Hawk-Dove Time Machine

A quick follow-up to my last post. I always see a certain response to criticisms of Iraq superhawks who have moderated or dropped their enthusiasm for the war: Why are you focusing on what she said in 2003 instead of what she said last month?

My answer: What a person does before an event occurs (or is averted) matters far more than what she does years later, and that will remain true until time travel is invented. The time to be right about the Iraq invasion was March 2003, not March 2008 or March 2011 or March 2525. And it wasn’t even that hard to be right! Sure, it was hard to stomach all the abuse and ostracism, but that’s not what I mean. The argument for that war was logically, epistemically, and morally feeble, a grim fart joke that only fools, ignoramuses, and liars laughed at. I don’t say that lightly. There are some tough calls in the world; maybe Afghanistan was one, but Iraq sure as hell wasn’t. The more vigorous and vicious a person’s efforts were to bring that war about, the more you should question her judgment to this very day.

Less Hawkish in the Hawkeye State?

The Ames Straw Poll, which actually has some predictive value, gave noninterventionists some reasons to smile. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas placed second with 28 percent, just behind Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (29 percent). After finishing third with 14 percent, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who may well have been the most neoconservative candidate in the race, quit. Sadly, he was immediately replaced by his “less boring clone,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who achieved 4 percent with write-in votes.

The two worst of the other candidates, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, finished with 10 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Among the moderately atrocious, businessman Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also combined for 12 percent. Not-entirely-wretched former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman got 1 percent. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson did not participate.

As I noted last week, Bachmann has infuriated some of the right people by being less than reflexively bellicose. Whether her deviation on Libya reflects mere opportunism or nascent realism is hard to say, though her reported coziness with Frank Gaffney makes me shudder. Still, if we place Bachmann in the center of this nonet, with Paul, Huntsman, Romney, and Cain to the less-Gaffneyesque side and Gingrich, Santorum, Pawlenty, and Perry to the other, we get 41 percent for the former set and 30 percent for the latter. In the 2007 straw poll, Paul was the only candidate who wasn’t running on a Bush-Cheney foreign policy, and he received only 9 percent of the vote. The winner that year, Mitt Romney 1.0, was much more belligerent than either Mitt Romney 2.0 or Michele Bachmann has been so far. Maybe even the Republican base is inching our way.

The Ass Saw the Angel, the A-holes Reached for the Whip

And Balaam rose up in the morning and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

And God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way and his sword drawn in his hand. And the ass turned aside out of the way and went into the field, and Balaam smote the ass to turn her into the way.

Numbers 22:21-23

America is in peril. A grim specter from yesteryear stalks the land, threatening to starve hardworking defense contractors. Our current wars might be snuffed out before they reach drinking age, and a potential intervention or two might even be aborted.

Trembling yet? You should be, because isolationism is back, and it’s haunting the halls of our capital. All those American bullets, missiles, and drones whizzing about might have lulled you into thinking that everything was fine, but top analysts say otherwise. Two honchos at Freedom House fret:

The debate about America’s world role recently has taken a disturbing direction. Prominent figures in both parties – including a number of the announced Republican presidential hopefuls – have anchored their rhetoric on demands for American withdrawal from various conflict zones and from international engagement generally.

Voices on the political margins – Dennis Kucinich on the left and Rand Paul on the right – are increasingly echoed by figures from the mainstream. Even President Obama has succumbed to the prevailing mood with his unfortunate June reference to “nation building here at home.”

Disturbing! And there’s more:

The isolationism that is gaining momentum is especially pernicious given the prospects for political change in the greater Middle East. If there is an issue where vigorous American leadership and American interests are organically related, it is the contemporary struggle for democracy in the Arab world.

And if there is one place where “vigorous American leadership” is roundly trusted and desired, it is surely the Arab world. But back to those “unfortunate” calls for “nation building here at home.” In June, Christopher Hitchens sniffed out that trend and tore it apart:

This [John Edwards’ lack of sexual sophistication, or something] is dispiriting. But not as small-time and small-minded as the recent line adopted, from Dennis Kucinich to John Boehner and by the National Conference of Mayors, to the effect that any expenditure overseas is a theft from the good people of Waterloo (or, if you insist, Winterset), Iowa. You have heard it: A bridge or a well in Kandahar is one less facility for our hurting heartland. We should be tending to business in our own backyards.

