Honor Role

The Fray on the American mission.

Blogged down:Zathras responds to Mickey Kaus’s suggestion that war doesn’t kill blogging with this (in part):

I don’t think war kills blogging, but it does depress it. The range of possible outcomes in a war is so vast and the facts that might enable one to predict which of these outcomes is most likely are so hard to come by that most opinions come across as uninformed speculation. They don’t feel very useful to read; speaking for myself only they don’t feel very useful to write either.

Still, he hasn’t let it stop him from offering this detailed remembrance of the Spring of 1991 and the American betrayal (more or less) of the uprisings after the Gulf War.

Honor bright: On the subject of betrayal, BenK suggests that talk about American honor is not misplaced. What makes the post noteworthy is the balanced assessment of justifications that make no mention of honor at all:

The United States is a very risky friend, and also a risky enemy. We have a mixed record in both cases. Frequently, after punishing an enemy we end up helping them more than we do our friends. One problem is that we have frequently, more often than not, in fact, been involved in civil wars. Were we a friend or an enemy to Vietnam? Korea? China? Another problem is that we are frequently perceived to be possessed [of] the necessary force to achieve almost any outcome, which makes any failure seem like a failure of will rather than a failure of might, when in fact some outcomes might be unachievable within the parameters of self-preservation …

Life during wartime: AmericaninEgypt—who does tech work in the Office of Military Cooperation in Egypt—offers this about how work has changed:

In all the uproar about what’s going on in Iraq— … listen I’d rather be there, I’d feel safer than here—a lot of people are being forgotten. Do we count? We work for the OMC here and we ride to and from work now every day, hiding in the back of our vans. No one is allowed to sit in the front seat with our driver anymore. We have to worry about three different groups. 1. Organized groups who know who we are. 2. Disgruntled or riled up individuals or groups who know who we are. 3. University students rioting who know we are. Fairly high SF.

For an earlier post, check here. And don’t miss zeitguy’s effective rant here

M*A*S*H notes: Clearing a longstanding backlog, new Fray stars to: andkathleen, BenK,Churchill, DeaH, Gamebird, J_Mann, MarcEJohnson, ShriekingViolet, twifferTheGnu, and WatchfulBabbler. I have starred them already. They should report to the Best of the Fray  for mandatory adulation. That is all … 11:30 a.m.

Thursday, Mar. 20, 2003

Best supporting tractor: Responding to Chatterbox’s brief Tractor Man  entry, omnibus1reader saysearlier WaPo editions reported that TM’s cause was more than tobacco subsidies.

As a Vet, taking up his spot within view of the Wall, and effectively threatening to blow up himself and the Wall with all those explosives, this was a more complex statement than just the tobacco biz.

BruceK, in an admittedly verging-on-paranoid entry here, thinks the reason Tractor Man got no news coverage is political embarrassment. He has no evidence that anyone told the press to back off, but he does have an excellent I-can’t-believe-this graf:

This disgruntled North Carolina farmer apparently drove his tractor and a load of ammonium nitrate from North Carolina, all the way to Washington D.C., through the city, onto the mall (within what, 1/2 mile of the White House?) and NO ONE STOPPED HIM ??? No one questioned him??? No one thought this was a little odd?? No cop? No highway patrolman? No National Guardsman? No soldier? No alert citizen? And all this happened under an ORANGE ALERT ????

Last on this is DeaH’s post, which casts Tractor Man as another of the “White Guys in Pickups” terrorists:

They hated our government with a white hot passion, and they were prepared to do something about it. And they never, ever got the kind of respect that the guys from the Middle East got. They were never profiled. They were never villains in blockbuster summer hits.I guess Tractor Guy decided to kick it up a notch. He traded the pick-up for the tractor, and it still didn’t help. These guys just can’t get any respect.

(Caveat: She exempts the vast majority of WGiPs, including, I assume, my father.) … 4:45 a.m.

Adlai’s return? For all the talk about logic, precedent, and consequences, the arrival of the war still seems paratactic for most Americans. Check out Geoff’s post, in which the link between work, “Class War!” and drinking beer while watching the war on television is nothing more than a long, soggy walk in old shoes.

The eyes of Texas: Will Saletan notes that last night’s decapitation strikes against Iraq don’t look like self-defense. Keith_M_Ellis responds here:

This isn’t a war of self-defense? You’re kidding, right? I mean, Bush told us that Saddam was behind 9/11 and has nukes and nerve gas and anthrax all ready to kill Americans, maybe even Texans.

