Monday, June 22, 2009

NeoCons to the right of us, . . . .

Great Dutch cartoon (via Sully):

Joep Bertrams

Joep Bertrams

22 juni 2009

Sully: Zbig On The Neocons

I'm not the only one infuriated that they have the cojones to keep pontificating. Brzezinski:

"And there are those who are supporting the regime, who in many respects are like our neocons -- very similar to our neocons." Zbig believes that Obama so far has been handling the crisis correctly, and again mentioned the neocons: "He has struck absolutely the right note... He's identifying himself morally, historically with what is happening in Iran. But he's not engaging himself politically. He's not interfering, because that... could be exploited by the neocons in Iran to crush the revolution, to wipe it out."

Referring to those who are criticizing Obama for not being tougher, "One of the paradoxes here domestically is that many of the people who call for the most energetic involvement by Obama in the process, they simply would prefer to have an American-Iranian showdown.

"Whereas, in fact, if there is a change of regime in Iran, there's a greater chance of accommodation." Looking down the road, Zbig adds, "...once we no longer have a Manichean, black-and-white, good-and-evil type of a regime confronting us in a hostile fashion, it will be easier to deal with the specific problems that we confront."

The key point is that many neocons actively want war with Iran and they are doing all they can in this crisis to precipitate one. Whether it be hoping for an Ahmadinejad win, or trying to goad Obama into making this critical uprising into a US vs Iran showdown, their goal is conflict. Everything they say needs to be filtered through that prism.

Dougj: Fringe ideologies

Steve Benen makes a very good point about who’s really in the OBAMA SHOULD BE DOING MORE crowd:

Of course, shortly before George Will’s remarks, there was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), blasting the president on the same program for being “timid and passive” when he’d like to see Obama “speak truth to power.”

...seeing Will and Graham on opposite sides of this reminds me of a point that often goes overlooked: we’re not dealing with a dynamic that pits the left vs. the right, or Dems against Republicans. Rather, this is a situation featuring neocons vs. everyone else.

You’ll notice that President Obama’s strategy has not only been endorsed by Democratic lawmakers, but also prominent Republicans who are in office (Dick Lugar), served in Republican administrations (Henry Kissinger, Gary Sick, and Nick Burns), or are prominent Republican voices in the media (George Will, Peggy Noonan, and Pat Buchanan).

Neoconservatism is a fringe ideology. It’s even difficult to find Wise Old Men—of the sort who co-chair Baker-Hamilton, Daschle-Dole style blue ribbon panels—who subscribe to it. Normally, that dooms an ideology to obscurity, regardless of its merits. But neoconservatism is different, and I don’t know why.

If you want to get a good feeling for how kooky the whole neocon outlook is, I recommend reading about the J curve:

The idea is that by introducing instability to a repressive regime, you initially make things worse in terms of both stability and openness, but then, once you hit rock bottom on both, you start to get better on both. This explains why it’s a good idea to completely destabilize countries, rather than hope for any kind of gradual reform.

Let me pose the following question: has any policy good ever come from the discussion of curves? Laffer curve, Bell curve, J curve. What is it about a picture of a curve that strips all intelligence and reason out of a discussion?

My guess is that they have mystical pull which leads people to believe they encapsulate some general truth that EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, the same way that the writings of Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, and the Founding Fathers do, only better, because graphs are more both more reductionist and more faux scientific.

Update. In the interest of fairness and accuracy, I should include framing as one of the things that EXPLAINS EVERYTHING. There’s no need to be too partisan about this.

Update. Commenter Redshift makes a good point:

I think the mindset behind these “curves” is similar to that of various “doctrines”; the problem comes from the belief that the curve itself is a fundamental truth, rather than an illustration of underlying data (which can then be debated, falsified, etc.) This is why they are always shown with no units, not even at the maximum. For example, the Laffer curve shows the no-brainer that there is a level of taxation where it is possible to cut taxes and raise revenue; take away the scale, and you can make the argument that cutting taxes from where we are now raises revenue (if you’re either intellectual dishonest or in the throes of confirmation bias.)

Compare this to the so-called “hockey stick” global warming graph. To scientists, this is just an illustration of data, and the underlying data is what’s up for debate. To wingnuts, it’s a major point of debate; if they can “prove” that it is in any way incorrect, then global warming is a lie.

