Friday, October 11, 2002

The Imperialism Canard is dealt with dismissively by Andrew Sullivan.

I may have more to say about this popular anti-war trope some time this weekend. I have a little screed brewing in the back of my mind on it.
Islamist Parties outdid expectations in the Pakistani Selections. I'm not surprised considering that Musharraf culled the more mainstream parties of candidates he didn't like and this was the obvious destination for the "protest vote". Meanwhile, Jack Straw thinks the EU should dispense with the rotating Presidency and have a real President.
If Even Quebec can change it's ways, then there's hope for us yet:
A flat-rate income tax, school vouchers, expanding the role of private healthcare - this would be a radical political programme anywhere in Canada. In the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, it is tantamount to heresy.

Since the 1960s, successive Quebec governments have built a centralised government that wields enormous influence over the economy and society, under the so-called Quebec model. For many Quebec separatists, strong government has long been not only a symbol of Francophone empowerment but also a tool to shape the province before achieving the ultimate goal of independence from Canada.

But Mario Dumont and his upstart Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) are shaking up the province by urging that the Quebec model be abandoned. The telegenic 32-year-old and his colleagues are demanding big job cuts in the civil service and wholesale deregulation of the economy.

Quebec's industry and its citizens "are pestered by a state that is oversized, overbearing, outmoded and arrogantly overseen by a clique that is obsessed by a paradigm that is obsolete", the ADQ manifesto says.

Elections for the provincial government, due within a year, are likely to be called in May or June. As the vote approaches, ADQ has not only soared to the top of the opinion polls, it has also made the size and role of government the focus of debate. To the dismay of separatists, the issue of Quebec's relationship with the rest of Canada has faded from the headlines.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Hero of the Revolution: Media Minded identifies Harry Belafonte for what he is. (Link via the usual suspect).

Oh, and puh-leeze spare me the crap about "red baiting McCarthyism". Telling the truth about Stalinists always leads to the ad hominem. For any Leftist out there reading this: if you aren't a Stalinist, and abhore Stalinism, why are you so quick to stick up for those who are? (and if by chance you are a Stalinist, then what's the problem about being honest about it, except, I mean, for the basic fact that Stalinism inherently involves practicing deciet)?
Hordes of Lawyers Poised to decend, like a swarm of locusts, upon polling places this November, at the order of the Democratic Party.

They claim it is to "prevent voter intimidation". But intelligence guided by experience leads me to a different conclusion. The lawyers will be used not to prevent intimidation, but to cause intimidation. They will be deployed to intimidate the ladies (have you ever noticed, it's always ladies?) running the vote. Any time someone is excluded on the grounds that they are ineligible to vote because they are non-citizens, or because they are felons (tens of thousands already voted in the last election), the lawyers will be there to make demands of the polling officials, turning it into a court-like proceeding. The ladies will be made to back down - they won't be able to devote their attentions to arguing with some lawyer. This is, thus, another attempt to increase the potential of election fraud.
When Is Playing on Homophobia OK? when it's done by Democrats. The Montana Democratic Party is running an add on behalf of the Baucus Campaign, targeted at his opponent:
State Sen. Ken Toole, D-Helena, and program director for the Montana Human Rights Network, said Thursday morning the ad "is an overt and obvious appeal to the homophobic (voter) that is playing to that stereotypic imagery."

Toole, who has fought for homosexual rights for years in the Montana Legislature, said he had complained to the state Democratic Party.

Toole said the Democratic response was that the image was not intended to imply that Taylor was gay.

"It is hard to believe their advertising firm did not see it," Toole said. "Bottom line is it is obvious and it ought to be pulled.

"Once you play these cards, inject this crap into a campaign - race, gay - nobody controls it," Toole said.

Dan DuBray, a former Montana television journalist who did campaign ads for former U.S. Rep. Ron Marlenee, R-Mont., said Thursday the ad was as subtle as "a 2x4 across the forehead. The video was clearly designed to send a subliminal message about Mike Taylor's sexuality."

"It is bizarre," DuBray said. "I can't believe the senator would embrace this type of ad. The process is out of control. This is far below the floor of any TV ads in the past."
As a result, Taylor is going to parachute out of the campaign, and Republicans are pondering running Racicot. Shades of New Jersey. Hypocrisy? Well, like I said at the time: if the Dems got away with it, then it would open it up to others doing it as well. One of the bad consequences of engaging in that sort of tactic. And that has, as I predicted, come to pass. The only hypocrisy would be if the Democrats got outraged that this Brave New Political World wasn't just for them. Sure, the Republicans could run Racicot as a write-in, but why should they have to? I believe in general principles that apply to all, equally. Not in selectivity where one side gets special treatment (put Dem names on ballots after a last minute swap, but not Republicans). This crap should have been nixed right from the get go. Now either it will run rampant, or we'll reform the law - not that doing that will do any good, because the problem that caused this was the willingness of one party to demand that the law be ignored for it's particular benefit and the willingness of judges to throw away the law. So we find ourselves where we are now.

In the meantime, the Democrats have another reason to be shamed, for the way they're run the campaign in Montana. If the Republicans had done something like this, I'd bet we'd be hearing a lot of "hate crimes" analogies.

Update: Probably the only way to get the antics of replacing candidates late in an election is for the Republicans to try it, too. As long as it was a "Democrats Only" game, there was no chance whatsoever that anything would be done to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. Now there stands a good chance that'll be fixed. As for the shameful campaign tactics the Democrats are deploying, in Montana this time, well, I say that's par for the course, but despicable. I guess that's repeating myself: par for the course with respect to their campaign tactics is the same as despicable.

Additional: Andrew Sullivan has the same story and similar reaction.
Free Speech crumbles in Britain. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in reaction:
A man has been convicted of "hate speech" and may face jail time because he got into an argument with some Muslims in which he said things he probably shouldn't have. Notice that the Muslims, who opined, in the argument, that September 11's victims "deserved to die" face no such state-enforced sanctions. After all, they weren't insulting anyone's religion! Britain is now a country where free speech doesn't really exist. With no First Amendment, the anti-hate do-gooders have complete license to intimidate and jail people whose views they find objectionable. The same characters are doing all they can to achieve the same result here. In Provincetown, for example, people are being encouraged by the cops to report not just hate crimes, but "hate incidents" in which politically incorrect speech can be monitored by the authorities. Chilling - especially in a place where free speech has traditionally been upheld.
Can't say it better than that, so I won't bother to try.
Unemployment Claims fall significantly.
Lets Make a Deal: Russia is fairly open about what it will take to get their support for an Iraq resolution. Of course, as I've been saying, it has little to do with the merits of action (which are so compelling that none can really, legitimately, oppose on that level), and everything to do with economic concerns:
Briefing western journalists, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin's official spokesman, said: "The devil will be in the details of these [United Nations] resolutions but our position is essentially pragmatic. What is interesting for us is our economic and financial interests."

France also moved closer to accepting the inevitability of war in Iraq yesterday, while continuing to criticise America for its hawkish stance.

Following a parliamentary debate on Iraq on Tuesday evening, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said France would not use its Security Council veto because that would deprive it of its influence.
Rosenbaum II Billy Beck places bets on which Leftist will be the first to declare Ron Rosenbaum a heretic and excommunicate him from the Left. He calls dibs on Cockburn.
We Think We're Alone in having poorly educated students. Well, Simon Schama slams British schools for their superficial teaching of history:
:"The situation in secondary schools is absolutely dire.

"The modules only teach pupils Hitler and the Henrys with nothing in between.

"Students cannot make the connections in between with these gobbets of knowledge."

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

The Pathological Nature of the Anti-War Left is an affront to Ron Rosenbaum and thinking people everywhere:
I think I know what I feel about this antiwar movement, or at least many of the flock who showed up in the Sheep Meadow.

A movement of Marxist fringe groups and people who are unable to make moral distinctions. . .

. . .the entire post-9/11 idiocy of one wing of the Left. That’s what Sept. 11 has come to mean to much of the Left: a wake-up call for American self-hatred.
If a guy who self-confesses to have been enamored of murderous sociopaths like the Weather Underground and has good things to say about Pete Seeger making himself the tool of Stalinism can understand this, why do so many others fail to see these distinctions?

Answer: they don't want to. Thus, teachers paid out of government funds can claim that they are tortured dissidents oppressed by that same government.

