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All American Presidential Elections Are Choices Between Evils

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Obviously, I concur with pretty much everything in djw and Erik’s posts about the inexplicably celebrated Conor Friedersdorf essay in which he congratulates himself for being too good for the compromises of electoral politics.  (With, to be sure, some protesting-too-much about he’s no purist.)  With Fridersdorf, though, his trivialization of the issues other than his selected pet ones is internally consistent; as a libertarian, he presumably doesn’t care about the evisceration of the American welfare and regulatory states that would likely follow a Romney/Ryan win or sees it as a feature.   That any progressive would take this seriously, though, is beyond belief.   So I was dismayed by this Henry Farrell post:

You can make a good case, obviously, that his main opponent, Mitt Romney, would be even worse. But it isn’t at all clear that the consequences of voting for Romney over the longer term, would be any worse than the consequences of voting for the guy who was supposed to be better on these issues, and was not. Indeed, the unwillingness of American left-liberals to criticize the opprobrious foreign policy of a Democratic president (and the consequent lack of real public debate over this policy, since most of the right tacitly agrees with the bad stuff) weighs the balance in favor of voting against Democrats who you know are going to sell out.

Obviously, the fact that he’s simply placing no weight at all on the many issues on which Romney/Ryan would be far worse than a second Obama term, virtually all of the consequences of which would be disproportionately borne by America’s most vulnerable citizens in exchange for no actual benefits — is frankly appalling. Erik made this point and I have discussed it recently at great length, so I won’t reiterate the whole argument. But I will make a couple of additional points.

First, I would note that the heighten-the-contradictions argument being made here is very weak tea indeed. Henry concedes that Romney is no better on the issues under discussion and is probably worse. But, the argument seems to run, at least Romney would generate more opposition from Democrats when he committed similar and worse abuses. I believe this is true. But to carry any weight that would justify the repeal of the ACA, the overruling of Roe v. Wade, the gutting of environmental and civil rights enforcement, massive upper-class tax cuts, etc. etc. etc. it’s not enough that there be more opposition; it must be the case that this opposition be effectual. And it’s overwhelmingly clear that, in fact, this increased opposition would be extremely ineffectual. The liberal opposition to Bush over his stupid wars and egregious civil liberties abuses didn’t create the first powerful pro-civil liberties faction in American history, and it should be pretty obvious that this wouldn’t happen as a result of a Romney administration either.

Second, as a follow-up to djw’s point about the fallacy focusing on “deal-breakers” rather than engaging in a holistic evaluation of the consequences of electoral outcomes, I could understand the argument more if Obama was some kind of outlier on these issues among moderately progressive American presidents. But, to state the obvious, this is very much not true. Even the few presidents with greater records of progressive accomplishment than Obama have much more egregious deal-breakers to their discredit. LBJ, of course, was responsible for far, far more needless deaths than Obama (although it must be conceded that these deaths generally didn’t involve unmanned planes, which is apparently relevant for reasons I’ve never understood.) FDR had not only the horrors of the Japanese internment but the fact that the already insufficient social welfare programs that represent the enduring legacy of the New Deal were structured so that African Americans received grotesquely lesser benefits. Lincoln was a white supremacist, wasn’t an abolitionist, and even if we give him a pass on most Civil War deaths because it was a just cause it’s hard to argue that, say, all of the property destruction in Georgia was strictly necessary. And these are the good presidents. There’s no president that doesn’t have any number of potential “deal-breakers,” and as djw says this is inevitable given that American political culture and constitutionalism have always been saturated with any number of evils and injustices.

So, to be clear, to believe in this kind of logic is to permanently abstain from American electoral politics. All meaningful votes for president are at best a choice for a lesser evil. What abstinence or voting for nothing but vanity candidates is supposed to accomplish I have no idea, but nothing good and much bad would come from it. (Like Henry, I’m assuming that we’re not discussing “how any individual should cast her meaningless vote” but are making an argument about how progressives should vote. If any individual wants not to vote for Obama as a moral statement on the grounds that it won’t actually have any consequences, knock yourself out. I’ll only note that the ineffectuality argument cuts both ways — if your vote doesn’t matter, abstaining doesn’t somehow morally insulate yourself from the consequences of bad American policy either. Refusing to vote for Obama because you’d prefer to wait for Godot isn’t actually any kind of meaningful moral statement, and you can’t escape moral consequences by refusing to vote for anyone who might actually become president.)

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  • I think a more meaningful discussion would be on the psychological, social, and moral costs associated with being forced to choose between evils or to override dealbreakers. I think there are costs, though that we must (as a group) bear them is brutally obvious. But mitigating such costs is at least one reason to consider alternative voting systems even if they didn’t plausibly produce better outcomes overall.

    • Malaclypse

      I think a more meaningful discussion would be on the psychological, social, and moral costs associated with being forced to choose between evils or to override dealbreakers

      True, but Le Guin got there first, and did it better than we are likely to.

      And this, to me, is the blind spot in hilzoy’s otherwise excellent point. Vote or violent revolution does have an excluded middle, albeit not one filled by the Greens. If you are so genuinely appalled by the real evils that the American government does that you cannot bring yourself to vote, then do the honest thing and genuinely withdraw from the polity. Don’t like being part of the Empire? Then accept that this position has real costs, and genuine withdrawal means something along the lines of 1) living off-grid and practicing subsistence agriculture in somewhere like Idaho or Montana, or 2) expatriating permanently and do a Médecins Sans Frontières or similar NGO activity to mitigate harm. If you can’t vote for the lesser evil, then walk away from Omelas.

      • arguingwithsignposts

        Then accept that this position has real costs, and genuine withdrawal means something along the lines of 1) living off-grid and practicing subsistence agriculture in somewhere like Idaho or Montana,

        That is no way to withdraw from the empire while you’re still in the empire. Now, if you were living in a cave as a hermit, maybe.

        • rhino

          I think there might have been an element of sarcasm in that bit. The message I got was ‘don’t refuse to vote, and continue to live downtown in your penthouse, and feel your work is done’.

          A lot o these people want to have their Imperial cake, and eat it too. They just don’t want to get the calories…

        • Jameson Quinn

          I think not paying any federal taxes (income or phone excise) is pretty much the definition of withdrawing from the empire. You’re still part of the prison industrial complex, but not the military industrial one. And that’s not easy to do, but still well short of living as a hermit.

          It also is completely orthogonal to whether you vote for one of the two salient evils or not. Not voting is just the easy way to pretend you’re doing that.