Hitchens will have none of that. What is it with these hicks from Cleveland and Bowling Green and West Chester Township and Waterloo and their sub-constant enthusiasm for shrapnel-ready projects? By the way, Waterloo is the hometown of Hitchens’ latest hate crush, Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann enraged Hitchens by “pathetically advocating that we leave Col. Qaddafi alone”:

For Bachmann to choose this moment to say that the loony of Libya poses no threat is to disqualify herself from any consideration for high office.

Indeed. As Hitchens said elsewhere in the same article,

We need candidates who know about laboratories, drones, trade cycles, and polychrome conurbations both here and overseas.

Especially the drones, because those mobile laboratories of democracy can be used to liberate polychrome conurbations overseas, which will, in turn, raise morale here during the contraction phase of the trade cycle. Everybody wins, so long as the isolationists don’t.

But I’m not too worried about Michele Bachmann slowing down the perpetual-war machine that Hitchens and friends have worked so hard to maintain. Apparently, Frank Gaffney has her ear, and I trust that, whip in hand, he will dispel any reservations about empire from her silly little head.

Seems I Gave Jeffrey Goldberg Too Much Credit

Jeffrey Goldberg apparently doctored his Friday post on the Norway attacks to make himself look less bigoted and ridiculous. Read “Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, and Journalistic Ethics” and “No Shame at The Atlantic?” for details. I’ll go ahead and resolve that question mark by directing you to this.

Norwegian Wood

Before Norwegian authorities arrested a sole, Norwegian suspect in today’s murders, America’s professional bullshitters stroked themselves into quite the, er, terrection, if you will. A sampling:

Jennifer Rubin:

This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists. …

Some irresponsible lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — I will point the finger at Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and yet backed the Gang of Six scheme to cut $800 billion from defense — would have us believe that enormous defense cuts would not affect our national security.

Will Saletan:

Oslo Peace Process. Nobel Peace Prize. Today’s attacks show how little terrorists respect countries that pursue peace.

This was, of course, seconded by Saletan’s colleague Dave Weigel.

The Atlantic ran with the unsubstantiated Muslim-terrorist angle and [edit: this article was from July 13, 2010; see Update 2 below] scoffed at any suggestion that the Norwegian government’s ongoing involvement in two wars in Muslim countries might have anything to do with an attack by Muslims:

It may be pointless to search for a single grievance to explain the recent plot. Most likely, a combination of factors placed Norway on the jihadists’ radar. In al-Qaeda’s binary worldview, Norway is part of the “Jewish-Crusader alliance.” Not a platinum member, perhaps, but a member nonetheless. If you’re not with al-Qaeda, you’re with the United States.

(Perplexed hat tip to Jesse Walker, whose reading recommendations will be taken less seriously in the future.)

There are plenty of other examples of this war-on-terror-justifying gun-jumping; feel free to post the most egregious in comments. And who knows? Maybe blondie really will turn out to be a Muslim, as The Daily Mail hopefully suggested*. But even if that’s so, as Glenn Greenwald put it:

[T]hese kinds of civilian-targeting attacks are, as I said, inherently unjustifiable (though if NATO declares the leader of Libya a “legitimate military target” and air bombs his residence, what’s the argument as to why the office of the Prime Minister whose country is at war with Libya is not a legitimate target?). The point is that it’s completely unsurprising that a nation at war — whether Norway or the U.S. — is going to be targeted with violent attacks. That’s what “being at war” means, and it’s usually what it provokes. And the way this fact is suppressed (“a coordinated assault on the ordinarily peaceful Scandinavian nation” = the post-9/11 why do they hate us?) highlights how we view violence as something only those Others commit, but not we.

*UPDATE: The Daily Mail, with characteristic integrity, has revised the linked story without notice to remove the original suggestion that the suspect might be — cross your fingers! — Muslim.

UPDATE 2: In haste, I jumped the gun on dissing The Atlantic. I missed the date and read it as background on today’s attacks.

Rethinking Afghanistan with Your Wallet

Rethinking Afghanistan asks, “How Much Did You Pay for the War this Year?” One can find the answer here.

On Thursday April 14th, a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress including Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and James McGovern (D-Mass) will join with several activists and scholars to introduce the calculator which “lets users see the impact of the Afghanistan War and other out-of-control military spending on their pocketbooks. Users can enter the amount of income they earned this year and receive an ‘I.O.U.’ for the amount of their income taxes that get spent on war. The tool lets them forward their I.O.U. to Congress, urging representatives to rethink the excessive levels of war spending on the Afghanistan conflict and other ventures that are wrecking our federal budget.”

The press conference will be held at 2:30ET at the 441 Cannon House Office Building, Washington D.C. For more information, go to www.bravenewfoundation.org or contact Jake Diliberto at 630-338-6579