loose and probably invalid definition of ‘torture’, the people who have been subjected to such rough treatment (by the U.S – I’m not so sure of all of our allies) are enemy combatants, generally captured in the course of an act of war or terrorism. You undermine your own case against the U.S. by rhetorically confusing this with the random torture of innocent bystanders.

    Some of your points have merit. I, too, am troubled by the dumbing down of school science corricula under pressure from creationists. Extreme wage inequalities bother me too, consequentially if not morally. I, too, would rather embrace immigration than end it. But, unlike you, I don’t consider these issues a reason not to love my country. I don’t even consider them reasons not to be proud of my country – because I see the good along with the bad, and am not so obsessed with our failures that I can’t celebrate our successes.

    That is where the symmetry between left-liberals and conservatives breaks down. Both fight to improve the U.S., yes — but conservatives almost always begin with loving America as it is. Left-liberals begin from a position of guilt, abnegation, and repudiation. On this one, I’ll side with the conservatives.

  48. Another characteristic about “dissent patriotism” is that it is inherently self-oriented, as well as conditional. The dissenter patriot’s conditional love is given to the country only to the extent that the country, or its actions, or interests, correspond with the dissenters personal beliefs about what the country should become.

    Thus, the dissenter’s conditional patriotism rests on their concept of what the perfect United States would be and that, in turn, depends upon the dissenter’s own values, rather than the official, collective values upon which the country was actually founded.

    We all do this, to a certain extent. But, the more the dissenter’s beliefs vary from reality, the more they become self-referential and the more difficult it becomes to ascribe any positive qualities to the actual country. When that happens, the patriotism by the dissenter for his or her hypothetical United States reflects nothing more an expression of self-love, rather than love of country.

  49. One major difference between patriots and Chomkyists is that the former are very much aware that the U.S. is not just a group of ideas, but an actual material thing. Even if you hate the government, why would that cause you to hate Mt. Rushmore, or American automobiles, or small towns in Nebraska, or science fiction, or even Starbucks? (I don’t like Starbucks, but I’m glad it exists. It creates part of the background for the things I do like). Why the hell would you want to toss that out the window on the say-so of philosophers who have never worked a real job in their lives, many of whom probably literally can’t tie their own shoes?

    And yes, I’m aware that America is built on ideas. But the key is that those ideas WORK, in the view of most Americans. The USSR was built on ideas–essentially the ideas the Chomskyists want to put in place here–and it had to suppress its people with guns and vodka. Once they were allowed to express their view of the system, it collapsed.

    The Utopian vision has not produced one single thing that I can use. On balance, even the corrupt Latin American systems are better.

  50. Do you know why liberals feel bad about overt shows of patriotism? Because they understand what the flag stands for now.

    America used to be the country that felt a duty to help a neighbor in need. But now we would rather have lower taxes than levies that work, or bridges that don’t fall down, or health insurance for people who can’t afford it.

    America used to be the place where those with no future could come and make one. Millions of immigrants have been coming, including parts of all of our families, (excluding NA’s) and America took ALL of them. We turned no one away. We put them to work, and made the greatest economy the world has ever know. Now we would rather they go home.

    America used to be the place where we didn’t start wars. We defended freedom, now we impose it.

    America used to be the place where we didn’t take anyone out of their homes and lock them up forever, at least not without a public trial. Now we have a whole facility for just that purpose.

    America used to be the counrty that didn’t torture people FOR ANY REASON. Now, all you need to be is Muslim.

    America used to be the country the led the world in science and technology. Now we can’t teach basic science (evolution) in public schools, because somebody might get offended.

    America used to be a place where the middle class was trying to get rich. Now they’re just trying not to get poor.

    America used to be the place where your boss made 4 times what you made. Now he makes 364 times what you make.

    If you believe in torture, imprisionment with no trial, the role of schools is to teach religious doctrine, all poor people are poor because they want to be, you pay too much in taxes, immigrants are what’s wrong with this country, or freedom can be given with someone else’s guns, you shouldn’t be allowed to call someone else unpatriotic.

    Liberals fight for what they believe will make this country better than it is now. Conservatives do the same. We disagree, but we are more alike than you think. I’m pretty sure I could write a blog on why conservatives feel the need to overdo patriotism, (I would say it probably stems from inadaquacies elsewhere) but it’s obviously not true, and doesn’t help us get anything accomplished. Let’s have a debate on the issues, you state your side and I’ll state mine, and we’ll see who the people agree with. You’re presumably a free-market kinda guy, are you afraid your positions aren’t strong enough to win out in the market if you can’t scare people with “isms”. Calling someone unpatriotic is just about the highest insult you can give. It’s not something we should be throwing around lightly.

  51. Some examples of self-referential patriotic goalposts:

    I’m a good person and would never kill anyone. In my perfect country, the government would never take a person’s life regardless of the reason. Therefore, I cannot express approval of my actual country because it kills criminals and enemies.

    I think that differences in economic circumstances should be minimized for all. In my perfect United States, the need to narrow the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” would take precedence over the personal freedom to enrich oneself. Therefore, my love for the United States is limited because it values personal freedom over economic egalitarianism.

    I am fully committed to the environmental movement and my country should be equally committed to that cause. The cause of environmentalism should always trump property rights and would do so in my preferred vision of the United States. Since this is not true in the actual United States, my support and patriotism are always going to be very limited.

    The dissenter’s patriotism is always going to be a matter of divided loyalty between the actual country and the country they would create in their dreams. That the United States of their dreams might be considered hell on earth by many, or even most, of their fellow citizens has no place in the true believer’s calculations.

  52. The roots of “Chomskyism” are twofold:

    1. The disillusionment of the extreme idealist: Throughout most of human history, ‘history’ as recorded on walls, clay tablets, scrolls and books, tended to gloss over the injustices committed by the ruler and people for whom the history was written for. The freedom upon which the US was founded (and many other Western nations) allowed, for the first time, a more objective study of history. People who believed their country was, and should, be an absolute paragon of moral perfection never forgave the US for not being perfect. Rather then compare the US critically and objectively to the past and to most other tribes and nations of the world, they compare the US to a utopian ideal that they posit should exist, simply because we are a relatively affluent nation. That fact that our patriotism, as explained by Eric, is an intellectual patriotism made the US especially vulnerable to the ‘disillusioned idealist’ effect. In contrast, rarely do to you hear a Frenchman speak in bitter tones about his nations long involvement in Vietnam and Algeria. This is because their patriotism is a cultural patriotism.
    2. Cultural and Geographical Security: A nation or tribe’s first line of defense when seriously threatened culturally and geographically is tribal patriotism. Never having felt seriously threatened geographically with invasion (since WWII), never having felt for a long while that some other tribe or nation might come and take our lands and resources from us, and having a culture almost defined by immigration, Americans having never felt the kind of insecurity that drives other, much less successful tribes/nations to extreme tribal patriotism, find it much easier to put aside patriotic aspirations. By contrast, Palestinians, who can demonstrate very little in the way of tribal and cultural success in the last 30 years (whether your talking about sports, military success or scientific achievement), exhibit extreme tribal patriotism because their geographical security is constantly under stress.

  53. >That the United States of their dreams might be considered hell on earth by many

    But whose dreams ought to be decisive? As Ayn Rand said: A is A. Contradictions cannot exist. An object cannot be completely round and completely square, or all red and all green, at the same time and in the same respect.

    Therefore, choices must be made and trade-offs accepted.

    But there must be some ultimate standard by which we can decide if THIS choice is better than THAT choice. Or if this or that trade-off enhances or diminishes the validity of what we are trying to do.

    A religion defines a certain conception of God, and God’s will, and says: “THIS is the standard.”

    If you are going to dispense with all that and just go by Reason, where does the buck stop? On this blog, the buck stops with esr, because he can delete your posts if they don’t meet his standards.

    Where does the buck stop in the World?

  54. Ian,

    You demostrate perfectly the liberal ability to remember the history you want rather than the history that actually was. The United States, at this moment, is more inclusive, more wealthy, more free, and more secure than it has ever been in its history. If GWB were going to herd all dissenters into the gulag, don’t you think it would have happened by now? Aren’t you aware of the cognitive dissonance between believing the President and his administration are a pack of dullards and yet are at the same time a bunch of Mcahiavellian geniuses intent on trampling the Constitution to dust?

    And further to that: what is your desired end-state? If America is not good enough now, then what is the desired point at which it will be “good enough”? If you and other progressives can’t state it clearly (or don’t even really know), then how can you say that what we have now isn’t as good as it gets?

    To me, it’s not a question of left/right or conservative/liberal, but simple reality. America isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it doesn’t have to be. It just has to be better than the alternatives, and it is. Q.E.D.

  55. Ian, your post illustrates my point.

    All those things you say America used to be, it never was. America used to kill Indians. America used to enslave African Americans. Many Americans were very much against helping our allies in WWII until the Japanese attacked us. Most Americans never even had healthcare in the past. If you think there wasn’t a single Japanese or German prisoner tortured or shot out of hand during WWII, then you’re living in a different world.

    However, living in the US now, is better than it was 30 years ago, especially if you are an immigrant or minority and it was far better 40 years ago than it was 100 years ago. The US gives far more humanitarian aid now than it did 20 years ago. Even though we sometimes take 1 step back for every two forward (and many quote the current administration as an example of this), in general, Americans are good people, strive for progress and push back against our government against our government when we feel it has gone too far and we should thank our lucky stars that we have the ability to do so. We have a supreme court that has forced the executive branch to back off from 4th amendment violations and Washington D.C. from 2nd amendment right restrictions. Our civil treatment of civilians in nations we occupy militarily is far from perfect, but, by historical standards, is almost unprecedented, especially in recent years. Simply compare the Afgan reaction to the Russian occupation to their reaction to our occupation. We give more humanitarian aid per capita (when you count private and government donations) then any people who have every lived. The idealized version of the United States you seem to believe in has never existed, but may, one day in the future if we don’t become too bitter and despondent.

  56. esr:

    Your response just illustrates how weak and strengthless our political vocabulary is these days. That’s why I don’t like using “liberal” or “conservative” in a political sense because it’s quite simple for someone to encompass both (as I do, and I suspect you do). I’ve often said that when an American says “I love my country”, he means something far different than if a Frenchman or a Russian would mean. America is an idea, not a patch of dirt or sheet of paper. The idea is that each individual person is unique, and has worth — that you are not destined to follow in the footsteps of your forebears or be forced to bow to a king who was born “better” than you. We believe that we are masters of our own destiny. We are free.

