Scott Johnson loses his mind over the Somali cab drivers at Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport, who are serving up a “template for the Islamist imperial project forcing the acceptance of Sharia law by the infidels.”
The whole controversy is remarkably stupid. But because the Great Civilizational War on Islamofacists and Fifth Column Dhimmitudinous Appeasers requires that every local cultural dispute — which might be otherwise resolved in a normal, sane process of dialogue and negotiation — be inflated into the latest sign of the End Times, Johnson and Daniel Pipes and every other right wing Henny Penny in the known world feel obligated to hammer away at the town church bell, drawing the faithful into the streets to vanquish the Muslim hordes.
The National Review isn’t really a part of my daily routine, but the new piece by Byron York is worth a gander, if for no other reason than to get a glimpse of the hamster wheel that runs Bush’s brain:
Most of all, though, Bush said he realizes that the American people share that frustration, too. “People, most of them, are out there saying, ‘What are you doing? Get after ’em,'” Bush said. He’s heard it himself. “I’m from Texas,” Bush continued. “My buddies are saying, are you doing enough, not are you doing too little. They want to know, are we winning. They want to know, this mighty country, are we doing what it takes to win?”
It would be fair to say that no one fully knew the answer to that question. At times during the conversation, the president seemed vexed — not beaten, not downcast, but vexed — by conditions in Iraq. Bush didn’t say so, but from his words it seemed hard to deny that in some significant measure the insurgents and the sectarian killers are in control in the country, and that the fate of the American mission is in their hands. “The frustration is that the definition of success has now gotten to be, how many innocent people are dying?” the president said. “And if there’s a lot dying, it means the enemy is winning.” He paused. “That doesn’t mean they’re winning.”
Here, if I recall Philosophy 101 properly — and I’m pretty certain I don’t — George W. Bush is applying modus tollens reasoning (by denying the consequent). Bush doesn’t complete his argument, but let’s follow the logic if we can.
(A) If there’s a lot of dying, the enemy is winning (B) The US is not losing. Ergo, there is not a lot of dying.
I’m starting to think that George Bush might be somewhat obtuse.
. . . SteveG explores Bush’s logic further in the comments:
It’s a question-begging definition — “making a claim true by definition by importing a highly questionable definition of a key word into one of the premises.”
I can say that there is a giant schnauzer on my desk if by “giant schnauzer” I mean computer monitor — it just isn’t what any sane person who knows the language would mean by “giant schnauzer.”
We are winning because we are winning and we know that we are winning because we are being victorious in our winning and any evidence that purports to show we are not winning is faulty because we are in fact winning (given that “winning” means whatever it is we are doing at the moment).
The particular philosophical maneuver Bush is using is due to Quine, who observed that the evidence never requires you to reject any proposition; you can always save it by adjusting your auxiliary hypotheses. Or maybe to Moore, who argued (of the existence of the external world) “I am more convinced of this proposition than I could be of the premises of any argument to the contrary.”
Today is the 20th anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. At the time, I was a high school junior attending a journalism conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. A Red Sox fan by virtue of my father’s Massachusetts roots, I inherited all the affiliated pathologies. When the ball rolled through Buckner’s legs, I threw a chair, four or five ashtrays, and a small metal garbage can into the pool of the University Inn, where my high school newspaper and yearbook staffs were staying. I had grabbed the television set and was attempting to drag it off the hotel dresser when cooler, more sober heads intervened.
For two decades, not a day has passed in which I have neglected to feel like shit for at least two or three minutes because of this game. I don’t hold Bill Buckner responsible for this. Rather, I blame John McNamara, Calvin Schiraldi, Bob Stanley, and (most of all) God.
I still can’t watch the whole inning, even when someone cleverly reproduces it on his Ninendo:
A student e-mailed me yesterday to admit that after three and a half years of endorsing the war in Iraq, he had changed his mind as of 2:00 p.m. last Wednesday. He’d read a piece in the Jerusalem Post, I believe, that somehow persuaded him once and for all that the war is no longer winnable and that the US needed to get out “as soon as possible.” It would be difficult to overstate my surprise at hearing this news. I’d encountered this fellow before he enrolled in my US and the Middle East course this semester, although he clearly doesn’t remember. A state worker in his late 40s, he is somewhat of a fixture in the community, known among other things for his occasional letters to the editor in support of the Bush administration. When our local borough assembly debated a resolution condemning the USA PATRIOT Act in the winter of 2003, he was the only person who bothered to show up in defense of the law, calling instead for a resolution in support of the troops; I testified in favor of the measure, noting that the worst excesses of the 1950s Red Scare actually occurred at the local level and not in the limelight of the House Un-American Activities Committee or the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, over which Joe McCarthy himself presided. A few months later, when I appeared on a public radio call-in program with two other academics from the Pacific Northwest, this fellow called in to excoriate us all for using our pulpits to criticize the Iraq War and the United States, where we enjoyed freedoms of speech more unlimited than any other place in human history. He was rather adamant about this, and I responded by muttering something irrelevant and condescending about the differences between the public sphere and a bar fight.