      • djw

        Yes, “exit” is of course an option I didn’t discuss. Two outstanding issues concerning exit:

        1) What constitutes *real* exit? Both the examples you give fall short in some way. The expat still benefits from American citizenship; the off-the-grid folks still benefit from the protection our society offers. If exit is meant to vitiate any moral responsibility, it’s got to be more complete than that, I think.

        2) Not entirely persuaded exit accomplishes that goal even if it’s sufficiently complete. But that’s an intuition more than an argument.

        • Malaclypse

          1) Not sure. I suppose at some level the only “real” exit is “save the planet, kill yourself” stuff, which seems silly to me. Both options I mentioned seemed a reasonable level of withdrawal from Empire, if you feel the need to withdrawal. But I suppose that on a philosophical level it is still some sort of lesser-evilism still.

          2) Fair enough. Keep in mind that I have the whole Quaker thing, which pretty much completely excludes violent revolution as an option (as does the fact that holy shit is that not gonna work in this case). And on some level I’ve always seen it as a personal failing that I don’t have the strength to just walk away. “Any Christian who is not a hero is a pig,” as the saying goes.

      • Barry

        “True, but Le Guin got there first, and did it better than we are likely to.”

        Actually, she didn’t do it ‘better’; she didn’t do it well at all. At best she had a start, which was what to do when faced with a severe evil.

        Her solution seemed to be to leave, so that one’s own soul was clean. Omelas, of course, kept going.

      • I don’t see how increasing the cost to me mitigates the harm refraining from voting for a lesser evil produces. It’s the same choice, plus a penalty. The penalty doesn’t mitigate the harm of my not voting even if it’s doing some positive good (after all, I can do doctors without borders and vote).

        • DrDick

          +1,000,000

        • Malaclypse

          I don’t see how increasing the cost to me mitigates the harm refraining from voting for a lesser evil produces.

          Well, I continue to vote lesser-evil, so i suppose I agree. What I was trying to say is that a real withdrawal from lesser-evilism entails a whole fuck of a lot more than voting Green.

          • DrDick

            Indeed.

          • Actually, I don’t see that.

            Since the being a hermit or even killing yourself doesn’t remove the fact that you could have voted, but didn’t, it’s doesn’t change the moral weight of your non-voting.

            You haven’t withdrawn from lesser-evilism, you’ve just put on a bigger show.

            I guess such actions would be prima facie evidence that your pain of engaging was so great that you’d rather suffer enormously than experience politics rose to the level of a significant mental illness. But then the way you’ve avoided lesser evilism is by being incapable. I don’t know that’s a great way to go.

            • Malaclypse

              Since the being a hermit or even killing yourself doesn’t remove the fact that you could have voted, but didn’t, it’s doesn’t change the moral weight of your non-voting.

              I agree – that’s why I keep voting. But my point remains that if you want to claim that the pain if living in the Empire is too great to bear, then pony up and act on that conviction, rather than act like voting 3rd-party, or not at all, is somehow an actual rejection of Empire. The dude living off-grid in Idaho is making a choice I can respect, in a way that I don’t think Friedersdorf is worthy of respect.

      • Walt

        That Omelas story is the stupidest thing ever written. Virtually every single person who has ever lived has tolerated greater evils in their lives than the inhabitants of Omelas. That story is the worst kind of contentless moralizing — why yes, I do have the moral clarity to say no to torturing children for no reason. Kudos to me! Kudos!

        The fact that George fucking Will once mentioned it favorably in an article about the evils of liberals should tell you everything you need to know about its empty grandiloquence.

        • Leeds man

          Virtually every single person who has ever lived has tolerated greater evils in their lives than the inhabitants of Omelas.

          Yes, but most of them (us) either ignore those evils, or pretend to. Which is the point that went sailing several miles above your head. Survey the people standing in line for an iPhone about Chinese workers.

          • Leeds man

            I meant “ignore those evils, or don’t know of them”.

          • Walt

            Holy shit, are you explaining the story to me? Nobody can miss the point of that story. Everyone who reads it thinks, “oh, I would walk away from Omelas.” The story causes nobody to think about Foxconn workers, or factory farming, or any actual issue that would make them uncomfortable. It’s the most contentless story ever. The only thing it does is give you an unearned sense of moral superiority.

            Of which I see you are an eager consumer, Leeds Man.

            • Malaclypse

              Everyone who reads it thinks, “oh, I would walk away from Omelas.”

              I read it, and know I failed to walk away. That is how most people I know read it.

              • Walt

                Ugh. Really? I’m not sure that’s any better. I should have guessed liberals would be prone to contentless guilt rather than contentless preening.

                • Leeds man

                  The fact that you can call someone else’s guilt contentless tells us all we need to know.

                • Walt

                  A comment as contentless as the original story.

                • Anonymous

                  Your blustering ex-culo assertion was shown to be false, and your response was a minor tantrum. You’re a cretin.

            • Leeds man

              Everyone who reads it thinks, “oh, I would walk away from Omelas.”

              No, someone with a brain and a conscience, but lacking sainthood, reads it and thinks “oh crap, I’m not going to walk away”. It made me feel morally very inferior.

              • DrDick

                Harrumph!

              • Walt

                Exactly as George Will predicted.

                • Malaclypse

                  I’m not all that concerned with George Will’s opinion. YMMV, of course.

                • Walt

                  But George Will is my point. You can read whatever you want into that story. You read what you want, and George Will reads what he wants.

                • Leeds man

                  Your Goldsteinian analysis has run rings around us. Let me guess – that’s contentless too!

                • Walt

                  No, Goldsteinian is the most terrible of all possible insults, and thus the opposite of contentless.

        • That Omelas story is the stupidest thing ever written.

          I’ve been mulling this and reading the story. I think you misread it.

          Virtually every single person who has ever lived has tolerated greater evils in their lives than the inhabitants of Omelas.

          Isn’t that part of the point? I don’t believe she’s lionizing the walk-awayers.

          The point isn’t the scope of the evil, it’s the 1) the confrontation (and its effect on the saliency of the evil) and 2) the “ease” of correction.

          The walk-awayers don’t save the kid. They are not heros, they are people caught in a moral cognitive dissonance who resolve it by flight. This is actually quite similar (I think) to the purist/pet issueist/etc. person. They go wrong in thinking that they are either doing something good or doing something effective (and the clinging to effectiveness is part of a dissonance coping mechanism).