In his Washington Post column the other day, Charles Krauthammer expressed his outrage that President Obama referred Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the "Supreme Leader" of Iran. "'Supreme Leader'?" Krauthammer asked indignantly. "Note the abject solicitousness with which the American president confers this honorific on a clerical dictator."

This line of attack seems to be catching on, at least a little, in conservative circles. Yesterday on CNN, Bill Bennett added:

"We should be on the side of freedom, and not on the side of this, our 'supreme leader,' as our president keeps referring to."

This is really silly. Krauthammer and Bennett may be annoyed by the use of the title, but they're being awfully selective in how they apply their disgust.

The same days as Krauthammer's column ran, for example, John McCain was on Fox News when he said, "There may be those indications since the Supreme Leader said that they were not going to tolerate further demonstrations in the street." Does this count as "abject solicitousness," too?

Likewise, Media Matters added, "[T]he Bush State Department, and conservatives, including The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, and Republican Sens. John McCain and Richard Lugar, have also 'referred to' Khamenei as Iran's 'supreme leader.'"

The right should at least start taking a little more time to think their criticisms through. Throwing everything at the wall to see what'll stick is hardly a sound rhetorical strategy.

Think Progress: Scarborough Lambastes McCain And Graham On Iran: They’re ‘So Shortsighted I Find It Stunning’

Since the disputed June 12 presidential election in Iran, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been routinely criticizing President Obama’s response to the crisis. Yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation, McCain echoed the GOP’s party line, saying “the United States hasn’t done anything” and sought fervently to cast Obama’s actions as “tepid.” Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) demanded that Obama “lead the free world and not follow it.”

But this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough broke ranks and called the senators’ criticism “an exercise in doing things that make us feel good about ourselves” while labeling it “outrageous.” Scarborough — called the “new face” of the GOP by Christopher Buckley — went on to say that those rebelling in Iran would be punished more severely if Obama were to follow McCain’s advice:

SCARBOROUGH: All we would do is undermine those people in the street, who the second that they are attached to the United States of America, the country after all that’s been known in Iran as the great Satan since 1979, we will undermine their cause … It’s so shortsighted I find it stunning. […]

What would John McCain and Lindsey Graham specifically have the president say? All of those people that are emailing in and telling me that I’m being liberal? Oh really? I’m being liberal? No I think it’s called restraint. Showing a little bit of restraint. Looking at the battlefield in front of you and not just running up Pickett’s Charge and getting gunned down. If you want to feel good about yourself — and you can only feel good about yourself by screaming about the evils of Iran — fine do that. But our leaders in Washington don’t need to do that because people will be routed in the street the second they are identified with the United States of America.

Watch it:

Despite McCain and Graham’s claims to the contrary, Obama has expressed U.S. disapproval of the Iranian government’s actions. Obama released a statement on Saturday condemning the violation of human rights while steering clear of the politics. In an interview with CBS’ Early Show this morning, Obama responded similarly to Scarborough, saying the U.S. has to guard against being used as a scapegoat by the Iranian regime:

“The last thing that I want to do,” the president said, “is to have the United States be a foil for — those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That’s what they do. That’s what we’ve already seen. We shouldn’t be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the — Iranian people are seeking to — let their voices be heard.

McCain and Graham are growing increasingly isolated, as Republicans in Congress and conservatives in the media endorse Obama’s measured response.

  • Sully adds his Quote For The Day
    "OK, let me see if I've got this right. Since Barack Obama has taken the presidential oath of office we have witnessed: a) Hezbollah lose a shoo-in election in Lebanon, b) Pakistan begin serious efforts to control the Taliban and al Qaeda elements inside its borders, c) Netanyahu of Israel mumble support about a two state solution and rethink settlements and, d) A major awakening of the Iranian citizenry against the heavy-handedness of the mullahs. What hasn't changed? The simple-minded thuggery of the Right when it comes to foreign policy (and Grover Norquist, someone should gently remind him that it's 2009, not 1989). They have long preferred a modified Teddy Roosevelt approach. Speak loudly and wail away with the biggest stick you can find. I don't know if all this is the results of one speech in Cairo by the President but if it is I hope he gives a second, and soon," - Carl Owen, Politico.

Memo Reveals US Plan to Provoke an Invasion of Iraq
Jamie Doward, Gaby Hinsliff and Mark Townsend, The Observer UK: "A confidential record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq, outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution, will be an explosive issue for the official inquiry into the UK's role in toppling Saddam Hussein. The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising military action."

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