Regular antiwar.com contributor Tom Engelhardt NAILS it – – – on Democracy Now! too.
Tom Engelhardt on “The American Way of War: How Bushâ€™s Wars Became Obamaâ€™s” Here: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/18/afghan
Maybe this post by George Hawley, “Solving Non-Interventionismâ€™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, Iâ€™ve been somewhat uneasy with much of the movementâ€™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 machineâ€™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 movementâ€™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. Itâ€™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” â€“ 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 Americaâ€™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 â€“ 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, â€œWho-Gives-a-Damn? Conservatism.â€ 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 donâ€™t like Big Government because they donâ€™t want to pay for it and donâ€™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, umâ€¦ 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 neoconsâ€™ democratist ideology should be treated as just another example of fuzzy-headed utopianism. Bringing â€œliberal democracyâ€ and â€œdemocratic capitalismâ€ 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.
For all of their gasbaggery about the virtue and necessity of the Fourth Estate, the glittering mainstream media elite (big names, big money, very little gumshoe) is simply allergic to breaking news, and intelligently reporting about anything that implicates the power structure beyond the isolated criminal doings of one man or woman, i.e, senators and congressmen who terrorize airport bathrooms and congressional pages, or cheesy Midwest governors with small mind/big hair complexes. Those stories are safe, and therefore deserve the exhaustion of every pitiful analysis and resource.
But when it comes to serious stuff — preemptive war, torture, spying on Americans without warrant, the upending of the U.S constitution — these mainstream mavens (who are ever-so-fond of waxing nostalgic about their weaning during the Woodward & Bernstein glory years of the 70’s)Â quickly “close ranks” and reframe the context of these stories to ensure the teeniest impact possible on the status quo. This typically means protecting their establishment friends in government, not rattling the corporate sponsors, and skittering offÂ to perceivably more ratings-grabbing news, like what really happened to Anna Nicole Smith, and what are the ladies on The View dishing about today? This is all done of course, in that gratingly condescending way (think and picture Chris Matthews)Â that has all the subtle effect of nails filing down on a chalkboard.
The worst is when they completely ignore stories that put their “profession” in the most garish of lights, those little slivers of truth that peek out from time to time thanks to real reporters in the business. David Barstow won a Pulitzer Prize this week for his expose on the media using generals planted by the Pentagon to sell the war , but I bet most Americans haven’t heard of “message force multipliers” and wouldn’t know why they should care, since the story never made it to the nightly news.
As for the current torture scandal, of which we have hardly heard the full extent, Glenn Greenwald has an excellent analysis on his site today regarding the corporate media’s complicity in playing down the story throughout the Bush years and its ongoing attempts to frame it in the most self-serving way possible. A taste:
For years, media stars ignored the fact that our Government was chronically breaking the law and systematically torturing detainees (look at this extremely detailed exposÃ© by The WashingtonÂ Post‘s Dana Priest andÂ Barton Gellman from December, 2002 to get a sense for how much we’ve known about all of this and for how long we’ve known it).Â Â Now that the sheer criminality of this conduct, really for the first time, has exploded into mainstream political debates as a result of the OLC memos, media stars are forced to address it. Â Exactly as one would expect, they are closing ranks, demanding (as always) that their big powerful political-official-friends and their elite institutions not be subject to the dirty instruments that are meant only for the masses — things like the rule of law, investigations, prosecutions, and accountability when they abuse their power.
Read more here.
Dear Friends of Antiwar.com:
A donor left this message in my Facebook Account,
Here’s an idea. We ask all our friends to switch their Facebook and Myspace profile images to the Anti-War.com logo on some upcoming anti-war day. Let’s say Thanksgiving day, so we can be thankful there aren’t even more wars.
At the same time, on the same day, we ask everyone to switch their profile status to just “Stop the wars.”
And, of course, if anyone asks, “which wars” the answer is “all of them.”
I know I’m thankful for all you champions of peace. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for images and logos.
Hat tip to Antiwar.com reader George Donnelly.
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’ experienceâ€”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 .