Monday, March 14, 2005

If anyone on the Left is wondering why Americans don't trust you on national defense,
here's why.

Engelhardt's basic premise is: fighting terrorists creates terrorism. His solution? Don't fight terrorists! (What an obvious solution! How could we possibly have missed it?) Because, in his words, that takes a terrible situation and makes it worse. Do leftists find some perverse, pugnacious intellectual joy in taking the position most contrary to common sense and ardently defending it? Honestly, I can't come with any other explanation for this piece.

To draw out the most egregious example, he says overthrowing the Al Qaeda/Taliban gov't in Afghanistan and replacing it with democracy was a mistake, because Afghanistan is still poor and drug-ridden while the Taliban was a perfect example to the world of how awful their ideology was. I'm not sure whether Engelhardt would also have left Hitler in power and the concentration camps going for another 5 million Jews to be killed so that the whole world could see how awful Nazism was, but I am sure we can assume that were he subject to such repression himself, he would not for a minute accept the idea that it was right and just that such heinous conditions should be applied to him as an example to others of how awful his oppressors were, and that, I think, clearly illustrates the moral absurdity of his position.

I can just picture Tom consoling some poor Afghan woman: "Well, you are about to be beaten to a bloody pulp with sticks for leaving the house to get medicine for your dying baby without a male relative escorting you, but just think of the bad publicity it's giving the Taliban!"

16 Comments:

Blogger Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

I am not sure I fully understand this argument. What do you say to the fact that the Taliban govt. was put up and kept up by US and Pakistani support? The current administration approved $43 million as aid to the Taliban govt. in 2001. This was after the destruction of the statues of Bamiyan by the Taliban. RAWA had listed and publicized many crimes of the Taliban at this time. I recall reading them at that time. Many of those who criticised the attack on Iraq were staunch critics of the Taliban and the Baathist government and the US support to them. This support came primarily from republican administrations.

Arguments that the war on Iraq and Afganistan was to help the people of Iraq and Afganistan are tricky to make. You might want to stick to using the pre-emptive defense argument. But if you do, Tom Englehart's criticism is relevant (I don't know if its accurate, though).

11:33 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Thanks for stopping by!

That alleged U.S. support is meaningless; we send aid to everyone where people are poor -- it's not an endorsement of their policies. We never supported what the Taliban was doing.

Invading Afghanistan was NOT pre-emptive; it was a response to the murder of 3,000 innocent American citizens by Al Qaeda. The fact that it helped Afghanis was beside the main point, which was to destory the terrorist training camps and deny Al Qaeda a safe haven and supportive gov't.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

Actually no, we don't send money where ever people are poor. I assume you mean direct aid from US government and not Worldbank. For example Egypt got 1.7 billion dollars in 2003, where as all of Sub-saharan Africa got 3.3 billion. Of course nearly 80% of the money to Egypt is military aid.

My point though was exactly what you say. The reason to attack Iraq and Afganisthan was to combat terrorism, not as you argued in your posting, to stop tyrannical governments. So Tom Englehart's argument that these wars have not been successful in combating terrorism isn't stupid, but relevant.

The secondary point I was trying to make is that the left has always been against Taliban and Baathist regimes in Iraq and Lebanon. It makes no sense to take their arguments against the war in Iraq and Afganisthan and suggest they must therefore support the very regimes they have been struggling against for a very long time.

Incidentally I like your science postings a lot. Which is why I posted a comment. I thought it might be fun to discuss intelligently with another scientifically inclined person on a topic we don't agree on.

3:58 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:06 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

There isn't a single poor country that the U.S. didn't send aid to last year. We send aid to pretty much everyone. (Egypt, btw, is being bribed to keep peace with Israel; that's why they get so much more. I agree with you, it is a terrible policy that amounts to appeasement)

Tom's point is both amoral and, yes, rather stupid. Freeing the Jews wasn't the point of the WW II U.S. invasion of Europe, but letting 5 million more be murdered on the theory it would make Nazism look bad would have been morally reprehensible. That's the amoral part. The stupid part is: the Taliban was giving safe haven to Al Qaeda! We couldn't leave them in power harboring the organization that killed 3,000 Americans. It would have been like leaving Emperor Tojo in charge of Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack, except Tojo at least had the decency to attack a military target.

The Left opposes all kinds of heinous regimes, which is to their credit. The problem is, they oppose much more vehemently the idea of actually doing something about those heinous regimes (other than complaining to the UN).

Glad you like the science posting. And I also like to hear opposing viewpoints. I believe strongly in the old Greek tradition of public debate.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Fargus... said...

I think it's fallacious in the first place to find one argument that you disagree with and say that it represents the entirety of opinion of the other side.

8:27 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

I would agree Fargus, and in fact to their credit many Dems like Hillary are moving away from this kind of thinking. But it's more than a single argument, it's the essential philosophical underpinning of leftist foreign policy: never fight, because all fighting is bad.

This piece does represent the thinking a lot of the Left. And that's why Republicans have a lock on the national security issue.

I've been hearing lamentations lately that liberalism is "bookless." It's not. The problem is that while the Right has hardhitting, fact-heavy authors with historical perspective like Victor Davs Hanson, Mona Charen, and Ann Coulter who make clear, logical foreign-policy arguments, the left continues to embrace the feverish blame-America ramblings of Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal. It's not that there are no leftist foreign policy arguments out there, it's just that they're losing badly to the rghtist arguments.

4:04 PM  
Blogger sideshow bob said...

