She’s now in Iraq, where the quest for Jamil Hussein has morphed into a search for “pockets of success and signs of hope amid utter despair.” Examining her photos and maudlin captions, one would think Malkin is unaware of the fact that the United States has been in Iraq — handing out soccer balls and blankets and “meeting” with displaced families — for nearly four goddamned years now. For Malkin, the “slums of Baghdad” are useful only as a squalid prop, summoned front and center in a narrative that depicts the United States and its armed forces as if it were in a state of eternal arrival, bearing absolutely no responsibility for the conditions they’re alleviating with stuffed animals and candy corns and tiny American flags.
Not to dignify Malkin’s work in any way, but all of this reminds me of Roland Bathes’ essay on margarine:
One can trace in advertising a narrative pattern which clearly shows the working of this new vaccine. It is found in the publicity of Astra magazine. The episode always begins with a cry of indignation against margarine: “A mousse? Made with margarine? Unthinkable!” “Margarine? Your uncle will be furious!” And then one’s eyes are opened, one’s conscience becomes more pliable, and margarine is a delicious food, tasty, digestible, economical, useful in all circumstances. The moral at the end is well known: “Here you are, rid of a prejudice which cost you dearly!” It is in the same way that the Established Order relieves you of your progressive prejudices. The Army, and absolute value? It is unthinkable: look at its vexations, its strictness, its always possible blindness of its chiefs. The Church, infallible? Alas, it is very doubtful: look at its bigots, its powerless priests, its murderous conformism. And then “common sense” makes its reckoning: what is this trifling dross of Order, compared with its advantages? It is well worth the price of immunization. What does it matter, after all, if margarine is just fat, when it goes further than butter, and costs less? What does it matter, after all, if Order is a little brutal or a little blind, when it allows us to live cheaply? Here we are, in our turn, rid of a prejudice which cost us dearly, too dearly, which cost us too much in scruples, in revolt, in fights, and in solitude.
The latest effusions of Josh “A Wingnut Leaves the Door Ajar As He Swings A Whip From the Boer War” Trevino, already linked below, are a treasure trove of lunacy. There’s also this:
What was good about the President’s speech? He remains committed to victory. Whether he will achieve it or not is a separate matter; the mere fact that he seeks it sets him on a moral plane above the mass of the American left that thinks defeat a wholly palatable option.
Yes, the fact that the President would really like to win (not that his plan might lead to victory, mind you, but that he thinks some kind of undefined “winning” would be nice) puts him on a “different moral plane” than people impertinent enough to point out that our continuing presence in Iraq is making things worse and therefore ipso facto want America to lose (which is particularly strange when Trevino says that a “desire to win is small consolation without the means to win”–without the McCarthyism, Trevino seems to have the same position on Bush’s plan as the evil, anti-American liberals.) But what makes this risible even for Tacitus is that he delivers this pompous jingoism after explaining that–as part of an invasion of a country that didn’t attack and posed no significant security threat to the United States–our military should put innocent women and children in concentration camps so that men can be indiscriminately slaughtered. Trevino and I are on “different moral planes,” all right.
…Yglesias is rather more astute about how to read the President’s empty banalities about victory:
The point of view from which the hail mary metaphor makes the most sense is if your primary concern is not the interests of the United States of America but the reputation of George W. Bush and other leading architects of war. From that point of view, the difference between initiating and then losing a war at great cost and initiating and then losing a war at even greater cost really is minimal, much like in a football game. From Bush’s point of view, conceding that his Iraq policy has failed is so catastrophic to his ego and reputation that it makes perfect sense to ask other people to bear any burden and pay any price for even the smallest sliver of a hope of even deferring the problem successfully. For the country, though, it doesn’t make sense at all.
Chilling. And I thought that the biggest problem with Canadian coins was that they were annoyingly similar to ours, yet wouldn’t be accepted by vending machines.
In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.
The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.
Intelligence and technology experts said such transmitters, if they exist, could be used to surreptitiously track the movements of people carrying the spy coins.
Damage control has already begun.
Top suspects, according to outside experts: China, Russia or even France — all said to actively run espionage operations inside Canada with enough sophistication to produce such technology.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said it knew nothing about the coins.
“This issue has just come to our attention,” CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said. “At this point, we don’t know of any basis for these claims.” She said Canada’s intelligence service works closely with its U.S. counterparts and will seek more information if necessary.
Experts were astonished about the disclosure and the novel tracking technique, but they rejected suggestions Canada’s government might be spying on American contractors. The intelligence services of the two countries are extraordinarily close and routinely share sensitive secrets.
Sounds like something is being swept under the rug. I continue to wonder if they’ve managed to deter us from significant action, somehow.
Hat tip to Davida.
