Subscribe via RSS Feed

Pundit’s Fallacies: Not, Alas, Just For Reactionary Libertarians

[ 103 ] November 17, 2012 |

Jon Chait has some fun with Nick Gillespie, who asserts that the problem with the Romney campaign is that it didn’t take a more libertarian approach (perhaps campaigning on the assumption that the Ryan budget was a left-wing sellout.) Because nothing says “electoral landslide” like campaigning ideas that are enormously unpopularwith your base, let alone the population as a whole.

The thing is, though, that it’s not just right-wing libertarians who can be prone to this kind of farcical projection. Somebody in the recent “was Andrew Johnson the greatest civil rights president in history? would Romney be better for civil liberties?” thread linked to this post, which argues that Obama is singlehandedly responsible for eliminating civil libertarian majorities that have never actually existed. (We apparently need more frequent reminders of Garry Wills’ dictum that running people out of town on a rail is every bit as “American” as declaring inalienable rights.)

To anyone with some basic familiarity of American history, to summarize this argument is to refute it. And, yet, this evidently erroneous assumption about the popularity of civil libertarian positions seems to be the basis of the “Obama entrenched presidential powers that were all entirely entrenched before he took office” argument. This explains why two events — what happened when Obama tried to close Gitmo, and what happened when Obama tried to give KSM a civilian trial — always go down the memory hole when arguments that Obama is so uniquely bad on civil liberties that civil libertarians shouldn’t support him surface. the pundit’s fallacy version of this argument seems to be that Obama made otherwise unpopular policies of arbitrary detention popular. The far more accurate way of describing the underlying dynamic is that presidents are varying shades of terrible on civil liberties because most civil libertarian positions (especially in the context of military powers) have very little popular constituency. Should Obama have vetoed the still-terrible 2011 NDAA rather than just getting concessions Bush, McCain or Romney wouldn’t have gotten? I still lean in that direction. But let’s be clear that this almost certainly would have been an ineffectual symbolic gesture — the votes were definitely there to override his veto in the Senate and probably in the House, and even had the veto been sustained Congress would have almost certainly passed a version that wasn’t meaningfully more civil libertarian. So I can certainly understand why he didn’t. Ultimately, pretending that the American people are already with us isn’t going to make solving the problem of arbitrary executive power any sooner.

Comments (103)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Amanda in the South Bay says:

    But DRONES!!!!!!!!!

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I concede that I did perhaps not put enough weight on the fact that killing people with drones is a million times worse than killing them with conventional bombing operations, because…why was that again?

      • John says:

        I think because Obama is killing more people with drones than Bush did, and fewer people with conventional bombing operations.

        • Ah, so it’s like how the repeal of DADT went from being a major priority to a triviality after the bill was signed.

        • Ah, yes, I remember well how the criticism of Bush’s wars was riddled with phrases like “the M-4 wars” and “policy of Apache strikes.”

          Oh, wait, no I don’t. Now that I think on it, I remember how criticism of Bush’s War on Terror was full of complaints about how stupid it is to define a war policy in terms of the tactics one side uses.

      • david mizner says:

        Can you point me to a single person who’ve ever claimed that “killing people with drones is a million times worse than killing them with conventional bombing operation…”

        Or even a little worse.

        Are you so invested in defending Obama’s reputation that you align yourself with the defenders of drone warfare? That’s a rhetorical question.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          But the question becomes why “drone warfare” is being discussed as a separate category of bombing at all, then. The answer is that without this the idea that criticisms of Obama have rather less force, since it’s hard to justify the idea that Obama invented the concept of bombing military targets.

          • The answer is that without this the idea that criticisms of Obama have rather less force, since it’s hard to justify the idea that Obama invented the concept of bombing military targets.

            This is the more respectful, deferential answer.

            The other answer is what mizner said elsewhere on the thread – that drones are novel.

          • DocAmazing says:

            No, it’s that drones are being used to target people on a kill list, who may or may not be combatants, or the teenage children of combatants, or just someone with a beard.

            Being disingenuous is not really all that useful as a rhetorical strategy.

          • david mizner says:

            Sure, all the Pakistanis calling for end to drone attacks just hate Obama…

            Drones are what’s for breakfast, so we talk about them.