Ducking this issue calls for real leadership!
You keep referring to "the left" and "leftist policies"...didn't the last election show you rather clearly that there is no one "left" at all? There is little to no organization as such...this is somewhat like whitewashing the entire right as wholehearted endorsers of the neo-con philosophy.
This whole left/right dissection of the country is fruitless anyway...it's the right's job to pull the left out of the fringes and into the middle, and vice-versa; to strike a balance, in other words. Everyone has good ideas sometimes, and we need to separate those good ideas from the politics, not demonize them because of the politics.

4:20 PM  
Blogger sideshow bob said...

Aren't people on the left still Americans? At least until Patriot Act II is passed?

4:38 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Hehe, love the Simpsons quote.

Yes, people on the left are certainly still Americans, although sometimes reading Chomsky makes me wonder why they choose to stay here.

But yes, I think there is an identifiable American intellectual left: the NYT editorial page, the Nation, Mother Jones, Antiwar.com, most university faculty (tossing in Ward Churchill specifically seems overly spiteful, but I would like to know what his right-wing equivalent would be). I guess if you'd like you can compartmentalize them as the "anti-war left," but the fact remains that they are influential enough to drive American perception of Democratic Party, which was my original point.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Fargus... said...

I respect your opinion, talldave, but calling Ann Coulter a hard-hitting, fact-heavy author with historical perspective makes my head spin. I've tried to get a lot of points of view, so I've read a lot of books. I read Bill O'Reilly's entire book, and I read Sean Hannity's entire book. I read Alan Colmes' entire book, and I read Al Franken's entire book. I read Bias by Bernie Goldberg and What Liberal Media? by Eric Alterman. Some balance, wouldn't you say?

You know how far I got into Ann Coulter's Treason? 13 pages. I just could not do it anymore for many reasons, not least of which was the burning of my fingers from touching such acidic words.

4:20 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Fargus,

I found Ann's writing difficult to accept too, but, well, there ARE 36 pages of footnotes at the end of Treason. If Ann's lying, so are all her sources. The reason "Treason" is so hard to digest is that you've been fed little white lies about U.S. history by the leftist teacher's unions and academics that dominate our education system.

Try reading just the chapters on Vietnam and McCarthy. These are the facts no one on the Left will acknowledge; to this day no high school textbook mentions them. The 1995 Venona declassification was so important to debunking the myth of McCarthyism, and yet almost no one knows about it. We were blatantly lied to about Vietnam by the Left, millions died because of their lies, the historical documents are there to prove it, and yet again almost no one knows about it. The myths have become their own reality, more important than mere facts.

Or if you just despise Ann too much to read anything she says, try Mona Charen's "Useful Idiots"; it's practically the same book.

10:10 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Oh, and since you read Franken's whole book (I did too), you might be interested to know some of it is deliberately intended to deceive you. For instance, he goes for pages about how Ann Coulter is a liar and is "just making sh*t up" about someone's father being a Socialist. He does a cute little scene where he shows how easy it would have been to check this, strongly implies the two have no family connection, and goes on about how Ann is such a liar -- but never mentions that Ann's mistake was simply that the man's grandfather was a Socialist, not his father. Ann makes what is probably an honest mistake; Franken deliberately tries to deceive you in the guise of being "funny." Similarly, Franken makes some (amusing) claims that Ann ridiculously "overloads Lexis-Nexis" in proving the NYT never reported a race-baiting speech by Jesse Jackson, but fails to note that Ann is right: the NYT did not, in fact, report the speech.

The problem with Franken is he tries be serious, then when called on these things he does the "I was joking" dodge. Amusing, but not to be taken seriously.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Fargus... said...

Dude, there's probably about 50 pages of actual content in an Ann Coulter book, once you wade through the 250 pages of seething vitriol. Once you get to that content, it's stuff like "The NYT never reported on the death of Dale Earnhardt because they don't care about middle America" (demonstrably false) and "Irving Berlin was such a great patriot that I don't have anything to offer but a racist anecdote that I think he'd make if he were alive."

And Franken DID say in his book that Evan Thomas's grandfather was a Socialist, not his father. He just included it in an endnote instead of a footnote, like in Coulter's book. The second endnote says, "See how hard these are to find?"

Evidently he was right.

7:50 PM  
Blogger TallDave said...

The NYT Dale Earnhardt is the one thing anyone has ever found in Coulter's books that was not true.

Franken's endnote or footnote or whatever you prefer to call it directly contradicts his entire point in the main text. This is not an acceptable use of footnotes. Franken is again being deliberately deceptive in the guise of being amusing, which is fine as long as you accept his writing as humor and don't take any of his arguments seriously.

You're obviously basing your opinion of Culter on her critics rather than her content, because there is a lot of solid content there in addition to her acid wit. Again, read the "Oh, How They Miss Saigon" and "The Indispensable Joe McCarthy" chapters of Treason. There are facts there that completely explode the liberal mythology that has been built around those eras. Yes, Ann is vitriolic; are you arguing Franken or Chomsky aren't? Vidal spends an entire book repeatedly calling Bush/Cheney a "junta." The difference is, Ann is serious and makes real, logical arguments based on real facts with lots of documentation. And that is why her critics hate her so much.

8:07 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Let me say Fargus, I do admire your breadth of reading and you seem pretty intelligent. I didn't particularly like Hannity's books for the same reason I don't like his shows all that much: it's too much run-of-the-mill Republican cheerleading. No real new ideas. Ann and Mona are more true ideologue/researchers.

3:43 PM  

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