The British Army? Not so much on the surging. According to Reuters, Britain will withdraw 2700 of its 7200 strong contingent by May 31. British forces are concentrated in southern Iraq, but in principle could be used anywhere, especially in the context of a major reshuffling of American and Iraqi forces. Also, if the United States is serious about ratcheting up tension with Iran (and we just busted into an Iranian consulate in Irbil), then the areas of British control are likely to see considerable unrest. I’m reminded of a scene from Go:
Simon: Marcus, lend me some money.
Marcus: Man, where’s your money?
Simon: I lost it.
Marcus: We’ve been here five minutes.
Simon: Yeah, I know, but I was playing this game at a $100 dollar table, and I didn’t understand it; now I do. I’ve figured out how to beat it!
Marcus: Alright. Give me your wallet.
Cross-posted at TAPPED.
If you believe that the “surge” will be effective, and if you believe that “rules of engagement” are the primary problem with the operation in Iraq, how can you not conclude that President Bush and his administration are among the most inept blunderers ever to conduct a war?
…more to the point, if you agree with Michael Ledeen:
it sounded like our soldiers will get Rules of Engagement that haven’t been neutered, that are not PC, but ROEs that are appropriate to winning a war rather than avoiding casualties. Maybe…
…then shouldn’t you be really, really unhappy that the guy who put together the new counterinsurgency manual (which does NOT call for looser ROEs) has just been put in charge of Iraq?
Via The Bellman, we learn that the principality of Sealand — one of the world’s great micronations — is for sale.
Sealand celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and has been governed by His Royal Highness Paddy Roy Bates, Prince of Sealand, since 1967, when the pirate radio broadcaster took control of Roughs Tower by chasing its previous squatters away with molotov cocktails and (possibly) gunfire. According to other reports, the price of Sealand is set at a minimum of 65 million English pounds, which is quite a lot to ask for to own a 60-year-old concrete platform and a couple of buildings that suffered fire damage last year. More significantly, in the interests of global stability the Prince has stipulated that neither the name nor the laws of Sealand may be altered by the new owners; indeed, the new “owners” would not officially own the nation, which would still officially remain within the Bates family. Still, with the transfer of authority the new sovereigns would presumably acquire the micronation’s glorious reputation for mini-golf and slot-car racing — two sports in which Sealand has performed capably in recent years. Sealand also claims the Danish football club Vestbjerg as its national team.
For those unwilling to cough up 65 million pounds, it is still possible to become a Lord, Lady, Baron or Baroness of Sealand for the smaller sum of 20 pounds. T-shirts and fire-damaged bolts are also available.
Via Ben, Rick Perlstein performs a valuable service by preempting the inevitable attempts this weekend to claim MLK on behalf of reactionaries who hated him then and still oppose his principles to the maximum extent possible:
Others demurred. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond wrote his constituents, “[W]e are now witnessing the whirlwind sowed years ago when some preachers and teachers began telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case.” Another, even more prominent conservative said it was just the sort of “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”
That was Ronald Reagan, the governor of California, arguing that King had it coming. King was the man who taught people they could choose which laws they’d break–in his soaring exegesis on St. Thomas Aquinas from that Birmingham jail in 1963: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. … Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.”
When King was shuttling back and forth to Memphis in support of striking garbage workers, Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington typified the conservative establishment’s understanding of him: He was “training 3,000 people to start riots.” What looks today obviously like transcendent justice looked to conservatives then like anarchy. The conservative response to King–to demonize him in the ’60s and to domesticate him today–has always been essentially the same: It has been about coping with the fear that seekers of justice may overturn what we see as the natural order and still be lionized. But if we manage to forget that, sometimes, doing things that terrify people is the only recourse to injustice, there is no point in having a Martin Luther King Day at all.
Saint Reagan? Kindly Ol’ Strom Thurmond? I’m so disillusioned!
If you have the time, please be sure to check out David Neiwert’s ongoing treatment of Eliminationism in America, which is about halfway through its projected ten parts. For most readers the basic plot will hardly come as a surprise, addressing as it such grotesqueries as the European conquest of Mesoamerica, the extermination of North American Indians, and what Ida Wells once called the “red record” of lynching. As the first post indicates, Neiwert is interested in an especially thuggish genealogy of irate, racist nationalism that has expanded in recent years to include new targets.
White frat boys who long to enslave blacks, Texas ranchers who think hunting and shooting a Jew sounds like fun, and radio audiences who want to tattoo Muslims and lock them up in concentration camps — they all reflect the strands of the hard-wired right-wing desire to eliminate, by violent means if necessary, anyone deemed the Other, or the Enemy. . .