            But in fact, one of the most widely discussed acts of Obama violence in antiwar circles was the cluster bomb attack that killed 40 plus innocents in Yemen. That was shot not from a drone but from an aircraft carrier. (I don’t recall your post on this, or maybe it just got lost amid all your posts blasting drone critics.) If Obama had a fetish for cluster munitions shot from carriers instead of hellfires shot from drones, we’d talk more about that.

            Sure ‘drones’ fails to describe all of the American military-CIA violence in the age of Obama. It’s shorthand. Please let me know if you prefer any of these shorthand terms.

            -kill lists
            -targeted killing (favored by the org I work for)
            -dirty wars (favored by Scahill and others.)

            None of these is all inclusive; ‘drones’ is as good as any, and less inflammatory than ‘kill lists.’

            Fact is, the loudest critics of ‘drones’ are generally also the loudest critics of the war in Afghanistan, massacres, official secrecy, militarism, detainee abuse, war…

            …I like what seems to be the premise of your point, that drone warfare is of a piece with these other forms of warfare. I could not agree more. So why don’t you stop targeting critics of Obama, pick up a sign, and join us at the march.

            • Do you have the time to outline your non-military, non-sanctions plan for Iran now?

            • Hogan says:

              Yes, clearly Obama marks a major step forward in depravity from the golden age of untargeted killing, where the kill lists were brief items like “the inhabitants of Dresden” or “every man, woman and child in North Vietnam.”

              • …or even “Company B of the 127th infantry battalion.”

              • david mizner says:

                Well like I said, “targeted killing” — an absurd euphemism as it is — isn’t all inclusive. It doesn’t, for example, cover the (likely) war crime known as ‘signature strikes.’

                Anyway, you’re not listening. No one’s saying Obama’s worse than the norm. We’re saying he’s doing horrible things that must be opposed.

                It’s Obamapologists like you who want to make this about Obama.

                • It’s Obamapologists like you who want to make this about Obama.

                  You are the least self-aware person in the history of human thought. You don’t even realize how desperately stupid you just made yourself look.

                • Hogan says:

                  We’re saying he’s doing horrible things that must be opposed.

                  Yes, it’s about the horrible things for which Obama is personally responsible, so let’s not make it about Obama.

    • Anonymous says:

      “But DRONES!!!!!!!!!”

      Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I’d find funny if I didn’t give a single fuck about the people being killed, too.

  2. Gillespie:

    Romney didn’t just fail to articulate a plausible economic program that would rekindle growth in America; he failed to really hammer home just how bad Obama’s handling of the economy has been – and how the president’s mindless interventions actually exacerbated the problems they were supposed to address.

    Nick Gillespie spent the winter of 2008-2009 confidently asserting that the “mindless intervention” of loaning money to GM and Chrysler during their restructuring would fail to save the American auto industry, prevent them from making the changes necessary to make them sustainable, and waste all of that taxpayer money while actively harming the auto industry.

    I think it’s pretty clear which side’s position on economic intervention is “mindless.”

  3. c u n d gulag says:

    Libertarianism:
    The philosophy of 3 year-old’s, using a lot of big SAT words to make itself seem more mature.

    And for those who keep criticizing Obama for his civil and human rights imperfections, remember, he’s a President – not a spiritual leader like the Dalai Lama.

  4. Obama only got those concessions in the NDAA by promising to sign the amended bill. If he had said “no deal” and vetoed it, he would have been vetoing a version that included the “shall” language, not the version that became law (which has resulted in zero persons being put into detention). That version never would have come to his desk (unless we’re talking about some crazy alternate universe where the President cuts a deal to Congress and then double-crosses them, ceding for the rest of his presidency his ability to work with them on legislation). Congress would have overridden his veto of the bill including the “shall” language, and we would be putting terrorism suspects into indefinite military detention today.

    A veto wouldn’t have just been an “ineffective symbolic gesture” that accomplished nothing – it would have actively contributed to making the situation worse.

  5. Davis X. Machina says:

    ….most civil libertarian positions (especially in the context of military powers) have very little popular constituency.

    Sheesh. Doesn’t anyone read the comments here.

    It is emphatically the job of the president to go out there and change that. With lots of awesome speeches, mostly. Over the heads of Congress to the people, who while silent, are receptive, lacking only leadership.