He goes on:
—"but maybe it’s a wake-up call for us to recognize how bad we are, Why They Hate Us." The implication was evident: We deserved it. It would be a salutary lesson. It was the Pat Robertson wing of the Left in full flower: Sinful America deserved this Judgment from the sky.
Thus Ron fingers a connection that has been recognized in the Weblogging community at least since the invention of the term "idiotarian", if not before. He understands the nexus of underlaying consensus between the idiotarians of the right and of the Left. He is sickened by one of the most revolting rhetorical tricks the Left resorts to:
I felt myself already beginning to say goodbye to the culture that produced this kind of cruel, lockstep thinking. Until finally, the coup de grâce—the Big Idiocy, the idiocy di tutti idiocies. It came from the very well-respected and influential academic, who said that there was at least one thing that was to be welcomed about 9/11: It might give Americans the impetus to do "what the Germans had done in the 60’s"—make an honest reassessment of their past and its origins, as a way to renewal.

Reassessment of our past: Clearly he was speaking admiringly of the 60’s generation in Germany coming to terms with its Nazi past, with Germany’s embrace of Hitler.

At that point, having sat silently through an accumulation of self-hating anti-Americanism, I couldn’t take it any more.
My only quibble with him here is: what took him so long to get disgusted with this kind of rhetoric? In the same article, Ron favorably mentions those, like the Weather Underground, that indulged in the same sickening, intellectually and morally bankrupt rhetoric.

I suppose Sept. 11th made what may have just seemed like infantile excess strike him for what it was: morally perverse. He then makes a keen analogy:
Here’s the analogy: Heidegger’s peculiar neutrality-slash-denial about Nazism and the Holocaust after the facts had come out, and the contemporary Left’s curious neutrality-slash-denial after the facts had come out about Marxist genocides—in Russia, in China, in Cambodia, after 20 million, 50 million, who knows how many millions had been slaughtered. Not all of the Left; many were honorable opponents. But for many others, it just hasn’t registered, it just hasn’t been incorporated into their "analysis" of history and human nature; it just hasn’t been factored in. America is still the one and only evil empire. The silence of the Left, or the exclusive focus of the Left, on America’s alleged crimes over the past half-century, the disdainful sneering at America’s deplorable "Cold War mentality"—none of this has to be reassessed in light of the evidence of genocides that surpassed Hitler’s, all in the name of a Marxist ideology. An ideology that doesn’t need to be reassessed. As if it was maybe just an accident that Marxist-Leninist regimes turned totalitarian and genocidal. No connection there. The judgment that McCarthyism was the chief crime of the Cold War era doesn’t need a bit of a rethink, even when put up against the mass murder of dissidents by Marxist states.

The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet. This blind spot, this stunning lack of historical perspective, robs much of the American Left of intellectual credibility. And makes it easy for idiocies large and small to be uttered reflexively.
Here, figures like Chomsky (though he is not alone in this!) are the Left's Heideggers. The crimes of Marxist and State Socialistic regimes are of no interest to them, historically. In their speeches and writings, indeed, those facts are often slipped down the memory hole (or, perversely, blamed on the Great Satan, America).
extremely fashionable postmodern Marxist academic will concede the tens of millions murdered by Stalin, etc., but it’s "different" from the millions murdered by Hitler, because the Soviet project was built on good intentions, on utopian aspirations; the tens of millions dead were an unfortunate side effect, a kind of unfortunate, accidental departure from the noble Leninist path that still must be pursued.
Or, as New Leftists in good standing uttered assessing Cuba: Socialist lobotomies are different from Capitalist lobotomies. Socialist executions are different from Capitalist executions. Etc.

None of this is new, however. The last time America's left attempted a heartfelt re-assessment was in the wake of the revelations of Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" on the crimes of Stalin. Out of that was born a rift, as members of and those sympathetic to the Communist party split from it, and ultimately created the "New Left". The New Left, by the end of the '60s, had forgotten what caused the split in the first place, and embraced murderous Marxist regimes again. This attitude continued for the next thirty or so years, right up to the present. Occasional heretics attempting to make moral distinctions were cast out of the movement as schismatics at best and reactionaries at worst. Others were admonished and punished (think Joan Baez, who's career never recovered from signing a petition recognizing the horrors the victorious Communist regime in Vietnam was perpetrating in the late '70s). But the movement as a whole has never again admitted a mistake, never again repeated the soul-searching that followed the "Secret Speech".

Again, the main thing wrong with Ron's article is that it begs the question: if he finds these tendencies among the hard Left so discreditable, what took him so long in recognizing them? None of this behavior is new. Even when I was a Democrat, I never could bring myself to condone these things. Sometimes, for the sake of friendship, I bit my tongue, when someone would compare Reagan's America to NAZI Germany, or feel free to shout down someone in class with a torrent of epithets, simply because that person was speaking a Conservative point of view. After all "no free speech for 'hate speech'" gave then an excuse.

Like Ron writes, that's no reason to become a Conservative (other things led me to continue down that path, study of philosophy and history; I found myself valuing personal Liberty and the Rule of Law, property and economic freedom, and Federalism meaning limited but effective government in a Federal structure where to the best extent possible, preference should be for doing things at the level closest to those being affected rather than through a one-size-fits-all centralized policy1, among other things, more than the modern Democrat party does. I ended up comming to the same conclusion as Midge Decter: there comes a time to join the side you're on). But it was enough, long ago, to make me keep my distance from the "Nuclear Freeze" types in my High School and the PCers at the UW.
So, for my part, goodbye to all that. Goodbye to a culture of blindness that tolerates, as part of "peace marches," women wearing suicide-bomber belts as bikinis. (See the accompanying photo of the "peace" march in Madrid. "Peace" somehow doesn’t exclude blowing up Jewish children.)

Goodbye to the brilliant thinkers of the Left who believe it’s the very height of wit to make fun of George W. Bush’s intelligence—thereby establishing, of course, how very, very smart they are. Mr. Bush may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer (I think he’s more ill-informed and lazy than dumb). But they are guilty of a historical stupidity on a far greater scale, in their blind spot about Marxist genocides. It’s a failure of self-knowledge and intellectual responsibility that far outweighs Bush’s, because they’re supposed to be so very smart.

Goodbye to paralysis by moral equivalence: Remind me again, was it John Ashcroft or Fidel Castro who put H.I.V. sufferers in concentration camps?

Goodbye to the deluded and pathetic sophistry of postmodernists of the Left, who believe their unreadable, jargon-clotted theory-sophistry somehow helps liberate the wretched of the earth. If they really believe in serving the cause of liberation, why don’t they quit their evil-capitalist-subsidized jobs and go teach literacy in a Third World starved for the insights of Foucault?

Goodbye to people who have demonstrated that what terror means to them is the terror of ever having to admit they were wrong, the terror of allowing the hideous facts of history to impinge upon their insulated ideology.
1Some - perhaps many - things are best done at the level of National, not local, government. But it's a matter of judgement. I'm certainly not ant-government. I think that the Federal government should be strong in the sense of being able to do those things it is legitimately empowered to do and do them well. But many, many things are done Federally that I think should be done at State or Local level or non-governmentally. One of the disturbing things about modern American political debate is that if one says that one does not think Midnight Basketball programs (or whatever) should be done by the Federal government, people then assume that - or accuse - you're against them all together. But that's a debate for another time.
Pakistani Selections tommorrow. The Torygraph editorializes on the significance of Musharaf's recent moves:
Tomorrow's elections bring to an end three years of military rule. The supreme court had ordered that they should take place by October. But, like all of Pakistan's three previous military rulers, Gen Musharraf is interested only in regime preservation, rather than moving the country towards genuine democracy. On April 30, he held a heavily rigged referendum, which made him president for the next five years.

The controversy that has raged over the referendum and the dramatic slide in his own popularity have not diverted Gen Musharraf from consolidating his powers. He has changed the 1973 constitution to give the army a permanent political role, create a military-dominated National Security Council that will override any future parliament or prime minister, and give himself powers to sack any future government.

For the past few months, the army, the intelligence services and Gen Musharraf's senior aides have been browbeating politicians to support the army-sponsored candidates for the elections. Numerous new laws have ensured that hundreds of candidates not to the army's liking can be debarred from standing.
Problems don't go away.
U.S. Pair Win Economics Prize: wonder why we're so far ahead of the curve, economically? Well, it might be partly due to the fact that
Of the 51 people who have been given economic Nobel prizes, 34 have come from the United States.
Meanwhile, what is one of the reasons some places remain poor? Not "exploitation", but a tendency to consider guys like this seriously and indulge in import-substitution economics:
What the critics tend to recommend are policies that, if suggested for domestic consumption in the United States or Europe, would generally be decried -- and with reason. Close off Brazil's markets, they say, so that local jobs can be protected against the might of foreign competition. But it's been done before, for decades, has never worked and helps more than anything else to explain why Latin America is where it is now.
Good luck with that. It's worked sooo well so far:
The poverty of the region reflects protectionism, which was a by-product late in the 19th century of government tariffs on imports and, since World War II, a conscious policy tool. Protected markets, state monopolies, government industries: This was the way to develop, Latin America decided. What it led to was inefficiency, lack of competitiveness, small, weak economies, and, ugliest of all, corruption that enabled a small number to prosper from what wealth there was while the majority remained low-paid, uneducated, without opportunity: poor.
Oh, yah, and good reason to keep Pat Buchanan's hands off our economy, while we're at it.
Why Haven't We Done This Already? We're considering listing "Saudi" Arabia among the countries that do not allow the free practice of religion.