    And individual freedom means being free to make stupid choices. You cannot legislate away things like poverty, criminality, or violence; those things are part of the human condition.Equality of opportunity is the target we should aim for, not equality of outcome. “Equality of outcome” is tyranny, a one-way trip to hell on earth. You are free to succeed, or to fail; to speak, or remain silent; to act, or stand still. If we move in concert as a nation (as we must sometimes), then it must be on the understanding that this concerted action is in service to the notion of individual worth.

  57. Mike,
    Don’t you think some “flag-waving” patriotism takes place for exaclty the same reason, only on the other side. People are blissfully unaware of what’s actually happening. People assume the government wouldn’t sequester people away forever, because it forbids it in the Constitution. People assume the government is taking care of global warming, because not doing so would be a travesty of unimaginable proportions. People don’t realize how bad things have become, and wave the flag out of mindless “patriotism”. My argument is that pretending problems don’t exist so you don’t have to make hard decisions is actually un-patriotic, much more so than trying to create a better world, even if we disagree on what that better world might be.

    We’re arguing the same point, from different sides. I’m pretty sure that means we’re both right, and probably both wrong. I’ll concede that there are probably liberals out there that don’t understand the difference between loving the country as it is, and loving the country they want it to be. I’m sure you’ll concede there are conservatives who don’t realize how bad some people have it, and love the country out of ignorance. What I won’t concede is that most liberals feel this way. I feel sorry for a lot of liberals, especially the older generation like my grandparents. They’re in their 70′s, and spent the first 40 years of their lives winning political battles, and the last 30 years losing them, seeing everything they spent their youth fighting for dissappearing. They’re not radicals, fighting for a some distant Utopian future, they just wanted workers to have some protections, and America to be as respected as it was in their generation. Calling them unpatriotic feels like a personal insult, and though I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, it’s pretty harsh to question their love of countrywhen they spent their entire lives working to make it better.

  58. People assume the government is taking care of global warming, because not doing so would be a travesty of unimaginable proportions.

    First, just saying this is so doesn’t make it so. It’s still far from clear to me that global warming is our fault. And even if it is, how “bad” it is for the earth? There are species on the eart that would thrive in a warmer climate — isn’t it awfully speciesist of you to insist on a climate that’s optimized for humans?

    What’s the “correct” temperature anyway, Ian? If you don’t know, then how do you know that what we have now is abnormal?

    It has been far warmer than this in the not-too-distant past, but it has also been a lot colder. Which extreme should be our target? And how is it America’s duty alone to do this? Are you climbing all over the Chinese and Indians to cut down on emissions too? If not, why not? (This is a rhertorical question: they’d tell you to get bent.)

    Environmentalism fills the hole in “progressive” thought that religion used to fill. It is non-rational, adversarial, and bound up with Manichaen morality. (Drive an SUV? You have sinned!)

    Finally: it is not the role of the American government to “take care of global warming”. The answer to every problem is not “the government”, despite what many progressives seem to think. In fact, “the government” usually makes the problem worse through ill-considered legislation.

  59. >But there must be some ultimate standard by which we can decide if THIS choice is better than THAT choice. Or if this or that trade-off enhances or diminishes the validity of what we are trying to do.

    I disagree. Conservatives, or just old-style patriots in general, tend to realize that there ISN’T some universal algorithm for behavior. If you run everything on “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” you quickly run the economy into the ground–and your mindless devotion to a single sentence will keep you from doing anything about it. If you say, “under no conditions will I take a human life,” you will be complicit when your wife is raped and murdered in front of your eyes.

    One might think that this rejection of single-sentence answers would result in endless dithering. Actually, though, it works pretty well, because most problems are either (a) not critical enough that dithering hurts much, or (b) so critical that the common sense answer is obvious. Of course there are exceptions to this: an example is the current problem in US health care financing. Generally, though, answers are pretty clear to people not blinded by ideology. Gas prices rising? Drill more, and put less pressure on fossil fuel supplies by building nuclear power plants. People threatened by criminals, and legally constrained from getting a gun to protect themselves? Let ‘em protect themselves with a gun. US losing to terrorists in Iraq, and faced with either withdrawing and letting the terrorists win fast, staying away from the terrorists in Iraq (staying the course) and letting them win slowly, or taking the one in three chance of upping the ante and going after them in the cities? Take the one in three chance.

    Incidentally, much of the time when we right-wingers say, “God told us to,” it’s really just a polite way of saying, “If you’re going to make inane arguments (“Real men don’t need to fight”) then I will too.”

  60. The real problem with Ian’s statement is that it is no more than pyschological cover, because it has no internal logic. It isn’t the product of deeply held conviction, because it’s so obviously held without deep reflection. Just to give a few examples, Ian says:

    “America used to be the place where those with no future could come and make one. Millions of immigrants have been coming, including parts of all of our families, (excluding NA’s) and America took ALL of them. We turned no one away. We put them to work, and made the greatest economy the world has ever know. Now we would rather they go home. ”

    In order to be the country that welcomed unlimited European immigrants without exception and put them to work, we also had to be the country that drove the native tribes from thier land and gave it away to immigrant farmers. So which is it? Is unlimited immigration what made us great, or is it what made us guilty of genocide? Which ever argument we made, Ian would put us in the wrong, because hithertoo I doubt he’s ever mentally connected the two. Regardless of the period, Ian would have America as guilty and unlovable as hell.

    He says that he cannot support what the flag stands for now because it isn’t what it stood for then, but he won’t support what the flag stood for then either. Likewise, if we Americans reversed our feelings suddenly and decided that indeed now is a time that we should again embrass an unlimited tide of immigrants, Ian would still not support what the flag stood for, for he would berate how we’ve become a country that destroys the last of our wild spaces in the name of commerce, that we are the nation of unlimited urban sprawl and gasoline cars, and selfishness, and raping the Earth with unsustainable destruction of our natural resources. Why? Because I dare say that hithertoo he’s not considered that unlimited immigration is unsustainable by definition, and that we must either choose between conserving our wild spaces and our open land and unlimited numbers of people.

    The fact is, Ian is I think the sort that will be uncomfortable supporting the flag no matter what happens. Consider this claim:

    “America used to be the place where we didn’t start wars.”

    Really? Revolutionary war? War of 1812? Mexican-American War? American Civil War? Indian Wars? Spainish-American War? WWI? Korean War? Vietnam War? I can hardly think of a war the US didn’t either start as an act of aggression (War of 1812), excuse with a dubious incident (Spainish-American, Vietnam War), pushed ourselves in the middle of in the name of defending democracy (WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War), or which the US couldn’t have avoided by some diplomatic concession (pretty much all the others, including WWII). America has always been willing to use force to achieve its ends. It’s always been a pugnacious, strident, and uncomprimising country little inclined to put up with percieved offences to its ideals, its dignity, or its interests. We’re just over 200 years old, and I think we’ve been in something like 120 wars and armed conflicts, some of them arguably just and some of them arguably unjust.

    Of course, if it suited his purpose in feeling uncomfortable with the flag, Ian would certainly remember all of these things and we’d be hearing about America’s evil history of Imperialism.

  61. I think that the, “I’ll love my country when it’s perfect” schtick is just that. A rationalization, employed by those whose hatred of their own society reflects a transference of their own self-hatred.

    Folks like Zinn, Chomsky and their disciples know that even if everyone could agree on what an American Utopia would be, it’s unattainable — like making a straight board from a crooked branch. But at least this way, they can excuse their America-hatred as reflecting a conditional love … and avoid dealing with the inner demons that they’re running away from by blaming America for whatever it is that’s consuming them from the inside.

    I just hope that the, “I’ll love you when you’re worth it” “Patriots” don’t raise their children along the same lines: e.g., “Johnny, you stupid son of a b*tch, why can’t you do anything right? I wish you’d never been born! What are you looking so glum about, you little b*stard? Don’t you know that I’m saying this for your own good, because I love you despite you being the sh*thead that you are, and want to see you realize your full potential in spite of yourself?”

  62. “I’ll love my country when it’s perfect” is actually just the converse of “I’ll hate Communism when you can show a perfect Communism that fails.” Since they refuse to accept any system with mass poverty as Communism, by definition Communism can never fail economically.

    Note that this is nothing more than a semantic trick. What they are implying is this: you say Communism doesn’t work because ofthe USSR. However, the USSR isn’t Communist. We have serious problems in the US. Communists argue that true Communism can solve them. So, since we haven’t determined that Communism is bad, why not give it a try?

    The problem with this reasoning is that it changes the definition twice. Like a magician’s sleight of hand, the first change is in clear sight: By stating that the USSR isn’t Communist, they’ve changed the definition to something unknown, rather than the monster we know from the USSR, and then through the next two sentences, build up that unknown into a positive. However, in the last sentence, they subtly change the definition back to the original, USSR, definition. They aren’t suggesting, specifically, that all Americans change to a collective altruist mindset. Rather, they are suggesting that we impose the specific policies that have turned the USSR into the monster it was: government control of all businesses, including small businesses; abolition of private property; a single wage for all citizens; and an imposing police force that will determine that these policies are followed down to the last letter.

    And don’t throw Sweden or anyone else at me as a “democratic socialist” system. Sweden, and for that matter all of the west European nations, have far more capitalism than socialism. They are free nations to the extent that they are not socialist, and they are socialist to the extent that they are not free. The fact is that the USSR and its satellites, and pre-1979 China, are the real deal as far as Communism is concerned. Josef Stalin made exactly the same wage as gulag prisoners. That his rubles bought much more than theirs is simply evidence of Communism’s failure.

  63. It is interesting that leftists freak out so thoroughly to the “unpatriotic” charge. As esr pointed out, “unpatriotic” is far from the worst charge that could be made. Essentially, it’s just a synonym for “ungrateful.” In contrast, leftists frequently call conservatives “Nazis” and “inbreds.”

    To judge how bad a pejorative is, one should ask, “What is the gut response for dealing with someone guilty as charged?” When I hear “unpatriotic,” my gut response is that unpatriotic people shouldn’t get special privileges–like high-placed civil service jobs–from a country they really don’t like much. (The word “treasonous” is a different matter: my gut reaction is that traitors should be shot. Thus I understand that someone might object to such a term. Someone such as, I dunno, Gen. Petraeus).

    In contrast, calling someone a “Nazi” brings up a gut response that they should be executed. Calling them “inbred” implies that they should be wiped from the human race.

  64. Ken,
    >If you say, “under no conditions will I take a human life,” you will be complicit when your wife is raped and murdered in front of your eyes.