    The rest is done by primarying incumbents and stumping for their opponents, and when appropriate, stripping the recalcitrant of their committee chairs.

    A lifetime of watching sports surely is enough to persuade you that it’s just a case of wanting it bad enough.

  6. DrDick says:

    What?! Are you trying to tell me that black ops attacks, extra legal assassinations, and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets is not something that Obama just invented whole cloth when he took office?!!!

    Odd how people manage to completely ignore pretty much all of US foreign policy and military interventions since 1950 when they discuss this. As I have said before, the only thing really novel here is that Obama is more open and transparent about this than past administrations.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      The same was, of course, also true of the Bush Administration, which didn’t invent, e.g., rendition, torture, and lying to the American public about war. Recognizing that these things are not new is important. But if the conclusion we draw from the fact that these things have long been hardwired into American policy is a lazy cynicism that just encourages us to just accept them as a fact of life, we’ve really failed as citizens.

      • Bush didn’t invent torture, but it is also true that torture as an official policy of the United States government is (unlike, say, bombing military targets) not some ubiquitous feature of American presidents. Of course, the importance of torture has greatly receded among a certain class of civil libertarians since Obama ended it.

        [Edited so it does not convey the opposite of the intended meaning.]

        • DrDick says:

          I would agree with Scott on this. We did use torture in Vietnam and often rendered people to regimes who would torture them to get information from them, but I really do think that Bush greatly expanded it and made it routine.

      • That doesn’t seem like a very useful comparison though. On torture, for example, the Bush administration really did break with what was an almost settled view of the matter and drag ~50% of the country with him. And on Iraq, obviously, they had a lot of agency in terms of not forcefully advocating for a new conflict. There certainly isn’t any parallel to that in Obama’s tenure.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that Obama is as bad as Bush; he clearly isn’t (especially if the comparison is to the first six years of the Bush Presidency). What I’m arguing against is the creeping standard that, if something isn’t entirely novel (or at least worse than ever before), it isn’t really worthy of criticism. And I should say this sort of thing cuts both ways. I think critics of the Bush Administration who exaggerated its novelty missed an opportunity to criticize long-standing aspects of American foreign policy that go back at least to the late 1940s.

          • I’m kinda sorta not guessing off hand what about the Bush administration’s 2002-05 policy wasn’t so unqiue as to warrant an overarching criticism that wasn’t given.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              I’m thinking about the work of people like Andrew Bacevich, who was deeply critical of the Bush Administration, but who (correctly in my view) saw its policies as growing out of a long, largely bipartisan commitment to a militarized foreign policy.

  7. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Expecting Obama to be unlike other Presidents when it comes to questions of civil liberties and executive power is obviously foolish. Trying to make Obama’s failings in this area the basis of an argument that Romney would have been better (or even no worse) was nuts.

    But neither of those facts justify mocking those who are rightly outraged at what is going on in these areas of policy. Drone deaths are awful because inoccent people are being killed in our name and with our tax dollars. Period.

    And while civil liberties are politically unpopular, so are our endless wars of choice (though you wouldnt know it given their broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill). How one builds political leverage to really change American foreign and military policy is obviously very tricky. But that doesn’t make it any less necessary.

    • justify mocking those who are rightly outraged at what is going on in these areas of policy

      Who’s doing that?

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Not you, Scott (I appreciate your comments about the NDAA veto, though I’d have put it a bit more strongly), but, e.g., Amanda in the South Bay in the first comment or c u n d gulag, who seems to think that trying to get presidents to behave better than they have in the past is ridiculous (rather than merely very difficult).

        • Amanda in the South Bay says:

          I was being extremely sarcastic. I’m probably in deep agreement with the majority of people posting on this thread.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            And I didn’t mean to pick on you. I just think that it’s important to be careful when mocking people who make stupid, nominally left arguments (e.g. “Because of the drone war, Romney would have been less bad than Obama”), not to mock them in a way that throws out the baby with the bathwater.

        • DrDick says:

          I would also clarify that I am only mocking those who seem to think that this is unique or unusual in some way. I also condemn those earlier actions, as well as Obama’s indiscriminate killings of supposed “Al-Qaeda” operatives (I am unconvinced that the original Al-Qaeda actually still exists. Rather I would argue we have a lot of independent, or very loosely linked, groups calling themselves by a successful brand name.)

