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Bush: War On Drugs Over The War On Terror

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

One major reason I always strongly opposed the Iraq war is that my graduate training entailed some study of the difficulties of state-building. Building stable states, let alone liberal democracies, is very difficult, and usually involves alliances with other powerful actors to help raise revenues and maintain coercive authority. One reason Iraq was so disastrous is that the people responsible for designing the plan for the invasions failed to grasp this simple point:

An even more fundamental argument against fighting terrorism by promoting democracy, however, is that no one in the US government has any idea how to promote democracy. Fukuyama accuses the neo-cons of chatting offhandedly about democratisation while failing to study or even leaf through the ‘huge academic and practitioner-based literature on democratic transitions’. Their lack of serious attention to the subject had an astonishing justification: ‘There was a tendency among promoters of the war to believe that democracy was a default condition to which societies would revert once liberated from dictators.’ Democracy obviously has many social, economic, cultural and psychological preconditions, but those who thought America had a mission to democratise Iraq gave no thought to them, much less to helping create them. For their delicate task of social engineering, the only instrument they thought to bring along was a wrecking ball.

One might have thought that this ‘remove the lid and out leaps democracy’ approach was too preposterous ever to have been taken seriously. But it is the position that Fukuyama, with some evidence, attributes to neo-cons in and around the administration. They assumed, he writes, that the only necessary precondition for the emergence and consolidation of democracy is the ‘amorphous longing for freedom’ which President Bush, that penetrating student of human nature, detects in ‘every mind and every soul’. Their sociology of democracy boils down to the universal and eternal human desire not to be oppressed. If this were democracy’s only precondition, then Iraq would have no trouble making a speedy transition from clan-based savagery and untrammelled despotism to civilised self-restraint and collective self-rule: sceptics who harped on the difficulty of creating a government that would be both coherent and representative in a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian and tribally fragmented country, simply failed to appreciate the love of freedom in every human heart.

Cavalierly designed by mid-level bureaucrats who were both historically and theoretically illiterate, the administration’s half-baked plans backfired badly. This should have come as no surprise. And prospects for reform in the Middle East have not been improved by the perception that democratisation in the region, at least when promoted by the West, spells violent destabilisation, criminalisation and a collapse of minimally acceptable standards of living.

And the inability to understand the basic fundamentals of state-building continues to lead to incredible blunders. As Yglesias and Kleiman note, both undercutting the Karzai government in Afghanistan and denying it the ability to obtain revenue from poppy-growing while effectively ensuring that said revenues will instead go to the Taliban is utterly insane. It would be insane even if there was any reason to believe that it would reduce American heroin use, which of course it won’t. To prioritize failed anti-drug war policies over protecting American security is beyond indefensible, and (like Iraq itself) an instruction in what happens when you talk a lot about fighting Islamic terrorism but are incapable of thinking about anything to actually accomplish your goals that don’t involve torture and conventional military force.

Personal to Maureen Dowd

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Please never try to write satire in another voice ever again.

I’ve been thinking for a while at picking some of the Pulitzer-winning columns from 1999 at random and seeing just how debased the standards of whoever votes for those awards are. But I’m not sure I have the stomach for it.

At Least Get Your Story Straight

[ 0 ] October 8, 2007 |

Of the innumerable jaw-dropping feats of illogic performed by American “pro-lifers,” I’ve always been amused by the fact that to the forced pregnancy lobby women are simultaneously routinely getting abortions on a whim because a pregnancy might interfere with their pedicures and yet such helpless, desperate victims that they should not be held liable in any way for what is allegedly a serious violent offense against another human beings. It really would be helpful if they would figure out which particular line (among the several mutually inconsistent ones) of idiotic reasoning they want to go with.

A Freeper Posted Something Misleading?

[ 0 ] October 7, 2007 |

Shorter Glenn Reynolds: It’s unconscionable that the government would provide health assistance to families making the austounding sum of $45,000 a year. They’ll probably just use it to buy more ivory backscratchers!

ALDS Game 3 Open Thread

[ 0 ] October 7, 2007 |

I heard from more than one Yankee fan who was happy that they avoided the Angels. Somehow, past history or no past history, I’m guessing they don’t believe that anymore. Anyway, we’re now at most three games away from the regrettable return of Tim McCarver. (The TBS broadcasts haven’t been great, but compared to the Fox “cut to closeups of nose hair/cut to stars (using the term loosely) of about-to-be-canceled Fox shows/very occasional baseball” formula it’s a godsend.)