    That is dead-on right. The real world is subtle and nuanced and so must any moral code be. But how do you know when you have nuanced yourself off the reservation? Common sense is another term for the folk wisdom that we acquire from our family and our society, and from our personal experience. Tradition and “once bitten, twice shy.”

    Traditions reflect what used to pay. Most of the time, in most places of the world, nothing of any importance happens. Therefore, doing things the traditional way, according to “common sense,” is usually the smart move. Until one day it isn’t. Then what do you do?

    Well, for things that aren’t very urgent, you can dither until you stumble upon a solution or vice versa. And most of the time that’s the correct thing to do. Herbert Hoover said that if you see ten problems rolling down the road toward you, you should stand still. Nine of them will roll into a ditch before they ever reach you. Then you just have to be spry enough to deal with the tenth, whichever one that turns out to be. Or, as Ronald Reagan put it:
    “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

    And so you should, except for when you shouldn’t. That’s when you need that ultimate standard. Is it or is it not Constitutional? Is it a one or a zero? Would our omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent (yes I know, logically they can’t all be true!) God approve or disapprove of that action in this context?

    You can go a long, long way with Aristotle’s subtle realism. But not all the way. Eventually you run into the terrible question: “Given that we are all going to die and be forgotten no matter what we do, What Is The Point?”

    That’s when you need God, or Something, not because it is satisfying (it isn’t!) but because all other roads apparently lead to nihilism.

  65. Ian wrote:

    “Don’t you think some ‘flag-waving’ patriotism takes place for exaclty the same reason, only on the other side. People are blissfully unaware of what’s actually happening.”

    There is, of course, always going to be ignorance. However, the presence of legitimate love of country does not even normally mean that one is ignorant of its faults. Love of country for what it truly is (rather than what it might become) can lead to a desire to improve and protect the country, just as thoroughly as the dissenter claims such a dedication – and often demonstrably more often.

    For example, Ian also wrote: “I’m sure you’ll concede there are conservatives who don’t realize how bad some people have it, and love the country out of ignorance.”

    This is an example of self-referential patriotism in that it supposes that love of country can only be valid when everyone is taken care of. Leaving aside that this is probably an unattainable goal (as it has been historically), it also represents a value never expressed in our founding documents. While our Founding Fathers sought to promote the general welfare, they never promised to provide an equal, or even minimum, personal welfare for each citizen. It is very likely that the Founders understood such a promise could not be made if they intended to keep their other values of the people’s sovereignty over government and personal freedom.

    In any case, a conservative can both recognize that others “have it bad” and still love the country for what it is – a nation with the least impediments for individual progress, tempered with charity (for that is what the social safety net is) for those who truly cannot care for themselves. One can argue about how much charity should be dispensed, but the very fact that some need charity is a rather weak (and even ahistorical) reason to not love one’s country. The same could be said for any of our country’s faults.

    Take war, for example. Commodore Stephen Decatur famously said, “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” Other notables have expressed similar sentiments. The Commodore was not expressing ignorance when he made this toast. On the contrary, he was acknowledging the possibility of error, that our country, as are all things made by Man, is imperfect. He also was expressing the implied belief that the country would generally strive to be right. More directly, he expressed dedication to the country, right or wrong. That he did so was not a result of ignorance, but as a measure of his resolve to do his best by his country, warts and all.

    I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a so-called “patriot” who somehow felt his country unworthy of support because it occasionally fell short of his expectations. My only response to such a self-absorbed person could only be, “Well, who died and made you King?”

  66. I just wanted to say that this was one of the most interesting blog threads I’ve read in a long time. A lot of great insights without (too many) of the usual rants and raves from people who fanatically inhale talking points. Thank you.

  67. Monty, if we are so inclusive, wealthy, free, and secure, why does everyone feel excluded, poor, trapped and afraid?

    Inclusive? We are having a running national debate on how exactly we should expel 20 million people from our counrty.

    Wealty? Some of us are, but the bottom 99% have less wealth than they’ve had since the 30′s.
    http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

    Free? There are more people in prision in America than any other nation on Earth.

    Secure? According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, we are at yellow alert, for “significant risk of terrorist atacks”.

    Chris, do you realize the absurdity of your statement “Simply compare the Afgan reaction to the Russian occupation to their reaction to our occupation.” Do you know who funded the Afghan reaction to the Russian occupation? WE DID!! We poured millions of dollars into training Muslim fundamentalists to kill Soviets. Where did you think the Taliban came from? We put them there. (I’m also a little confused about why you would reference this as supporting your point. More US troops died in Afghanistan last month than any month since the war began. Patriotism must not include current events)

    I’m trying to say we used to be great, and we could be great again. Are you guys saying we’ve never been the place I thought we were? If that’s the case, why is everyone so patriotic? If we’ve never been a place where we took care of our neighbors; if we’ve never been a place where we thought EVERY human being had certain, inalienable rights; if we’ve never been the place where, if you could get here, we would take you; then tell me, why is this country great? Why should we be the envy of the world? You’ve all described a pretty lousy place, and anyone who wants to make it better hates it. I’m not sure how far you’re all willing to take that argument, but I’m not sure it will get you very far.

  68. Ian,

    >if we are so inclusive, wealthy, free, and secure, why does everyone feel excluded, poor, trapped and afraid?

    Everyone? Besides, feelings are not guides to cognition. What are the facts?

    >Inclusive? We are having a running national debate on how exactly we should expel 20 million people from our country.

    Yes, because they came here in violation of our laws.

    >Wealthy? Some of us are, but the bottom 99% have less wealth than they’ve had since the 30’s.

    Seriously?!? That must explain why Great Granpappy had to pay a week’s wages to log onto the internet back during the Depression!

    >Free? There are more people in prison in America than any other nation on Earth.

    As I understand it, statistically, if you factor out black people, who commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime, the crime and incarceration rates for the US are about on par with Canada.

    >Secure? According to the Dept. of Homeland Security, we are at yellow alert, for “significant risk of terrorist attacks”.

    Granted, Homeland Security is a make-work hell-hole. You can’t win ‘em all. :-)

    P.S. You know, in the new Firefox there’s an automatic spellchecker for input boxes like this one.

  69. Monty, if we are so inclusive, wealthy, free, and secure, why does everyone feel excluded, poor, trapped and afraid?
    Buh? “Everyone” encompasses…well, everyone, and “everyone” most assuredly does not agree with your assessment. Nearly everyone I know (of whatever political stripe) is pretty satisfied, overall. They’re a little cheesed about the high price of gas, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from going on road trips to grandma’s or on weekend jaunts to the camping site.

    Maybe you feel like that, but you’ve got a massive case of projection going on if you think everyone feels like you do.

    Now if everyone you know feels like that, maybe you need to make some new friends, n’est ce pas?

    Free? There are more people in prision in America than any other nation on Earth.

    Per capita, there are more people jailed in Britain than here. And like I said, you are free to do stupid things…and if that stupid thing happens to be against the law, you’ll go to jail. If you don’t want to be incarcerated, don’t commit crimes. It’s not terribly difficult to work out the logic chain there.

    As for security, how many large-scale attacks have we undergone since 9/11? Zero. The “progressives” want everyone to think that this is because there are no enemies, but I think rational people know better. We haven’t been attacked since because we went on the offensive and kicked the shit out of the people who were trying to do us harm. You may hear a lot of vitriol about America being broadcast from the Muslim nations these days, but you don’t hear the “Americans are weaklings” B.S. being bruited about any more. They’ve experienced the Army and Marines first-hand. If they’re your friends, Americans are as kind and generous as you could want. If they are enemies, Americans are scary hard-asses with guns.

    How many potential future enemies now lie dead on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan? Given the magnitude of the problem, I think we’ve done pretty well in balancing the freedom-vs-security scale (far more so than Britain has, in my view).

    Peace is not an absence of war. Peace is an absence of threat, which is probably unattainable in the modern world. Maintaining security means being willing to enforce our will by force of arms if necessary. If it’s going to be “us or them”, I choose “us” — no contest. I’d rather it be “us and them”, but that’s their choice to make.

  70. Ken,

    Ah yes, the “UR DOING IT WRONG” argument. If a system doesn’t work it must be because the way you implemented it is flawed. A lot of adherents to absolutist mindsets tend to fall into this trap when confronted with the failures of their pet system: Scientology and Extreme Programming being prominent examples outside politics.

  71. >If you don’t want to be incarcerated, don’t commit crimes.

    Monty, I strongly agree with almost all of your post, but I just as strongly disagree with you on this one point. You can be thrown in jail in the U.S. for a lot of things that shouldn’t be crimes. Taking a relatively harmless drug like marijuana, say, when our society cheerfully embraces far nastier ones like alcohol and nicotine. Or carrying a concealed weapon without a government-issued permit, almost anywhere except Vermont.

    As long as these perversions of justice remain in place “If you don’t want to be incarcerated, don’t commit crimes.” is a glib and insufficient rejoinder.

  72. Monty:

    “Per capita, there are more people jailed in Britain than here.”

    Wrong. With 751 inmates per 100,000 population, the United States has the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. England and Wales come in at 152 inmates per 100,000, with Scotland slightly less at 145. Source.

  73. As long as these perversions of justice remain in place “If you don’t want to be incarcerated, don’t commit crimes.” is a glib and insufficient rejoinder.

    I don’t think so. If you don’t like the law, then get it changed. You can’t simply choose to disobey the ones you don’t like, because then what will you say to the guy who rapes a woman and says that she was asking for it? I agree that the “War on Drugs” is a hideous waste (God, I could go on and on about it), but if we are to be a nation of laws, then laws have to be respected (if not agreed with).

    This is where libertarians and I break ranks as a rule. I may agree that most drug laws are stupid and useless, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to go out and flout them. I’d fully expect to be fined or go to jail if I grew weed in my backyard, even if I think that weed is pretty harmless. I know it’s illegal; if I grew it anyway, then I’m accepting the risk of incarceration for my actions.

    This is one area where politics is vitally important — especially local politics. If you don’t like certain ordinances or laws, get them changed. If you break the law and get busted for it, you won’t get much pity from me.

  74. Eric, 100% agreed on marijuana. The legalization of hemp should be front and center in the minds of any politician worth paying attention to: not only does it produce a relatively harmless buzz but it is also more rich in omega-3 fatty acids than any other plant, and makes for a more efficient (higher EROEI) fuel source than any other fuel crop. When you stop to think that Brazil managed to become energy-independent with their vast sugarcane fields, think what hemp crops could do for our foreign energy policy (and correspondingly, our struggle with terrorism).

