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January 23, 2006

Comments

hilzoy, I admire your fortitude. One visit to the Anchoress was quite enough for me.

"And what accounts for this deafening silence?"

Uhh, hilzoy: just a possible suggestion? Maybe it's because Part D looks likely to become known as Part D[isaster, Death, Doom, Disease, etc.) and right-wing bloggers know it, and don't want to embarrass themselves by promoting another Buish Adminstration trainwreck?


OK, sorry, sorry, sorry!
PS: anyone know WHY a failure-to-close italics also italicizes the entire right-hand column?

Not to worry, Jay C: I got it. (I have always assumed that in the html file, the right column comes after the main text, but I don't actually know that.)

Regrettably, for the last six months or so, only people with posting privileges are able to close italics.

I have a theory. It may not be that they don't want to talk about another Bush administration disaster. Republicans aren't interested in the problems of people who can't afford drugs that they need to live because either no one they care about is sick, and poor.

"And what accounts for this deafening silence?"

umm, the fact that the topic is excruciatingly boring.

Republicans aren't interested in the problems of people who can't afford drugs that they need to live because either no one they care about is sick, and poor.

That is probably an unfair characterization. What I gather is that the Medicaid plans, run by individual states, ditched their Rx drug benefits as soon as the Medicare Rx drug plan kicked in, or that older, limited Medicare drug coverage got messed up by the broader coverage plan. Sure there is ineptitude here and various individual people get all messed up,but is the govt paying for more drug coverage now, or less. I thought it was a LOT more, 1.2 billion or so, and complaints were that it was too costly. And this was passed by a Republican controlled Congress, which apparently has been given no credit and all blame fot a progran to try and to extend Medicare benefits.

DaveC: actually, Medicais recipients were automatically enrolled in Medicare Part D as of Jan. 1. The states had no choice in the matter. One complaint is certainly that it's too costly, but another is that it's terrible policy, and that all that money isn't buying a good program; it's buying a disaster.

Yglesias talks about it from time to time, but Republicans (as contrasted with real Conservatives) don't seem to like to talk about actual policy (as opposed to politics). Until it becomes a legitimate political liability, the silence is likely to continue.

Government can't do anything well.

Elect us and we'll prove it.

John Cole is usually a counterexample.

It's not something they can blame liberals or Democrats for, so - like am says - it's "boring."

Seriously. They just don't care.

Here are some things that most of us can agree on:

I would rather be free to buy a house or choose an apartment, if I am able, rather than live in public housing,

I would rather buy my groceries at a privately owned store or eat at a restaurant of my choosing rather than have government rationed food.

I would like to be able to listen to radio stations other than NPR, no matter how good NPR is. The same deal goes for television.

Privately owned vehicles and private airlines will make it easier to get me where I want to go than public transportation. (Remember, this is in MOST cases.)

Tell me then, why should right wingers think that a more centrally controlled government program for health care is going to be better than public housing, etc.?

The fact of the matter is that is going to be slow and tedious, kind of like going to the Dept of Motor Vehicles to get your license renewed. Did we expect anything else?

Really is a pity about the misspelling of Götterdämmerung, and adding the umlauts would have really made that line zing.

"kind of like going to the Dept of Motor Vehicles to get your license renewed. Did we expect anything else?"

I just renewed my license over the web. That's what I expect.

"Admittedly, most of them mention it in passing, and all of them express disapproval of it because it's pork, not because it's bad policy."

It was bad policy, absolutely. It shouldn't have been done at all. Of course the right isn't going to defend it--we would never have put it in to place in the first place. Most of us thought so when it was passed, and the only cold comfort was that this horribly expensive mess was slightly less horribly expensive and slightly less horribly intrusive than the options being pushed by the Democrats at the time. (And when I say cold comfort I mean cold like liquid nitrogen, not a chilly river. Which if you smash your arm against a rock right after plunging it in liquid nitrogen would be not much of a comfort at all while you pick the 4000 pieces up of your shattered arm off the ground).

It shouldn't have been done like this, but a complicated system of government-run drug benefits probably shouldn't have been done at all. Until someone honest admits that government health care means taking some expensive medical options off the table for those who rely on it, the government shouldn't tinker. Bush should absolutely be faulted for letting it become the ugly mess that it became. But it would have been far better to structure it as a low-level floor of health care--basic treatments for basic needs--rather than try to make it a comprehensive system. I'm not for a second convinced that a comprehensive system is a good idea. Medicare was a disaster in the making before the drug benefit. Making it more of a disaster was stupid. But it was stupid in a way that conservatives expect governments to be.

