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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Sullivan

Ron Paul Is Not Leading a Foreign Policy Revolution

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Andrew Sullivan believes that Ron Paul is needed in the GOP race in order to lead a wave of foreign policy change:

But the point of [Paul’s] candidacy is not necessarily to win, but to open up the foreign policy debate. And when you look at the move of the GOP in the last few years away from big government conservatism to a more Paulite view of the role of the state, I think his importance is under-stated. Most of all, he has integrity, even if you think he’s way off the map ideologically. Very few of his rivals have that kind of character. Some of them seem to have had careers and lives that scream out against it. Palin, Gingrich, Trump, and Romney are all obvious liars, positioners and, to a greater or lesser extent, frauds. I’d put Huntsman, Daniels, Santorum, and Johnson in a group as exceptions to this rule. But Ron Paul heads the pack – in consistency, integrity and sincerity.

Steve Kornacki‘s post at Salon reveals what is obvious: that Paul is only a needed candidacy for political junkies:

The biggest winner may be political junkies, who will probably find the coming GOP presidential debates far more interesting with Paul in them, especially when the subject turns to foreign policy. Paul’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s show last night offered a preview of what we can expect. When the subject turned to America’s relationship with the Muslim world, Paul refused to engage in the kind of Muslim-baiting that has become de rigueur for Republican politicians.

Kornacki also is clear on the limits of Paul’s support:

[T]here’s a clear ceiling on Paul’s support. A passionate, not insignificant chunk of the Republican base is receptive to him and his message. But most of the conservative establishment is openly hostile to him, partly because of his adamantly non-interventionist foreign policy views and partly because he can be so easily painted as a fringe figure. Elite conservative opinion-shapers long ago succeeded in marginalizing Paul within the GOP. This point was driven home at CPAC the past two years. Each time, Paul won the annual presidential straw poll (with well under 50 percent of the vote), setting off jubilant cheers from his supporters — and angry boos from just about everyone else in the room. Recall also that Fox News actually blocked Paul from participating in the final GOP debate before the 2008 GOP primary — even though he had just finished ahead of Rudy Giuliani (and tied with Fred Thompson) in Iowa.

The problem that Sullivan doesn’t even attempt to grasp is that in his rush to embrace Paul’s foreign policy ideas, he’s inadvertantly unleashed Paul’s completely idiotic monetary policies on the world. E.D. Kain addressed this earlier today regarding FGary Johnson:

Probably the best argument against supporting Johnson is this: supporting a candidate based on a single-issue alliance is not as effective as supporting a cause.

It’s also more dangerous because if that cause becomes too embodied by that candidate, then the rest of his ideas – like abolishing the Fed, for instance – can then become conflated with the good cause as well. And so you weaken and undermine those ideas by associating them too closely with the bad ideas of the candidate you supported. You see this with Ron Paul, who has very good and decent positions on foreign intervention and the security state, but who is way off in crazy Austrian land when it comes to economics and goldbuggery.

It’s important to build up support for these ideas from the bottom up rather than from the top down. If you want a more anti-war, civil-liberties-based liberalism than you have to argue for it, work with activists to build up grass-roots support for those policies, and vote for local and state candidates who support those ideas. Making a deal with the devil may be a dramatic and appealing way to register one’s dissent, but it’s more than likely counter-productive. A show of support for Johnson’s anti-drug-war policies is just as easily taken as support for slashing public support for healthcare and education, or for busting public sector unions.

I understand Sullivan’s frustration even if I don’t completely share it. He wants a much, much more limited foreign policy has a large blog and still has had little progress in achieving that goal.

But left unsaid by Sullivan is that Ron Paul ran four years ago. In the years since, despite Paul having record money showered upon him, we’ve seen no indication whatsoever that the core of the GOP was changed by that engagement. If anything, they’re worse than ever given the antipathy towards Muslims that Obama’s Presidency has unwittingly revealed. By contrast, a giant part of the GOP is now out to burn the Federal Reserve to the ground metaphorically. Ron Paul is teaching Michele Bachmann about the Fed, not about the war in Iraq. Someone should notice that at some point.

