Michael Rubin: The Moral Contortionist

Michael Rubin has posted yet another rant on National Review’s “The Corner.” This time he goes after the petty Europeans and “chattering class” for their quaint beliefs in proportionality.

As Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe have pointed out, Michael Rubin has been banging out post after post about the Israeli attack on civilian ships in international water.

Rubin has tried to make lemonade from the lemons that the IDF handed him on Monday by claiming that now, more than ever, the U.S. should unconditionally support Israel and that a failure to offer such support could result in Israel unilaterally attacking Iran.

So, according to Rubin, the U.S. relationship with Israel boils down to our responsibility to enable a self-destructive friend while permitting that friend to dictate our foreign policy through blackmail.

In his post last night, Rubin attacks the liberal European notion of proportionality and charges that the European response to the Israeli attack on the “Free Gaza” flotilla is naive and ignores the importance of disproportionality in protecting freedom and security.

Rubin writes:

A Question of Proportionality [Michael Rubin]

A lot of the criticism surrounding Israel’s actions against the Free Gaza flotilla center on proportionality. Did Israel apply disproportionate force? The same charges form the basis of the criticism leveled by the Goldstone Report and, indeed, also were leveled against Israel following the 2006 Hezbollah War and, before that, Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.

But why should any democratic government empowered to defend its citizenry accept Europe’s idea of proportion? When attacked, why should not a stronger nation or its representatives try to both protects its own personnel at all costs and, in the wider scheme of things, defeat its adversaries?

Likewise, when terrorists seek to strike at the United States, why should we find ourselves constrained by an artificial notion of proportionality when responding to those terrorists or their state sponsors?

Ultimately, it may be time to recognize that, in the face of growing threats to Western liberalism, strength and disproportionality matter more to security and the protection of democracy than the approval of the chattering class of Europe or the U.N. secretary general, a man whose conciliatory policies as foreign minister of South Korea proved to be a strategic disaster.

One final note on proportionality: Fifteen “peace” activists dead is a tragedy, but they represent only one one-thousandth of the death toll of a French heatwave.

Rubin clearly stated his loyalties to Israel in an earlier post on Monday. Still, it’s worth asking what Israel would have to do to earn a condemnation from him. The moral and logical contortions exhibited in Rubin’s posts on Monday would suggest that he will go to any length to defend Israel’s attack on civilian ships in international waters.

Rubin argues that notions of proportionality are a threat to Western liberalism. A more reasoned analysis might suggest that uncompromising support of an ally’s flagrant disregard of international law and reckless behaviors which needlessly result in civilian deaths is morally indefensible, bad politics and, to put it in the words that Rubin would use, a threat to Western liberalism.

PR Advice to the Palestinians

I’ve heard a certain criticism countless times over the years, but after seeing it three times in two days on the same site, I decided to do a little research. From that vast repository of respectable opinion, The Atlantic, here are Jeffrey Goldberg, Andrew Sullivan, and Megan McArdle with the idea du jour:

Jeffrey Goldberg:
“I don’t know yet exactly what happened at sea when a group of Israeli commandos boarded a ship packed with not-exactly-Gandhi-like anti-Israel protesters.”

Andrew Sullivan:
“The violence by the activists is pretty abhorrent. These are not followers of Gandhi or MLK Jr.”

Megan McArdle:
“Very clearly, these guys were not the next incarnation of Gandhi; they were on that mission spoiling for a fight.”

Now, unlike these three worthies, I’m just a rube who majored in booze at Football Tech, so I didn’t know much about this Gandhi fella. I wondered, what exactly would Gandhi have the Palestinians and their supporters do? What would earn them a pat on the head from serious, right-thinking Americans?

Luckily, I didn’t have to look very far to find a possible answer:

As an inspiration and a symbol, Gandhi has no peer in the 20th century; as a practical politician, he was a despair to his colleagues in the Indian national movement. His insistence on non-violence grew more extreme as he aged: during the war, he recommended to the British that they should “invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.” And in an interview given after the war, he went so far as to say that “the Jews [in Europe] should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.

The things you learn on the intertubes! Well, there you go, Palestinians (and Turks, and Jewish Americans to the left of Jeffrey Goldberg): kill yourselves. When the last one of you is gone, The Atlantic will hold a special symposium on your righteousness.

Minarets: Ban Them, or Bomb Them?

Well, the Swiss – or, more accurately, a majority of voters in democratic Switzerland – have gone and done something wrong and dumb, approving a referendum that bans the construction of minarets. Libertarian demerits are certainly in order. But one very wrong, very dumb thing the Swiss have not done is launch any wars of aggression against Muslim peoples, or  anyone else, for that matter.

Which makes it all the more cringe-worthy to read this libel on Andrew Sullivan’s blog:

Good God. Why not synagogues? Or did a neighboring country try that already?

Wow. Straight to the Nazi jab, huh? Never let it be said that Harvard doesn’t make ’em like they used to.