          • You’re free to believe anything you want, of course, but the evidence suggests that this is not the case.

            Killed in the same missile strike as top AQAP figure Anwar al-Awlaki was a top figure from Al Qaeda HQ, who traveled there from Pakistan.

            Found in the bin Laden compound was a message from OBL discussing how damaged the al Qaeda brand had become, and asking whether they should consider adopting a different name, in order to take the stink off.

            • DrDick says:

              First off, it is quite clear, and has been from the beginning, that many of the groups calling themselves “Al-Qaeda” have no substantive ties to the original group, though some of their members may have trained in one of their camps. Secondly, the presence of a single member of the original Al-Qaeda in a group does not mean that it is automatically the real Al-Qaeda, as these kinds of groups often fission and create splinter groups (see the history of the Palestinian conflict for instance). That note about damage to the name could also be read to support my contention.

              I did not say that Al-Qaeda definitely does not exist. Rather, I suggest that the government, press, and others are far to ready to proclaim any radical Islamic group is part of Al-Qaeda on little or no substantial evidence.

              • it is quite clear, and has been from the beginning

                This clause is the entirety of your case, isn’t it?

                Secondly, the presence of a single member of the original Al-Qaeda in a group does not mean that it is automatically the real Al-Qaeda, as these kinds of groups often fission and create splinter groups

                “Not automatically” does all the work here, to try to rebut the position held by the people who are actually running the anti-al Qaeda operation that the al Qaeda group in Pakistan and the al Qaeda group in Yemen, which apparently exchange visitors, are both part of al Qaeda.

                little or no substantial evidence.

                This is very far off from an accurate depiction of the evidence that the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen is part of and working alongside the global al Qaeda organization.

                • DrDick says:

                  Please cite such experts. It has been a few years since I looked at the research on the subject, but then it was quite clear that many of the claims regarding “global Al-Qaeda” were overblown. It also ignores the basic structure of the radical Islamist movement, which is less about large, well organized groups than of loose networks of smaller, mostly local groups and individuals.

                  Al-Qaeda emerged as a group specializing in training and logistical support, largely based on bin Laden’s personal fortune. Groups and individuals would come to them for training or with preliminary plans for actions looking for logistical and planning support.

                  While they originally had a netwrok of camps and bses in a number of countries, much of that infrastructure has been destroyed. The published information I have seen does not indicate a high degree of coordination among the various “Al-Qaeda”groups, suggesting that they are generally autonomous operations, some of which may have some kind of link to the original Al-Qaeda.

                • it was quite clear that many of the claims regarding “global Al-Qaeda” were overblown.

                  Quite clear to whom? To you? Anyway, that’s a rather vague bit of phrasing – “many of the claims regarding ‘global al Qaeda’ were overblown.” It kinda sounds like you’re addressing the point, but not really.

                  It also ignores the basic structure of the radical Islamist movement

                  Al Qaeda is not “the radical Islamist movement.” It is one particular organization. We are not at war with “the radical Islamist movement.”

                  Al-Qaeda emerged as a group specializing in training and logistical support, largely based on bin Laden’s personal fortune.

                  I know what you’re talking about here. They were like a non-profit that held seminars with community groups, engaged in “capacity building,” and gave out grants. They might as well have been a philanthropy for community development groups, if they weren’t killing people in the name of Allah. It was the same structure.

                • DrDick says:

                  Since you obviously have nothing substantive to add to the discussion, other than snidely dismissing the views of those who disagree with you (as usual), I will break off this as you are in troll mode now and useless as tits on a boar hog.

                • Since you obviously have nothing substantive to add to the discussion

                  Oh, you strut it, honey.

                  snort

      • To add: it’s the supposed civil libertarians like Greenwald who insist on making the use of drones, as opposed to the bombing campaign itself, the focal point. I’d be happy to focus on how useless and counterproductive our policy of trying to kill every member of Al Qaeda we can find is, but alas I don’t have a well read political blog, and the people who do seem to only want to talk about the proper delivery systems for the munitions used.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          I half agree with this. I do think there’s something horrific about killer flying robots. And while I agree that there may not be a meaningful moral distinction to me made between killer drones and killer conventional bombers, sometimes playing off people’s horror makes political sense. (One might have made the same argument against a lot of organizing around nuclear weapons. Surely Hamburg and Dresden were humanly as horrific as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Why not go after strategic bombing in general?)