          That story is the worst kind of contentless moralizing — why yes, I do have the moral clarity to say no to torturing children for no reason.

          ? The walk-awayers consent the torturing as much as anyone who enjoys the fruits of the torture. They just deny themselves those fruits.

          The fact that George fucking Will once mentioned it favorably in an article about the evils of liberals should tell you everything you need to know about its empty grandiloquence.

          I don’t really trust Will on anything, much less literary interpretations.

      • bradp

        Don’t like being part of the Empire? Then accept that this position has real costs, and genuine withdrawal means something along the lines of 1) living off-grid and practicing subsistence agriculture in somewhere like Idaho or Montana,

        The state is not the only path to a better than subsistence living, the current state we are bound to live under especially.

        “Living off-grid” wouldn’t just be accepting “real costs”, it would also be active and violent exclusion by the state.

      • S_noe

        In a post on John Scalzi’s blog, one commenter (John Barnes) said this:

        I’ve often muttered that someday I will write “The Ones Who Set Off Bombs In The Crowds At Those Festivals in Omelas” or at least “The Ones Who Smuggle Guns into Omelas.”

        Made me smile.

        Link, search for Barnes to find the comment.

        • Barnes seems to have misread it too. Is there anyone preventing people from rescuing the child? Perhaps I missed that bit?

  • Julian

    To all the people who wouldn’t vote for the monster with a healthcare plan: When we’re all living in Thunderdome and we don’t have healthcare, I’ll know who to blame.

    • Cody

      If we’re lucky though, we might live in a Thunderdome WITH Healthcare!!!

      I suppose this is a massive improvement, as I imagine taking many injuries while participating in the Dome.

  • Tom

    Lincoln…wasn’t an abolitionist

    This is true in 1860, but is it really true by 1865? I don’t think so. Seems like Lincoln “evolved” (as Obama would put up) substantially on this and similar issues over the course of the war.

    But, to take your point, he’s a complicated man, not the Christ-like martyr whom we should worship as a the savior of the republic. Mythologizing and hero-worshipping is bad for many reasons, not the least of which is that it makes the present time always seem somehow more fallen or corrupt than the past, even though the fallibility of man and the difficulty of creating & maintaining a just society have always been with us.

    • More Dead Muslims

      It was never true that Lincoln was not an abolitionist. It was true that as president, he thought his duty to the country required him to put another goal–saving the Union–first. It is also true that he recognized that under the Constitution as interpreted by the Taney Supreme Court, the federal government couldn’t abolish slavery without a constitutional amendment, which was not likely to happen without a civil war.

      • rea

        And now, I have to confess, “More Dead Muslims” was me . . .

      • Scott Lemieux

        This isn’t true. Even before Dred Scott (which seems beside the point, given that Lincoln completely rejected its constitutional reasoning and it didn’t speak to this question), Lincoln believed that the federal government did not have the power to abolish slavery in existing states. This was also reflected in the Emancipation Proclamation. If you voted for Lincoln in the 1860 elections you were voting for someone who wasn’t an abolitionist. To me, this is an idiotic reason not to vote for Lincoln, but by the logic that you can’t vote for Obama because DRONES! you can’t vote for Lincoln either.

        • Tom

          Right. There’s a conflation is our thinking between “abolitionists” and “people who thought slavery was bad.” They were very much not the same people, and Lincoln was in the latter camp in 1860.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Yes. Lincoln was legitimately and sincerely opposed to slavery, but he wasn’t an abolitionist.

    • ploeg

      The argument still stands, in that the abolitionists of long standing always seemed to pick on one thing or another (Lincoln didn’t turn soon enough, Lincoln didn’t go far enough, Lincoln was too conciliatory to the slaveholders).

  • TT

    Bill Clinton executed a mentally retarded man in a piece of campaign agitprop. I would gladly take his Supreme Court nominees over any George H.W. Bush would have put forward in a second term.

  • Jeffrey Kramer

    I’m an uncompromising compromiser, and will vote without hesitation for Obama. But characterizing Friedersdorf’s objections to granting presidents untrammeled assassination rights as “his pet issues,” as if he were refusing to vote for anyone who didn’t break up the NCAA cartel or something, is a pretty sorry exercise in dismissive rhetoric. (Compare the “what, do you expect soldiers to be Boy Scouts?” stuff which comes out after every My Lai or Abu Ghraib.)

    • ajay

      But characterizing Friedersdorf’s objections to granting presidents untrammeled assassination rights as “his pet issues,” as if he were refusing to vote for anyone who didn’t break up the NCAA cartel or something, is a pretty sorry exercise in dismissive rhetoric.

      Agreed, absolutely. It’s the sort of rhetoric that (justly) enrages, say, pro-choice campaigners when they’re told to “shut up and vote, yes we know he’s pro-life but you have to look at the bigger picture”.

      • Isn’t it actually fairly accurate?

        The fact is that there are a range of life or death issues (health care in general comes to mind but think about abortion rights as well) which are of comparable seriousness where Obama is hugely hugely unmitigatedly better than Romney. That those issues aren’t salient to CF means that he is selecting his “pet” issue (out of the hugely serious issue set) and ignoring or dismissing the consequences to the rest of the serious issue set.

        That Romney would be predictably, hugely worse even on his pet issues severely aggravates the, well, stupidity of that position. I think it’s an understandable stupidity (because of how these huge issues affect how we feel), but that doesn’t make it non-stupid or non-equi-insensitive to comparable life and death issues.

        CF is the enragingly dismissive one (combing with a very annoying patina of righteousness and condemnation).

        • Scott Lemieux

          Right. Let’s be clear: if the ACA is repealed, many people will be maimed or killed as a result. And yet these people receive no consideration in Friedersdorf’s calculus, even though Romney would also make things worse in terms of military policy.

    • rea

      granting presidents untrammeled assassination rights

      You people keep saying this, even though you know full well that it bears no resemblence to anything Obama has done, or any power he has claimed.

      Anwar al-Awlaki in the hills of Yemen, leading a group in arms agsint the US (not to mention the government of Yemen) is a legitimate military target. Anwar al-Awlaki on the streets of NY City gets arrested, not blown up–nobody but you guys, and certainly not the adminstration, claims otherwise.

      • Malaclypse

        Is it just a lack of coffee that is making it difficult for me to reconcile this position with the one taken by “More Dead Muslims”?

      • david mizner

        How ’bout his 16-year-old son, who was also killed?