Paul has no say on foreign policy in this Congress, but he does have a key subcommittee post on monetary policy. I watched Paul on the Colbert Report last night, and Paul spent more time taking on the Federal Reserve than talking about foreign policy.

At some point, it’s time to put away niche candidacies, even if you would like the niche, because there are bigger things at stake. I’d like Andrew Sullivan to admit that Ron Paul has doine more harm to America monetarily than good militarily. Find a more responsible candidate if you need drastic foreign policy change. It’s irresponsible to support Paul for that purpose anymore.

More bluntly, it’s time to stop wishing about what candidate Sullivan wishes Ron Paul was and to start looking at what candidate Ron Paul is.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Why Our Pundits Are Broken

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Andrew Sullivan on the Ryan Budget:

There are two possible responses to the news that the House has put its votes on the line and endorsed the Ryan plan for the budget. It behooves me to note that I doubted they would ever get this specific, given their refusal to raise any of these specifics in the election campaign. You can gloat that the GOP has committed political suicide by essentially ending Medicare and Medicaid as we know them, but that is not a substantive response. They deserve political props for nailing this proposal to the door of the White House.

But the substantive criticism is still salient. It is that simply shifting Medicare to private insurance plans with subsidies that will mean progressively less and less healthcare for seniors does not really bring down healthcare costs – just shifts their responsibility away from the federal government. The likelihood that the insurance companies will actually want this new more vulnerable population without at some point, begging the government to provide more resources is … well, slim. But since the GOP proposal is simply indifferent to whether people have healthcare or not (they effectively withdraw coverage for all those covered by the ACA), this is a feature, not a bug.

Only a conservative plan would be lauded for it’s boldness politically. No one was saying how much political respect the anti-war Democrats deserved a decade ago; indeed, the likes of Sullivan called them fifth columnists.

But the same is true even more recently: no pundit praised the public option the House passed (or the even more progressive robust public option) as brave politically. No, they called them just plain stupid and political non-starters. And that’s what the House passed! Exactly what we have here!

But now that someone proposes a plan to make – as Sullivan himself describes it – “progressively less and less healthcare for seniors,” pundits such as Sullivan himself are falling over themselves to praise it for being bold and brave even when they disagree. None of these pundits gave the same deference to Nancy Pelosi. None. The closest was Sullivan saying the public option was wildly popular and then meekly saying the death of it made the bill move more right and be suddenly palatable. Not at all comparable.

There is no boldness, no bravery in failed policy, left or right. Dennis Kucinich proposed a Department of Peace: that’s not brave.

Ask yourself this question: why is not political criticism the same thing as substantive criticism? Ought they be the same?

Written by John Whitehouse

April 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

When Your House is On Fire, Call a Family Meeting: The Unbearable Frivolity of Andrew Sullivan

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I agree with DougJ about the the least convincing pro-intervention argument is from Richard Cohen regarding Libya. But this gem is the dumbest Libya argument against intervention yet. Andrew Sullivan:

The Libya case is an interesting one because of the need for dispatch, as events on the ground made a Congressional debate moot. But to my mind, that kind of emergency decision is precisely the moment when deliberation is necessary. Deciding war in a rush and in secret is normally not a good idea. And Obama did not have to act urgently to save American lives or vital interests. He had to act urgently for purely humanitarian reasons.

And so we now have an executive branch claiming powers far, far beyond what the Founders or any prudent constitution would allow. The presidency becomes Angelina Jolie with an air force.

So let me get this straight: the circumstances under which Obama had to make a decision made any further consultation with Congress moot – in Sullivan’s own words. But he would still argue that one is necessary. And not just necessary, but necessary in fancy italics.

Moreover, it takes special writing abilities to contradict your entire argument that thoroughly. The first sentence shows that there’s absolutely no time for discussion, the decision needs to be made immediately. The rest of the paragraph completely ignores that reality.

