Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Opinionator

July 24, 2007, 8:49 am
The (Relatively) Kindly Kings
By Tobin Harshaw

Yesterday we were told that Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last (so far as we know) king of Afghanistan, died in Kabul, and most obituaries paint him as a well-meaning if ineffectual old man. James S. Robbins at National Review Online sees him as something altogether different — a model, of the Platonic sort:

How many people now captive in Middle Eastern dictatorships would rather be living under the enlightened rule of someone like King Abdullah II of Jordan, or Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai? Or King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, or Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, emir of Qatar? These countries enjoy relative peace and sometimes dazzling prosperity, Dubai in particular. Their societies are comparatively tolerant, and Western-oriented. Of course not all monarchies are so praiseworthy, but when stacked up against post-Pahlavi Iran or Syria under the Assads, we really have to reconsider the traditional definition of political development. Zahir Shah may not have been the most dynamic king, but a gentle, kindly monarch and his mildly corrupt relatives are better guardians of liberty than nationalistic dictators or stern-eyed mullahs, each with interchangeable secret police and mechanisms of oppression.


July 23, 2007, 4:36 pm
Return of the Enlightened Warrior
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , ,

“Here’s a crude generalization: after the sixties, intellect and patriotism went separate ways, to the detriment of both. This mutual hostility made intellectuals less responsible and soldiers less thoughtful,” writes George Packer at The New Yorker’s Interesting Times blog.

"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have begun to close the divide. I think the reasons are these: first, September 11th made military service more attractive to the kind of college students who used to find it unthinkable … Second, the nature of these wars demands a soldier who is more than an artilleryman with an engineering degree. … The soldiers whose reputations have been made and not destroyed in Iraq — ­General David Petraeus, Colonel H. R. McMaster, Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl — ­have doctorates in the humanities."

Hmm, I think we can agree that this is a promising development. But is the observation true?

The latest kerfuffle in the blogosphere involves a diary posting by one “liquidman” at Daily Kos titled “KILLITARY: How America’s Armed Forces Create Serial Killers and Mass Murderers” that was apparently quickly taken down from the site (you can see a Google cache of it here).

Predictably, conservatives were outraged.­ Ace of Spades points out that “given the millions upon millions upon millions of young (and not so young) men who’ve served in the military in the past 50 years, it’s hardly surprising to find serial killers among them. And drug dealers. And hit men. And rapists. And gentleman cat-burglar jewel-thieves, even.”

But so too were many of the left, like Kyle E. Moore, a Vietnam veteran. “For us to drop the fiction of supporting the troops, it has to be fiction first, which wasn’t true, right?” he asks. “I got a pretty unassailable record on supporting the troops because I think it’s the right thing to do.

They’re doing their job, and doing it honorably and admirably and making the best of one severely screwed up situation … And the rapid deletion of the post obviously was a result of Kos not wanting anyone [peeking] up his skirt and finding the little anti-troop monster there.”

Still, argues Moore, for the right to take one tendentious diary posting on Kos and using it “to call into question Kos’ integrity, and then by association, all of us on the left,” seems more than a bit overblown.

All in all, there seems to be a stunning amount of mutual understanding here, so perhaps Packer is on to something. Let’s see if the new tolerance holds up through a much larger storm brewing on that front: The New Republic’s shocking series of Baghdad dispatches [$], by a soldier writing under the name Scott Thomas, that the Pentagon and scores of right-wing bloggers insist are a left-wing smear campaign.


July 23, 2007, 2:37 pm
Hate Thyself
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , ,

“Self-hate, in the Jewish context, is assailed by traditionalists, quantified by sociologists, catalogued by hobbyists, ribbed by comedians, feared by parents,” writes Bradley Burston at Haaretz.com. “It is also underrated.”

No, Burston isn’t channeling Woody Allen ­ he feels that “the Jew who is viciously critical of matters Jewish - or for whom Jewishness and Israel are sources of shame - may shed light on issues we may wrongly choose to ignore or accept” and that Muslims to learn from their old enemies’ navel-gazing ways: “It may be argued that an element of self-hate could benefit the contemporary Muslim world no less. The sense of moral superiority and ultimate entitlement is strong within Islam as well. This has proven no healthier for Muslims than it has for Jews.”


July 23, 2007, 12:30 pm
Slapping Down Censure
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , ,

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Russ Feingold renewed his Quixotic call for Congress to censure President Bush. Yet again, the rally cry was greeted by a resounding thud. Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters feels that even as symbolism, censure is pointless. “It would carry no weight nor force any change in policy,” writes Morrissey. “It amounts to little more than a temper tantrum and is at least arguably inappropriate in terms of the Constitutional separation of powers. Congress uses censure to punish its own members, not members of other branches. It has only been used once against a president — in 1834 against Andrew Jackson — and the succeeding Congress vacated it.”

More surprisingly, perhaps, the contributor “intranets” at the lefty collective site ePluribus Media also feels a censure resolution would be foolish: “Senator Russ Feingold proposes a meaningless Censure vote which will serve only to make Impeachment impossible. There is probably only one chance at voting on impeachment. Any impeachment efforts after a Censure vote would have the complicit media yelling foul and labeling Congress as unfairly partisan.”

In any case, it doesn’t look like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to put censure on the front burner. “Frankly, we have so many other things to do,” he said on “Face the Nation.”
“At this stage, Russ is going to have to make his case as to why we should do that rather than do our appropriation bills, finish the defense authorization bill, Homeland Security appropriation bill.”


July 23, 2007, 8:53 am
Free Trade Barriers of the Mind
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: ,

The author and Tufts associate professor Daniel W. Drezner is less than pleased with a new Financial Times/Harris poll that found that most residents of wealthy countries, “regardless of how liberal their economic traditions” do not feel that “opening economies to freer trade is beneficial to poor and rich countries alike.” Much of this animosity, the poll found, stems from the belief that globalization is directly related to rising income inequality.

“For a pro-globalization type like me, there’s not a lot that’s funny about this kind of public sentiment,” writes Drezner. “There is something ironic, however, about the extent to which publics believe that this kind of measure will reduce income inequality … I can’t dispute the rising resentment about rising inequality — but that doesn’t mean that the resentment has acquired the correct target (I don’t think there is a clear target, but that’s a topic for another day). There is support, clearly, for some really stupid policies.”


Anonymous Mumia Dunne-Tomei said...

Face facts, asshole. Economic analysis without factoring in class --who screws (the few the proud the transnational power elite whose god is Mammon) and who gets screwed (most of us) --is no analysis worthy of the name at all.

Hopefully the crapitalist jerk ethic is seeing its final days.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's globalization anyway but part of capitalism's last desperately brutal expansionist phase. Hence war. Hence see how the big fish eat up all the little ones. Until eventually there's left only one very big fat bloated paralytic fish ready to be gutted.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous The Right Reverend Oliver Clothesoff said...

You commies never learn. All socialism brings is misery chaos and poverty. It failed. Capitalism is triumphant. God’s in His Heaven and all is Right with the world. And I do mean Right, despite recent advances by the Stalinist Democrats in the US which will only be temporary. The Invisible Hand of the Free Market and the Blessed Lord Jesus Christ CEO of the Universe must be blindly obeyed. Hallelujah. Allelu…

9:28 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

The synergy of military service and academic intellectuals can be found at Columbia University in New York City.

Check out Columbia University's military groups: US Military Veterans of Columbia University (student veterans group), Hamilton Society of Columbia University (ROTC cadets and Marine officer candidates group), and Advocates for Columbia ROTC (ROTC-return advocates).

10:39 AM  

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