So Dave, the policy is great (they told us so when they passed it). It's just the implementation that is messed up? Except they had two years to plan for that part. If it'a a program you can't deliver, why push for it? That would have been the "Conservative" policy.

Sebastian: the only cold comfort was that this horribly expensive mess was slightly less horribly expensive and slightly less horribly intrusive than the options being pushed by the Democrats at the time

Not true. The Democrats' proposal was more expensive than the stated cost of the Republican plan, but much less than the true cost (which was suppressed by the Bush administration until after the bill was law). It also was much more protective of low-income seniors, those who are most burdened by drug costs, and did not have the doughnut disaster built in (a matter of design, not implementation).

The goal of the legislation passed in November 2003 was entirely political: to take away prescription drug costs as an issue for the Democrats in 2004 (and in the process to make the bill enough of a giveaway to Pharma to assure heavy contributions for Republicans in 2004).

"The Democrats' proposal was more expensive than the stated cost of the Republican plan, but much less than the true cost (which was suppressed by the Bush administration until after the bill was law)."

Hmmm, I suspect that the true cost of the Democrats' proposal was more expensive than the stated cost the Democrats' proposal. Both were wickedly expensive and neither did the kind of things that I thought would be most appropriate.

DaveC: Tell me then, why should right wingers think that a more centrally controlled government program for health care is going to be better than public housing, etc.?

Ah, so the reason no one on the right's been blogging about it is because they knew that it was going to be as disastrous as this from the very beginning, and right-wing bloggers just hate to say "I told you so!" in detail?

Sebastian: mmm, I suspect that the true cost of the Democrats' proposal was more expensive than the stated cost the Democrats' proposal.

"Suspect"? Say rather you have faith. It appears to be an article of faith with you, Sebastian, that no matter how vile or wrong or stupid the things the Bush administration does, you know in your heart that anything a Democrat does would be worse.

I think it's very similar to what I see on political forums every day: when they're beaten on an issue, instead of facing up to it and maybe changing their minds, some people would rather go into hiding. It's a complete contrast to the way they tend to pile on ("great post" "very insightful" "this guy gets it") when they feel they're winning. I think it's because they know deep down that an objective observer would notice they're losing about 90% of their arguments. To create a false sense of equality, therefore, they try to make sure that their few victories are about ten times as visible as their many defeats.

I think the tendency is pretty much universal, by the way, but it's less likely to become evident among those who are not handicapped by having to argue for a broken ideology or defend corrupt heroes.

"And what accounts for this deafening silence?"

Ooh, that's a toughie. Slavish loyalty to the Bush administration?

Slightly OT:

Interesting to me is the tone on some of the left blogs, that Part D is worthwhile in itself as a foot-in-the-door, even though the actual bill was terrible and the implementation disastrous.

Interesting because I believe many of the arguments against Iraq contradict their position on Part D;i.e, that Iraq was a terrible idea from the start because Bush was certain to execute any plan incompetently, and the cost in human suffering and opportunities forgone were too high to justify any small gain.

The left bloggers (and AARP) need to do a similar cost/benefit analysis on Part D as to whether the people damaged and destroyed in the implementation are worth the foot-in-the-door. Especially since I do not have their confidence that a permanent irradicable new entitlement has been created.

umm, the fact that the topic is excruciatingly boring.

"Am"'s right. Right-wing bloggers are bored by this because most of them are bored by anything they can't make believe they are imprisoning, invading, or blowing up. Torture Part D all you like, it won't tell you what you want to know. Right-wing politicians, on the other hand, are bored by Medicare largely because they're grossly incompetent, staggeringly corrupt, or actually malign.

"Suspect"? Say rather you have faith. It appears to be an article of faith with you, Sebastian, that no matter how vile or wrong or stupid the things the Bush administration does, you know in your heart that anything a Democrat does would be worse."

No, it is because absolutely anything to do with Medicare has a track record of blowing through cost estimates. That isn't faith. That is testable experience.

Bob, can you do a few cites from prominent left bloggers who think "that Part D is worthwhile in itself as a foot-in-the-door"?