    As it is, only the librul states (where stoners congregate anyway) are seriously looking at cannabis legalization for certain purposes and AFAIK only California has the stones to confront the Feds about it.

  75. Jeff,

    I’ll have to take your word on it. Maybe I was thinking of local crime-rates (London vs. New York) or something like that. Or hell, maybe I was imagining it, but I could swear that I read a crime-statistic in the last few years that said Great Britain’s incarceration rate, per capita, had exceeded that of the U.S. I’ll have to find it.

  76. By the way, a recent discovery of mine is that cannabis criminalization is largely racial in origin, marijuana being associated with black jazz clubs and Mexican immigrants and thus considered a deleterious influence on white-bread society.

    Taking into account this history, and the modern statistical phenomenon of who is being caught by the prison-industrial complex, one can only conclude that the War on Drugs is but a new chapter in America’s dirty racial history, and that we won’t be entering a “post-racial period” any time soon unless these issues are confronted.

  77. >the War on Drugs is but a new chapter in America’s dirty racial history, and that we won’t be entering a “post-racial period” any time soon unless these issues are confronted.

    Quite right.

    >I may agree that most drug laws are stupid and useless, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to go out and flout them.

    Not OK? Not only is it OK to flout unjust laws, it is the actual positive duty of a U.S. citizen to flout them. No, this is not a modern libertarian position; the founders of our country believed and said it, and it is well embedded in Anglo-American common law.

  78. Just FYI, the claim that the Taliban were identical to the anti-Soviet mujahedeen is a lie. The US helped the two mujahedeen groups in Afghanistan, one of them pro-Western, headed by Ahmed Shah Massoud, and one pro-Iran, headed by Gulb uddin Hekmatyar. After the USSR withdrew, the two rival groups converged on Kabul, and Massoud allowed amnesty to the Communist government there in return for its surrender. Once he took the city, Hekmatyar’s forces shelled it and civil war broke out.

    The Taliban didn’t even arrive on the scene until 1994, when they took Kandahar. This had nothing to do with Communism, and everything to do with the common practice there of pederasty. Nevertheless, they quickly gained support from a population weary with the civil war between the rival mujahedeen, and managed to get support enough to take Kabul and most of the country.

    The part NOT held by the Taliban was held by the Northern Alliance, which was led by Massoud himself and mostly consisted of his old comrades in arms. Notably, he was ASSASSINATED by al-Qaeda (allies of the Taliban) on September 9, 2001, who anticipated the coming US attack and wanted to weaken its presumed allies.

    Now granted, Hekmatyar became a cobelligerent against the US after the US invasion, but he still is not equivalent to the Taliban.

    You would be far more accurate to say, “The US aided freedom fighters to overthrow the Soviet puppet government in Afghanistan, and having foolishly abandoned the country, later returned to aid those same freedom fighters to overthrow the Taliban.” Not completely accurate, since “freedom fighters” is pretty much a relative term here, and because the Northern Alliance was not 100% commensurate with the Massoud faction (or for that matter with the present Afghan government), but considerably more accurate than the claim that the Afghan peasants who had such an irrational reaction to the Soviets planting land mines in their kids’ toys were just a bunch of religious fundies who deserved to die.

  79. > Or carrying a concealed weapon without a government-issued permit, almost anywhere except Vermont.

    Vermont and Alaska. Alaska issues permits but doesn’t require you to have one. The reason they bother is because of reciprocity agreements between CCW states: permits issued by one state are recognized by all other states that issue permits. Vermont citizens have the problem that although they’re free to carry a concealed weapon within the state, they have no means of obtaining permission to carry while traveling in other CCW states. Alaska gives you the best of both worlds: you don’t need a permit within the state, but you can get one in order to be able travel.

  80. I’m inclined to agree that we should legalize marijuana (although frankly that would be around #342 on my “To Do” list) and that it’s justifiable to disobey unjust laws. Having said that, I don’t see the fact that racist arguments were used, many decades ago, to justify illegalizing pot is a serious reason for legalizing it now. Race has often been used as a red herring to pass legislation. The important question isn’t “what was in the mind of those who passed this legislation,” but rather, “is this legislation just here and now?” To which I’d tend to say no, at least not if pot is a felony.

  81. > although frankly that would be around #342 on my “To Do” list

    It’s pretty close to the top of mine. It isn’t nearly the country’s worst issue, but it’s one that’s really easy to fix. Most libertarian reforms require a painful transition, e.g. the social security program never should have existed, but once it’s established it’s hard to get rid of. You can undo unjust drug laws overnight: repeal the law, free the prisoners, and the rest takes care of itself.

  82. “Do you know who funded the Afghan reaction to the Russian occupation? WE DID!!”

    Ian, I am very, very familiar with the details of the Afghan resistance to the Russian occupation. Long before the Americans got involved in any significant way, the Afghans (not just a small faction of them based in Pakistan) were violently resisting. Captured Russian soldiers were not just killed, they were tortured, often by skinning them alive and sexually abusing them. Also, it was not just a small faction of Afghans living in the remote, mountainous regions that hated the Russians, it was most of the population. Russians were forced to clear and demolish huge tracts of land on either side of most of the main roads in the central plains regions in order to deter rebel groups from ambushing them along the main routes leading to the biggest cities. If Russians even suspected a small town or village was simply hiding rebels, they would often send a couple of Hind Helos to wipe the entire village out, men, women and children. Even a cursory study of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan would reveal huge and obvious differences between Afghan reactions then, and now. The American/NATO occupation of Afghanistan may be the first occupation of that land ever which did not incur the intense hostility of a majority of the population.

    By the way, we were absolutely right in support the Afghan rebels against the Russians. What became the Taliban was only one faction of the many factions that were receiving weapons and medical supplies in Afghanistan, through Pakistan (see Ken’s post above).

  83. Also, notwistanding the number of our troops that died in Afghanistan last month, the general reaction of the Afghan population has been much more positive to the current NATO/US occupation than to other occupations. The increase you speak of has more to do with Al Qaeda dramatically increasing is presence and focus in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result of it’s failure in Iraq and not a shift in attitude of the general population. Al Qaeda has even said they are shifting their focus to Afghanistan. Consequently, terrorist funding that used to poor into Iraq is now being redirected to Afghanistan.

  84. pmw2cc Says: “Orwell wrote a fantastic article about Patriotism and Nationalism (available at http://www.george-orwell.org/Notes_on_Nationalism/0.html). It was written write after WWII and yet it’s descriptions of observations are frighteningly close to what we see today”

    I was going to post almost exactly the same thing. Everyone should read the essay. It’s so relevant that with very few changes, you’d think it was written yesterday.

    (G.K. Chesterton also wrote something in this vein that I once came across, but I can’t remember the reference.)

    The Orwell essay gave me one of my favorite quotes: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” Hello, Ian!

  85. “Not OK? Not only is it OK to flout unjust laws, it is the actual positive duty of a U.S. citizen to flout them. No, this is not a modern libertarian position; the founders of our country believed and said it, and it is well embedded in Anglo-American common law.”
    ____________________________

    Of course, the Founding Fathers’ definition of an unjust law was one imposed without Representation, rather than simply being stupid. Unless one is prepared to say that all of our drug laws were improperly imposed by a tyrannical government, then they are not unjust. As things stand now, our drug laws, though possibly unwise, are the will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives. Your personal disagreement with them does not make them unjust.

    Besides, once all the drug laws are repealed, we’ll need just as many more. Who decides which drugs we’ll allow and which we won’t? Do you want them sold to kids or limit to 21 and older? You want them taxed? Licensed? Employers still be able to make taking drugs an impediment to hiring. One will assume you’re down with that.

    Will we be allowed to abandon any mindblown addict to his or her fate or will we still be expected to pick up the tab when they blow a fuse?

    And here’s a prediction: Make drugs safe and legal and it will only be about five minutes before somebody claims that Big Pharma is manipulating the market to keep minorities hooked and paying. And sues over it.

    Yes, many of our drug laws might be stupid. If you think so, get the laws legally repealed – if you can. But don’t think for a minute you’ll get rid of all of them.

  86. >Besides, once all the drug laws are repealed, we’ll need just as many more. Who decides which drugs we’ll allow and which we won’t?

    Drug policy is off-topic for this thread. It was on-topic only insofar as jailing people for smoking or dealing pot is a clear example of an unjust law. It is a clear example because the law ignores the use of far more dangerous and addictive drugs; we don’t need to get into the general ethico-legal discussion of drug laws to know that.

    My choice would be to repeal all the drug laws and allow the addicts to go to hell in their own way. But that discussion is closed for now, though I may reopen it with a post on drug policy.

  87. >Your personal disagreement with them does not make [the drug laws] unjust.

    This, on the other hand, is on topic.

    My personal disagreement is not at issue here; I don’t use drugs (not marijuana, not alcohol, not nicotine, and even my intake of caffeine is very light). My issue is one of principle; controlling what adults put in their bodies is not compatible with the principles of liberty on which the U.S. was founded. That, not my nonexistent personal stake in the matter, is what makes those laws unjust.

  88. I will agree with esr this far: we have too many laws. We have a ridiculous number of laws on the books; it is entirely possible to break the law on accident in many jurisdictions. You can actually break the law by doing nothing at all in certain cases. I’ve often thought that the U. S. criminal code should be a book about the thickness of a Superman comic-book. It should cover two main areas: crimes against persons, and crimes against privately-owned property. The “scope creep” of criminal law is pernicious, and undermines essential liberties in ways both obvious and not so obvious.

    We’ve gotten to the point as a nation were our first impulse to solve a problem is to pass legislation. This is almost always a bad idea (just ask McCain how he feels about McCain/Feingold now). Sometimes the best course of action is just to leave things alone and let the market/mother nature work things out.

  89. Points taken, esr.

    However, my point was that the laws are not unjust in the way that the Founding Fathers considered things. Therefore, while we might want to repeal them, we should not flout them.

    That point relates tangentially to the original topic of patriotism, I think, with only a few twists and turns.

    But mileage may differ, so I defer to Man Behind the Curtain.

  90. >However, my point was that the [drug] laws are not unjust in the way that the Founding Fathers considered things

    You seem to be implicitly positing that lack of representation is the only grounds on which the English republican tradition could deem a law unjust. This is wrong. As far back as the revolution of 1688s the philosophical antecedents of the Founding Fathers recognized at least two other categories of law that were unjust even if settled on by legitimate authority:

    (1) Laws enforced in an arbitrary, cruel, and capricious manner

    (2) Laws which infriinged on certain ancient rights of Englishmen, including the right to be secure against invasion of his home, the right not to be subject to arbitrary seizure of his property, and the right to bear arms in self-defense.