What's to consider? Their hurt feelings when we recognize the facts? I stopped caring about the feelings of the Princes of Saud some time ago.
UK To Contribute a 20,000 man force to Iraq effort, according to The Scotsman:
The "big" British contribution would involve heavy armoured forces to fight alongside US divisions currently gathering in Kuwait.
Again I don't really disagree with these protestors, but I'd take their protestations a lot more seriously if they spent the same amount of time and energy protesting the "The purveyors of hate" among their own prelates.

When will that happen? I think the answer to that has become obvious. Never.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Nay-Sayers Often Ask "what comes after Saddam?" A question they asked with regard to the Taliban, too. Well, the Financial Times has an outline.

(Link via Andrew Sullivan).
Who Elected the UN? Echoing some of the principles in my long post of yesterday, Robert Bartley asks the question.

The answer, of course, is "progressives" who find it difficult to advance their cause through democratic processes, and so seek out bureaucratic institutions insulated from the governed, through which they operate.
Boeing Plans W.I.G. Transport and ignorant news report compares it to the Spruce Goose.
Michael Barone analyzes a study of the Latino Voter and finds:
Pew and Kaiser plan to release the full results of their survey in December. But this initial release of political questions suggest that it will be a tricky business for either party to achieve its goals among Latino voters–and a tricky business for those of us in the predicting business to predict which way they'll go. One thing is clear. The "people of color" model, so beloved of leftist academics, is wrong. According to that model, Latinos being "nonwhite" will inevitably suffer great discrimination and poverty in this racist country and should support nearly unanimously ever-bigger government and racial entitlements: Browns should behave like blacks.

But they don't. Relatively few Latinos say they have experienced discrimination, Suro reports, and most are in the process of experiencing upward economic mobility. Their attitudes toward economic and cultural issues have been shaped by experiences in their home countries that are unfamiliar to most American political analysts and by experiences in America which do not fit well into the "people of color" model. And their attitudes on major issues tend to be in tension with the attitudes of major constituencies in both political parties.
Hollywood's Internal Split disected in another Torygraph article. The fun quote:
R Lee Ermey, who made his name as the fearsome drill sergeant in the film Full Metal Jacket, told The Telegraph that Streisand's views were far from representative of Hollywood as a whole.

"Once again, Barbra Streisand has opened her alligator-sized mouth wide before her humming-bird brain has had a chance to catch up," said Ermey. "Of course, she has the right to her opinion, but what she does is use the 'bully pulpit', helped by her fame, and people think she's talking for Hollywood."
The money quote:
The evidence of a more hawkish Hollywood has not come as a surprise to Tim Smith, who has set up a "support group" for Republicans working in the film industry.

He said: "For years in this place, you could only be covertly conservative if you wanted to keep in with the right people. But the effect of 9/11 has been to give more actors, producers and directors the courage to say what they think about issues like the war on terror and Iraq."
Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship: The Telegraph reports growing unease among Saddam's inner circle and efforts to reach out to the opposition to promise support when war comes.

I won't overstate the significance of these claims. They're probably overblown. But there's probably something to them, and it's a good sign. I also wouldn't want these people to topple Saddam themselves and replace them with one of their own. A more complete change than simply "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" is in order.

Monday, October 07, 2002

John O. Sullivan diagnoses the Tory Party, and the results are not good:
It is, in short, the Dianification of Toryism.
Low, man, low.
When the Torch bowed out of his sinking re-election bid, he said we shouldn't feel sorry for him because he "changed people's lives". That he did. Let's commemorate one of the ways he did so. With the Torricelli Rule that helped tie the hands of our intelligence agencies. Among other lives this changed, it affected the lives of thousands of American (and non-American) families in Sept. 11th.

Way to go, Torch!

(Yah, it's cruel and injust to say this. Sort of. But the Torch played dirty, underhanded, vicious politics. No one deserves such a commemorative more than he does. Live by slash-and-burn politics, die by slash-and-burn politics, you scumbag). I don't feel sorry for him at all.
Moslems Angry at Falwell says the BBC. Yah know, if the moslems spent as much time condemning their own religious fringe as we spend heaping abuse and scorn on Falwell, I'd take their anguish and assertions that we just misunderstand what mainstream Islam is all about more seriously.

(Falwell, btw, to those few who aren't aware of it, is one of the original "idiotarians" described by that term. Do the Moslems complaining about Falwell have a similar term they use to describe the prelates of their faith that preach hate and Jihad? You tell me).
and even go to the occasional Wrestlemania says Stephen Stanton. Well, I had a chance to go to Toronto this year, with the gang at Wrestlebytes. But cash was tight and I was falling out with the anarchofascist that ended up replacing Freakboy as the editor. So I didn't make the trip.
Few Posts Today: not that there aren't interesting things going on out in the world, including France. I'm considering moving to Bloggerzone because Pyra's code & servers have persisted in being annoying and frustrating.

If and when it happens, I'll be sure to post the move and the new URL. Until then, anyone who happens to wander through this blog can keep themselves busy reading the below tirade if they're interested or shuffle off if they're not.

(There might be a post or two; as I keep noting, anytime I think that posting will be light, something comes up that grabs my attention). End conceted self-referential blather.
Unlike the last exchanges with Eric Tam, I'm not going to ask my readers to read either the below post or the post of his that generated the following rambling, sometimes incoherent response. People are welcomed to do so, and I post it for that reason. One can get the same arguments elsewhere with less verbosity. I started writing this post out longhand in the form of notes on Friday, and continued off and on over the weekend, finishing Sunday night. I then took a gander at USS Clueless and Steven has a couple posts up that make nearly identical points to some of what I write below. His posts are actually shorter than the one that follows here. So if you don't want to read a repetitious diatribe (this website is, remember the Home of the Daily Diatribe©, lets remember.

The Virtues of Unilateralism Compared to the Vices of the Multilateral Concete: My long response to Eric Tam's post has been responded to.

Readers will note that Eric's reply to my challenge was such that it deserved, and got, a cordial response. Eric's latest does not deserve the same sort of tone.

This is because, unfortunately, right from the start, Eric dissembles quite a bit. He claims that I "projected" and took him out of context. Actually, I took him very much in context, as readers will see as they check out his initial post. I suppose he is now invoking the minor disclaimers because, like many among a certain side of the political debate, he doesn't want to be pinned down - anything they say can be disclaimed later, didn't really mean that, can't pin me down to that. Thus he writes a lengthy essay, the vast majority of which was focused on the UN as a forum for "multilateralism", but dislikes the fact that I responded to the core of his argument. He repeats this pattern in his current post, in how he adds that he "then I did not express [himself] clearly enough" - thus he can attack me for the fact that he made arguments that he now says were the wrong ones, but now, when I am calling him on it, he can play the innocent ("whatever are you saying, Porphy? I admitted that it was I who did not express myself clearly enough").

Well, the truth remains, and it is this: sorry, Eric, the only person who is taking your remarks out of context is yourself. I left things entirely in context, so that when he invoked a few phrases about how he doesn't see the UN as the be all and end all, but then based his arguments on the institutions and charter of the UN and it's role in "approving" or "disapproving" action.
Note that in my initial "challenge" that he is responding to, the UN doesn't appear anywhere. He invoked it. When he says this:
"the internal governance of regimes has become open to multilateral scrutiny, with the UN Security Council supposedly acting as the ultimate arbiter."
but when disavows any intent to draw a connection with the UN, he renders his statement meaningless. How is it supposed to work itself out? Someone reading that sentence who comes to the conclusion that Eric meant for it to be worked out in the Security Council would, according to Eric, be coming to the wrong conclusion. But then, since in his new post Eric thrice forsakes the UN, Eric didn't explain how it should work itself out. Similarly, Eric takes me to task for taking the Treaty of Westphalia argument seriously in my response. Like the UN, I never once mentioned the Treaty of Westphalia in my initial post. In his new post, Eric says that's not his argument. Excuse me for believing that, when I was responding to the post, I was responding to Eric's arguments. Perhaps he'll join O.J. in searching from golf course to golf course in an effort to find the real culprit: who was that who posted that post under Eric's name, infusing it with arguments that are not Eric's? According to Eric's recent post, I am to blame for the way he couched his arguments in that post. In his new post, Eric abandons them. He didn't really mean it, and I was wrong to focus on the arguments that were made, are his excuses. So I'm afraid Eric distorting the gist of his own essay. Hate to be so blunt, but that's the truth and I'm not happy at all with his attempt to accuse me of taking him out of context simply so he can hand-wave away my arguments on that score. If you're not able to counter them, fine, but underhanded debate tactics will not get you very far with me. Leftists reading this are mentally congradulating Eric for getting under my skin, as if that were the point of discussions. I have no doubt of that reaction taking place since I've seen that reaction before, it is inevitable and unalterable.