I know AARP said it was a start, even though terribly flawed, and they were pretty well castigated at the time for that stance.

I think the left wing bloggers were saying that there is a need for a prescription drug plan for seniors, but that this plan was terrible from the beginning, which is why so few Democrats supported it. In fact the only reason it ended up being passed by the Republicans is that 1) they were lied to about the expected cost and 2) the vote was held open so a few arms could be skillfully twisted.

I am willing to admit my memory may be faulty, as my years are catching up with me, and I would be more than willing to admit I am wrong if evidence is produced.

"Bob, can you do a few cites from prominent left bloggers who think "that Part D is worthwhile in itself as a foot-in-the-door"?"


How the Right Lost the Long Term on Medicare

Ezra Klein quoting Nathan Newman:

"Whatever the intentions of the GOP, the existence of Medicare Part D means that seniors now have an expectation that the government will help them pay for the costs of prescription drugs. And given how screwed up the plan is, that leaves plenty of political room for Democrats to advocate for improvements in the plan at the next election.

One reason I cheered when the bill was passed was that, despite its flaws, the dynamics of middle class entitlements are that they create a political feedback mechanism of demands for improvements. And whatever the short-term political gains for the GOP from passage of the original bill, ideologically the rightwing does not win by adding another permanent political issue of how to improve Medicare Part D to every election cycle."

Bob, Thank you.

I misunderstood your remark to mean the left wing applauded the original plan at that time as a foot in the door.

I still don't think they did. They did, and still do, view prescription coverage a laudatory goal. They voted against this bill, and still view it as atrocious.

However, they rightfully see this debacle as an opportunity to be able to say to seniors that the Republicans screwed you over. Vote for us and we can do it right.

Whether or not they can is another question.

They are not "anti-state" they are "right-wing state" and this proves what happens when the right controlls the state.

Seb,
I believe that your first comment is proof of Cmatt's post at 01:14 AM. I suspect that you intended it as an ironic confirmation of his thesis.

mmm, I suspect that the true cost of the Democrats' proposal was more expensive than the stated cost the Democrats' proposal.

I'm willing to bet, however, that the Democratic proposal wouldn't have needed HHS to lie about its costs in order to be perceived as good had Congress been interested in actually fixing problems instead of merely appearing busy.

It has seemed to me for a long time that the right/left comentators just plain talk about different things. There are cross-over issues like abortion and school prayer and certain current events, but mostly they just have different things on their minds. Even when they discuss the same topics, they focus on completely different details.

Why they do or don't talk about something, I couldn't say, but I've often wondered "how does the opposition address this point?" and found just plain no remarks on it.

Let's not forget that the Medicare bill did not rise up spontaneously, like Godzilla from the depths. For a variety of technical and economic reasons, prescription drugs have become a significant factor in the health care bill. Before, they were small, so they weren't insured, but what was insured covered at least the most part of the huge bills.

But now, things have changed and a significant chunk of catastrophic bills -- the prescription drug chunk -- are not (typically) covered. This is what makes the "new entitlement" talk sound hollow to me. We are tweaking the system to return to the status quo, where most of the catastrophic bill was covered. (I am not a specialist on this subject -- this is what I have gathered from the public debate. Correct me if I am wrong -- it won't be the first time.)

Certainly one option is to do nothing. But that is not the conservative option unless conservative means to let the forces of change wash over you, without making any attempt to maintain any kind of status quo. IANAC, but I thought that conservatism was more like the opposite of that.

The Republican leadership also saw (I think accurately) that doing nothing was an electoral loser.

The third problem with the do-nothing approach is that the economy, and the country, really do run better when everyone is able to contribute to their full potential, without being held back by poverty and disease. Now, there's costs to making that happen too, and going all the to "everyone" is unrealistic. But there's the cost-benefit analysis I'd like to see: what are the benefits of allowing people to do all they can for themselves? What are the costs? That depends on the program of course. Which programs are worth while by this standard and which are not?

The mere fact that the program was messed up doesn't mean that the need for it doesn't exist, or can be ignored.

hilzoy, it's because Iran is now the topic du jour among right-wing bloggers. In case you haven't noticed, by now the propaganda surge for the Iran War has definitely started. Sebastian and Charles are dishing up reheated lies from the Iraq War, demanding that all moral people hop on the bandwagon *right now*. Heck, Charles is so far into Tacitus land that he's been making insinuations about an Iran-Venezualan Axis.