    If this language seems familiar, it is because the Bill of Rights was written within this English republican tradition and continuous with it.

    The application: A body of drug laws which jails people for using or dealing pot (and often gives them stiffer sentences than violent felons!) while ignoring the use of much more destructive and toxic drugs, is certainly arbitrary, cruel, and capricious. Thus, in the philosophical framework of Founders, it could not be just even if the enactment of the law followed legal form, with representation, and the intentions of the lawmakers were conceded to lack malice or partiality.

  91. Let’s go down an entirely different route: right-wing Chomskyism, aka Buchananism. What causes it, and what are its similarities and differences from the left-wing version?

    A lot of it, in my opinion is caused by the unholy marriage of old-fashioned Southern conservatism and radical anti-American Rothbard libertarianism. Many Southerners had a chip on their shoulder, and after the end of the Cold War really wanted out of the mainstream of the Republican Party. There were some legitimate reasons for this: it was becoming fashionable again to Nazify the American South, and the first Bush administration’s stance on immigration made Bush II seem like a Know-Nothing. Furthermore, conservatism had in the past been protectionist, so it isn’t surprising that Buchanan and others jumped off the Free Trade Express once the Cold War ended.

    Nevertheless, I believe that the Lew Rockwell crowd really stirred the pot here. Lew Rockwell is the political heir to Murray Rothbard. To give a certain feel for the general vileness of Rothbard, he stated once in the late Seventies that the USSR was the main hope for freedom in the world, and that the US was the primary threat to it. Both Rothbard and Rockwell have consistently bashed Lincoln and the Northern conflict in the Civil War. And they have used dishonest rhetorical tactics to do so: not only have they consistently said that it wasn’t about slavery and besides you guys did it too so ha ha we win the argument; but Rockwell has gone so far as to make a pseudolibertarian argument that slavery would be OK provided it were with the approval of the slave in a contract, never mind that this evil little man knows full well that this has about as much similarity to the antebellum “peculiar institution” as the Mennonites do to Josef Stalin! Note that both men come from the Northeast, and therefore have no blood ties to the Confederate States of America; rather, they are deliberately playing to a particular crowd of right-wing intellectuals in order to get support for a Bolshevik-like revolution for their own weird brand of libertarianism.

    And, at least in some circles, it seems to have worked. Joseph Sobran, once a writer for the NATIONAL REVIEW, had by 2001 gone so much in the anti-American direction of Rockwell’s that he actually defended Osama bin Laden. He used a remarkably flawed argument to do so: he derided those who attacked bin Laden as “medievalist” by basically stating that anyone sophisticated enough to know philosophy, like him, knows full well that it’s a logical fallacy to assume any idea no longer popular is wrong. As if anybody in his right mind thought that we had nothing more against bin Laden than being an old fogey!!!!!

  92. >Nevertheless, I believe that the Lew Rockwell crowd really stirred the pot here,

    I think this is a fair diagnosis of some of the recent currents in right-wing chomskyism (Lew Rockwell is indeed among the scum of the earth), but I actually had in mind an older version that traces back to Dixiecrats and the Southern Agrarians; that’s where Buchanan comes from, philosophically.

    Also, be careful about describing Rothbard as a libertarian; he was one at one time, but dropped both the label and the core beliefs around the same time he was morphing into a weird anti-American nutcase.

    Libertarians themselves are not very prone to chomskyism – you could probably find one with the disease if you looked hard enough, but I’ve never met one. American libertarians view themselves as the inheritors of the republican/constitutionalist/classical-liberal tradition on which the U.S. was founded, so even the most extreme anarchists among them (like, er, myself) have a strong sentimental attachment to the actual existing U.S. of actual history.

  93. But the only grounds that can be proven unequivocably and agreed to almost unanimously is Representation or, rather, the lack thereof. Under those other criteria, the nature of a thing becomes quite a bit more subjective. A substantial number of people, perhaps even a majority, might argue that the drug laws are no more arbitrary or capricious than gun control laws, or liquour laws, or laws related to sexual behavior.

    Flouting the law is a much stronger statement of opposition than simply withholding one’s patriotic feelings. IIRC, President Washington reacted somewhat strongly to some farmers flouting a certain tax on whiskey. He apparently disagreed with them that the law was either arbitrary, capricious, or an infringement on ancient rights. His Administration labeled their flouting treason and repaid it with the rope, firing squad, and imprisonment.

    Thus we come to the crux of the matter. Unless one is a “shopping cart” patriot, one must take the country, warts and all. That includes obeying legally formulated laws regardless of one’s opinion about them. If the laws in question are so burdensome they become intolerable, then disassociation or rebellion might be required. Otherwise, so long as one choses to remain a citizen, conforming to the nation’s laws is a minimum requirement.

    That’s my opinion, anyway. Others may believe and do as they wish.

  94. Ken, please don’t confound Rothbard with the various rabble that Rockwell permits onto his website. I’ve yet to read anything written by Rockwell himself that was anything but calm and measured, but the man has serious deficiencies in exercising editorial control. Yes, this does and should reflect poorly on Rockwell himself, but going on to assign second-order guilt-by-association to Rothbard is taking it a bit far.

    I suggest you provide a citation and context for the bit about Rothbard and the USSR. Your paraphrasal is utterly at odds with everything else I can tell you about the man. WRT to Lincoln, however, he did indeed bash him harshly, frequently, and for good reasons. I think you’re falling victim to the usual American neurosis of insisting that the War of Southern Secession* was a battle between good and evil. Like most other wars, this one didn’t really have any good guys. The harm that Lincoln did to the constitution, however, bears far more significance in 2008 than the harm of letting slavery go on for the 20-or-so more years that it would have before industrialization rendered it obsolete.

    *I prefer this term because it’s more accurate than Civil War, more descriptive than War Between the States, and less whiney than War of Northern Aggression.

  95. I found the quote from Rothbard. I had thought it was from an article by NATIONAL REVIEW, reprinted in freerepublic.com many years later, but as it turns out the quote is from a much less reliable source, Dr. Jack Wheeler. The same man who says that John McCain lived in an apartment in Hanoi and is being blackmailed by Hillary Clinton. So I’m going to have to apologize and disown the quote, unless someone can show me the original magazine.

    Nevertheless, if you Google “murray rothbard”+ussr, you will find plenty of evidence as to which side he favored in the Cold War.

    As far as the Civil War goes, note that, earlier in that post, I criticized the Nazifying of the South. That doesn’t change that I think the victory of the North was essential here. I think that the South would have become a far worse place than the post-Reconstructionist, segregationist postbellum South, let alone the great place it is today. And I honestly can’t see even a rump USA lasting long after a defeat like that. More likely it would have been something along the lines of Latin America, with many rival strongmen constantly fighting over a vast area. However, I do understand the pride in a people who put up as good a fight as they did against a numerically superior opponent, so I have no desire to send someone who names his son Robert Lee to sensitivity training.

  96. You religious dumbs think hard about:

    Christianity is not about love for Christ, it is about ten Commandments;

    Which in fact do not invent dominant morality of human being, but merely catch biological reality of human reproduction cycle: same amount of male and female born, and unique long time span for parents to raise their off-springs.

  97. Dean, you said:
    “As I understand it, statistically, if you factor out black people, who commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime, the crime and incarceration rates for the US are about on par with Canada.”

    So now black people are not American? Your statistics will always give you the results you want if you remove the datapoints you don’t like. I don’t see a valid motive to remove black people from that equation, I mean. Even if they have a disproportionate impact on your stats.

  98. >So now black people are not American? Your statistics will always give you the results you want if you remove the datapoints you don’t like. I don’t see a valid motive to remove black people from that equation, I mean. Even if they have a disproportionate impact on your stats.

    Fair cop, Dean. Adriano is right on this; I was ready to call you on it myself.

  99. At its best (a best which Americans achieve rather more often than most non-Americans understand) it manifests as a high-minded determination to secure the blessings of liberty not just for tribal Americans but for every human being.

    Do the non-Americans get a say in this, or in the methods you use to “secure the blessings of liberty” for them? Also, while securing the blessings of liberty for every human being is a high-minded and admirable aim, it would be a lot easier for the rest of us to believe you if your governments didn’t have such a bad record of knocking over democratically-elected governments when it suits your commercial interests.

  100. >Do the non-Americans get a say in this, or in the methods you use to “secure the blessings of liberty” for them?

    Miles, I’m reporting what Americans in general believe should be. What our government gets up is, too often, something else. You don’t have to persuade me that governments are prone to behave like criminal gangs; I’m an anarchist, remember?

  101. >Fair cop, Dean. Adriano is right on this

    It is my understanding that the black population of Canada is much smaller than that of the US. If the US crime and incarceration rates are higher than Canada’s, and most of the difference can be attributed to the disproportionate per capita criminality of American blacks (who have no Canadian counterpart) then the US cannot be faulted for having a uniquely problematic criminal justice system. Canada might have the same issues if it had the same demographics.

    >I don’t see a valid motive to remove black people from that equation

    Facts are best judged on their own merits (Is it TRUE or not?), rather than the motives of the speaker. Creating socially unacceptable truths (You are a BAD PERSON for saying that!) always leads to disaster sooner or later.

  102. “Do the non-Americans get a say in this, or in the methods you use to “secure the blessings of liberty” for them? Also, while securing the blessings of liberty for every human being is a high-minded and admirable aim, it would be a lot easier for the rest of us to believe you if your governments didn’t have such a bad record of knocking over democratically-elected governments when it suits your commercial interests.”
    _____________________________

    Our revolutionary ideology is simple:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    It does not say all Americans, it says all men. Thus, it is a statement with universal implications.

    That is not to say that the United States must bend every effort in achieving this ideology. Nothing in the subsequent Constitution compels us to do so. Most times, we’d prefer you secure your own liberty.

    Also, like every other nation, the United States also has specific national interests, the securing of which sometimes conflicts with our ideology. That doesn’t mean we have rejected the ideology. It simply means that our ideology of universal freedom is the default position, the one towards which we strive when conditions and circumstances permit. It means that once we are involved, our official policy is going to be in keeping with that ideology, even if we can’t actually fulfill it.

    Call us hypocrites, if you like, but neither the Declaration nor the Constitution are suicide pacts. We will continue to both believe in our ideology and continue to pursue our national interests.