        The issue isn’t so much what Obama has done; it’s what authority he’s claiming.
        If he can legally kill a 16-year-old in Yemen on the basis of secret evidence without due process, whom can’t he kill? Can he kill a heavily armed suspected AQ leader holed up in the mountains of Colorado — why not? Can he kill Julian Assange in England for aiding AQ? Why not? Brennan has laid out some fuzzy guidelines — assassination is kosher, for example, if the suspect can’t be captured — but they aren’t grounded international or domestic law.

        • Malaclypse

          Can he kill a heavily armed suspected AQ leader holed up in the mountains of Colorado — why not?

          This is not actually a new thing. Acting like the state did not commit violence, up to and including deadly violence, prior to Obama is just silly.

          • david mizner

            Acting like the state did not commit violence, up to and including deadly violence, prior to Obama is just silly.

            Obviously, you’re not familiar with my body of work, such as it is, or with my comments in this very thread.

            Again, this is not precisely about what the state has done but what authority Obama is claiming. To use the Randy Weaver example (who wasn’t killed by the military or the CIA, of course), it would as if President Obama said he had could kill suspected militia members and white supremacists(or associated forces) without any due process.

            Your example is instructive but not in the way you intended.

            • Malaclypse

              You think Pershing’s expedition against Pancho Villa did not involve the military, but did involve due process?

            • It is, of course, nothing like that, in ways that have been explained at length multiple times.

  • Manta

    There are 2 aims that I can discern in voting:
    1) determining the victor
    2) sending a “signal” of how much popular a candidate/policy is.

    Regarding 1), almost every single vote is pointless: the probability that your vote will determine the victor between, say, Obama & Romney is negligible.

    Regarding 2) there is a small utility. But this utility is also present when you vote for a third party candidate.

    • Scott de B.

      This assumes that each voting decision is completely independent of every other’s, which I don’t think is true.

      Voting for a third party-candidate because your vote is unlikely to swing the election is akin to taking as much fish as you want from the ocean because one person can’t cause the ocean to be overfished. And yet the ocean is overfished.

      • Manta

        Rethinking it, I should probably drop the “almost” word.
        Let’s consider a simple model: 1000 voters besides you, each with probability 1/2 of voting for either candidate A or B.
        What is the probability that your vote may determine the outcome? It will happen only if exactly 500 people vote for A and exactly for B: you would need to write a 0. followed by 50 zero digits to express it: I think it’s a very good approximation of 0.
        If the probability above are not exactly 1/2 or are dependent, your contribution is even *more* meaningless, not less.

        On the other hand, your “fish in the ocean” analogy is wrong: when I take single fish from the ocean, I deplete the fish reserves by exactly 1 fish, that in proportion is horribly larger than the number above.

        • Manta

          In other words: in the model above (1000 voters in total), the value of your vote as a signal is “1/1000”: small, but not negligible; similarly, in an US election, the value of your vote as a signal is equal to, more or less,
          1/number of voters.

          The value of your vote in determining the outcome, however, IS negligible.

        • ajay

          Let’s consider a simple model: 1000 voters besides you, each with probability 1/2 of voting for either candidate A or B.
          What is the probability that your vote may determine the outcome? It will happen only if exactly 500 people vote for A and exactly for B: you would need to write a 0. followed by 50 zero digits to express it: I think it’s a very good approximation of 0.

          Massive maths fail.

          As should have been intuitively obvious. If all outcomes from (0 heads, 1000 tails) to (1000,0) are equally probable, each would have a probability of one in a thousand and one – just under 0.001. But, intuitively, getting 1000 heads from 1000 coin tosses seems much less likely than some more evenly balanced result. And we know it is: it’s easy to work out that the probability is 0.5 to the thousandth power. Which is much smaller than 0.001. Therefore, other outcomes – like (500,500) must be quite a bit more probable than 0.001.

          What you’ve calculated is the probability of getting 500 tails in a row followed by 500 heads in a row. Which is, of course, tiny.

          What you want is the sum of the probabilities of all the different ways you could get 500 heads and 500 tails. This is about 0.025 – one in forty or so.

          • Walt

            I was surprised that your answer came out so high, but I checked it and you’re right, it really is about 2.5%.

            • The largest part of the Hasse diagram is the middle.

            • ajay

              That’s a relief. It’s about 20 years since I had to do this sort of thing for real.

          • Manta

            Ouch, you are right: I messed up the computation.

        • firefall

          What is the probability that your vote may determine the outcome? It will happen only if exactly 500 people vote for A and exactly for B: you would need to write a 0. followed by 50 zero digits to express it: I think it’s a very good approximation of 0.

          Your mathematics is even more woefully deficient than your logic.

  • Heron

    I agree that Obama has been a disappointment on many issues, particularly ones regarding our absurd “War on Terror”, government secrecy, and upper-class criminality, but here’s the thing; a Romney win isn’t going to make the Dems into an effective, active party defending justice, decency, and the rolling back of the police state. In the last years of Bush’s presidency, the Dems held the legislative Branch and what did it result in? An end to Guantanamo? Serious investigations into regulatory and industry corruption? Punishment for the administration’s overt rule-breaking and glaring incompetence in intelligence, bureau operations, and government procurement? A marginal improvement in the legislative treatment of union workers in the US? No, it didn’t lead to anything like that. It led to a bunch of hot-air about those things, a bunch of promises, and zero action on any of it.

    The simple fact is that we just aren’t going to get any action on many of these issues. To shut down Guantanamo you’ve got to be willing to say “if they come at us in vengeance, that’s fine -they deserve the chance for what we did- but we’ll be ready” and American pols are just too chicken-shit-worried about how attacks from releasees will affect their poll-numbers to do that, let alone field the calls for criminal punishment of those responsible(their friends) that will result from labeling it a criminal enterprise. Something more than tolerance of unions certainly isn’t going to come out of a party funded primarily by the out-of-touch ideologues who make their living in the bubble-world of international finance. And as the Washington Post’s series on “Top-Secret America” showed, an unimaginably vast industry has sprung up around farming government contract money off of WoT spending, and as long as that’s the case that spending isn’t going anywhere. What the Dems WILL act on though isn’t inconsequential. Gender and racial equality, effective economic policy based on 20th century thinking, a judicial system actually willing to protect the private citizen from corporate mistreatment, healthcare and a reform of our student loan system; these are all things the Dems are, or might be, willing to work towards which the R’s are staunchly against.