As our earlier exchanges, both in e-mail and on weblogs show, I'm more than willing to have a civil discussion and debate with someone (say, Eric) who disagrees with me, when certain basic elements of exchange are respected (hmmn. . .shades of NJ here, I could say). When Eric, in his own response, took a quite different direction than I meant in my original post, I noted it as a curiosity, but did not wave away his arguments claiming he took me out of context; indeed, as I said, I found it quite interesting and revealing of the very different outlooks that cause disagreement between the two sides of the debate and so often cause us to talk past each other. But, instead of talking past him due to that, I addressed his points. Even the section that, as I said in my reply, when I first read it my initial reaction, my initial inclination, was to deal with it briefly if at all, but as I thought more about it and wrote more, found to be more interesting than I first thought. Eric doesn't even try to do this, he does not return the courtesy. As a result, where I'm happy to debate points of substance, instead I find myself spending a lot of words (boring our readers) in a meta-debate on the etiquette of discourse, and what I see as Eric's violation of it.

The reason Eric uses this device, mooting out his previous post in almost is entirety, is revealed when Eric says:
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass over the large part of P.'s post"
By adopting the tactic of voiding the arguments he made in his initial post, Eric feels he can then void out the counter-arguments that I made: even the ones that would apply in contexts not involving the UN. He thus does not have to face them. Instead, he substitutes straw-men arguments that he calls mine. Note that he doesn't do this completely - he picks and chooses a few statements, that he has divorced of context, and then misrepresents them so that he can better attack them. I will get to the most egregious ones below.

Anyhow, since Eric did something I consider underhanded to me, I'm going to return the favor, and say something underhanded about his post. At least he would consider it underhanded. In his original post, Eric-the-Progressive is making very Conservative arguments. At least that's what comes clear now, within the context of his latest post. Ok, so I'm a bit tongue-in-cheek in saying that it's underhanded and mean to say this of his arguments, and it's unfair. But here they are: Eric argues on the basis of the Treaty of Westphalia's attitude towards "regime change" (something I then addressed at the beginning of my response) - even though, btw, in my original challenge, I wasn't saying "argue as to why regime change is bad", nor does invoking this show why multilateralism is such a fetish (his argument, if one takes it on the new grounds, is that multilateralism is warranted in this case because "regime change" is so exceptional. But "multilateralism" and "unilateralism" are invoked in all kinds of cases - such as the fact that if we don't submit to this or that treaty, we're also accused of the evils of "unilateralism", which is why the initial question arose; what's the big deal about multilateralism? If they think a treaty is good and want the ICC, go for it, but if we don't, why are we expected to conform? &tc). Since we didn't sign the treaty of Westphalia, the argument that we should respect it is based on tradition: that's the way things are done. If we think it's outdated, well it can only be modified within the context of a gradual consensus where everyone else gets a say in what we will do about it. A very Kirkian Conservative argument. No wonder he now wants as little as possible to do with his earlier statements.

Likewise, Eric invoked the UN, but with caveats. He is in essence saying "well, these institutions may be flawed, but they are institutions and there is an evolving tradition based on them which we should respect" (but then he says "oh, wait, no, I'm not tying myself to those institutions, you can't pin me down in that way"). It used to be that Liberals and the Left stood for the idea that just because everyone else says you should do something, but your conscious tells you that this isn't workable, you should Question Authority and be guided by your conscience. But it's somewhat unfair (I said it was) to call it a Conservative argument. It's a Collectivist, Coropratist argument. We shouldn't do things, not for reasons related to the merits, but on the basis of whether others and various institutions give us the nod, group consensus triumphs over individual conscience.

In his original reply, as he quotes in his latest response, Eric wrote the following
In doing so, the internal governance of regimes has become open to multilateral scrutiny, with the UN Security Council supposedly acting as the ultimate arbiter.
Within the context of his original post, it was clear to me that Eric was invoking this as a key support to his argument. Now he says otherwise, and that it was a mistake on my part. But after thrice forsaking the UN, he addresses the point of UN Resolutions, many if not most of which are very bad (for reasons I extensively explained in my post), but actually on that score he doesn't commit himself anymore than he committed himself on the UNSC in his earlier post. He talks about what others and American Administrations supposedly believe about them (Let it be noted that they act far different about all of them than they sometimes speak about them. What one has to say on the basis of diplomacy and politics is far different on this score from how one actually behaves, and I think action and behavior give a far better indication of what people in all sorts of Administrations think about the vast majority of UN Resolutions and how selective the UN is in passing them). Since Eric doesn't commit himself one way or another on the UN in his latest post, either, speaking of:
"reason people like to refer to the UN"
one can be forgiven for finding it hard to know what Eric thinks based on Eric's posts. Here I am thinking I'm having an exchange of views on a subject with Eric (I'm certainly putting forth my arguments, not those of unknown "people"), when I really should be looking for these masked "people" Eric is talking about (I guess I'll be joining him and O.J. on the links. I'll have to take up golf, get myself some clubs, and perhaps someday I'll run into the person who's making these arguments, too).

In any case, Eric then does - sort of - put forward what he would find acceptable in multilateral action. What form it should take. In a vague sense, what kind of procedural process should be followed. Of course, none of this was present in his original reply to my challenge (heck, within the context of the post in which I raised that challenge, with its reference to allies, if Eric meant that he thought NATO action would be acceptable, I wonder why he didn't bring it up before?) The Al-Goresque "posse", likewise. Likewise, none of it has any connection to the basic question, which fades further and further into the background: why is this necessary? Why are we obligated to do this?

But even here, Eric doesn't quite let himself get pinned down to anything that a reader or responder could grasp. What constitutes a sufficient "posse" and why isn't it allowed that we have one now? Half of what plus "regional" powers. But the "why" remains substantially unaddressed (he has some vague platitudes which I will dissect later).

We have Britain, Spain, Austrailia, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, and general noise from various other Arab countries that they can't speak openly of their support and publicly have to say they oppose it, but are giving tacit support and encouragement (there are continual news reports to such effect). Russia has as much as said that their main worry, almost their only worry, is that they'll be covered in what they're owed by Iraq and in the contracts and deals they've made. So what's wrong with this posse? France and Germany aren't onboard is what's wrong with it, I suppose. The real issue becomes apparent: invoking "unilateralism" is just a smoke-screen to avoid discussing real reasons. One gets the feeling that even if something resembling the criterion Eric vaguely discusses was organized, he would still find reason to oppose. Which confirms statements I mentioned in the initial challenge:
Presumably, if you're sincerely anti-war, you wouldn't change your mind and become pro-war just because we collected group of nations. . .
Point being, "unilateral!" is a diversion, not an argument on point, and those holding the anti- position now aren't going to change their mind if and when that happens, just as those who were anti- in the first Gulf War didn't change there mind simply because the UN authorized it and the "important" NATO powers as well as regional powers were in the coalition. Their reasons for opposing are something else, having little or nothing to do with unilateralism, just as no one supports action just because we have collected a certain threshold of allies into a "posse", offering to either help (Britain) or hold our coat and stop complaining for a day - maybe two.

Nor, divorced from the UN's institution, does he say why we need one. His remaining points are a diversion:
"roughly the same liberal democratic values that the U.S. purports to be defending through this intervention"
But that's not the primary reason for our interest in toppling Iraq. This is a typical method of the anti-side: to focus on only one aspect of the argument in favor of action, as if it were the sole or main reason, if it helps them make their argument, while ignoring the other aspects. And they're the side that so often accuses Bush of "simplicity." Of course, in other debates, Eric might make absolutely no mention of this rationale and instead focus on something else if he feels that will provide tactical advantage. But of course, such a method of argument should convince no one and only affects those who already agree.

We hope to encourage the values Eric mentions, but that's not why we're going (people often raise the specious "ok, if we're getting rid of Saddam the dictator, then why not Mughabe in Zimbabwe" argument. But Mughabe, for all his thugishness, is no danger to the international system, and more to the point no threat to us. Our move against Iraq is based on the danger Iraq can pose to our interests. As I mentioned in my reply to his first post, and as Eric entirely ignores, it is the risk that Iraq's ambitions pose, within the context of Arabic terrorism generally, that we are responding to. We do not want them to attain their ambitions (success in a nuclear program so that they can then a) deter us while pursuing their aims in the region and b) create the possibility for attacks on us that would, in level of destruction, be in relation to Sept. 11th as Sept. 11th was in relation to the Embassy Bombings). Those who claim Iraq wasn't involved in the WTC attack are again engaging in a debate diversion. It is arguable that connection remains unproven (but, as Max Frankel ended up conceding, "it is folly to hold nations to a standard of 'law' in an anarchic world." Court of Law forensic evidence - such as the anti-side kept demanding a year ago with respect to Afghanistan, then - rarely exists in the international arena. Until one is able to get in and do a search - and, no, I don't think presenting Saddam with a search warrant will have much good); but his connection to the previous, '93 WTC attack and with terrorists who have it in for us is beyond serious dispute. And in any case, dispute on that topic would have little to do with whether unilateral action to eliminate that threat is inherently bad; it would be an argument on the merits.