That said, one game before the AL is on Fox would be much better. Let’s see if the Tribe can make it happen…

…that straightforward E6 was scored a hit? There’s home cookin’, and then there’s cooking for Jeter. Embarrassing. And clutch by Garko to push across what should be an unearned run! I do wish Martinez wouldn’t have swung at two of the five balls Clemens threw him…

…and that figures to be a wrap on Clemens’s career. Give Torre credit for not trying to squeeze a few more batters from him after the K.

…WP by Hughes leads to the third ER charged to Clemens (granting that the first one is a farce.) I blame the bugs. And the sun in Hughes’s eyes. And the Trilateral Commission.

…I don’t understand: Chamberlain was lights-out in one inning, and then gave up a run in another. Plaugue of locusts, I assume? Anyway, I guess we’ll see you in Cleveland, unless Paul By…um, I think I’m going to leave that.

Bobo’s Burkean Bush

[ 2 ] October 7, 2007 |

Henry Farrell notes a contradiction in Brooks’s embarrassingly belated realization that George W. Bush is not, in fact, a Burke/Oakeshott conservative. My favorite example from the Brooks archives, however, has to be this one:

Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn’t even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any ”plan” hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.

I tell Oakeshott that the Americans and Iraqis are now involved in an Oakeshottian enterprise. They are muddling through, devising shambolic, ad hoc solutions, and learning through bumbling experience. In the building of free societies, every day feels like a mess, but every year is a step forward.

Yes, an extraordinarily ambitious plan (led by a Secretary of Defense committed to proving theories about warfare that would use as few troops as possible) to depose the government of a society riven by a complex web of sectarian conflicts, economically dependent on a single resource not evenly distributed throughout the country, and long governed by a brutal despotism representing a minority faction and transforming it into a stable pro-American pro-Israeli democracy was an example of the Oakeshottian conservatism of the Bush administration…because they had no idea what the hell they were doing or how they would accomplish their grandiose schemes. Right.

The Iraq War is a case in which Burkean conservatism (or its Foucauldian variants) has a great deal of wisdom to offer, and its advice is “it was an extraordinarily stupid idea.” That Brooks tried to turn this theoretical line into a defense of the war tells you what you need to about him. He was sort of the Oakshottian variant of Hayek-stops-at-the-water’s-edge libertarians, who’s now backtracking after his hack defenses of the war have proven disastrously wrong. I can’t say that I’m terribly interested in what he has to say at this point.

Whinebrenner

[ 3 ] October 7, 2007 |

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George M. Steinbrenner is principal owner of the New York Yankees.

It’s not just the announcers who can see only one possible explanation for Greatest Pitcher In Known Human History Joba Chamberlain giving up a run:

But with his team teetering on the brink of a knockout, the old Steinbrenner came out swinging on Saturday night, putting Torre on immediate notice and ripping into umpire Bruce Froemming, the veteran crew chief from Friday night’s Game 2 who declined to stop play despite an infestation of Lake Erie gnats.

“The umpire was full of [expletive],” Steinbrenner said of the retiring Froemming. “He won’t umpire our games anymore.”

Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo. Granted that Froemming should have retired during the Reagan administration, his decision here was unquestionably correct; bugs are part of playing baseball on humid days on Lake Erie. Moreover, the bugs also affected the hitters — for all we know Chamberlain would have given up a three-run homer pitching in a bug-free environment — and amazingly the bugs didn’t prevent Carmona from throwing that great slider, or Rivera from pitching two scoreless innings.

But it’s not only Joba; it’s the Greatest Athlete In History of Mankind who was affected!

In the wake of that Game 2 defeat, Steinbrenner said the Yankees had complained to baseball commissioner Bud Selig about the decision to play on. “[Selig] just said, ‘That’s in the umpires’ hands,’ ” Steinbrenner said. “But Jesus Christ, it was terrible. It messed up the whole team, [Derek] Jeter, all of them.”

Yes, Jeter is one for eight, and has no range, because of the bugs. It’s all the bugs. They somehow knew to affect only one team on the field; amazing.