When I saw his name on my class roster this fall, I wrongly assumed I was in for more of the same. I don’t evangelize about my political views in class, though I can’t imagine it strains anyone to figure them out — and less so in a small, upper-division seminar, where I assume that students are mature enough to accept or reject arguments on their merits. Regardless, knowing what little I did about this student, I couldn’t imagine he’d take kindly to my generally unflattering narratives about the conduct of our government in a region few ordinary Americans know much about. To make a long story short, by his own accounting the course has had almost nothing to do with his abandonment of the war; he admitted that a few of the readings caused him to re-appraise some assumptions about the historical relationship between the US and Iran, but aside from that he seems to have arrived at this point independently of whatever impure, covert designs I might have had for this seminar.
I don’t know this student well enough to predict whether his support for this disastrous war will return later on in some form, but I will give him credit for offering up the best analogy I’ve yet heard for the dwindling public estimation of the Bush administration’s policies. In his note, he reminded me of the cold war slogan that no one ever sought to cross the Berlin Wall into East Germany. With this war, he wrote, “it seems like everyone is heading West,” which he thought was significant. He couldn’t think of a single person who had switched from opposition to support for the war in Iraq — instead, all he saw were people flowing in the opposite direction. Maybe, he added, those folks aren’t cowards or traitors. “Maybe they just realize that East Germany is a bad place to live.”
Arabs are ungrateful, hypocritical parasites — just look at how they use cell phones and television and iPods and medicine to further their evil vision. The fact that we don’t blame them for all the deaths The Lancet overestimated in the first place only shows how deserving they are of our scorn. As idealists, we ought nevertheless to continue believing that we can “birth consensual government” for these people, for whom I have nothing but contempt.
. . . and from Hanson’s commenters, this gem of historical analysis from someone who claims to be a teacher of some sort:
Professor, I have read many of your books, a resource I use often in my classes. However, you and I both know the real problem with the Middle East. They haven’t ever tasted defeat, not in a way that European powers have. For a millenium, they have been beaten by the West, but have never faced the wages of their defeats. They have never (save for the Mongols in 1258) had a Dresden, Tenchtitlan, or Hiroshima.
Thus, they can live in their adolscence, pursuing dreams that an adult population would never contemplate. They can really believe that some day the caliphate will return, and even worse, that the one society they hate, the one with the true means to destroy them, will not act.
When they truly know the wages of their sins, as Germany and Japan found out in 1945, then I believe we will see the great changes we all hope can be accomplished without.
Funny. This is more or less how I feel about the Confederacy.
While researching something else entirely, I came across this, which must surely rank as one of the strangest statements ever to flow from the mouth of an American president. Speaking fifty-two years ago today — in an otherwise unrelated statement on the 75th anniversary of the invention of the incandescent light bulb — Dwight Eisenhower offered the following quilt of non sequiturs:
Soon we will be celebrating one of our holidays, one that typifies for me much of what we mean by the American freedom. That will be Halloween. On that evening I would particularly like to be, of course, with my grandchildren, for Halloween is one of those times when we Americans actually encourage the little individuals to be free to do things rather as they please. I hope you and your children have a gay evening and let’s all give a little prayer that their childish pranks will be the only kind of mischief with which we Americans must cope. But it can be a confident kind of a prayer too, for God has made us strong and faith has made and kept us free.
Each of those words makes sense independently; put together, I haven’t the faintest idea what Eisenhower was trying to say.
Over at CT, Kieran Healy discusses this site, which — in addition to letting us know that there are 35 people named “Scott Lemieux,” 709 named “Robert Farley,” 1,954 named “David Watkins” and 39 people unfortunate enough to go by “David Noon” — alsosuggests that the current Secretary of Defense does not in fact exist:
There are: 0 people named Donald Rumsfeld in the U.S.A.