    Critics of American foreign policy should be a tleast a little grateful we continue to believe in our ideology. Imagine what incalculable harm a country with our power might do if we believed otherwise.

  103. “I’m an anarchist, remember?”
    _______________

    Wow. That makes me motivated to read some of your archival stuff.

  104. >It does not say all Americans, it says all men. Thus, it is a statement with universal implications.

    Miles, Mike S. is correct in everything he says in that post. You really cannot understand American patriotism until you grasp the implications of all this.

  105. > It is my understanding that the black population of Canada is much smaller than that of the US. If the US crime and incarceration rates
    > are higher than Canada’s, and most of the difference can be attributed to the disproportionate per capita criminality of American
    > blacks (who have no Canadian counterpart) then the US cannot be faulted for having a uniquely problematic criminal justice system.
    > Canada might have the same issues if it had the same demographics.

    >>I don’t see a valid motive to remove black people from that equation

    > Facts are best judged on their own merits (Is it TRUE or not?), rather than the motives of the speaker. Creating socially unacceptable
    > truths (You are a BAD PERSON for saying that!) always leads to disaster sooner or later.”

    Dean:
    Notice I didn’t argue about the moral or ethical implication of “most criminals in America are black people” (they might be, I don’t know), but with “Black people shouldn’t be considered as American as the rest of us”, which is apparent in your post.
    Otherwise, it’s surprising that you consider a string of ifs as fact. Perhaps because you think of the subject as obvious? America might not have a more problematic justice system (I don’t know). What it does have are more criminals, whatever their colour. Other countries might have the same problems, or they might not. That’s no fact.

  106. Oops, looks like I forgot Rule 1 of Arguing with Libertarians: never use the word “government”, or they’ll treat it as a get-out-of-jail-free card :-). Eric, I understand that you’re explaining what Americans believe: I’m trying to explain how it looks from the outside. And, well, you guys keep voting for these people…

    Mike S: let’s try again (though if you could explain how a single item on the list I linked to is remotely compatible with bringing liberty to all men, I’d be very grateful). As is probably obvious, I’m a Brit. I love my country, and would point to (off the top of my head and in no particular order) the jet engine, the World Wide Web, parliamentary democracy, Magna Carta, the plays of Shakespeare, the music of Led Zeppelin, the comedy of Monty Python or the Blackadder team, the universal Turing machine, calculus, Boolean logic, the theory of natural selection, vaccination, and an endless variety of other things as examples of Good Things (there’s another – the Winnie the Pooh books and 1066 and all that) that my countrymen and -women have given the world. Given half a chance, I could wax rhapsodic about the beauty of Cornwall, the Scottish Highlands, Oxford, Edinburgh, the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District, or any number of other places. I could cite Agincourt, the Battle of Britain, the Malayan Emergency, Waterloo, Blenheim or Trafalgar as episodes in our military history of which we can be proud. I’m proud of We’re not afraid, though to be honest I’m prouder of b3ta.

    It’s for precisely this reason that I feel such shame when I think of the way we put down the Mau Mau rebellion in the 50s, the atrocities that were committed in the invasion of Sri Lanka (and in many other places as we built the empire on which the sun didn’t set), our arms sales to repressive regimes, and every lapse in standards by our Armed Forces or our security services. It’s for just this reason that I’m as angry as I am with Blair and Brown, who gutted civil liberties that took generations to win (and with the opposition parties, for not stopping them). We’re supposed to be better than this. I get pissed off when my country fails to live up to my standards, and that makes me determined to fix it. I can’t do anything about the bloodstained history, but I do what I can to improve matters in the present.

    It’s nice to remind yourself of the good things every so often, but it isn’t as important. It’s easy to remember successes, and uncomfortable to think about failures, but it’s only if you remember your (or your country’s) failings that you’re able to do anything about them – or to begin to understand why people might not like you. Patriotism that sees a failure and makes excuses isn’t worth spit.

  107. >Patriotism that sees a failure and makes excuses isn’t worth spit.

    Equally and oppositely, chomskyism that sees success and doesn’t celebrate it isn’t worth spit.

  108. “It’s easy to remember successes, and uncomfortable to think about failures, but it’s only if you remember your (or your country’s) failings that you’re able to do anything about them – or to begin to understand why people might not like you. Patriotism that sees a failure and makes excuses isn’t worth spit.”
    ________________________

    Well, Miles, I didn’t attempt to catalogue any successess, though I suppose I could have done so. For that matter, it sounds as if it might be beneficial to list a few British successes, as well. Certainly, there have been some. For example, I note that, generally speaking, those bits of the Third World which have most to be proud of all had their turn as British possessions. You Brits must have done something right. For that matter, those of your countrymen who haven’t taken up navel-gazing as a hobby still do quite a lot of good.

    Having first taken the oath to protect and defend the Constitution some 39 years ago, I believe I’m able to recognize failures and remain willing to my part to forthrightly deal with them. But, just as other career military types have learned, I’ve noticed that those singularly focused on what we’ve done wrong usually turn out to be most consistently uninvolved in sorting things out, except as observers. Present company excepted, I trust.

    In any case, I certainly didn’t claim that belief in a revolutionary ideology is a guarantee against error. Like all things fashioned by Man, the United States will never be able to claim perfection, just as England never could. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best. Please rest assured that we Americans will endeavor to uphold the ideals of our Revolution when and where we can, all the while praying to God that He guide our hands and check our hubris.

  109. esr, I read your testament about government, in which you wrote:

    “I am left with the bleak conclusion that no attempt to hold the arrogance of government in check will work — because a majority of the people themselves are too easily seduced into abandoning their own institutional protections against tyranny by the false promises and poisonous dreams of statist propaganda.

    That is why I am an anarchist.”

    _________________________

    Pretty bleak. However, I pretty much doubt anarchy is much of an alternative. Bakunin and his buddies were full of hooey. One might do as well believing in the Divine Right of kings.

    It might be true that Mankind is a nasty piece work, forever doomed to muck things up. But I don’t see much choice but to play the hands we’re dealt.

    Me, I’d rather keep a little optimism. It aids the digestion. And there’s always the chance that I’ll catch that flush on the river.

    Cheers.

  110. Libertarians themselves are not very prone to chomskyism

    I’ve been an LP member for a quarter century, but gradually ended active involvement after 9/11. I got tired of hearing all the “blame America first” crap. We had one state board member here in Colorado who organized a 9/11 Truther conference, and several who essentially argued that we had it coming. Sounded like Ward Churchill at times, and I think chomskyism fits them (great neologism!).

    BTW, your trackback link (http://esr.ibiblio.org/wp-trackback.php?p=311) doesn’t seem to work:

    Precondition Failed

    The precondition on the request for the URL /wp-trackback.php evaluated to false.
    Apache/2 Server at esr.ibiblio.org Port 80

  111. >But I don’t see much choice but to play the hands we’re dealt.

    Er…I rather thought that was my point. But general discussion of or advocacy for anarchism is not on-topic for this thread, so I won’t pursue this right now,

  112. >I got tired of hearing all the “blame America first” crap.

    I guess our samples are different; I haven’t had much to do with LP members.

    >BTW, your trackback link (http://esr.ibiblio.org/wp-trackback.php?p=311) doesn’t seem to work:

    WordPress bug of some sort,, I think. I’m getting a similar precondition failure when I try to do a deletion on a search-filtered comment list. The #wordpress channel has not been helpful.

  113. esr: I’m an anarchist, remember?

    But… if you’re an anarchist, shouldn’t you be a bit more skeptical of your government’s pronouncements of its good intentions, its assurance that it would never torture people, or disappear them indefinitely, and anyway, if it did, they’d definitely be bad people, and no mushy legal proceedings are necessary to make sure the government isn’t, y’know, lying?

    You advocate all sorts of massive government intervention, but when it’s pointed out that the US doesn’t have a very good track record of supporting all that liberty that the flyer advertises, and is, in fact, frequently monstrous, you fall back to claiming you’re an anarchist–an anarchist who credulously believes the most ridiculous assertions issuing forth from the halls of government, claiming that they do no wrong, that they can do no wrong when they’re spreading terror on your behalf.

    You think that patriotism here isn’t fetishistic tribalism? You were away from blogging when this came out, in an effort to point out that we used to know what torture was, and we used to be against it. Self-described patriots such as yourself call it “hyperventilation and hysteria”, “a very loose and probably invalid definition”, simply “rough treatment”. This is usually followed by a catalog of the horrors visited by some enemy, the apparent moral being that they’re not using the Pear of Anguish, therefore no one should complain. You have clearly separate standards for us and them; this is the very definition of tribalism.

    Perhaps worse than unthinking tribalism is unthinking tribalism which parades around with a fig leaf of “where liberty dwells”. Your fantasies have only the most tenuous relationship with reality; they let you absolve yourself of the crimes you advocate, and they blind you to facts which would be obvious if you didn’t have such a vested interest in not seeing them.

  114. >You advocate all sorts of massive government intervention

    No. Admitting that the Afghani and Iraq wars were a better idea than not fighting them doesn’t make this nut, and you won’t find efforts to support the more general claim in anything I have written.

    And what the heck makes you think I trust my government’s claims about its intentions, anyway? I look at the results — results like Iraqis no longer being fed feet-first into industrial chip shredders.

    Beware of pointing out the U.S.’s poor track record; that’s actually a brief for much more active overseas meddling than we’ve done in the past.

  115. @esr

    This is a fascinating insight. _Please do_ continue, as I would love to read your future post(s) on this topic.

    Like you, I am also libertarian, but wouldn’t go so far as to describe myself as an anarchist. My thought is that the problem with patriotism is the fact that people have, en masse, confused it with unconditional and unquestioning loyalty to one’s government, rather than to our Constitution as was intended. In fact, in the years following the Sept. 11th attacks, I have even refused (practically boycotted) usage of the word itself because of people’s violent reactions toward my “unpatriotic” and “anti-American” opinions on how stupid it is to blindly follow one’s government as they were doing.

    (I think it’s true that violence strongly correlates with stupidity… but I digress.)

    The patriotism of dissent was, of course, what I spoke of, but I’ve come to the grim realization that people are generally too stupid to understand such an idea. (Though, if they can’t even hold a civil argument without becoming violent, what was I expecting?) While it’s true that I was in high school when all of this happened, I have no reason to believe that very many people really “become” less stupid after that, or that there are an overwhelming number of adults who are really that much wiser than high school students…

  116. I think the stance of “patriotism by dissent”, and interpreting it as being patriotic for what America might be, misses the point of what it’s intention actually is, and certainly how most liberals probably take it as.