It isn’t only Muslims and Jews who are being included in this kind of talk. Probably the leading targets of hateful rhetoric in the past year have been illegal immigrants. But the range of targets is fairly broad, and now includes gays and lesbians; environmentalists; civil-rights advocates; journalists; and the most common target of the past decade, liberals generally. . . .
While it may seem as though this rising drumbeat of eliminationism proceeding from the American right is something new and uniquely dangerous, a look at our history actually reveals that it is something buried deep in our national psyche. It lies dormant in our soil and comes bursting forth when bidden.
I’m usually skeptical of transhistorical claims about the “national psyche,” and I think there are ways that a concept like “eliminationism” attempts to explain too much, but Neiwert is at his best here. The discussion of Apolcalypto in Part III is especially worthwhile.
Jason Zengerle’s commentary on the TAP/Joe Klein feud is essentially vacant, but there’s one paragraph that deserves some additional scrutiny, if only as a contribution to the “saying nothing in an ominous and thoughtful way” genre:
By consequences, I don’t mean anything as concrete as the prospects of a possible Al Qaeda sanctuary in Anbar provence or the abandonment of thousands of Iraqis to certain death. I’m talking about something more nebulous: what are the consequences of America losing a war–which is, after all, what withdrawal will mean? What will it do to our position in the world? What will it do to the national psyche? And what will it do to the people who fought in that war? (Yes, they’ll be out of harm’s way, but they’ll also be left to conclude that all their efforts–and their sacrifices–were in vain.)
Having deliberately eschewed discussion of any practical consquence of the war, Zengerle wants to lead us into a set of rhetorical questions intended to make us more thoughtful about withdrawal. To work, however, rhetorical questions shouldn’t have obvious answers.
1. What are the consequences of America losing a war?
The same as the consequences of any other country losing a war, only far less so since the war was fought far away for reasons tangential to genuine US security interests.
2. What will it do to our position in the world?
The dreadful defeat will leave the US the most powerful country in the world.
3. What will it do to our national psyche?
It may be marginally more difficult for the New Republic to gin up support for the next idiotic foreign adventure.
4. What will it do to the people who fought in the war?
More of them will be alive, and will enjoy the full use of their limbs and brains.
The most important point here, however, is that the argument for keeping troops in Iraq has to be founded on a case that something is being accomplished. If US troops aren’t doing any good, then staying 10 years not only isn’t helpful, it does more damage to Zengerle’s nebulous concerns. It’s hard for me to understand how losing a war after 14 years of fighting is somehow better than losing one after four years. If you’re worried about these things, you have to be willing to either make the case that US forces can still win (a case that Zengerle notably fails to attempt), or argue for withdrawal in order to minimize the consequences.
Marty Lederman argues (correctly) that the Constitution plainly gives Congress the formal powers to prevent the senseless escalation of the Iraq conflict. Matt brings up another question: would the courts actually provide a remedy if Bush simply decided to ignore a Congressional enactment preventing the escalation? Unfortunately, history strongly suggests that the courts would defer to the President. The most obvious recent example is Vietnam, when William O. Douglas spent years trying to convince his colleagues that the escalation of the war was illegal. By the early 70s, there were probably several justices who thought this argument was defensible as a legal matter, and certainly a majority of justices were opposed to the war (at least before Harlan and Black were replaced by Nixon appointees.) But Douglas couldn’t even persuade his Brethren to grant cert, and surely one reason for this is that if they had told Nixon to bring back the troops, and he refused, there was nothing the Court could have done. And such strategic deference has an extensive history–as many of you know, in the first case in which the Court struck down an act of Congress, Chief Justice John Marshall carefully structured the decision so that the Court did not issue a writ that Jefferson and Madison certainly would have ignored.
The Supreme Court has not, of course, been uniformly deferential to the executive in wartime–but cases where the courts have acted haven’t involved withdrawing troops in the field. Regrettably, if Bush wanted to defy the will of Congress with respect to his proposed escalation, there is unlikely to be a judicial remedy in the offing. If a Court that had the four last great liberal justices on it refused to act during Vietnam, there’s almost no chance of this happening today.
…Atrios is right, however, that Congress can send an important political message even if it can’t stop Bush from continuing the fiasco.
[Also at TAPPED.]
I have finally finished my syllabi for Defense Statecraft and East Asian Security. This is the first time I’ve taught the latter, so it’s a bit rough. I went with a state based approach rather than an issue based because it seemed easier to creative cohesive units with the former than the latter. We’ll see how it works out. I conceive of the Defense Statecraft syllabus as, essentially, “what civilians ought to know about military affairs”, although the structure of the course is obviously colored by my interests and prejudices. The audiences for both courses are policy-oriented graduate students, which explains the relative lack of theoretical material.