Note that Eric's arguments are not on the grounds of the challenge. Never the less, I do not wave his arguments away, as he does with mine. He focuses on multilateralism with respect to Iraq. Note that in the post itself I mention:
Sure, on many, many occasions multilateralism is the way to go. But that isn't a rationale for saying it's the way to go. Lets put it this way: you have a friend (you lucky dog!), you share some interests with that friend, so you do those things together. But neither of you are bad friends if there are things you're interested in doing and that isn't interested in doing (or vice versa), and you do those things without him or her while the friend likewise does things that aren't your cup of tea.
I tried not to be a prick about it in my reply to Eric's post; I noted it, but then dealt in a serious way with the arguments he made. In any case, back to the case of multilateralism with respect to Iraq (again, doing him a courtesy that he refuses to reciprocate on - taking his arguments as he made them, regardless of the fact that they have nothing to do with the challenge he claims to be addressing). We are acting based on a assessment of the threat Saddam poses to us, especially if he achieves his ambitions, along with the reasonable conclusion that we must prevent him from achieving some of those goals before it is too late. one can disagree with this assessment, but arguments based on that disagreement have nothing to do with "unilateralism" or "multilateralism". Likewise, when Britain - sometimes alone - was insistent upon getting rid of Napoleon, that wasn't on the basis of getting rid of all autocrats (it didn't require them to go after the Mughabe's of their era). His was a special case, a threat to the entire international system that Britain found in its interest to preserve. What if we're the only country really "like us" in the world? Or what if there are a few "like us" but a good portion of those are onboard (the "Anglosphere" countries of Britain & Australia that we do share a lot of the same principles with)? Why does that matter, anyhow?

But I'm even inaccurate in saying that we're going because "Iraq is a threat to the international system". It is, but in certain odd ways. Iraq is a threat to us and a few of our friends (who are onboard, though some - for reasons related to the area they exist in and domestic politics - are more quiet about it than others). As I said in my original post, and as Eric entirely ignores, not only are the burdens and costs not born by everyone, but importantly, the risks aren't, either.

Further Aside on the UN, in his new post Eric makes this unsupported assertion:
We should also note that the U.S. is the dominant force in the system and has been in large part responsible for both its virtues and pathologies.
The last part of that sentence is only true to the degree to which, when negotiating the Charter, we agreed to allow ruthless totalitarian dictatorships and kleptocratic dictatorships to be members and be treated as any other member, and furthermore agreed to let this body pass all sorts of noble-sounding measures that were often insincerely supported and violated by those who piously insisted upon them. Furthermore, the U.S. has been waging a lonely battle - opposed by most of the Left - to try and rid the UN of the various pathologies it has. To little if no avail. Because these are pathologies of unaccountable international institutions generally. Institutions of the sort that Eric wants to have make our decisions for us. Also, no small portion of the procedures of the UN that the generally Left dislikes (when, that is, they don't find them useful, as now) were things that the Soviet Union, not the U.S., wanted. When George Kennan noticed this his response was that we should "stop wandering about with our heads in the clouds of Wilsonian idealism and universalistic conceptions of world collaboration", which is apt now as it was then, for the same reasons. Pretending that other countries are not going to pursue their interests but will instead play nice (doing such things as evaluating our case on its merits rather than on what will benefit them most) is either folly or a device deployed selectively to whip us. I'll let the reader decide which one Eric is engaging in.

Eric's arguments are also a form of begging the question. Indeed, in tossing out the entirety of my post as he does, he shows this. One can easily divorce Jack and Vlad, say, from any Council, UN or otherwise. It doesn't eliminate the argument that their approval or disapproval is not based on the merits of a case for action, but on their own interests. Lee, Jack, Vlad, none of them have to sit on a council for us to still wonder why we should give them veto power over our action, if we find it to be in our interest, given an understanding of what is motivating their intransigence. That is, unless Eric holds a strange believe that when enacted through the UN, their support or opposition will involve motives that I mentioned in my reply to his first post, but outside of it they will not have these considerations foremost in their mind.

Eric writes:
"Aside: P. suggests that the U.S. may be justified in ignoring the opinions of such countries by invoking the metaphor of "battered wife syndrome."
It was Eric, not I, who created the initial analogy of individuals in a household setting. I guess this is his way of saying that didn't work out so well for him. He then accuses me of an imperialist mindset for taking seriously an aspect of his initial reply that I had noted my problems with but, in the interest of a good debate, took seriously. He "notes it is slightly unfair" but then smears me with it anyhow. Again, he includes an "out" for himself (Eric is again saying "hey, don't hold me responsible, I did say it was slightly unfair, so you can't call me on it", just invoking one of the dirty tricks of debate so often used by the anti- side. "Porphy took me out of context by saying I ripped him over the battered wife thing, I even said it was unfair to rip him for it, but he does so anyhow! How mean Porphy is for holding me, again, to something I said". Frankly, no wonder so many of us find these debates not only pointless, but irritating, and find so many on the anti-side to be obnoxious). It's funny, though; on the one hand Eric's argument boils down to saying we're not mature enough to make decisions without our minders' approval, but he then accuses me of Imperialist impositions upon the sovereign decision-making abilities of other countries. He states that "abrogating the right of its citizens to self-government as a result of mental incompetence" is reflective or an imperialist mindset, but then his entire attitude towards whether America can or cannot make decisions on the basis of our interests is based on abrogating the right of its citizens to self-government. We need curbs on our behavior, people to make decisions for us, presumably because we cannot be trusted to make them for ourselves (Eric gives no other reason). And Eric accuses me of projecting. One could cut the irony with a knife. In any case, it is fairer for me to say that this disconnect is revealing of the attitudes of the anti-war side's suspicion and loathing of the U.S. than it was for him to claim to have found the imperialist hidden within me. The considerations of self-determination are invoked by the anti-side with respect to countries where the concept of citizenship is still foreign (the people of these nations have no say in how they're governed, invoking their ability to self-government is a farce when we're talking about hereditary dictatorships, Ayatollah theocracies, and monarchies that hold power by force of arms and the secret police), but are not invoked with respect to the abilities of the citizens and elected representatives of the U.S. to self-government and ability to make decisions in our interest. We need guardians. Useful idiots and fellow travelers used to pull this trick with respect to the Soviet's and Communist control over Poland, too. The sovereign rights of the Soviet Union to determine it's interests in conjunction with the People's Governments of Eastern Europe was inviolate, how dare we meddle (by discussing "our version of freedom" where they had "their own version"), but we needed to listen to and accord ourselves to their needs.

But in any event, his slur is all the more disreputable given that in the post I fully explained what I meant by it:
"reluctant to speak out against him, not because they want him around, but because they fear what will happen to them if they speak up but he survives, again."
Which is more or less what will happen if the anti-side gets its way, by the by. I figured that someone who is as well read as Eric would understand the analogy here. That it is not that these people have not made up their mind that they would like to see Saddam go, but they cannot speak openly of it - more because the West has proven so feckless, time and time again (in '98 speaking of "regime change" but then dithering and letting Saddam even expel the inspectors, and doing nothing beyond lobbing a few cruise missiles in. But they have been left, again, to still deal with him as their neighbor, because we don't remove him). The governments of the region make this point, quietly, virtually every week. Such as the one in this recent article that points out that:
Jordan has adopted its own version of diplomatic duplicity. It has issued appeals to Washington not to attack Iraq but is playing host to American troops in the context of military exercises clearly related to any future action against Saddam Hussein. Prince Hassan, King Abdallah's uncle, has emerged as an active supporter of the Iraqi exile opposition groups, and even attended their conference in London last July.
When it suits them, the anti-side wants us to pretend that surface statements and platitudes are all there is (of course, in other contexts they are more than willing to look below the surface, but not here). But clearly what Jordan is saying for public consumption and what Jordan wants to see happen (since Amman is one of those capitals threatened by Saddam) are two different things. This is the obvious meaning of their hosting of such exercises (of which it is an open secret that from such exercises, Special Ops forces are infiltrating into Iraq) even while saying something different for international consumption. And it is the rather obvious meaning of the analogy I made, within the context of the full explanation. But Eric would rather score cheep points distorting it. However, by doing things like that he has unfortunately destroyed the cordial tone of the discussion, for I find that contemptible.