          All that being said, the lack of a broader, more consistent criticism of the very idea of a “war on terror” is problem. And I agree that that would utlimately be a more politically useful discussion than the narrow focus on drones.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            One problem is that the focus on drones is not so much about making the War on Terror (TM) less popular as on making Obama less popular.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              I think it really depends on who’s writing about the drones, Scott. For example, Charlie Pierce is very critical of the drone war, but was also loudly, and consistently, supportive of Obama’s reelection efforts. I think lumping all critics of the Obama administration on these fronts in with those among them who are simply seeking to undermine the Obama presidency is both unfair and self-defeating (if, that is, one is troubled by the War on Terror™).

              • david mizner says:

                Anybody who has a brain and a heart is critical of drone warfare.

                • david mizner has more contempt for more Americans than Mitt Romney.

                • david mizner says:

                  And there are several leading critics of drone warfare/target killing who worked in the Obama administration, like Rosa Brooks and Dennis Blair.

                • I never made any sweeping statements about all critics of drone warfare.

                  You won’t find me writing anything as idiotic as “No one who has a brain or a heart is critical of drone warfare.” (John is a man, therefore all men are John – ring a bell?)

                  I’ll leave that level of juvenalia to you.

                • david mizner says:

                  I wasn’t responding to you Joe. I was responding to Scott’s assertion that critics of drone warfare are motivated by desire to take down Obama.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Yes, fair enough. The people I’m discussed here — i.e. people who think that Obama has “entrenched” the counterrorism tactics in a way Romney couldn’t — are in a different category than Pierce.

          • Drones aren’t robots. They are remote-controlled vehicles, like RC race cars. This distinction matters, because actual robotic lethal aerial vehicles are being developed, and those do raise some unique questions, unlike RC aircraft.

            There is no widespread “horror” about UAVs to play off of. This should be obvious by now, after years of efforts to do so yielding no discernible results.

            The nuclear weapons that existed during the anti-nuclear movement were many hundreds or thousands of times more destructive than WW2-era incendiary bombs.

            The concept of a War on Terror was abandoned when Obama came into office.

            • I want to re-emphasize that last point: the phrase “War on Terror” was invented for the purpose to conflating the use of force against al Qaeda with other completely unrelated military adventures, such as the invasion of Iraq and the desired wars with Iran, Syria, and North Korea. The Bush administration invented this term and concept because they understood that blurring that distinction helped to make large scale, imperialist, main force, mass-casualty wars more feasible, if the broad public support for using force against al Qaeda could be redirected towards other warlike ends.

              Today, it is those anti-war critics of using force against al Qaeda whose use of the term, and whose insistence that Obama’s use of force against al Qaeda is of a piece with Bush’s War on Terror, who are keeping that conflation alive. Doing so can only serve to increase the effectiveness of any future President’s attempts to once again exploit the public’s strong support for the war against al Qaeda to gin up support for a geo-political war like Operation Iraqi Freedom.

        • david mizner says:

          You couldn’t be more wrong. Probably more than any other pundit, Greenwald has loudly blasted the war on terror and the killing of Muslims in general, whether by drones, conventional war, clusterbombs, torture, or sanctions…More than that, he’s discussed at length not just the Terror’s war moral and legal problems, but the strategic stupidity of thinking American violence won’t lead to anti-American violence.

          Does he talk about drones a lot? Well, yes, because Obama has made drone attacks the country’s primary tool for killing Muslims. It’s amusing how defenders of drone warfare like to claim that critics are somehow fixated on the device when, in fact, the government has made drone warfare the issue.

          If the US government were using exploding Twinkies to kill children, break international law, and create more terrorists, then opponents of war, brutality, and stupidity would be talking about exploding Twinkies.

          • Obama has made drone attacks the country’s primary tool for killing Muslims.

            There were more deaths from conventional, non-drone action just in 2011 than there have been from every drone strike ever carried out in every country since 2001.

            You are entitled to your own opinions, david, but not to your own facts.