For the record, this is the same Andrew Sullivan who penned this epochal gem eight years ago:

[B]in Laden proves that the best form of persuasion in that part of the world is not rhetorical but military. Pummel them and they will respect you. Talk to them nicely and you’ll end up like Robert Fisk. Best of all, pummel them and then talk. The most persuasive piece of rhetoric yet unleashed in this conflict has been the daisy cutter bomb. It’s the only argument that much of this clearly depraved culture actually respects.

Expect more Swiss-bashing from some of the very people who have cheered on the most egregious abuses of Muslims. They’re extremely alert to the dangers of isolationism, you know.

UPDATE: This is too rich. Jeffrey Goldberg, Sullivan’s colleague at The Atlantic, gets in on the anti-Swiss sanctimony. Hah! If the United States or Israel were to attack Tehran tomorrow – which just might halt the construction of a minaret or two – Goldberg would leap to his keyboard to defend the decision as regrettable but justifiable. Again, I’m not a fan of bans or bombs, but the former have the distinct advantage of being reversible.

The Itch in Joe Lieberman’s Gitmo Finger

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut may be the most destructive politician in the United States. Combining the worst ideas of the right, the left, and the religious, he essentially seeks to punitively tax the world in order to bomb it for the sake of Israel. Despite Lieberman’s “dual” loyalty — in quotes because I suspect he’s truly only loyal to the Jewish State — the voters of Connecticut chose him to represent them in Congress even though his own Democratic Party booted him off their ticket in favor of a pro-peace candidate.

Comfortable advocating mass murder with that creepy smile under both Bush and Obama, in light of the Fort Hood massacre, Lieberman seems to be primarily concerned not with PTSD and mental health issues in the armed forces in general, not with internecine abuse in Army ranks, not with whether or not the military should let go of conscientious objectors before they literally go ballistic, but whether or not Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s crazed actions could be technically classified as (Islamic) terrorism. Muslims in the military are rightly on edge.

As Maj. Hasan’s beliefs likely influenced, in part, his actions, so do Sen. Lieberman’s. Watch out Nidal, the senator from Connecticut has his own jihad, and his Gitmo finger is itchy.

Space: The Final Caliphate

You lazy, gravity-worshiping hippies may be content to sit around stoned while the Mooninites  convert to Islam and threaten the democratic peoples of interstellar space, but Charles Krauthammer will never retreat!

After countless millennia of gazing and dreaming, we finally got off the ground at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Within 66 years, a nanosecond in human history, we’d landed on the moon. Then five more landings, ten more moonwalkers and, in the decades since, nothing.

To be more precise: almost 40 years spent in low Earth orbit studying, well, zero-G nausea and sundry cosmic mysteries. We’ve done it with the most beautiful, intricate, complicated — and ultimately, hopelessly impractical — machine ever built by man: the space shuttle. We turned this magnificent bird into a truck for hauling goods and people to a tinkertoy we call the international space station, itself created in a fit of post–Cold War internationalist absentmindedness as a place where people of differing nationality can sing “Kumbaya” while weightless.

It only took four decades to go from the Wright Flyer to the Spirit of St. Louis to the Enola Gay, and what have we done in the 40 years since Apollo 11? Goddamn it, we haven’t so much as nuked Saturn’s rings! What is wrong with you people?

America’s manned space program is in shambles. Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the United States will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We’ll be totally grounded. We’ll have to beg a ride from the Russians or perhaps even the Chinese.

The Russians! The Chinese! Case closed… or should I say, space closed?!?!

So what, you say? Don’t we have problems here on Earth? Oh, please. Poverty and disease and social ills will always be with us. If we’d waited for them to be rectified before venturing out, we’d still be living in caves.

The unemployed, the sick, the greedy taxpayers… what a bunch of a**holes. Don’t they want to be part of something larger than themselves?

All we need is sufficient funding from the hundreds of billions being showered from Washington — “stimulus” monies that, unlike Eisenhower’s interstate highway system or Kennedy’s Apollo program, will leave behind not a trace on our country or our consciousness — to build Constellation and get us back to Earth orbit and the moon a half-century after the original landing.

Why do it? It’s not for practicality. We didn’t go to the moon to spin off cooling suits and freeze-dried fruit. Any technological return is a bonus, not a reason. We go for the wonder and glory of it. Or, to put it less grandly, for its immense possibilities. We choose to do such things, said JFK, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Yeah, after capturing bin Laden, bringing liberty and justice to the Middle East, stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and elevating America’s global image and security to unprecedented heights, all without breaking the bank, we really need something a little more challenging.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5smPcN8AoE[/youtube]

Don’t F*ck Me Up With Peace and Love?

Maybe this post by George Hawley, “Solving Non-Interventionism’s Tough-Guy Problem,” wasn’t directed at Antiwar.com, but I’ll address some excerpts from it anyway.

In the years since I abandoned my status as a typical neoconservative chicken hawk and adopted Old Right non-interventionism, I’ve been somewhat uneasy with much of the movement’s rhetoric. Specifically, I often find much of the anti-war Right a little too reminiscent of the anti-war Left. That is, many anti-war conservatives and libertarians expend a great number of keystrokes lamenting the American war machine’s innocent foreign victims (see Chronicles
or LewRockwell.com just about any day of the week for examples). This is often my own preferred argument. My concern is that this kind of rhetoric does little to grow the non-interventionist movement’s ranks. …

Although their message is utterly vacuous, the Limbaughs, Hannitys, and Levins know exactly how to frame their arguments in a way that appeals to the GOP base. It’s time for more doves on the Right to learn to do the same.

But, of course, we do make coldly consequentialist, self-interested arguments
against militarism, war, and empire. We also make arguments on moral grounds, from a number of different starting points (including conservative Christianity, which I hear this GOP base is really into). Why make this an either/or matter? Why should we drop half (or more) of our arguments when they don’t conflict with the other half? (There are various types of “humanitarianism” that do conflict with non-interventionism, but we avoid those, so no problem there.)

As for learning from Limbaugh and Levin, please. I know their audience. I was born into it. If I ever write a political memoir, I’ll name it Up From Hannity. There is a Reasonable Right worth reaching out to, but it ain’t in talk radio. These people “think very little about foreign policy,” as Hawley puts it, not out of apathy, but on principle, because thinking leads to questioning, and questioning is a mere Bic flick away from flag-burning, bin Laden, buggery, and Buddhism. The funny thing is, the warbots are not allergic to “humanitarian, we-are-the-world gobbledygook” – in fact, they devour it when it’s in the service of American imperialism. Anyone who watches Fox News knows how quickly right-wingers can pivot from “kill ’em all” to “aww, purple fingers!” The problem is not that peaceniks have tried the wrong arguments on them; they will accept any argument, no matter how heterodox it appears on its face, so long as it reaches the correct conclusion, roughly summarized here. But any argument that reaches a different conclusion, no matter how consonant it is with “conservative values” such as traditionalism, small government, fiscal responsibility, or national sovereignty, doesn’t stand a chance with that crowd.

Lamenting the suffering created by harsh economic sanctions and bombing campaigns is a good way for non-interventionist right-wingers to suck up to their leftist friends and colleagues, but so what? The people moved by such arguments are already anti-war. Building a powerful anti-war coalition on the Right will require an entirely different rhetoric. At all costs it must avoid sounding like Code Pink.

This ignores the salvageable, non-Rush Right, whom we do address, and it seems a little confused about the purposes of advocacy. Not all arguments are about convincing someone to switch sides. Often, it’s more important to get those who agree with you on an issue to care more about that issue, in both absolute and relative terms. For instance, much of our commentary since January has been aimed at convincing our lefty readers that they shouldn’t surrender peace and civil liberties for the various goodies Obama has promised them. We’re always trying to make people rethink their priorities, or merely come out of the closet. Even after a majority of Americans soured on the Iraq war, most remained sheepish, even silent, in their opposition, revealing it only to pollsters. Part of our job is to get people fired up, to translate their dissatisfaction into action of some sort. And you know what? Moral arguments are often good motivators, even for people whose default modes of analysis are amoral.

Luckily, we already have a pretty good format that has worked pretty well in America’s Red regions, and can be applied to the cause of peace. There is a certain ethos that characterizes a great number of ordinary Republicans – or at least the ordinary Republicans with whom I prefer to spend my time. For the lack of a better term, I will call this frame of mind, “Who-Gives-a-Damn? Conservatism.” This is the type of thinking that leads to support for standard GOP policies, but not for particularly-sophisticated reasons. I have no doubt that a great number of grassroots Republicans oppose ideas like universal health care and more federal spending on public schools because they understand, and find compelling, conservative and libertarian arguments about the utility of such policies. I suspect much of the opposition to these schemes, however, is based on a more primal emotion. That is, a lot of people don’t like Big Government because they don’t want to pay for it and don’t really care about the people it is supposed to help.

If you think most self-described conservatives really hate Big Government,
then you stopped paying attention sometime around, oh, the Nixon administration. Good God, man, if they hated Big Government, wouldn’t they at least dislike the most wasteful and intrusive government programs of them all, from the War on Terror to the War on Drugs? No, they love Big Government, from its big, fat boots to its big, fat head. Oh, they’re angry that some of the loot falls on the, um… undeserving, but that won’t stop them from sucking the teats of Social Security and Medicare to the shape and texture of a deflated football. They won’t abide tax increases, but they see no connection between those and deficit spending. And why should they? Just keep those F-22s coming, barkeep! The grandkids are buying!

I do agree with this part completely:

The neocons’ democratist ideology should be treated as just another example of fuzzy-headed utopianism. Bringing “liberal democracy” and “democratic capitalism” to the entire world should be added to the category of ridiculous, never-going-to-happen ideas. The best argument against the neocons is that they are delusional. They are the eggheads dreaming up sentimental, utopian schemes, not us.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Nonetheless, we will gain nothing from adopting the language and posture of the neocons and their fellow travelers. Non-interventionism’s only “tough-guy problem” is the widespread attachment to a mindset derived entirely from dumbass action flicks, which are about as useful a guide for foreign policy as romantic comedies are for romance.