Eric opines that we need "support/consent of at least half of those nations who share and instantiate roughly the same liberal democratic values that the U.S. purports to be defending through this intervention". Are we supposed to assume that appeals to these things will motivate even our allies, with the possible exception of Britain, on Iraq? They didn't in the Balkans. I know because I observed that playing out for years as Clinton tried to convince them on that basis and on humanitarian grounds that intervention was needed, to no avail. Then the EU said they would handle it (epitomized by the infamous Jacques Poos), but they were not serious and years of feckless dithering followed. It was only when Clinton tool the tack that the editors of TNR had been urging all along, of (unilaterally) deciding that something needed to be done, we needed to act and would do so with or without them, that they came along (so as to not be left out of the decision-making in the aftermath). But remembering his previous remarks on the UN and the way he has wiggled out of them, reading the entirety of his remarks it actually seems like he would have no problem saying that the support/consent he writes of need not be based on an appeal to those values. It could be horse-trading for support; we feel we're at risk, but Eric says we cannot do anything without first getting an ok from our guardians, so we agree to let them loot & pillage in return for their OK. Or we agree to let them do to Iraq what Athens did to the Melians during the Peloponnesian War: kill the men and carry the women off into bondage. It doesn't matter (Athens was "sticking up for popular self-determination", recall the Funeral Oration. The specious arguments about how polite and reasonable democracies are that makes its appearance in Eric's post notwithstanding. Readers may want to check out the Morgenthau Report that FDR adopted as the post-war policy he planned on imposing on Germany after the war if they think a modern democracy cannot behave this way. Churchill was appalled, but initialed it because Roosevelt said that post-war reconstruction aid would be withheld from Britain if he didn't. All I can say about it is that it's a good thing Roosevelt died before the end of the war and Truman shitcanned that plan). Sure, now having said that, Eric will say he doesn't mean for those kinds of things to be the reasons for support, either, but he writes in only vague, pious-sounding generalities. He cannot honestly claim that countries, even democratic countries, will give support on the basis of shared values being at stake, so he makes it sound like he is doing so without actually saying that. Openly acknowledging that the process of getting support of other nations would involve corrupt deal making would undercut the basis of the argument he is now making, that there is some sort unwritten and vague of moral obligation to get their support. Admitting that this would involve deals that would make a Tammany Hall political boss blush just wouldn't look right, as few readers would see that as the more moral alternative. So he elides over that and makes an argument that is misleading.

Eric puts words in my mouth claiming my opposition to the UN's (among other) "multilateral" decision-making bodies was due to that they don't implement "perfect justice". No where in my post does the phrase "perfect justice" appear (I would be more generous with Eric, as I was in my earlier response to him, but I believe in reciprocity, and as he has not extended that to me in his latest reply, I feel no need to extend that to him). My opposition was based on the fact that these are often injust (as well as being unaccountable and irresponsible), and clearly driven by motivations that we should find appalling (thus the UN's - and "multilateral" bodies generally - focus, for example, on Israel, while ignoring other, more egregious abuses - such as the ones I mentioned in my post, among far more - elsewhere). Indeed, he then goes on to make a very telling argument, which I will treat with more fairness than he showed me, but very harshly:
"Many observers of the U.S. Congress of whatever partisan affiliation would describe the House and the Senate exactly this way."
This is exactly the same sort of argument that the useful idiots and fellow travelers, anti-anti-Communists, used to make when people criticized the Soviet Union's system. They would concede that "Sure, the Supreme Soviet is an imperfect deliberative body. But so is the U.S> Congress". The logic here being:
  • The Supreme Soviet is a flawed deliberative body.
  • The U.S. Congress is a flawed deliberative body.
  • There is no real, substantive distinction between them and we should have no preference for one over the other.

So now we have:
  • The UN and other multilateral decision-making bodies are flawed deliberative bodies.
  • The U.S. Congress is a flawed deliberative body.
  • There is no real, substantive distinction between them and we should have no preference for one over the other.
America shouldn't mind whether our fate is decided in these bodies, or in bodies accountable to the American people. I suppose Eric would say that the people of the EU shouldn't mind that the European Parliament is rather powerless, and the decisions regarding the direction of Europe's new Super-State are made by an Impersonal Bureaucracy, either, because even if the EU Parliament is flawed, well the British Parliament is flawed, too; neither are perfect so both are equivalent. Issues of accountability and responsibility that form a very significant part of my argument go completely unmentioned in his riposte. Apparently he doesn't find such things very important, or even important at all. Thus he is able to declare that he "will assume that this is assumption is false", and moves on without any mention of democratic accountability, responsibility, consent of the governed to the institutions and processes that they will be governed by (we ratified a Constitution, we haven't ceded our decision-making ability to France yet), and sovereignty. We're supposed to bow to the will of the UN or even an ad-hoc deliberative body simply because it is an organization . . .or something. . .that will go through the motions. But that's not going to convince anyone with substantive concerns that we have a moral obligation to push these things aside and let matters be decided in this way. The only people it will convince are those who never cared for Constitutional, republican form of government as it is embodied in the U.S. in the first place. This might explain why so many people who have long disliked "the system", when that system is the American system, find their hopes embodied in multilateralism (now that previous Great Hopes have passed into history's dustbin).

His "possible answers" again beg the question and are vague in the extreme, involving procedural matters and the triumph of hope over experience (something I said in my earlier post that I doubted would happen anytime soon. I said I expected to see the Rapture before that would happen). This fetish of appearance and process over substance also explains why his latest response is an extended begging of the question. He talks about evolving standards and expectations, and treaties, but never mentions why that means America is obligated to get the nod of France and Germany (note that Germany here can say they demand "consultation", but can make up its own mind and declare that nothing will ever change it, before such "consultation" occurs. But that, and the fact that this unilateralism on Germany's part makes them a hero to the anti- side, just exposes what a farce all these arguments over the need for multilateralism are).

Note that Eric's post is supposedly a response to my challenge, wherein I write that:
Sure, on many, many occasions multilateralism is the way to go. But that isn't a rationale for saying it's the only way to go. . . It would be interesting to see if someone would be able to make an argument as to why "unilateralism" is always wrong. They would have to make the strong argument against unilateralism, not a weak one ("unilateralism is sometimes wrong"), if they were to sustain the commonly made point in the current debate, which is founded upon simply assuming it to be wrong and arguing from that assumption.
So that when Eric allows that the three possible options he mentions are not mutually exclusive, he is agreeing that #3 (acting alone) is sometimes warranted. This means he does not meet the challenge.

He then has to show why we should act in a multilateral way before other options are better. Which means proving that they are currently better, and thus the option to choose now, in this instance. That will be very hard to do if one is going to try to make that argument on a moral basis, for the reason described above. Certainly claiming that those who are willing to indulge in things like the Durban conference last year, or the antics that went on at the conference on Sustainable Development this year, are not the vessel for such a thing, or even those who are more than willing to pass fine-sounding resolutions and then do nothing effective about them, hoping instead that the matter can be buried under procedures that have proven ineffective in the past, so that they can go back to doing business as usual. If the idea is to work towards a future when it will be a better option, then certainly a good case can be made that this won't happen until people like Saddam do not exist. As I wrote in the post Eric is responding to, but in another section he chose to ignore:
there is, under the terms of the anti-side's own argument, a sense in which Bush's speech and appeals to the threat to the world's collective security is even more apt for them than it is for my case. This is unrecognized in the quickness so many have to criticize Bush. But, ironically, for those who think that disputes should be handled in a forum like the UN and that it will decide matters meritoriously rather than meretriciously, how it responds to this crisis will determine, in large part, whether its structure is a basis for "collective security" or not.
Emphasis added to like the UN. In his haste to dismiss my arguments rather than respond to them, Eric did not notice that I was speaking of the UN as an instance, but in addition of similar bodies generally.

The treaty establishing the ICC also shows how the "international community" is not ready for anything really resembling the Rule of Law as anyone with a consideration for that concept would accept and recognize, what with its extremely vague provisions, openness to allowing judges to be selected in the same manner as the Chair for the UN's Human Rights Commissione are selected, and an entire provision that is empty, saying "ratify the treaty now and we'll fill in this part later". The hated "unilateralism!" is already invoked when a country decides to say "hey, if you all like that treaty, you can go ahead and ratify it, no skin off our back, but it's not our cup of tea and we'll say thanks or no thanks, we're not going to be subject to its terms". So much for any respect for the concept of self-government that Eric piously invokes when talking about the world's great tyrannies.