            • Just to make the point even more clear: there were more deaths from American conventional, non-drone action, just in Afghanistan, just in 2011 than from every drone strike ever carried out in any country in the world.

              You don’t help your cause by so consistently being flat-out wrong on the facts.

            • david mizner says:

              I suppose your numbers may be right because of Obama’s surge in Afghanistan. Whatever; that hardly changes my point. Missiles shot from drones (along with to a lesser degree, special ops) have been the primary U.S killing tool in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and Libya, and will loom large in the “disposition matrix.”

              By the way, the west’s sanctions on Iran have claim their first documented killing. A 15-year-old boy.

              http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/14/sanctions-stop-medicines-reaching-sick-iranians

              • I suppose your numbers may be right because of Obama’s surge in Afghanistan. Whatever; that hardly changes my point.

                Umwut?

                Your point was that your little drone obsession was driven by the numbers. Now, you acknowledge that the numbers refute your claim.

                But this hardly changes your point?

                No, it’s central to your point, I’m sure.

                Missiles shot from drones (along with to a lesser degree, special ops) have been the primary U.S killing tool in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and Libya, and will loom large in the “disposition matrix.”

                And why do you care more about a smaller number of deaths in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya (btw, you’re wrong about Libya, too), than about a larger number of deaths in Afghanistan?

                • david mizner says:

                  Care more about the deaths elsewhere? Hell, I opposed the invasion of Afghanistan in 2011 because I knew it would be a disaster, and I was right.

                  But there’s a new way of American war, ushered in by Obama (and circumstances), it relies on kill lists, drones, secrecy, and special ops. So opponents of American militarism and war (and you, of course, aren’t one of us) are talking about kill list, drones, secrecy, and special ops.

                • It’s very nice that, once I twisted your arm, you were willing to acknowledge that you are against that war, too, but we’ve all been reading your comments for years. You write about air strikes against al Qaeda dozens of times, hundreds of times, more often than about the Afghan War.

                  You still won’t answer the question: since you’ve been shown to be wrong in your claim that your drone obsession was driven by the numbers, and have admitted as much, then why are you so much more concerned about the smaller number of deaths from drone strikes than the larger number of deaths from the Afghan War?

                • But there’s a new way of American war, ushered in by Obama (and circumstances), it relies on kill lists, drones, secrecy, and special ops. So opponents of American militarism and war (and you, of course, aren’t one of us) are talking about kill list, drones, secrecy, and special ops.

                  Got it.

                  novel + American > actual importance.

                  It’s the cool new thing to be against.

              • Not that I’m terribly supportive of sanctions regimes and all, but adding that little bit makes your point quite a bit confused. You don’t support drone bombings, and I assume don’t support mass conventional bombing campaigns in the “WOT,” but then you also kvetch about multilateral trade sanctions. I guess you’re just too cowardly to come right out and say that you don’t support the west taking any action to further their perceived interests?

                • david mizner says:

                  Well, certainly none that both lead to the death of children and strengthen the hardliners in Iran.

                • Could you articulate a strategy you actually support then? Because near as I can tell the only alternative you’ve left is changing the regime and hoping everything comes out ducky.

                • Oh, suddenly you’re Mr. Tough Guy, huh? You’ve always been so cordial!

                • david mizner says:

                  That requires a long answer that I don’t have time to give because right now I’m being a terrible father, ignoring my kids while blogging…there are no easy answers, the best (least bad) answers are unlikely to come to pass. Across the Middle East, the United States should stop supporting dictators and repressive regimes and do what it can to support human rights and those fighting for same, and sometimes “support” means “do nothing.”
                  This strategy would entail a rolling back of the US military machine and alteration in U.S policy on Israel. Like I said: unlikely, but there are steps between what we have now and the scenario I outlined. Steps like: kill fewer Muslims.

                • Across the Middle East, the United States should stop supporting dictators and repressive regimes and do what it can to support human rights and those fighting for same

                  Dude, WTF?

                • That’s a very well done filibuster, Mizner, but alas you telegraphed it with your early dodge, and then didn’t even make a token effort in the direction of addressing the goal of impeding Iran’s nuclear program, so we’re going to have to dock you points on the beginning and finish.

                • Brien, you’re so mean.

                  Next you’ll be telling me that david doesn’t actually care about terrorism, despite his constant references to “creating more terrorists” in his denunciations of American policy.