I didn't support the Medicare plan, and I suspect that most limited-government conservatives didn't either. I would also suspect that most conservatives' would respond with little surprise that a new big-government program is having serious problems.

"I would also suspect that most conservatives' would respond with little surprise that a new big-government program is having serious problems."

Yes, the "big government doesn't work, elect us and we'll prove it" canard.

And yet, it is the state they wish to use to liberate the world.

LaShawn Barber rarely posts about policy beyond her pet issues (primarily Christianity, immigration, abortion, reverse racism). Her silence here probably doesn't imply anything but lack of focus on the issue.

Hilzoy,

This post seems quite hypocritical. Obsidian Wings ignores so much that is positive. Where are all your posts about how well the economy is doing? Where are you posts about the Afghan and Iraqi polls recently taken? Where are your posts that talk about the troops think we are doing the right thing in Iraq so if one supports the troop they should support their current efforts?

Where are your posts about the Democrats that have been sentenced for voting violations and fraud?

Frankly, these facts and events don't exist for many at Obsidian Wings.

The hypocrisy is unbecoming.

Windle, I won't presume to speak for Hilzoy. First of all I couldn't match her eloquence, and secondly she is quite capable of defending herself.

However, there are several posters who have and are capable of presenting their views on the above topics. And they may well agree with your assessment that the thinsg you mention are positive.

Re the economy. How well is it doing for the vast majority of Americans? Something that is up for debate.

Re; the Afghan and Iraq elections. What do they really mean" Something that is up for debate.

Re: the troops thinkign we are doing the right thing in Iraq. Some do, some don't, as I can attest to directly. And it is interesting that Iraq War veterans running for Congress on the Democratic side outnumber those running on the Republican side by a 6:1 ratio.

Re: Democrats sentenced for voting fraud, etc. Name those members of Congress currently udner investigation or indictment, please.

Finally, this post is just asking why right-wing bloggers are so silent on an issue that the Republicans used to help themselves get elected, now that there is obvioulsy so many flaws causing harm.

If the Dems had pushed through a proposal and it was a fiasco, and the left wing blogs were silent on it, that would be an equally legitimate question. And if not asked, than that would represent hypocrisy.

"So who have I missed? And what accounts for this deafening silence?"

Couldn't say. What I would ask is what do we usually say and think when someone draws conclusions about us when we don't write about a subject?

I would rather be free to buy a house or choose an apartment, if I am able, rather than live in public housing,

I would rather buy my groceries at a privately owned store or eat at a restaurant of my choosing rather than have government rationed food.

I would like to be able to listen to radio stations other than NPR, no matter how good NPR is. The same deal goes for television.

Privately owned vehicles and private airlines will make it easier to get me where I want to go than public transportation. (Remember, this is in MOST cases.)

DaveC, not neglecting your introductory line, I have no survey to point to, but I'm willing to bet a quarter that one would be hard put to find many poor people who feel otherwise. So, yes, we can mostly likely all agree on these things.

And, also, we'd all like ponys.

The relevance of pointing out that people would like nice things -- that they can't have -- escapes me, however. Are these things, in fact, on offer to low or non-income people? No? So maybe it's more useful to discuss what is or can be on offer, and what are the right and wrong ways to go about making such offers. (Certainly something better than the crap plan the Republicans passed as a reward to their benefactors, the insurance industry.)

Oh, and my own response when someone asks why I've not written about a subject is typically along the lines of (I don't think this violates the posting rules): "piss off."

Not an ideological position, mind.

But I'd swear I remember Hilzoy not embracing the notion that that was a valid line of critique. I'm likely missing some important distinctions. Were we obligated to comment on the Iraqi elections, after all? Was it valid to draw conclusions about those who did not?

(Beware of what you ask for.)

Gary: no; just wondering whether it means anything when most of a whole side of the spectrum declines to comment on an ongoing catastrophe. It could just be that every single one of them had other things on their mind. I guess.

Obsidian Wings ignores so much that is positive.
final example being
Where are your posts about the Democrats that have been sentenced for voting violations and fraud?

Funny definition of positive.

And, also, we'd all like ponys.

I picture Gary complaining about the pony crap ruining his carpet :)

Here's a "right wing" comment on the Medicare plan.