In any case, Eric effectively allows that the world has not reached the state where this situation exists. He then has no argument for why we should wait to deal with Iraq and/or other matters that are in our interest until such a thing happens. None that anyone who is interested in America would accept: the idea that if we defer now, it'll happen, is bogus for reasons already discussed. The idea that we should be rendered impotent in the hope that this will contribute to the growth of these institutions, likewise. Similarly lacking is any argument for why such a "world government" would be a good thing. That's really what we're talking about, here.

Indeed, it's far more plausible to describe the international system in terms of the Lord of the Flies or the Hobbesian state of nature than it is, as Eric at times seems to pretend, an arena where the world's Solons get together and deliberate matters on their merits in a manner not dissimilar to that of the U.S. Congress. Anyone who takes a close look at not only the ICC treaty but also Kyoto will find naked self-interest and attempts to screw the other guy built right in (there is, for example, a reason why Europe negotiated 1990 as the "baseline" year for Kyoto: they then get "free" credit for the elimination of greenhouse-causing plants that were going to be shut down anyway in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Canada negotiated credits for its forests, among other things. Other countries are completely excluded, so that if the goal is to reduce greenhouse gasses on the merits, the treaty is completely ineffective and will produce no such thing. The U.S. gets no such benefits, the rest of the parties to the agreement having insured that it will have to make drastic cuts. So, one cuts away the pious rhetoric and finds something not too surprising, given the attitude around the world: an effort to reign in the U.S. Thus their apoplexy when we decided we'd work towards the goals without imposing the onerous methods of the Kyoto treaty). Those are just two examples. But the anti-side would have us pretend that things are fine - except that whatever pathologies that are caused are due to the U.S. (thus we see the thinking behind Eric's comments regarding the U.S.'s relationship to the UN).

Once one looks beyond those find sounding platitudes, one sees the seedy reality. One of the problems is that these institutions mislead people into pretending otherwise. One then gets the attitude, like with laws at home, that due to some sort of "evolving standards" someone or some nation should agree to submit to some methodology as dictated by the "progressive community of thought", even without any prior agreement to accept such a process. If one doesn't submit, one will be looked on with contempt as a outlaw. We see again here, in this entire matter, that though Eric raises "self-government" when it suits him, he has no commitment to the concept. We are to be bound to these mechanisms whether we consent to them or not.

Eric mentions treaties being negotiated, ratified, and kept on these matters. The analogy here might be the EU. But we never signed a treaty that gave any body the kind of authority over our decision making that Eric is describing. The UN is not one (no other country treats it as if it were one, except where America is concerned). Of course, Eric can rightly point out that he never said we ratified a treaty like that. But that renders his entire statement here as meaningful as a gassy belch. Similarly with his comments on growth of democracy in countries (funny, Eric then wants matters to be deferred to decision making bodies that are distant from democratic procedures and accountability). Likewise, even within that context, Eric makes no mention of the "free rider" problem in all of this (but then "progressives" have always had a fondness for the Free Riders of the world). Americans will pay the cost of our decision. Instance after instance shows that those in, for example, Europe (I need not resort to examples of poor countries that are arguably unable to share in the costs) wants a full say in what will be done, but without the willingness to bear the consequences of any decision. We see only the "pro" side, for example, encouraging Rumesfeld's efforts to get European nations to pony up for a NATO force that could help in these efforts, at some point in the future (even if there were agreement, it would take some years to equip, organize, and train such a force). The only other country with the means to participate in a substantive fashion is already onboard: Britain is the only country that has made the commitment in past years and will continue to do so in future years to insuring that they have something to add, something to contribute, and thus they will have reason to be listened to. The rest of them, when they say we need their support, beg the question: we need their support because. . .what? Meanwhile, where have been the French planes helping, as part of the "coalition" enforcing the Gulf War cease-fire terms, flying missions in Iraq? No where. And, considering some of the things Eric brought up in his first post (those of the fear that actions will blow up the basement and destroy the building's oil supply, etc), the last thing that anyone would want would be "support" in the form of obsolete aircraft dropping gravity ("dumb") bombs all over the place.

In Europe the attitude is summed up by remarks indicating a desire to forge it's institutions in opposition to the U.S. (thus we should be all the more suspicious of any claim that deferring to the decisions of such allies and making them our legal guardians and doing only what they agree to will be done in ways that aren't deliberately aimed at sabotaging us, either economically, in international law, environmentally, or on security matters; it's impossible to pretend that they'll have the best interests of the child-like America in mind when they consider things) and in such bilious statements as that of Louis Michel, the foreign minister of Belgium, who said that the European Rapid Reaction Force "must declare itself operational without such a declaration being based on any true capability". The triumph of form over substance is what this all boils down to. One need not focus on the military aspect to see that in other cases (can't we just pass another empty resolution and agree to the same old ineffectual processes that failed over the last ten years, declare success and forget about the whole thing? Perhaps they can in France - the risks they face are different from the risks we face, and they and the Germans and the Russians are worried about the commercial deals they have with Iraq. How will they be able to sell Iraq more centrifuges if something that actually solves the problem is implemented?) These give the pro side good reason to be suspicious of claims that if we just submit to multilateral institutions, the worlds Solons will evaluate things on the basis of merit and principle. Eric seems to be arguing that, no, he realizes that won't happen. At least not now. But we should pretend that it will in the hope that our hopes will eventually be realized. Somehow. In the meantime we'll pray that things don't work out badly. But that argument does not show why we're under any obligation - why "unilateralism" is a crime in the eyes of the world. They didn't agree to submit their decisions in that manner, don't impose the same burdens they expect of us in that regard, and, most importantly, we never agreed to cede that level of authority to anyone. Of the allies, only Britain (this time through Tony Blair who recognizes a "blood price" for the alliance) recognizes that alliances create reciprocal obligations; the continentals have been, and remain, unwilling to hold up their end. They demand that we give them consideration, but without insuring they have something to offer that makes it worthwhile for us to do so. No, as I said in previous posts, hectoring and lectures we don't need from them. We can get that at home. A few obsolescent aircraft that will refuse to act at crunch time? A handful plus one - literally - of APCs? Puh-leeze. Not worth the price they demand. Empty gestures and token support are not sufficient to assert claims that they should be in on the decision, either before, during, or after the event, much less that we need to take their harangues seriously. The pretension otherwise is amusing, but futile.

Of course, on the principle of self-government, the nations of Europe are perfectly free to behave this way. But we're perfectly free to take their behavior into consideration when pondering whether we're obligated give them say over our decisions. They can act in their interest. But we can act in ours.

The EU countries did decide, among each other, to agree to mutual consultation on various matters. But they have done it in treaties and enabling agreements. Attempts to extend their arrangements to America without our consent are based on flawed reasoning. One can see why Americans would not want to be "included in" on such decision making against our will in considering how dysfunctional that has been, even among democracies, in the efforts to impose "Harmonized" policies on members that don't go along with certain assumptions. Ireland, for example, may not have agreed to submerge certain aspects of economic policy making under the Eurocracy, but no matter - they must be "harmonized" none the less. The EU's institutions also reflect, as most multilateral institutions do, a drift away from democratic principles and towards those of Corporatism and Impersonal Bureaucracy. NGOs with a few hundred thousand members advocating positions favored by the "progressives" in the bureaucracy exercise far more sway over policy decisions than millions of "voters". And those determining what form and direction these institutions will take like it for just these features. Law as such is subordinated to administrative fiat (the "tyranny of administrative law"). This can happen even in courts (EU Courts or ICC Courts). We can see aspects of this at home, but those of us who are against this internationally are as opposed to it at home. Eric cannot and does not try to show why we are under an obligation to eschew "unilateralism" and submit to "multilateralism" either here or in other cases. He could try to argue as to why it is in our (among everyone else's) interest to do so, in this case, pragmatically. But then we'd be right back to what I stated in my challenge: that yes, sometimes multilateralism is the way to go. But the argument for "why" must be made on its merits. Not simply asserted as if the other nations in question have an automatic right to it (to being "consulted" after having made up their own minds, for example, and where "consulted" is taken by them to mean "get to veto").

As for the "strong trend" in the last century that Eric mentions, it was accomplished not by accommodating the forces that the Left so often wanted to see accommodated (especially in the case of the East Block and the Third World movements), but by standing up to them and for those values, even in cases where our good allies thought that it would be best to tone down the rhetoric (usually called "harmful rhetoric"). Cases where they were treated as "normal" tended to dispirit the forces of democratization - both in the world generally and in the countries in question - while efforts to point out that no, the Supreme Soviet was not equivalent to the U.S. Congress and the property and economic rights that even our "good buddies" on continental Europe think so little of are more important than the supposed "other rights" that could be found in these paradises (be they the Eastern Block, or North Korea, or a relatively benign Nyerere's Tanzania). This has sometimes been a lonely battle. It has rarely been advanced through multilateral institutions passing human rights resolutions endorsed rhetorically by despotisms that then proceed to ignore them at best or whip scapegoats with at worse. It has often happened, even within these institutions, by the U.S. making unilateral decisions that have been condemned roundly - decisions to, for example, tie the paying of our dues to institutional reforms. Or tie aid to countries to substantial reforms. Or enact laws, roundly disliked by our "allies" and so many on the Left, restricting the transfer of technology to certain nations.