Needless to say, intervening after Benghazi had fallen would be the worst of both worlds: people would say the US does not caer about human suffering, only taking out dictators who interrupt oil flow. It’d be a pointless exercise. Sullivan has to know that – he admitted it to start the excerpt!

Additionally, Sullivan refuses to grapple with refugees anywhere on his blog. Reading him (and mind you this is someone who obsessively chronicles events) you would have virtually no idea about refugee crises on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders, or the EU commissioner warning of a refugee nightmare. Why? I can only guess that he still is obsessed with a Napoleonic conception of war as aggression and responding to it; and human suffering never involves people fleeing from nightmare scenarios, but people taking suffering with a stiff upper lip, because hey, it’s the British way. It’s a fundamental lack of empathy that clouds Sullivan’s reasoning. And all of that might be false. But Sullivan sure as hell isn’t answering it, that’s for sure (in the one in a million shot he responds to this post, it’s one and a million he takes this question seriously).

But it’s not just a lack of empathy, it’s an emotional commitment to reacting immediately that he does not even look at all the facts and grapple with them. And I’m not exaggerating. His blog has mentioned refugees a grand total of once since the resolution was passed, and that was just in reprinting the Security Council Resolution. So as far as I can tell, Sullivan himself has no idea what regional destabilization actually means. His lone reference to the crisis this month was – literally – on March 9 when he saidlet Egypt and Tunisia deal with it.” Really, Andrew? They have the resources and wherewithal to deal with that right now? Nothing else is going on there? There’s not going to be any regional effects from them having to deal with it? What a crock of shit. That’s not grappling with a problem, that’s Sullivan sticking his head in the sand. No responsible administration would or should think this way. Not even George W. Bush would think that way. Not even Neville Chamberlain would think this way – at least Chamberlain was willing to take the time to hitch a flight to Munich.

And then he has the gall to talk about prudence. Prudent men and women before him have realized that the boundary between the war powers and the commander in chief powers are at least somewhat a grey area. Truman was prone to overreacting (Steel Seizure case) but also did send troops to Korea without authorization. I’ve blogged about the notes from the 1945 Congress which are not authoritative by any means, but certainly fall within any reasonable definition of prudent.

This is not even to mention the shock value he’s going for with the Angelina Jolie comparison. I expect that sort of thing from an Andrew Breitbart intern, not Sullivan. (Not to mention that he has use Jolie, because “a massacre in Benghazi sounds completely awful if you use any non-celebrity framing. Seriously, try to find a better way to frame what Gaddafi pledging “no mercy” on a city of 700,000 would mean.)

This post is NOT to say this was the right intervention or that the mission is being executed in the correct way. Not at all. It’s just to say that Sullivan, in his apparent haste to make up for his grave Iraq war mistakes, is turning into the the far left caricature he once loathed. There is no subtlety. There is no hard cases. There’s only actions that apparently no one can consider prudent, despite extensive evidence that some people might actually think that. It’s insulting to what’s left of his legacy. I’m surprised he hasn’t demanded that Obama instead change the color of the White House website.

Congratulations, Andrew, you’re tarnishing your worthy legacy with shitty punditry just like David Broder before you. Good luck dealing with this shit, Tina Brown.

Answering Rhetorical Questions on Libya

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Andrew Sullivan asks a whole bunch of questions without actually waiting around for answers:

The president’s speech was disturbingly empty. There are, it appears, only two reasons the US is going to war, without any Congressional vote, or any real public debate. The first is that the US  cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place. Yet we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo and are actively supporting governments in Yemen and Bahrain that are doing almost exactly – if less noisily – what Qaddafi is doing. Obama made no attempt to reconcile these inconsistencies because, one suspects, there is no rational reconciliation to be made.

Secondly, the president argued that the ghastly violence in Libya is destabilizing the region, and threatening world peace. Really? More than Qaddafi’s meddling throughout Africa for years? More than the brutal repression in Iran? And even if it is destabilizing, Libya is not, according to the Obama administration itself, a “vital national interest”. So why should the US go to war over this?