  • Rarely Posts

    I’d also push back against the argument that Obama’s foreign policy / drone warfare is really indistinguishable from Republican/Romney policies. Looking at the situation writ-large, Obama is much better though still very bad.

    I would submit that American occupation of nations abroad is far worse for the United States and for the freedom and civil rights of foreign people than targeted done attacks/assassinations. Targeted drone attacks and assassinations deprive people of the due process of trials (though that may be reasonable if our evidence is strong enough and extradition is impossible). Dead innocent civilians are a horrible thing and a real tragedy. But, invasion and occupation of foreign countries is a tragedy for both civil rights and peoples’ lives on an entirely different level. When the United States starts running a foreign government, we take away people’s rights to self-governance, and we often end up killing lots of innocent people in the chaos of fighting insurrectionists. We eventually get Abu Ghraib. And, we do lasting damage to our reputations and earn horrible dislike.

    During Bush II, we got two new occupations abroad. United States troops, on-the-ground, policing and running foreign countries. In the case of Iraq, 100,000s of Iraqis died as a result, and millions were displaced and turned into refugees (mostly within Iraq, but displaced nonetheless).

    Romney’s attitudes towards the Middle East, and particularly his attitudes towards the Palestinians and Iranians, are horrific. I have no idea whether he’d invade yet more Middle Eastern countries, but I don’t think we can rule it out at all. After the Bush II experience, we need to assume that Republicans will invade foreign countries with almost no rational basis. It’s Romney’s obligation to prove otherwise, and he’s totally failed.

    Obama’s done a lot of bad things, but on balance, I’d say he’s been far, far better on these types of foreign policy issues. He’s winding down the occupation in Iraq. He kept our engagement with Libya at about the right level – enough to swing the Civil War decisively (thus averting a massacre), but not enough to put us in the role of occupier. He’s still engaged with Afghanistan, but it’s worth remembering that Afghanistan is a legacy of Bush II — it’s not all on Obama’s shoulders.

    I’m just highly skeptical that people abroad and the people suffering under these policies really see Obama as indistinguishable from the Republican leadership. I know that Obama’s standing has dropped a lot in the Middle East, but I suspect that, if they had a vote, they’d still vote for Obama over Romney. In any event, I don’t think that people attacking Obama on these issues have built a convincing case that he’s actually as bad as the alternative.

    • Julian

      Agreed; note that Netanyahu is strongly pro-Romney.

    • Scott Lemieux

      This too, of course.

    • It must also be noted that Afghanistan enjoyed both massive domestic popularity and broad international sanction after 9/11 so, while it was horribly mismanaged and may well have been doomed from the start, it is not a fundamentally illegitimate war in the way that Iraq was.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Plus, the Taliban was actually connected to the group that attacked the United States.

        • Well, yeah, but that kind of ties into the whole “popular and sanctioned” bit.

          • Cody

            I think he’s just pointing out how stupid the Iraq invasion was!

            Also, I can live with Obama’s foreign policy. At least it’s palatable and mostly friendly. Republicans have been downright hostile to the rest of the world.

            • Jameson Quinn

              Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Yes, it seems like a relief compared to Bush, but Death From Above With No Achievable Purpose, and complicitly tolerating various bad things (from Israel to Zombie Plan Columbia to Honduras to Guantanamo to Cuban sanctions) just to CYA domestically, and actively opposing accountability for US war criminals… these are bad things. Yes, my dream president who took the high road on all these issues would have been unelectable for a second term, but that doesn’t mean that I have to call Obama “palatable” in an absolute sense, though I can’t deny he is relatively so.

              • Jameson Quinn

                Obviously “Israel” there is a metonym for “US material support for Israeli hawkishness”.

    • DrDick

      Exactly.

  • Karen

    I wonder how anyone who has lived past puberty could have written that essay. Everyday life requires choosing the lesser evils fifty times each week. Make the best choice available and get on with it, because reducing the level of misery today, even by a little bit, brings closer the chance we can eliminate the big evil. To use one example, FDR’s terribly flawed policies created the conditions for the postwar boom. Without the postwar prosperity, I see no support for civil rights, because people just scraping by at survival level never want to give up their crumbs for the sake of fairness. Remember that the world is bigger than you are.

    • DrDick

      Some people never really get past puberty on some issues.

      • Mike F.

        And doesn’t growing up also mean doing your best to choose the evil over which you have the most leverage?

        • DrDick

          And if you vote third party you have no leverage over anyone.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            Nonsense. Your leverage, such as it is, is based on your potential future voting behavior (assuming that your voting takes place somewhere where your vote matters). Your past voting behavior is not only of little interest to elected officials, it’s not even a matter of public record.

            As is often the case with bad arguments about electoral behavior, this one is never applied to major-party candidates.

            Neither of my two Senators, Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, have faced really meaningful opposition since getting elected. Would I have more leverage over either of them had I voted for them rather than their Democratic opponents (who stood no realistic chance of winning)?

      • dr2chase

        How many of those not-past-puberty-on-some-issues get published in the Atlantic? Oh, wait….

  • Joseph Slater

    But I wanna feel good about feeling good about myself! What else is there to voting?

    • Walt

      Let me introduce you to the joys of whiskey.

  • c u n d gulag

    Yes, the unmanned drone killing of “enemies” in the Middle East is terrible, and not getting us any friends in those countries.

    But is anyone under the impression that under Romney, that policy would stop?

    And with Bolton and Senor, and the other NeoCLOWN imbeciles, behind Romney and Ryan, not only would the drone attacks continue, but does anyone doubt one of the first things that Romney would do as President, is bomb Iran?
    Possibly even follow that up with an invasion/occupation.

    As atrocious as the the drone attacks are, I’ll take that over a open bombing, and potential full scale military involvement, in yet another Middle Eastern country.

    If Bibi wants an attack on Iran – let HIM do it! Keep us out of it.

    Ever since the early 80’s, we’ve heard that Iran is only 2-3 years from a nuclear weapon – maybe, OMG! – only 6-9 months away.

    These NeoCLOWN Chickenhawl Littles need to acknowledge that the sky STILL hasn’t fallen, so maybe it’s time for them to glug down a big cup of STFU.

    The Ayatollah’s in Iran aren’t suicidal. After all, they con kids into killing themselves for Allah and the 72 virgins, while they assess the damage.
    I think they want to wait for Allah to call for them – and not via a US/Israeli series of air strikes.