In any case, lets go on to this:
The amazing contradiction in this statement is revealed by the fact that P. and I are attempting to talk to one another. We couldn't do this if we didn't at least partially understand one another's worldviews.
There's no contradiction whatsoever in that statement. Indeed, coming to that conclusion only exposes one of the long-lasting fallacies of "progressive" thought: "if only we can educate people to understand each other, then conflict will pass". In the past this expressed itself in the platitudinous fallacy that if only people in America could come to understand the people and institutions of the Soviet Union, then the Arms Race would come to an end, and with it the Cold War, and we could live in brotherhood. Thus the impetus for so many "cultural exchange" and "confidence building" programs. The obvious problem here is that one can understand something quite well and not like it (thus, for example, well-known rivalries include Germany vs France, France vs. Brazil or Germany vs. Mexico, and Britain vs France, not - well, you get the point). People who understand each other quite well are the ones who know where the disagreements lay. Likewise, I can understand Eric's position and he can understand mine. We can talk past each other quite well on that basis. But it's not going to end with me saying "oh, now that I understand Eric's position, yes, I think that the accountability of institutions aren't that important and I'm quite willing to have our nation submit to some unagreed upon, "evolving" standard" of multilateral decision-making".

What is very clear is we read each others words, see where each other are coming from, but manifestly do not share anything like the same concerns. We are also, as it turns out, people who live in and have grown up and experienced life in a country that I used to be able to say embodied at least a shared concern for certain principles: democratic processes, consent of the governed, accountability, self-reliance, and, yes, distrust dating back to the Jacksonian era if not before of the manipulations of foreign powers trying to pursue their interests at our expense. Any sense that these principles are shared even in this one country was buried in a Courthouse in New Jersey last week (it had died before then, I have to now admit). In the past I could be a Democrat on this basis and that of the equality of people before the law1. But so many now have a world-view whereby they see multilateral institutions precisely as a tool to circumvent these and other "obstacles" to achieving their desires (things like due process, right to a jury of one's peers, immunity from double jeopardy, and ability to know what will be a crime in advance of acting. These are just ones the ICC so beloved of the Progressive community would violate. We can add to that freedom of speech, unlawful seizure, &tc; elsewhere in the above lengthy screed I go into the aspects related to national, governmental level which would be submerged). As Lileks wrote last week:
As I've noted elsewhere, there are two parties nowadays: the US party, and the UN party. The former includes Republicans and Democrat who have an inordinate, romantic, and almost quaint attachment to the Constitution and the notion of national sovereignty. The latter regard nation-states as subsets of a global construct that values unanimous impotence over individual effort, and values procedure over results.
Now, the "UN Party" does not have a specific attachment to the UN (especially since that body, noble though it may be, has some pathologies do to the influence the U.S. has over it), any multilateral institution will do. But the pattern plays out regardless of the forum. The only sphere where results are valued more than procedure and impotence is to be avoided is when acting to constrain the Great Satan,. Yes, that may be an over-harsh statement. But look at reality: those involved want the UN - or any multilateral institution - to do the minimal necessary with respect to Iraq because their real goal is to force the U.S. to give up it's mad scheme of deposing the Ba'ath Socialist Regime in Iraq. They would, did, and still want really to get rid of sanctions and normalize Iraq (that's been clear for several years). But the UN Party cannot do that at the moment. So they will adopt Fabian tactics (as they have on economics and in national politics. They're familiar with the strategy, and used it before with respect to Iraq and in other areas).

In any case, Eric did that with his first post where he now essentially admits his arguments were essentially opportunistic: he doesn't put much stock in the Treaty of Westphalia, but he invoked it anyhow. He wasn't privileging the UN, but that was the argument he made. Here in this current post he abandons the arguments he made in the other one and makes entirely new ones, which weren't even hinted at in his first post (while noting it was my fault for not responding to the arguments he didn't make, I instead made the major mistake on my part of discussing those arguments that he did make). Perhaps when I see someone doing what Eric did here, spending the first part of his post disavowing the arguments he made in the initial post I was responding to, I should take it as a compliment on my abilities, rather than an insult. I must have shredded his initial arguments pretty effectively, leaving nothing but carrion for scavengers to feed on. Eric then scavenges what is left, as one can see, since his latest post contains only vestiges of his original arguments. Me, I'm able to make my same basic points over again, because, like Fordham's Wall of Granite, they Still Stand.

We see that I will treat discussions as they deserve. Should Eric choose to continue the debate, he has the example of the tone of discussion from our first two posts. He dealt with me with civility, so I dealt with him likewise and treated that post as it deserved. In the next post he made, it was quite different in many respects (as noted above), so it deserved and received a very different tone of reply. As for how things proceed from here, the ball is in his court. I'm perfectly willing to return to the more cordial tenor of discourse. Of course, he's under no obligation to respond at all.

I'm not sure, myself, that further discussion would be fruitful. I'm willing to make the effort. But as I said in the earlier reply, we have very different world views. And as I said here, "understanding" his does not mean that I'm going to accept it as normative, certainly doesn't mean that I'm going to be convinced that we are under an obligation to sweep aside our Constitutional government and agree to "multilateral governance" whereby we can only do what guardians and minders will let us do, through procedures that are ad hoc at best but more aptly described as arbitrary and unaccountable. These are concerns that are so foreign to his world view that they do not even enter his consideration and when brought up they waved away (it doesn't seem, from his post, that the concerns I raised made any impression upon him or that he even noticed them. If they did, he certainly managed a good job of pretending they didn't exist). Given that, also, I doubt that he'll agree. Which, ironically, does make the opposite point than that which he thought was made when he called this a "contradiction" of mine: perhaps at some point these issues will vanish in this country into a postmodern haze, as apparently they already have in Europe. But until then, there are rather a lot of people in this country that have these concerns. One of them happens to occupy the Oval Office, and a large number happen to be in Congress. Most of the others, knowing how deeply unpopular (there's that issue of a citizen's sovereign right to self-government, when it comes to America, that Eric would hope would go away again) these concepts are, are more circumspect about raising them than he is. Until the day that this changes, it's going to be hard to say that the people of this country should allow their decisions to be made by governments that do not have any of their concerns on these matters and are, even more to the point, out for their own interests and not those of America. I am aware that, for many people, the things I dislike about them are considered a feature, not a bug, of "multilateral" organizations. Unaccountability, fluid and unknowable (you only know when a "progressive" tells you you've violated them) standards, obstruction selectively aimed at the U.S. mainly but also at the hated Israeli "little satan", etc.

But there is something deeply revelatory in Eric's statement that the mere fact that we understand each other enough to discuss these things. Sure, we can discuss them. But will we come to agreement? We can discuss them endlessly - but isn't that the point with respect to Iraq? Sure, endless discussions in multilateral institutions is something the U.S. could have all it wanted of, and more. But agreement on some basis other than cutting some kind of back room deal to get votes in exchange for a piece of the action or booty or trading for Russia's vote here in exchange for giving them a free hand in Georgia (they won't be expected or asked to get "multilateral" approval like we are) or whatnot? That is, agreement on the merits and principles? Endless discussion over our shared differences, Eric and I can have. How about a new challenge, since Eric essentially agreed he couldn't meet the first one (when he allowed for overlap between the three options of working multilaterally, trying to create new multilateral institutions, or acting alone)? Or even a new challenge if he insists he can meet the old one? That new challenge being: can we come to a resolution of the issue where we agree? And we're only two people (though, ok, anyone can join in the fun). What about a dozen different countries?

Now, one thing is clear from the start when I issue that challenge and my position is that we won't be able to come to a resolution, we won't be able to come to agreement. That thing which is clear is that I can obstruct and prevent agreement, making sure that it never happens, just to spite Eric, if I want to. But again, that's part of my point here, on this topic: other countries can obstruct in these "multilateral" deliberations, not necessarily on the merits, but just to spite a country they envy and dislike and do not really want the best for (this plays itself out even with respect to our allies, not always on security matters, but certainly on other matters). So if he thinks that the multilateral approach is the reasonable approach in spite of these manifest and clear problems, then he will have no trouble accepting the challenge, with the same problem confronting him.

Even knowing that doing so would be pointless and futile because I'd certainly use the opportunity to screw him over, just to prove the point.

1As someone who just got done admonishing me against taking concepts that apply to individuals and extending them to entire nations, I know that Eric will not try to make such a inappropriate argument here.