Who’ll pay for all this? Advertisers across America are busy yanking spots from networks going into 24-hour news coverage. One reason why, as butterscotch notes:

I came on here to post about the name of the war “Operation Iraqi Freedom” … and the pop up ad for the movie Dreamcatcher put blood all over my screen with the words “Evil slips through.”…

(This is marginally better than the ad for the R Kelly CD that showed up under Jack Shafer’s Press Box on coverage of Elizabeth Smart.) … 4:20 a.m.

Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2003

x-axis of evil? Eugene Volokh downplays the slippery sloping consequences of any potential bad precedent  that might be set by an American invasion of Iraq. In the Fray, glib grantsthat “The professor may be right that Bush’s slippery slope isn’t as steep as we think, but that doesn’t mean that downhill is up.” What bad precedents are left? Glib goes on tomake a Kantian objection:

Every time our country seeks exemption from generally applicable rules, we make it that much harder for international law to have any restraining ability on other countries when it is in our interest to restrain them. As the rule of law diminishes in effectiveness, international relations become more ad hoc and less cooperative. Think that this is a good idea in the age of terrorism? (Not to mention other multilateral problems like the environment, AIDS, trade, etc.) …

Why does it get harder, precisely? Ocirederf contends that it’s institutions, not legalistic principles, that constrain rogue actions:

By weakening international restrictions, it will be more difficult for the U.S. to restrain China when, in about 50 years, they become the economic and military hegemons- note that restraint doesn’t come from precedent alone but rather from strong international institutions.

This argument is all the more compelling in light of WinstonSmith101’s discussion of Volokh’s negative example, China, here:

The PRC, while hardly a legalistic government, cares deeply about international opinion and recognition. Witness its efforts to host the Olympics, US recognition and join the WTO. These achievements are mostly symbolic but have real value to these governments. … China wants international recognition and is willing to give up something in return. That something is following international guidelines of behavior.

The other major Fray objection to the precedent argument is that the bad precedent here applies to U.S. actions. Ocirederf’spost makes this point, as does JohnMcG here. He thinks Volokh “steals a couple bases” in his definition of a credible threat:

The question of precedent isn’t whether it’s acceptable for democracies to act when presented with a credible threat; it’s what are the standards for establishing that a “credible threat” exists.And even if we allow that China and India and others won’t be subject to this precedent, it’s reasonable to assume that we will. I’d like to know exactly what conditions are triggering the invasion here, so I know what will trigger one in the future. … 10:15 a.m.

Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2003

A fool and his consistency: Christopher Hitchens’ Fighting Words looks to “the future” and doles out blame for the doves’ inconsistency. The FW Fray is often at its best in point-for-point refutation. Below, two choice sentences from Hitch, and the best-turned responses

CH: “But it seems odd to blame Wolfowitz for having in effect been right all along.”

RichardAN here:

That little phrase “in effect” beggars the entire debate, and the rest of the sentence simply asserts what it should be forced to prove. The issue is how to most successfully deal with the menace of Hussein, and the idea that a purblind and unwavering insistence on his removal by military means is somehow admirable because it hasn’t changed in the face of radically altering circumstances is sheer nonsense.

CH: “Odd that the left should think that the status quo, in this area of all areas, is so worthy of preservation.”

SSM here:

The odd thing is that the status quo he so despises has, after all, worked since 1991. … The only thing really unstable about the status quo has been the efforts by the Bush Administration to undermine the credibility of containment by refusing to acknowledge that it has worked. In fact, the very success of containment has been the greatest foe of the Bush desire for war: in other words, the greatest threat to the security of George W. Bush has been the collective security apparatus in place versus Iraq since 1991, put there in large part by his dad.

Then there’s the terrifically honest post  by MrZero that begins:

Those of us who oppose invading Iraq have to be honest with ourselves about our motivation. And it seems to me that part of that motivation is this: Bush is for it. Therefore, it must be stupid and dangerous.

And goes on to make the ultimate cynic’s case for war.