                • Colin Day says:

                  And why is it up to us to have a strategy on Iran in the first place?

                • Well if you’re going to say you oppose everything running the gamut from regime change to sanctions, but not explicitly say that you think the West has no business engaging with Iran at all and they ought to just be able to build as many nuclear weapons as they want, then I think it’s fair for someone to ask you what you *do* support, since as it stands it would appear that there’s nothing left.

                  In other words, I’m calling bullshit on Mizner’s reactionary anti-Obamaism.

            • Question says:

              Where did you find the drone vs conventional death numbers?

          • Anonymous37 says:

            Probably more than any other pundit, Greenwald has loudly blasted the war on terror and the killing of Muslims in general, whether by drones, conventional war, clusterbombs, torture, or sanctions…

            Around the same time, it was revealed that an invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein had been high on the agenda of various senior administration officials long before September 11. Despite these doubts, concerns, and grounds for ambivalence, I had not abandoned my trust in the Bush administration. Between the president’s performance in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the swift removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the fact that I wanted the president to succeed, because my loyalty is to my country and he was the leader of my country, I still gave the administration the benefit of the doubt. I believed then that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to, and to the extent that I was able to develop a definitive view, I accepted his judgment that American security really would be enhanced by the invasion of this sovereign country. — Glenn Greenwald

            • david mizner says:

              That was before he became a pundit.

              • Anonymous37 says:

                And? Was his moral judgment created only at the point when he decided to be a pundit?

                The war in Iraq has killed more people, by a couple of orders of magnitude, than the drone strikes he rails against. Maybe he figures that if he keeps at it for another fifty years or so, he’ll have somehow pulled even with Obama, a man he views as a bloodthirsty murderer. I just don’t know why anyone should view him as being particularly insightful until then.

                • This. I don’t have much of a problem with granting people clemency, as it were, for supporting the Iraq war in the event they realize that it was stupid, but the specter of someone who did, in fact, support the Iraq War declaring themselves the True Leftists and casting out insufficiently faithful leftists who did NOT support the Iraq War is extremely ridiculous.

                • david mizner says:

                  Well I’d prefer not to talk about Greenwald at all. I only discuss him when people say untrue things about him.

                  I will say that people who’ve seen the light are often the most passionate and effective advocates. Speaking of, the New Yorkter has a good profile of Dianne Ravitch.

                • Anonymous37 says:

                  I only discuss him when people say untrue things about him.

                  And you do this by saying things like “Probably more than any other pundit, Greenwald has loudly blasted the war on terror and the killing of Muslims in general, whether by drones, conventional war, clusterbombs, torture, or sanctions…” and defending it by narrowing parsing it by only counting the time when he was a professional, paid pundit and giving him a mulligan on everything before that — a period which includes his legal advocacy?

                  Sure, sometimes people who’ve “seen the light” are effective advocates. Sometimes they’re wildly overcompensating and projecting, like Glenn Greenwald is. For example, when he likened an Obama supporter to Leni Reifenstahl and then lies and claims he wasn’t actually likening Obama to Hitler. Or when he claimed that another (female) Obama supporter would rationalize away the president raping a nun, a particularly creepy smear on a few levels.

          • it’s the supposed civil libertarians like Greenwald who insist on making the use of drones, as opposed to the bombing campaign itself, the focal point

            You couldn’t be more wrong.

            ORLY?

  8. Derelict says:

    Given the political realities he faces, I can’t blame Obama too much for continuing the (frankly horrendous) policies that C-Plus Augustus put in place. With the GOP poised to paint anything and everything as weakness (some of us remember how rightwing pundits tried to convince America that killing Bin Laden was a sign of weakness), the president would have been lambasted for any moves other than the ones he has made.

    Having said that, I am also disturbed by Obama’s lack of distain for those policies. I would like him to reduce or even stop their use. He has, however, seemed to embrace them. That does not bode well for their eventually being relegated to the dustbin of history.

    So, six of one and half a dozen of the other. With the balance determined by two words: President Romney.

    • But President Obama has reversed numerous Bush military policies, to loud choruses of denunciation from the Republicans: torture, putting people into military detention, the Iraq War, the stationing of troops on Iraqi bases, the missile defense bases in Eastern Europe, cancelling the additional F-22s, and the abandonment of nuclear reduction treaties with the Russians, for instance. He also fought the good fight on closing Gitmo and trying KSM in federal court, but couldn’t make those stick.