The bad news here is that Steinbrenner claims that he’ll re-sign A-Rod no matter what. I would especially like to see the Yankees out before Slappy can get hot to increase the pressure to let him walk, but alas Cashman isn’t nearly as dumb as the median fan or pundit.

As for what will happen tonight, I can’t even predict. Part of me sees this like Game 4 last year, with Clemens pulling up gimpy and the Indians getting out to a big lead and the Yankees losing their discipline. Part of me sees the Yankees — as has been their wont — teeing off on Westbrook and getting right back in it. I’ll say this: I think it goes 3 or 5; I don’t see Byrd beating Yankees Stadium Wang. With Sabathia and Carmona both on full rest a Game 5 wouldn’t be awful, but still, it would be immensely desirable for the Indians to put the boot down now.

Broom Purchase By a Tribe on Aisle One

[ 0 ] October 6, 2007 |

I missed much of today’s rare instance of justice on Earth at various parental visitation and birthday party related programed activities. But I left dinner to hear descriptions of the tying run score with Sterling complaining about the bugs, went into the subway, and when I got out Sterling was still complaining against the bugs (although, oddly, they seemed to have less effect on Carmona.) And then, somewhat embarrassingly, me ducking out to the TV at the front of the bar to watch the bottom of tenth and eleventh, and then very embarrassingly me jumping up and down in glee after the Hafner single.

As I’ve said many times, there was little question that the Indians would thump the Yankees…

A First Grade Political Test

[ 1 ] October 5, 2007 |

The major Republican candidates have all endorsed Bush’s appalling veto of S-CHIP. If the Democratic candidate can’t repeatedly hammer his or her opponent throughout the campaign for this, they don’t deserve to win.

Dobson’s Bluff

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

I certainly agree with Yglesias that “It would be a big, big problem for Giuliani’s general election campaign to have any of the major cultural conservative institutions backing a third party candidate. It’s generally very difficult to win when you have a spoiler trying to take you down the way Ross Perot was gunning for H.W. Bush in ’92 or Ralph Nader was taking aim at Gore in 2000.” (It’s particularly important that such a campaign would be primarily an anti-Giuilani campaign, just as electing Bush was the primary purpose of Nader’s campaign.)

One has to question, however, whether or not this is a serious threat. My default assumption that Christian conservatives, in Michael Tomasky’s phrase, “are far smarter than these left-wing lions of ideological chastity.” I think this is pretty clearly an attempt to stop Giuliani in the primaries rather than an actual intention to run a third-party candidate. One reason that Nader and his followers didn’t worry about the Democratic primary is that they’re essentially unappeasable unless the Democrats were willing to commit electoral suicide; any Democratic candidate capable of winning more than 75 electoral votes would be unacceptable, so there was no reason to bother. Dobson, on the other hand, would accept any major candidate other than Giuliani without even a sniff of a third-party run, and he’s trying to assure that it happens. I still think that Giuliani will not be the nominee. If push came to shove, though — granting that a pro-choice Republican winning would be a disaster for the forced pregnancy minority — I’m pretty sure that Dobson will not be indifferent about whether Giuliani or Clinton makes at least the next four years of federal judicial appointments.

That’s Going Too Far!

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Daily Conservative, in re: one of the corporations that Made Milwaukee Famous sponsoring the Folsom Street Fair: “They’re still crappy beer, now they’re crappy gay beer.” Oh noes! (Alas, Coors would seem to be out too; I’m not sure if Schiltz or Hamm’s have been involved in any Wrongthink.) Remembering that these days Republicans are supposed to be a little more subtle about their gay-bashing, though, Mr. Conservative cites someone who claims that “The fact that it’s a primarily gay event is irrelevant – in their sponsorship of this fair, Miller is supporting public indecency. Public heterosexual contact would be just as offensive.” Oh, yes, if Miller sponsored, say, a Mardi Gras event that involved the public exposure of the female breast, I’m sure the same conservatives would be posting the telephone numbers of Miller executives; that’s completely plausible! Now let those conservative bloggers get back to carefully examining the pictures to see just how pre-verted they are.

When You Fund Health Care for Children, You Fund The Terrorists!

[ 0 ] October 5, 2007 |

The war on parody proceeds at full speed.

UPDATE by bean: . . . and look who’s laughing.

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