  • Jim

    The odd idea is that the Friedersdorf piece basically says the two parties are hopelessly broken, lesser-evilism sucks, and Gary Johnson would be a wonderful transformative president… but even Friedersdorf admits that he has some less than ideal views (e.g., monetary policy). So you’re not escaping lesser evilism at all. Why not just write in yourself? You have the same chance of winning as Johnson, and you have the added benefit of no policy disagreements with yourself! Win-win-win.

    Friedersdorf is just a libertarian waxer who can easily relax on his throne because he couldn’t care less about domestic economic policy, but I think there is some kernel of truth to Farrell’s post that is covered in all manner of stupid link-bait hyperbole, and that truth is about how low-priority civil liberties actually is for the majority of Democratic voters when the rubber meets the road. This is a problem.

    But it’s not a problem you address in the general election for president when these are the choices. And it’s not Obama fanaticism to say that. There’s no “Yes/No” option for drones on the ballot. These are the choices you have. You need to work earlier and at lower levels to change that.

    • Scott Lemieux

      but even Friedersdorf admits that he has some less than ideal views (e.g., monetary policy).

      Some? The guy wants a return to the 19th century federal state. In a two-person race between Obama and Johnson the latter would be by far the greater evil.

    • Janastas359

      “You have the same chance of winning as Johnson, and you have the added benefit of no policy disagreements with yourself!”
      I like this one a lot. “Vote for me! I know what issues are important to me, and I promise to represent myself in the greatest office in the land,” he said while talking into a mirror.

      I have some colleagues who are thinking about voting Green here in Connecticut and I’m going to start using this line. Honestly, you nailed it. You might as well vote for yourself instead of a vanity candidate, for all the good it does you. At least then when the President screws something up you can tell people “Don’t blame me, I voted for myself and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have done that.”

  • R. Porrofatto

    Henry Ferrell: …it isn’t at all clear that the consequences of voting for Romney over the longer term, would be any worse than the consequences of voting for the guy who was supposed to be better on these issues, and was not.

    Even on Fridersdorf’s selected pet issues, Romney isn’t probably worse, he’s predictably worse,. Look at his foreign policy advisors:
    John Bolton
    Robert Kagan
    Dan Senor
    Michael Chertoff
    Michael Hayden
    Richard Williamson
    and a host of other Bush flunkies.

    I think this is perfectly clear.

    • Scott Lemieux

      But nobody thinks Romney will be good, which would apparently make the countless people killed by an invasion of Iran less dead or something.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    As I’ve written in bith the previous threads on this question, I don’t buy the pseudo-consequentialist view that fails to distinguish between votes cast in battleground states and votes cast in non-battleground states.

    But I have another problem with Erik’s version of this argument (an argument whose conclusions, to reiterate, I half agree with: battleground state progressive voters should absolutely suck it up and vote for the lesser evil) . It may be true that “everybody does it” when it comes to war crimes. But one of the issues that comes up in Ferrell’s post (and in the comment thread) is the outrageous silence from most of the “left” about Obama’s war crimes. I needn’t point out that many fewer on the “left” were buying the “everybody does it” excuse during the Bush years. Falsely minimizing the evils of the lesser evil will do nothing to convince the (admittedly small) group of progressive fence sitters.

    So my bottom line remains a harder, more thoroughly consequentialist one: marginal suffering matters. Electing Barack Obama will result in significantly less suffering than electing Mitt Romney….even if Obama is a war criminal. If you vote in a state in which your vote might make a difference in the outcome, suck it up and vote for the less bad current war criminal over the worse future war criminal. If, like most of us, you don’t, vote your conscience.

    So I favor a

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Ack! Sorry about the typos (including misspelling Henry Farrell’s name again) and the stray sentence that shouldn’t be there. Blame (in order): 1) posting before coffee, 2) iPad fat fingers; 3) the lack of a preview function.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I already responded in the post. I agree that there would be a somewhat greater frequency of ineffectual protests from Democrats in the wake of the (much worse) military policies of a Romney administration. What I don’t understand is who gives a shit.

        • Davis X. Machina

          Who would give a shit?

          People involved in the ineffectual protests, which, while ineffectual, would give structure and meaning to their otherwise pointless lives otherwise mired in a cycle of getting and gaining.

          Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

          Why don’t you want people to be happy?

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          I think you’re misreading me, Scott. I favor Obama’s reelection. I will vote for Obama in November (though in my very red state, if I had another, progressive choice on the ballot, I might vote for her instead). If I lived in a battleground state I would absolutely vote for Obama.

          My point, perhaps not as clearly stated above as it should have been, is that Obama’s record on civil liberties and war and peace matters. And “everybody does it” simply cannot excuse it away….as everyone arguing on this thread realizes when the “everybody” happen to be Republicans.

          I’d also note that the severe cynicism about American foreign policy (the enduring evils of which Erik is exactly correct about) disappears during Republican administrations, to be replaced by a different sort of cynicism: the notion that these evils were invented by the current Republican administration.

          So I’m all in favor of a realistic view of American foreign policy, now and in the past…and a realistic view of the likelihood that not voting for Obama or electing Mitt Romney would change it (i.e. zero likelihood). But I can’t except the cynical conclusion that, in the long run, we just need to accept endless war and endless war crimes.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            accept* (should appear twice in that last sentence)

          • Scott Lemieux

            And “everybody does it” simply cannot excuse it away

            Of course it can’t. Who says otherwise?

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              I’m glad that you don’t, Scott.

  • I have no particular intention of getting involved in an extended dispute on this, which would result in people getting angrier and angrier at each other to no very good purpose. What I will say is that the thing I find to be “frankly appalling” is that it takes a conservative to say this, and to get this debate going. The lack of discussion among left-liberals (with a couple of exceptions, most prominently Glenn Greenwald) of the more obviously shameful aspects of Obama’s foreign policy speaks to a variety of double standards, argument in bad faith, and partisan blind spots on the left.

    • Marc

      A lot of us disagree forcefully with this characterization of Obama’s foreign policy. Not accepting dubious assumptions, dishonest debating tactics, and false characterization of opposing views is not the same as a double standard.

      • rea

        This.

        And also, if you think Romney would not be obviously worse on foriegn policy issues, you weren’t paying attention in the aftermath of the attack on US embassies in Egypt and Lybia.

    • Barry

      “I have no particular intention of getting involved in an extended dispute on this, which would result in people getting angrier and angrier at each other to no very good purpose.”

      Yes, you appear to have posted a ridiculous and frankly dishonest argument, and then to return only for the odd sniping comment.