None of this makes any sense, except as an emotional response to an emergency.

Instead of seriously exploring possible rational explanations for the questions he raises (even if he disagrees with those reasons), Sullivan just calls the President an emotional wreck. This, of course, coming from someone so enraptured by the Iranian protests that he demanded his blog change color to show solidarity, as if that alone would mean one thing at all to any person anywhere  in the world.

So here’s the answer to Sullivan’s questions:

Yes, Libya is really destabilizing the region. Apparently even though he’s been live blogging this for weeks, Sullivan has missed the ongoing refugee nightmare, particularly on the Tunisian border. This is a serious problem that very much does destabilize the region.

And yes, it destabilizes it in a more acute and immediate manner than the repression Iranian protests (which, though tragic and against international norms, was an internal matter) or “meddling” – which is just vague enough that I really don’t know what Sullivan is referring to. Was Lockerbie “meddling”? I have no idea. Is Sullivan referring to the Libyan conflict with Chad that actually did involve French troops and American supplies at one point? I have no idea. Is Sullivan referring to the Libyan-Egyptian war in 1977 that would have destabilized the region had Gaddafi not retreated? I have no idea. Is Sullivan referring to Gaddafi supporting dictators like Idi Amin or Jean-Bedel Bokassa and if so how would that add up to regional instability rather than instability without a nation-state? I have no idea. Sullivan only refers to Africa.

If you want to argue the President is being overly emotional, perhaps one should thoroughly explain your objection instead of being, dare I say, overly emotional.  The best interpretation of his remarks is if he’s referring to Gaddafi’s participation in the Uganda-Tanzanian war, and if that’s the case I would certainly say the United Nations should have intervened, and in a post-Cold War world someone clearly would intervene. The Security Council did not even issue a resolution over the conflict – obviously that would not be true today.

But one thing is certainly clear: Tanzania counter attacked Uganda not to save the Ugandans from Gaddafi’s ally Imin, but rather for it’s own security purposes:

On 12 October 1978, Uganda invaded Tanzania in an effort to annex the Kagera region, but in February 1979, Tanzania counter-attacked with the help of Ugandan insurgents, overrunning Kampala, installing Milton Obote as President, and forcing Idi Amin to flee Uganda. After several months of occupation, Tanzanian forces withdrew from Uganda. Tanzania used force only once it had been attacked by Uganda and it succeeded in halting the systematic murder of thousands more people. As in India’s intervention in East Pakistan, humanitarian considerations seemed to have played an important role, but here again, its own security considerations took priority.

Were that to happen today there’s no doubt there would be international backing against that sort of invasion. Why not then? Probably because Julius Nyerere led Tanzania in the nonalignment movement. (Not to mention that Nyerere was no saint, having supported a coup in the Seychelles). In the politics of the time, the reluctance to intervene made sense, even for the Carter Administration. But it would not hold up today.

Point being this: Uganda-Tanzania That’s not what’s happening here, but if Sullivan is looking to this as an example of hypocrisy (and who knows what he’s referring to), well, he’s ignoring a lot of context.

What we do know is that the situation in Libya has deteriorated to such a point where imminent actions, clearly threatened by Gaddafi would overwhelm the region with refugees. In a situation like this, that destabilization is the main causus belli, but likewise the international community should also generally reinforce that killing your own people is actually against international norms too. That those norms are only enforced by force when regional stability is threatened does not mean that they are not violations of international norms.

One last point: none this is to defend the actual war planning or lack thereof. This is purely contesting the jus ad bello, not the jus in bello. (That is, decision to go to war, not the conduct within the war itself.)

Sullivan is so convinced the Libya is Iraq that he’s not even aware of, much less investigating, any differences in approach or scale. I wish Obama would do more to sell this action – a speech to Congress would be a must – but objectively judging his actions, Sullivan is the one being overly emotional, not the President.

As a footnote, someone needs to have Sullivan read relevant parts of US Code regarding United Nations Security Council authorizations.

 

Written by John Whitehouse

March 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm