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.

There Are Some Lines You Just Don’t Cross

Remember Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party who made a big splash four years ago when he began raving about the wonders of the Bush Doctrine? Probably not, to the relief of many a neocon. He was an embarrassing ally for the warbots even back then, but now he’s gone and done the unforgivable:

A surprise reconciliation between the leaders of Hizbullah and the Progressive Socialist Party was followed on Friday by Walid Jumblatt’s re-directing his rhetoric south, to Palestine, and warning of the “absolute extremism” of the Israeli government. “I call on all of our people in Palestine to reject sectarian and non-sectarian violence and cling to their Arabism and Palestinian national project, to confront Zionist projects that promise to be more dangerous and fiercer in the coming phase,” Jumblatt said in a statement.

The PSP leader said the Israeli government had no interest in a peace settlement and “insisted on absolute extremism” in its current policies.

I suspect we won’t be seeing any more sympathetic profiles of this “insightful interpreter of the fluctuations in Middle Eastern politics” any time soon.

I Love the Smell of Vindication in the Morning

Lord knows, I tried to warn you: Andrew Sullivan is no peacenik. In the last 24 hours of his hysterical Iran!revolution!fascism!democracy!whiskey!sexy! typeathon, Sullivan has relapsed and rediscovered all his old drinking buddies from the Saddam!liberation!fascism!democracy!whiskey!sexy! days: Michael Ledeen, Glenn Reynolds, Michael Totten, Christopher Hitchens… What, no Laurie Mylroie yet?

Sure, sure, he also links to a Pat Buchanan piece advocating nonintervention, saying he agrees “for now,” but that’s typical of Sullivan’s fluttering, erratic style of punditry, which never pauses long enough to consider its own contradictions. But read his blog for a few hours, and you’ll get the general thrust, whether Sullivan is aware of it or not in his green delirium: something must be done!

Abrams to Parachute to Council on Foreign Relations

I guess this is breaking news on which I hope to have more to write later (I have a deadline on reporting Obama’s greenhouse-related announcements today), but I just confirmed that Elliott Abrams, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs since December 2002 and Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy since 2005 will begin work as a Senior Fellow at the new Washington offices (one block away from his old one) of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in mid-February. Abrams, the highest-ranking neo-conservative left in the Bush administration when it finally decamped last week, served, along with help from Dick Cheney’s office, as the bureaucratic foil for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s to give some momentum to the Annapolis peace process; tried to persuade the Israelis to widen their 2006 war against Hezbollah to include Syria; and no doubt steadfastly encouraged the Olmert government to pursue its Gaza war as vigorously and as long as possible. To the extent that U.S. influence in the Middle East has diminished, Abrams can claim a good share of the credit. And his strategy to spread democracy globally (and especially in the Middle East) appears to have prospered in a similar fashion.

Cost of War #31415

The talent pool of the military officers is shrinking :

The army is losing its best and brightest. West Point, the alma mater of American generals going back to Ulysses S. Grant, has seen a relentless rise in the number of officers who leave at the earliest opportunity. Whereas only about 35% of the West Point class of 2000 had quit after five years, for the class of 2001 the proportion rose to 46% and for the class of 2002 to 58%. Retention problems are particularly severe among captains and majors with 11-17 years’ experience—the potential future military leaders. The army currently has only half as many senior captains as it needs, and forecasts that it will suffer from a shortfall of 3,000 captains and majors (out of a cadre of 52,000) until at least 2013. The maximum age for recruits has been raised to 42, and fitness and educational standards have been lowered.

Last week’s Economist has a whole section on possible changes in American foreign policy after November 2008 .