      ” What I will say is that the thing I find to be “frankly appalling” is that it takes a conservative to say this, and to get this debate going. ”

      Conor is obviously concern trolling here. He’s a right-winger, and is tearing down the other side.

      Frankly, it’s rather clear to anybody who thinks about it.

      Oh, R. Porrofatto’s comment reminded me:
      “Henry Ferrell: “…it isn’t at all clear that the consequences of voting for Romney over the longer term, would be any worse than the consequences of voting for the guy who was supposed to be better on these issues, and was not. “”

      Henry, this is a lie, clear and simple, in any world-view which doesn’t rely on ‘the worse, the better’, and which remembers Bush II.

    • I don’t think there is a shameful silence about this among left liberal circles, is there? It crops up quite frequently here, and not always prompted by Greenwald.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Henry — apologies for the misspelling! My main response is to say that I’ve never hesitated to criticize any aspect of Obama’s presidency that I think merits criticism.

    • dr2chase

      Here’s what THIS left-liberal said, September 30, 2011:

      I’m not happy about this, and I wish that the people who think it’s okay to toss due process out the window would stop and think for a bit. He’s a US citizen. There’s a constitution, it has a Bill of Rights. When I imagine impeachable offenses, I think of things like what just happened here.

      And I’m not Glenn Greenwald. So you hang your entire argument on a falsehood. So go pound sand, okay?

  • arguingwithsignposts

    I again recommend the phrase “High Moral Plains Drifter” to describe this phenomenon. It has the added benefit of being associated with an old man who shouts at furniture.

    • firefall

      Many old men shout at furniture. Some of us just shoot the furniture with a 44magnum (keep a close eye on the damn ottomans)

  • Jim

    The annoying thing about the Gary Johnson/Ron Paul arguments from the “progressive” and libertarian-curious side is that they are fantasies that assume a status quo political environment. So you get greeted with a deluge of self-serving (fantasy candidate X could easily do thing I agree with Y but would be blocked from thing I disagree with Z) arguments of “Well, he’d de-schedule all drugs but of course he couldn’t get away with slashing Medicare to the bone” and “He’d get all troops out of the Middle East but obviously our gridlocked Congress wouldn’t support gutting the EPA!”

    But obviously in a dream-world where Gary Johnson wins the Electoral College, the political impediments to doing these things would be severely diminished or wouldn’t exist at all.

  • bradp

    This argument is so self-refuting.

    Liberal opposition to the Bush presidency lead the election of a black president who passed the health care reform that will secure your vote for the democratic party for decades.

    I’d say the opposition was effectual.

    Of course, since Obama has killed that opposition on multiple fronts, its very easy to act now like the opposition wasn’t effectual at the time.

    • Marc

      Let’s get this straight. Electing Bush had the happy consequence of electing Black Hitler, the gleeful baby-murdering drone guy?

      Christ. Preventing the Bush catastrophe would have helped this country far, far more than electing Obama ever did.

    • Cody

      Yes, the massive left-ward shift from electing Bush is obvious. How else could we get such a radical socialist like Obama who doesn’t prosecute Wall Street, reduces the deficit, and operates foreign policy that is probably “illegal” and definitely “immoral”.

  • NBarnes

    Speaking of the property destruction in Georgia, I waaaaaaaaant this shirt; http://www.cafepress.com/dd/60285278

  • Joe

    The liberal opposition to Bush over his stupid wars and egregious civil liberties abuses didn’t create the first powerful pro-civil liberties faction in American history, and it should be pretty obvious that this wouldn’t happen as a result of a Romney administration either.

    Yes. Voting Bush pushed things backward, Obama now the big leftie. I concur with Rarely Posts remarks too as with the one on other issues where deaths occur. Take health care. Not having proper health care kills tens of thousands, yes? The new health care law is imperfect, but it seriously addresses the issue, including expanding health care for those on the margins.

    Take Ron Paul (who voted for the authorization of force). See by some as a hero given some remarks on our foreign entanglements, including by the likes of Gary Johnson. Meanwhile, he would support lots of policies that very well could lead to more deaths at home. And, he tossed the president the keys in 2001 with an open-ended force resolution that is still causing problems.

    • Scott Lemieux

      It’s amazing how Obama becomes much more left-wing whenever it’s needed to make excuses for Nader or to justify various heighten-the-contradictions curiosities.

    • Barry

      “And, he tossed the president the keys in 2001 with an open-ended force resolution that is still causing problems.”

      Good point. This was a career moment for the alleged maverick Randian, a moment to show everybody what a True Free Man does when push comes to Gault’s Gulch. And even more so since this was an incredibly open-ended declaration of war against anybody the President chose.

  • john

    I notice that it is mostly men writing these pieces. As a father of two daughters, keeping Romney from being elected is a no brainer.

  • The liberal opposition to Bush over his stupid wars and egregious civil liberties abuses didn’t create the first powerful pro-civil liberties faction in American history, and it should be pretty obvious that this wouldn’t happen as a result of a Romney administration either.

    You could make the case that indirectly the foreign policy miscalculations of the Bush administration created Occupy Wall Street, which while not a civil liberties faction certainly could expand to include those issues.

  • ajay

    The main argument about the drone attacks in Pakistan is not whether they’re moral but whether they’re effective.
    According to Kevin Drum: “The Long War Journal, a project run by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, claims that 138 civilians have been killed between 2006 and the present….New America Foundation’s Year of the Drone project—the most widely cited in the US of the three strike-tracking sources—currently estimates that 152 to 191 civilians have been killed by drones since 2004….TBIJ estimated that between 482 and 849 civilians have been killed by drones in Pakistan since 2004.”

    These numbers are tiny. They are dwarfed by the civilian casualties in Afghanistan (mostly due to the Taliban) and the casualties caused by Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan, let alone the civilian deaths in Iraq.

    If they’re counterproductive – if they’re antagonising the population of FATA and Khyber against us more than they were already antagonised – then that could be a problem, if we give a shit what that population thinks of us. At present we do because they’re providing sanctuaries for the Taliban and hitting our supply convoys. (Which they would arguably be doing anyway.) But weigh that against the Taliban etc who are being killed by the strikes.

    But morally, this is a speeding ticket.

    • Janastas359

      This is how I feel about the drone strike issue. It is a tragedy that civilians die during acts of war. However, it’s also obvious that the guy who is trying to get us out of situations where these strikes are needed is Obama.