      I don’t see a whole lot of evidence that large amounts of Obama’s foreign and military policy are driven by fear of what the opposition would say. He has taken the uber-hawks on time and again. When he has trimmed his sails in response to opposition – for instance, Israel, Gitmo, or signing the 2011 NDAA despite still having objections – it has been driven by votes in Congress, not rhetorical attacks.

  9. Rarely Posts says:

    Here’s another event that completely goes down the memory hole: the indictment of al-Marri and his removal from indefinite detention.

    If Obama had not taken al-Marri out of indefinite detention, we might have gotten precedent from the Supreme Court allowing the indefinite detention of people as enemy combatants within the United States with extremely limited judicial review (instead of a criminal trial, which al-Marri was offered under Obama). This action alone shows that Obama eliminated a key policy that the conservatives were seeking to entrench in our law (and specifically the U.S. Reporter).

    Bush II had kept al-Marri detained as the the only non-citizen known to have been held as an enemy combatant in the continental United States since September 11. Viewing this case as an outsider, it looks like the conservatives/Republicans were using this as a test-case to try to establish that the executive branch could put a person in indefinite detention as an “enemy combatant,” in the United States, with extremely limited judicial review. The case had already gone through the Fourth Circuit and was potentially en route to the Supreme Court.

    When Obama came to office, he removed al-Marri from detention, indicted him, and obtained a guilty plea. His projected release date is January 18, 2015.

    Obviously, Obama’s actions had a huge impact on al-Marri personally, but they also had a huge impact on the development of federal law. The Supreme Court might have rejected the United States’ position, but one could easily see five current Justices agreeing that the United States could indefinitely detain an “enemy combatant” in the continental United States (far from any “battlefield” – but many conservatives consider the whole world a battlefield in the War on Terror) with limited judicial review, not a full trial. They could have “entrenched” that law. They did quite the opposite.

    I’d also note that, when a movement doesn’t give credit where due, it loses political power. It’s not worth it to help a group if your help never gets you any support in return, absent perfection. Civil libertarians who don’t give Obama support for his successes don’t really give him any incentive to do more for them.

    • Eric says:

      I’d also note that, when a movement doesn’t give credit where due, it loses political power. It’s not worth it to help a group if your help never gets you any support in return, absent perfection. Civil libertarians who don’t give Obama support for his successes don’t really give him any incentive to do more for them.

      This is a really underrated point. Unless you have a really powerful constituency with proven power at the voting booth, greeting every achievement with “That’s not good enough” is a recipe for pissing away what little influence you have.

  10. JL says:

    The part that has interested me lately is, how do we build a civil libertarian constituency? We obviously don’t have much of one right now and I’m not sure that we ever have. But other sets of issues that used to have only a small constituency now have a large one, so these things are possible to build.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Slavery took eight years, the death of one political party — or two, depending on how you count the Democracy — the rise of a third to major-party status, a civil war, and a constitutional amendment.

      And the creation of scores of newspapers, not all small, local and state societies and pressure groups.

      Plus a little help from pop culture (the ‘little lady who started the great war’) and terrorist groups and their hangers-on (‘Beecher’s bibles’).

      The national-security state is now nearly as old as the slave-holding Republic. Its peculiar institutions are as hedged around with settled law and precedents as chattel slavery ever were.

      Which is why I can confidently predict that casting an indeterminate number of third-party votes for a couple of Presidential electoral cycles should do the trick.

  11. jeer9 says:

    One problem is that the focus on drones is not so much about making the War on Terror (TM) less popular as on making Obama less popular.

    One problem is that a lack of focus on the criminal protection of the banksters which allows them to pay off their penalties in the foreclosure fraud settlement with investor money is not so much about making financial perfidy less outrageous as on making Obama’s negligence on the matter less outrageous.

  12. DocAmazing says:

    The lost history of the Libertarian Party and its standard-bearer:

    http://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/milton-friedman

  13. scott says:

    Pop quiz: who does Scott hate more, critics to Obama’s left or right? I’m guessing left.

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

  • Switch to our mobile site