Last, there is Publius’ detailed refutation of Hitchens’ attempt to blame Jimmy Carter for the Iran-Iraq war here. It’s a useful reminder for those of us who remember only “Jimmy Carter’s previous fecklessness in relation to the 1991 Gulf War” (as Publius puts it). (Joe_JP makes a case for Carter’s responsibility in response, here.) …

He likes it! Hey, Simon! “Simon Cowell is an asshole.” So begins the latest of Rob Walker’s ad report cards, on Vanilla Coke. Murphers isn’t thrilled with the choice expletive; SmallPony offers some alternatives here. But for the deep background of the disgruntled pitchman, we turn to andkathleen here:

Simon’s being sheepish. Has he become our Mikey? ‘Simon won’t like it–he hates everything!’ It was done better before, guys.

Zeitguy goes for the, well, zeitgeist, explaining that Cowell is the “ego ideal of millions.” One reason:

He wears tee-shirts to work and mouths off whenever he is in the mood. Bingo! That has become the acme of post-silicon-valley work ethos. …

If you sincerely meant that prayer, press 1: CwithUrMind calls Rick Warren’s Saddleback Valley Community Chruch  the “Zig Ziglar of Churches“—but what’s it like? KSY recounts a Wally Worldly experience here:

I took my family to Warren`s church on a recent Sunday morning. The parking lot is so vast they have flagmen directing traffic. Wasn`t too impressed with the congregation though. 5 minutes after the service ended we were cursed at twice, given the finger by one guy, and cut off several times in the parking lot by people in a big hurry to head off to breakfast. Nice folks! … 9:30 p.m.

Monday, Mar. 17, 2003

They were all watching Basra Public: In between the partisan assessments of Bush’s speech, RicNCaric wonders whether the propaganda is aimed at the right demographic here:

Whether Saletan’s “psyche-out” works depends more on the boys of Baghdad than their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers. Half the population of Iraq is under 15. If the kids of Baghdad, Tikrit, and Basra decide to throw stones, harrass soldiers, or serve as suicide bombers, they could really test the resolve of American occupiers. If they decide that American soldiers are ok and they want to live in a “new, democratic Iraq,” then it might be smooth sailing … 11:00 p.m.

Sibley rivalry? Finding reactions to the Slate Field Guide to Iraq Punditshas been difficult because the War Stories Fray has been buried under MOAB posts. That’s no great loss to Zathras. He thinks we should “Wait for the Second Edition” of the field guide because the census is off:

I count 22 pundits, 17 of them hawks (or at least hawkish). And calling a couple of the doves (Garofalo, Kucinich) “pundits” is a stretch; they don’t get on TV that often compared to many of the others, have zero background in foreign policy and don’t write anything at all. I’m pretty much a hawk myself, but this can’t be right. For the second edition, try looking at bloggers and columnists. You’ll still find more hawks than doves, but the ratio shouldn’t be quite as lopsided.

Eurotrash suggests here that the missing doves are … people from other countries (does Brian Eno count?). And Paul_Breslin shoves the headline back at us here:

“What do these people know about Iraq?” That’s the come-on, but when you click and read the article, it never addresses the question. It only tells you what they recommend.But it is a very telling question. In my experience, the more someone knows about Iraq and the Middle East, the less enthusiastic about the administration’s war that person is likely to be.

Fray newbie or grizzled veteran, check out Joe_JP’s Field Guide to Fraysters. It’s at least as much fun as the pundit field guide. … 12:40 p.m.

Chinookered, again: Responding to Robert Pinsky’s latest “Poetry and War” wrapup, BenK and MrA wonder where the pro-war poets might be in Pinsky’s typology, which seems to stretch only from the anti to the ambivalent. MrA puts it this way:

Poetry may make nothing happen, and both weather and war may proceed in utter ignorance of it, but in sharpening the complexity of the issue poetry allows us to come to a decision against a richer background of knowledge and emotion. Owen’s plaintive notes belong in that background along with Binyon’s more comforting praises, along with Lowell’s worries and Tennyson’s exhortations.

BenK asks:

Is it the natural voice of poetry itself to be anti-war, or are the poets grandstanding because the community from whence they have sprung, and which voted to give them certain honors, has a pre-existing and possibly biased political viewpoint to which it wants to co-opt the arts, as a form of barely nuanced propaganda?

And answers neither. Andkathleen smartly responds that “Poetry that has been considered pro-war celebrates more the spirit of the warriors and their honor or glory accrued through bravery.”

The rest of the Culturebox Fray now abounds in selected anti-war poems: LaPaz picks Randall Jarrell’s “Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” while thedailytoad nominates e.e. cummings’ ”next to of course god america i.” … 10:40 a.m.