      On the other hand, a Romney win means millions of Americans are going to suffer, not to mention all of the foreigners who would suffer under the hawkish policies of a Republican presidency.

      No question about it, I know who I’m picking if my goal is to minimize human suffering in the world.

  • david mizner

    I’m with Chomsky: vote the lesser evil.

    But in this debate, there’s a lack of awareness on both sides. To hear Friedersdorf, you wouldn’t know that killing poor people of color is essentially a job requirement for American presidents. On the other, to hear Loomis, Lemieux et al, you wouldn’t there’s a proud radical tradition of refusing to vote (and re. the Loomis piece, there are also leftists of color who will not be voting for President Obama this fall.)

    To chalk this viewpoint up to vanity or egotism is insulting and won’t sway the minds you’re trying to sway (unless the goal isn’t to persuade but to masturbate blogospherically. Vanity indeed.)

    • Scott Lemieux

      there’s a proud radical tradition of refusing to vote

      I don’t actually think that traditions are self-justifying, so I’m going to continue to point out that this never has and never will accomplish anything, thanks.

      • david mizner

        My point is that all the esteemed and productive radicals down the years who’ve refused to vote might have been motivated by something other than vanity.

  • Josh G.

    LBJ, of course, was responsible for far, far more needless deaths than Obama (although it must be conceded that these deaths generally didn’t involve unmanned planes, which is apparently relevant for reasons I’ve never understood.)

    It’s relevant because when LBJ wanted to kill people in Vietnam, he had to send soldiers over there, and that entailed substantial political costs. In contrast, killing by drone is essentially cost-free, and this means it will inevitably be overused. As Sherman put it, “it is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it.” The problem is that war is no longer “terrible” for us, just the people on the other side.

    • david mizner

      Not to mention the fact that the bulk of the deaths for which Obama is responsible had nothing to do with drone but with his surge in Afghanistan.

      As for Lemieux’s suggestion that the opposition to drone warfare is eccentric,
      some progressives are intent on downplaying the horror, illegality, and stupidity of Obama’s undeclared dirty wars, of which drone attacks are only a part.

    • rosmar

      In theory, this makes sense. In practice, we haven’t seen drones used more than soldiers–many more U.S. soldiers were sent to Vietnam than drones are being sent to Pakistan or anywhere else. War is terrible, but there are plenty of people who don’t seem to care. And yes, there was more opposition to LBJ’s war-mongering, but a lot more people (and by people I don’t just mean U.S. citizens) were dying, too.

      (For the record, I am opposed to unnecessary killing by any means, including by drones.)

    • ajay

      It’s relevant because when LBJ wanted to kill people in Vietnam, he had to send soldiers over there, and that entailed substantial political costs.

      Google “B-52”, Josh.

      • Josh G.

        I did. According to Wikipedia, “In total, 30 B-52s were lost during the [Vietnam] war, which included 10 B-52s shot down over North Vietnam and five others being damaged and crashing in Laos or Thailand.”
        The Vietnamese were not helpless against American air power. Just ask John McCain.
        What makes this drone war so morally problematic is how completely one-sided it is.

        • Marc

          That is a whole lot better than the 10% death rate for ground soldiers. The jump from ground to air is far larger in relative terms than the jump from bombers to drones. I’d also note that even the casualty rate in Iraq didn’t stop a very long war and occupation, so I question the premise about the unique evils of casualty-free drones.

    • Hogan

      As Sherman put it, “it is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it.”

      I’m pretty sure that was Lee.

      • Alan G Kaufman

        It was Lee, watching the doomed Union charge at Fredericksburg.

        Sherman had some other equally pithy ones, however, for example:

        You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling.

        You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

  • Jim

    There’s also the ridiculous but ignored part of Friedersdorf piece where he bemoans being misled by Obama’s campaign statements on war and civil liberties and then turns around… and puts his complete faith in Gary Johnson’s campaign statements on war and civil liberties. There’s no grain of salt applied at all. It’s phenomenally easy to sit at my desk and say I’d end drone warfare and pull out all the troops. Whether I would actually be able to meet those goals were I President is another matter. Even if you stipulate that a Gary Johnson Administration would bring a lot of foreign policy advantages–which I will even though I think it’s debatable–the idea that he would do everything he says he would do is inane. These things aren’t decided by one man at the top.

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  • One should, of course, encourage the Friedersdorfers of the world to vote for Gary Johnson.

  • Rich Puchalsky

    Commented here, with a nod to Walt.

  • Lee

    An important point that nobody seems to be makign besides Kevin Drum is that most Americans really don’t care about the issues of drone deaths in the Middle East, Guantanamo Bay, etc. The number of Americans voters who care enough about these issues for it to effect how they vote is electorally insignificant. If we want the American government about these issues than we need more voters to care about these issues.

  • cafl

    Comparing Vietnam with the current wars when discussing the political impact of troop deployment is idiotic. During Vietnam we had a draft. I can assure you that a large part of the opposition to the Vietnam war, even when the stated objections were to the morality of supporting the South over the North in that country’s civil war, was actually motivated by fears that self or loved ones would be put in harm’s way.

    As a political matter (in terms of the vote by those opposing a war means based on self interest) drone warfare and intervention by use of the volunteer forces aren’t very different.

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  • Alan G Kaufman

    I haven’t been following the comments, so forgive me if this has been already provided:

    Purists might want to read this:http://www.lawfareblog.com/2012/09/charlie-savage-on-romney-team-memo-on-interrogation/

    and then think about the meaning of choices and consequences

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  • beejeez

    Just a thought, but maybe the reason Obama keeps doing the drones — which, yeah, suck, OK? — isn’t because he gets off on killing brown people, but because there remains much serious Qaeda-style mojo in the Pakistan hills that would do Something Very Bad in a New York minute if we didn’t buzz their towers on the hour. If even one nasty plot comes to fruition on Obama’s watch, then we aren’t dealing with cleaning up after a deadly wedding party, we’re dealing with Secretary of Defense John Bolton calling the Iran-Syria-Yemen battle plans and all-GOP-all-the-time rule 24-7-365-8. If pulling out all the drones this minute were a consequence-free move, I suspect that even that Double-Secret Neocon Obama might have done it by now.

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  • So I got it. A conservative Republican who thinks Todd Akin is an embarrassment nonetheless cannot under any circumstances vote against him or not vote, because it could throw control of the Senate to the Democrats.

    Look, seriously, you’ve exhausted this, but this is just wrong.

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