Everyone has gone batshit over the State Department official who confessed on al-Jazeera that things haven’t gone so swimmingly in Iraq and that the United States has displayed, among other possible attributes, “stupidity” and “arrogance.” The predictable suspects have worked themselves into a frothymess over this, citing remarks by Alberto Ferbandez as one more piece of evidence that the DNC-Media Complex want the United States to “lose” in Iraq. The warbloggers appear to be nearly unanimous in calling for Fernandez’s head (literally, I would assume in some comments sections); those who aren’t are suggesting — since Great Britain is the new France — that the BBC is hatching an anti-American, pro-Islamist plot. It’s all quite exciting.
For a valuable corrective to all this, here’s Lounsbury on the issue:
[D]enying one has fucked Iraq into a cocked hat merely means one is a liar or delusional – or a stupid cretin I suppose – and framing it as an honest attempt destroyed by incompetence and arrogance at least steps up to the plate, whereas the other choice is for people to believe you deliberately have fucked the Iraqis.
Lounsbury’s point is reiterated and magnified more substantively by Marc Lynch, who — get this — actually understands something about the nature of public diplomacy and explains why these remarks were potentially quite useful. This administration has stood by with mute incomprehension for over five years now, wondering why (as The Decider often puts it) the people of the Middle East misread the pure intentions and noble hearts of Americans. As Lynch understands, if that narrative is ever going to be persuasive, it won’t so long as the Bush administration remains defiantly “on message,” falsely insisting that the war is exactly what they expected it would be.
To warbloggers — for whom the notion of “Arab culture” is an abomination, and for whom any dialogue a slippery slope toward “dhimmitude” — none of what Lynch has to say will make any sense. For the rest of us, the whole post is worth reading.
Shorter Althouse: “Compound sentences confuse me; moreover, I hate it when people assume I’m a right-winger simply because my views are often completely indistinguishable from those of the right wing. I can’t believe Glenn Greenwald gets three times as many hits a day as I do! I think he’s a crappy writer!”
Shorter Comments: “You’re so awesome, Ann — and way more popular than Greenwald. I’m a conservative and I love your blog. Anyone who disagrees with you is probably a sock puppet. Stupid left-wingers need to shut up.”
So far, I’ve left the Wisconsin chapter of the Sam Alito Appreciation Society in Scott’s capable hands, but I can’t resist drawing attention to Project Runway’s Reynoldsian link to this repugnant commentary on the current off-Broadway production of My Name is Rachel Corrie. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that someone who finds Ann Coulter to be “motivated by comic energy” would also approve of Terry Teachout’s irrelevant description of Corrie as “unattractive in the extreme, albeit pathetically so,” by which he apparently means that Corrie was “whimsical, humorless and–above all–immature.” Maybe Althouse is simply grateful that WSJ publishes her op-ed pieces; maybe it’s because Teachout has inexplicably described Althouse as “divine.” More likely, I think Althouse links to Teachout’s “arts” coverage because she’s incapable of distinguishing well-reasoned criticism from a heartless, unthinking smear job that dismisses Corrie as a “terror advocate” and offers new fodder to the mouth-breathers who mock her death.
I haven’t seen MNRC — and considering where I live, I probably won’t — but I have no doubt that a play based on the writings of a young American over the span of 13 years would have its moments of breathless pretension, its scattering of over-wrought metaphors, or its banalities galore. I also recognize the problems inherent in viewing the squalid prison that is Gaza through the eyes of a white American woman whose experience in the occupied territories was brief and fatal. Teachout is constantly inveighingagainst the merger of politics and art — in part because he recognizes that Republican write shitty plays — but it’s difficult to imagine a play about Rachel Corrie that Teachout would admire, as he appears convinced of her unworthiness as a subject of art in the first place.
As for Teachout’s disapproval of immaturity and whimsy, though, we might note that the words “Rachel Corrie” serve as a grotesque applause line in certain quarters, where the mere mention of her name arouses the faithful into a masturbatory frenzy, at which point they crack wise about flapjacks, Caterpillar t-shirts, and Corrie’s hypothetical sex life. Get it? The jihadi got run over by a bulldozer. She must have been flat as a fucking pancake! She must have died a virgin — unlike the vast majority of Charles Johnson’s readers, who are doubtless grinding it out trick-style as I write this.
Of course Althouse understands “comic energy,” so perhaps she can direct us to the funny parts in all this, and to the intelligent parts of Teachout’s review.