    I think “patriotisim by dissent” is more patriotic about what Americ is, right now, as defined in the Constitution, Delcaration of Independence, and the general values of our nation and culture. In other words, you are being patriotic simply by expressing your freedom of speech and demanding your individual liberty, and you’re patriotic right now, because those ideals are very much of a part of our nation and culture, right now. In other words, you’re patriotic because you are appreciative of the freedom and liberty that are a part of this nation, which gives you the ability to express dissent, and in so doing try to continually improve the country. It has nothing to do with what it might become (although that is a nice byproduct).

    In short, “patriotism by dissent” comes out of appreciation of freedom and liberty that the nation gives you, right now.

    Now, wearing an American flag label pin is a nice, superficial, way of showing one’s patriotism. But expressing one’s freedom and liberty (which sometimes involves dissent) is a more deep and meaningful way of expressing one’s patriotism.

    That said, liberals should simply be bigger flag wavers, for their own good. That way they can placate the sensibilities of non-thinking conservatives and blind tribal patiots.

  117. jas, indeed. When the present administration is violating and rendering utterly meaningless the Constitution upon which all American patriotism hinges, patriotism by dissent becomes the only viable patriotism. Supporting the administration and all its illegal activity is anti-patriotism under those terms.

  118. Jeff,
    Sounds like you need to get involved in your local politics.
    Or you could go to Iraq and help secure those elections like I did.
    it comes down to this, ‘what are you doing to make it better? ‘ I wonder.

    By the way, Go read the constitution, then recite some more platitudes about GWB.
    Get a new script. Just because you say it doesnt make it so.

    Or grab a weapon and stand a post. Put up or shut up.

    Patriotism by dissent is a hallowed privilige that was secured by our patriots with their ideas, blood, sweat and tears.
    Today though, most dissenters are risking anything except maybe missing their next starbucks fix when they dissent. Its great to dissent, but just bashing POTUS is ridiculous.
    Dissent is fine, but once the country, (i.e. Congress, POTUS, or the USC ) has made a decision, then suck it up and get behind the country no matter your personal opinion.

  119. >Patriotism by dissent is a hallowed privilige

    No, dissent is a right, not a privilege granted by the state or anyone alse. I agree with you that all too many of today’s dissenters are whining children, but don’t go overboard. You can nail them for their irresponsibility and I’ll be right with you, but don’t go overboard.

  120. That the Japanese performed waterboarding on “enemy combatants” didn’t stop us from prosecuting them successfully for war crimes.

    I see no reason why Americans should not be held to the same standard.

    Really, Eric, positions like yours give credence to people like Howard Zinn. Ammo, as it were, for your Soviet-zombified opponents.

  121. >That the Japanese performed waterboarding on “enemy combatants” didn’t stop us from prosecuting them successfully for war crimes.

    No, it didn’t — because what the Japanese were prosecuted for were rape, massacre, and real torture – the kind that leaves people scarred and mutilated. Even the most hysterical and false accusations against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t come within light-years of the things the Japanese did routinely.

    I’d be quite happy to see the press hold Americans to the same standards as the Japanese. I’d like to see see the press hold our terrorist enemies to the same standards as the Japanese, too. I don’t think either will ever happen, because honesty on this score would be too damaging to the MSM’s political objectives.

  122. Nice try, Eric, but you didn’t dodge this bullet. (Must be Angelina Jolie and her curved trajectories.)

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201170.html

    After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: “I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure.” He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. “Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning,” he replied, “just gasping between life and death.”

    Nielsen’s experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan’s military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.

    This in no way diminishes from the other horrible things that the Japanese did, but it does establish that waterboarding is torture and a war crime under international law. “But those guys over there are/were much worse” does not excuse the commission of war crimes by the Bush administration.

  123. >The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.

    Very clever, because there is probably a strained reading of the facts under which this is literally true. But the allies hung half of the War Ministry for things like wholesale abuse and starvation of POWs and indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, or at least that’s what the history books told me. The waterboarding charges can at best have been a minor grace-note in that symphony of horror, resurrected now and represented by partisan hacks as though they alone justified or motivated the entire proceedings.

    And that makes me very, very angry. This kind of slimy, trivializing revisionism is a crime against every prisoner who died on the Bataan Death March and every victim of the Rape of Nanking.

  124. And that makes me very, very angry. This kind of slimy, trivializing revisionism is a crime against every prisoner who died on the Bataan Death March and every victim of the Rape of Nanking.

    How very NABA we are.

    I don’t think anyone here is claiming that the US is exactly as bad as the Imperial Japanese. Note that Jeff Read points out that this “in no way diminishes from the other horrible things that the Japanese did”. Note the last paragraph of the Andrew Sullivan article I linked above:

    Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I’m not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture – “enhanced interrogation techniques” – is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

    One might think you’d save some of that “very, very angry” for the actual torture going on, rather than the apparently unforgivable fact that people keep harshing your patriotic mellow by pointing out facts that you find inconvenient. Why else would you respond with the NABA defense, even though it’s irrelevant? You seem more invested in protecting your warm and fuzzy feelings about your nation than the supposed basis for those feelings. That is tribalism.

    Again: the criticism is not that the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese did these things, therefore they’re bad and America is awful and so on, but rather that when the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese did them, they were universally recognized as bad. Now that our guys are doing it, it’s suddenly a good thing. Things that are bad when others do them are defined as good when we do them. That is tribalism.

  125. The question is, if a few instances water boarding had been the ONLY war crime the Japanese had committed, would we have prosecuted their generals for war crimes? In other words, if they had, generally speaking, treated American prisoners very well, kept them well fed, provided quality medical care; if they had taken pains to prevent civilian casualties (including Jews) and civilian abuse, and if the extent of interrogation techniques had been sleep and food deprivation for short periods along with occasional and very rare water-boarding, would we have prosecuted Japanese and Nazi generals for war crimes?

    Probably not, at least not for abuse of POWs and civilians. In other words, water boarding is not, in my opinion, what initiated war crime proceedings, but rather a bonus penalty, one more thing to lay on the tyrants to make sure the evidence against them was insurmountable. It is like a gang member who is chased, pulled over and arrested after a drive by shooting that killed several people, oh, and lets just add speeding and reckless driving to his record just because he’s scum and we want to put him away for as long as possible.

    With that said, water boarding is wrong and should be stopped and I think it has been. However, the idea that someone should prosecute the President for war crimes is ridiculous. Nobody would have prosecuted Nazis or the Japanese if a few instances of water boarding were all they were guilty of.

  126. *Cough*Abu Ghraib*cough*
    I don’t think that
    a) waterboarding is excusable
    b) sleep and food deprivation are excusable.
    b) it is the only thing the US Army is guilty of.

    I know, let’s each try waterboarding for a few seconds (say, 30) and see if we think it constitutes torture or not. Let’s keep each other forcefully awake and/or starved for a few days, see if we like it.

    It’s “not as bad” as “serious” war crimes, as the article linked by Grendelkhan said. Still, it’s not excusable for a civil nation to do this. The Geneva Convention is there for a reason (to be laughed at?)

    Furthermore, I don’t think it is realistic to even imagine Bush sitting in front of an international judge. After all, the US have always rejected any submission to international courts.
    These things are “just” stuff Americans should be appalled at. Your president saying they’re excusable doubly so.

  127. in the larger & longer scheme of things, i’m afraid i don’t like flags. in humans in groups, they’re a shorthand that’s too easily misdirected to focus on the flag instead of what it stands for; the original intent of the flag habitually gets hijacked. like the bible, like the q’ran, like ANY shibboleth. the map is not the territory.

    guns don’t kill people. flags kill people.

  128. ChrisGreen: The question is, if a few instances water boarding had been the ONLY war crime the Japanese had committed, would we have prosecuted their generals for war crimes?

    I suggest you read the Sullivan piece. The Nazis were fighting a non-uniformed insurgency in territory that they controlled. They empowered their police to use–in extenuating circumstances only, involving imminent terroristic threats–a small set of interrogation techniques like stress positions, sleep deprivation and hitting the prisoners with a stick, but only up to twenty times without a doctor present. The Nazis forbade waterboarding and ice baths, but as these things tend to go, once you cross that first line, it’s difficult to stick to another you might try and pencil in, so that prisoners were shortly thereafter being beaten to death and given ice baths to induce hypothermia.

    The people executed for greenlighting this program weren’t being prosecuted for something worse. These weren’t concentration camp guards or members of Einsatzgruppen. Go ahead and read the proceedings; torturing prisoners–and it was labeled torture–was the charge, and the sentence was death.

    In other words, if they had, generally speaking, treated American prisoners very well, kept them well fed, provided quality medical care; if they had taken pains to prevent civilian casualties (including Jews) and civilian abuse, and if the extent of interrogation techniques had been sleep and food deprivation for short periods along with occasional and very rare water-boarding, would we have prosecuted Japanese and Nazi generals for war crimes?

    The torturers did cite the vast majority of cases where they’d treated prisoners well. ” As extenuating circumstances, Bruns had pleaded various incidents in which he had helped Norwegians, Schubert had pleaded difficulties at home, and Clemens had pointed to several hundred interrogations during which he had treated prisoners humanely.” (I should also add that no prisoners died from the torture, which hasn’t been the case with the American setup.) This appeal was rejected; pointing out all the people they didn’t torture didn’t make them any less of what they were.

    Probably not, at least not for abuse of POWs and civilians. In other words, water boarding is not, in my opinion, what initiated war crime proceedings, but rather a bonus penalty, one more thing to lay on the tyrants to make sure the evidence against them was insurmountable.

    The defendants were also accused of murder for shooting escaping prisoners, but that wasn’t judged to be a war crime. That was the only other item on the docket. Do you have anything to back up your assertion that these guys were really eating puppies, but all the prosecutors could get were some totally innocent “interrogation techniques”?

  129. ‘Do you have anything to back up your assertion that these guys were really eating puppies, but all the prosecutors could get were some totally innocent “interrogation techniques”?’

    What I meant is the at least some Nazis and some Japanese were probably going to be tried for something regardless of whether they had committed war crimes or not. Someone was going to pay for the millions of dead American, French, and British, and Russian casualties.

    However, what the Nazis and Japanese did does not matter. It’s only useful as a political tool. What is important is that the ‘good guys’ don’t torture people, and that includes water boarding. I’m a Christian, and torture is simply not consistent with Christian principles. If I didn’t believe in a higher power and didn’t believe that we, as a people, will somehow be rewarded for being moral and not torturing people (even if its just an internal change, wisdom, enlightenment, love, whatever), I might not feel this way. In fact, I sometimes try to imagine how I’d feel about torture if I weren’t religious and I can never come up with an answer. Maybe I’d think of everything in terms of cost/benefit analysis; what’s the cost versus the benefit of not water boarding terrorists. Maybe I’d still feel compassion for those terrorists and insist that we, as human beings, create our own morality, and that somehow it will become real (kind of a Terry Pratchet philosophy), or maybe I simply wouldn’t care what happened to a bunch of religious fanatics who deliberately target women and children with bombs.

  130. Chris, you don’t have to be religious to have ethics and morals. They simply don’t stem from a higher being. Don’t treat atheists as Vulcans.

    The only difference is, I only believe my ‘reward’ will be the feeling I get after doing something good / well, and possibly the appreciation of others. Which actually can be proved to happen, some of the times.

  131. “It may be the only place left in Western Europe where old-fashioned tribal politics still has bite. ”

    - Scottish National Party, moving towards independence
    - Flemish-Vallonic stuff in Belgium
    - Paisos Catalana – movement around Barcelona
    etc. etc.

  132. Shenpen: most politics in Italy, but especially the Lega Nord party.

  133. Adriano, its very true that you often get a good feeling when helping people out, even when their is no expectation of reward or compensation, even if that person is your enemy, even when you will never see that person again, regardless of religious beliefs. The question is, why?

    From an evolutionary point of view, what advantage is there to helping an enemy who is threatening the security of your family and tribe. To put it in the context of this debate, imagine a captured terrorist who believes that no matter how well he is treated by his US captors, he will still join the Jihad against the evil Satan USA when he is released. Such individuals do exists. Why is it that you receive a good feeling at the thought of treating him humanly? Helping him out won’t increase your chances of successful reproduction nor is it likely to ensure that your offspring survive with greater probability, so why in the world do you and I get a good feeling as we renounce the torture of people like that and try to insure that they are treated well? What is the scientific, biological imperative behind that. I would argue that their isn’t one, that their is another explanation.

    On the other hand, maybe we simply evolutionary defects and will our offspring be eventually rooted out of the population and replaced by those more ruthless and tribally protective individuals? I hope not.

  134. Chris: I think the feeling is, more than anything, instilled in us by society, not yet biological but social. I define ‘good’ by stuff I see, hear, read around me. Since working _with_ my society (a happy cog) helps me breed more than working against it, everything clicks. Psychopaths, rejects, rebels, etc usually have a harder time mating and having healthy offspring. I guess.

    OTOH, since it is social and not genetic, it still isn’t powerful “enough” (not that this is a bad thing: a world without rebels has been thoroughly discussed in SF, and would frankly suck).

    I believe in treating prisoners humanely (up and until they are judged with i.e. the death penalty) because I don’t want to stoop to their level. It’s within my idea of civilization, of being civilized.

  135. You make a good point.

    I would argue that society’s values all started, at some point with many people’s (or in some instances, a few people’s) individual values.

  136. >Now that our guys are doing it, it’s suddenly a good thing

    But that’s not my position. I don’t think waterboarding is a “good” thing at all. But I do make a distinction between waterboarding and techniques I consider genuine torture, which have the property of producing irreversible physical and psychological damage.

    I see a lot of inflation of the definition of torture going on. We’re in a crazy place, solely motivated by anti-U.S. partisanship, when “torture” is taken to include desecrating a Koran in sight of a jihadi or wrapping women’s underwear around his head. I worry about this because I think too much crying wolf is eventually bound to erode anyone’s ability to object to the real thing.

  137. Waterboarding has been “genuine torture” since at least World War II.

  138. Eric, some people disagree. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/hitchens200808 for one (page pops up an ad, tho). Has a lot of flair, but the nutshell of the article is, for me, that it is torture.

    I don’t actually know who defines torture in the ways you mentioned, but putting waterboarding anywhere near the same ballpark as desecrating holy writs is laughable. Naysaying anything but the worst forms of torture is also a way to erode anyone’s ability to object to the real thing.

  139. >Eric, some people disagree.

    I’m aware of this. I think Hitchens’s stunt was self-refuting; nobody volunteers for real torture.

  140. Nobody voluteers to have their fingernails pulled out because they know it’s horrible. Hitchens volunteered because he didn’t know what was involved and thought he could handle it.

    What you think constitutes “real torture” doesn’t matter a whit, at least not to anyone with ego of strength less than one raymond. What matters in a nation of laws is what the national and international law says and on that the law is clear: Waterboarding is torture, and a war crime.

  141. When it comes to political idealism I find that I am something of an oxymoron. I have grown up (and still consider myself) a Conservative. On the flip side many of my veiws on things have been called very liberal. But one thing I am, beyond all doubt, is a patriot. I have been apart of the military my entire life. I should be clear that I don’t speak for it nor am I typical in it. Almost all of my family has been in the military at one point or another, so “love of country” is something I never second guess. I cannot disagree with “patriotism by dissent” because I believe that the greatest virtue of America is it’s abilty to have many veiw points and integrate them into our society. I think that our true downfall is not that there are patriots who dissent, but those who would claim patriotism that are truly not. Though you say that is the darker side of “patriotism by dissent”, I say that once you let your love for something turn to any form of hatred then you no longer love it. Though some change requires drastic and sometimes violent upheaval, if it is not done in order to better serve the ideal (and the people the ideal serves) then it is merely anti-patriotic anarchy. So though I have not often been proud of America, I have always been proud to be an American. And i believe that it is our duty as Americans to fight to make our country the best it can be and to keep it always on the path of the ideals in which it was founded.

  142. I have to agree that waterboarding is torture. However, I don’t think all the ‘aggresive interrogation’ techniques constitute torture. My rule is this, if it is something I volutarily exposed myself to as a Boy Scout, then its not torture.

    While I did not subject myself to water boarding as a boyscout, I did subject myself to spending the night in conditions so cold, I couldn’t sleep all night because I was shivering so bad. I exposed myself to food and sleep deprivation and my friends and I did swim in alphine streams and ponds that were only a couple hundred feet below meltwater and couldn’t have been any warmer than 50F.

    We would usually get out when our bodies got so numb it got hard to move. I have no idea if we were close to hypothermia or not, but some of us were probably were. However, nobody wanted to be the wimp that couldn’t take the cold.

  143. esr: But that’s not my position. I don’t think waterboarding is a “good” thing at all. But I do make a distinction between waterboarding and techniques I consider genuine torture, which have the property of producing irreversible physical and psychological damage.

    I’m now rather confused about whether or not beating someone to death counts as “irreversible physical and psychological damage” in your view of things. It’s already been pointed out in this thread that the American “enhanced interrogation” regime has led to deaths; were you not paying attention?

    I see a lot of inflation of the definition of torture going on. We’re in a crazy place, solely motivated by anti-U.S. partisanship, when “torture” is taken to include desecrating a Koran in sight of a jihadi or wrapping women’s underwear around his head. I worry about this because I think too much crying wolf is eventually bound to erode anyone’s ability to object to the real thing.

    You seem to be strapping rocket-skates to your goalposts, there. Nobody in this thread claimed that desecrating the Koran or whatnot was torture. People in this thread have been claiming, despite your Teflon-skulled refusal to notice it, that techniques such as sleep deprivation, “stress positions” and waterboarding are, in fact, torture, and there’s been consensus on this since medieval times. But because you don’t want to talk about that, you’re invoking Koran-desecration. Cheap move, Eric.

  144. Eric apparently believes that if Jack Bauer does it, it can’t be torture.

    With Fox News recently outed as indeed serving as the administration’s Pravda-esque propaganda arm by Scott McClellan in an unusual moment of candor, it’s all the more reason to be very wary of the media messages we consume, as most of them are no doubt designed by the architects of American governance to serve ulterior ends.

  145. ChrisGreen: What I meant is the at least some Nazis and some Japanese were probably going to be tried for something regardless of whether they had committed war crimes or not. Someone was going to pay for the millions of dead American, French, and British, and Russian casualties.

    No. Please note the proceedings I linked to, and stop waving your hands in an attempt to avoid the obvious. If the Norwegian court with simply victors’ justice, why weren’t the Nazis convicted of the murders on the docket? Why was anyone found innocent at Nuremberg?

    I have to agree that waterboarding is torture. However, I don’t think all the ‘aggresive interrogation’ techniques constitute torture. My rule is this, if it is something I volutarily exposed myself to as a Boy Scout, then its not torture.

    Are you familiar with the concept of consent? Actions which might be acceptable or even pleasant if you want to do them can be quite the opposite if you don’t. You may have taken up boxing in your youth, but that probably doesn’t mean you’re cool with some guy jumping you and knocking you unconscious. You may have given a homeless guy some spare change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be okay with having that spare change extracted at knifepoint.

    Heck, you’ve done those examples one better, and claimed that because someone, somewhere, did something voluntarily, that means that it’s always okay to do it to someone else entirely. I shudder to think of the results of this logic applied to your interactions with women.

  146. Loving or hating your country is just a non-idea; it’s absurd. People love or hate other people. Claiming you love or hate something a collective of 330 million people is nothing but proclaiming your attachment to one faction or another.

  147. esr> The Provos, in particular, stopped being a ‘patriotic’ organization in any more than the most superficial sense long ago; they got subverted by the Soviets during the Cold War and their ideology is actually hard-Marxist, a fact they are careful to conceal from their gullible (and mostly American) donor base.

    This isn’t right. When the IRA split in 1969, it followed an ideological struggle within the IRA between the Marxists, who went on to form the Official IRA, and the nationalists, who went on to become the Provos. An official statement of the Provo-aligned Sinn Fein (as opposed to “Official Sinn Fein”) from that time said: “we reject the atheistic Marxism propagated by the [Official IRA] Goulding-McGiolla clique and we are supremely confident that the overwhelming majority of the Irish people will reject this alien philosophy” (An Phoblacht, Oct. 1970).

    Their politics moved rather to the left under Gerry Adams, but I don’t think “hard-Marxist” has ever been accurate to describe their politics, and, with some irony, it was precisely “bullet and ballot box” populism that lead the IRA leftwards.

  148. Dissent is nothing more than voicing your opposition, and as such it may or may not be patriotic in the American sense.

    If you’re dissenting because the you think the institutions have failed to live up to the ideals, then you’re patriotic. If you’re dissenting because you’re opposed to the ideals, then you’re not.

    “Dissent” is the last refuge of scoundrels trying to put lipstick on their opposition to the ideals of the American Revolution.

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