"Gary: no; just wondering whether it means anything when most of a whole side of the spectrum declines to comment on an ongoing catastrophe."

But the thing is that, of course, none of them is any more responsible for their "group" or for anyone else other than themselves any more than you or I are similarly responsible for anyone other that ourselves.

It remains, I'm afraid, unclear to me what greater insight we might draw from analysis of "right" bloggers as a group not taking an interest in Medicare D than what insight some felt able to draw from a lack of keen enthusiasm for celebrating the Iraqi elections on the liberal/left side of the spectrum.

And lastly, I'm unclear what standing any of us might have to object to anyone drawing conclusions about us as individuals for not posting on a given subject if we are engaged in doing precisely that about others.

But I've made my point, and am basically repeating myself, so unless something inspires me to to say something new, I'll drop it now.

You know I still adore you, of course. I merely yap at your (healthily flat) heels.

I suspect, though, that what it "means" is that they don't have much to say on the topic and aren't interested.

Perhaps a tad tautological.

Why aren't they interested? Because, as suggested by various above, there's not much to say about it that furthers their (insofar as there is a "they" there; good 'ol "they") agenda, and because most political bloggers -- again, a non-ideological observation -- tend, frankly, to run in packs. Why aren't more left/liberal bloggers posting about either economic development, ethnic conflict and its resolution, and the threat of terrorism in, say, Malaysia? There's no lack of interesting things to observe, if one is interested.

Because no one else is writing about it, either.

Oh, and because right-wingers don't care much about the plight of poor people en masse. (Half-tongue-in-cheek, half serious.)

"I picture Gary complaining about the pony crap ruining his carpet :)"

It would wind up like Lisa Simpson's pony, I expect. But I've already ruined my carpet myself over a couple of years of neglectful abuse.

Okay, I confess: I do not actually want a pony.

Someone better cancel that Amazon delivery damn fast.

And expect me to keep on lying about it, and you shan't be disappointed. I am not worthy of my lover, rhetoric, and so I shall keep on abusing her, as well.

There is an important difference between discussions of individual behavior and discussions of group behavior. Just because you can't put much weight on one data point doesn't mean you can't find some meaning in ten or twenty data points.

"Gary: no; just wondering whether it means anything when most of a whole side of the spectrum declines to comment on an ongoing catastrophe."

I'm too distracted by the fact that almost no one on either side comments on the third year of genocide in the Sudan to be distracted by Medicare.

:)

[Smile to indicate a half-hearted joke....'cos the situation is nothing to smile about really]

BTW, have I mentioned that the genocide in the Sudan is really bad? Why the !@##@$$ can't someone get off their !@#$@# A$$ and do something about it? It isn't like unilateral intervention is going to lower our diplomatic standing noticeably at this point. And does the French government hate the US so much that it has to block everything we do--even with respect to genocide in the Sudan. Sheesh, there is being obstructive to prove a point, and there is going a bit too far.

Sorry, I shouldn't write when I can't even be coherent on a subject.

FWIW, Sebastian, I would probably support military action in Sudan. Depends on the details, of course, but I (and most liberals I've talked to) almost always support that kind of venture.

Of course, in theory so does Europe, so I don't really know what that gets us...

"Of course, in theory so does Europe, so I don't really know what that gets us..."

Right, but the key phrase is "in theory".

Sorry, did you mention Darfur?

Sorry, did you mention Darfur?

Semi-double-post not an intentional effect. Pray click on second, not on first.

Sebastian, is it your feeling, then, that the US would now support an independent European military force - in effect, an EU army? Certainly, six years ago (as I remember from contemporary news reports - this link was the easiest one to dig up) the US was strongly opposed to the EU being able to act independently, to have a European military force that wasn't under US control as NATO is.

Headlines aren't the same as substance. The article you link to says: "The European Security and Defence Identity should not be “something that is a separate bureaucratic institution, but something constructed under the umbrella of NATO itself”, he said. “Whatever developments take place under ESDI, there must be a transparency between NATO and EU, that there should be a sharing of information representatives from EU to NATO. As ESDI is developed the capabilities remain constant with those identified in the Defence Capabilities Initiative so we don't have one set of requirements developing in Europe and a separate set for NATO, which would lead to certainly a disassociation of those kind of requirements and capabilities.”

At the September conference, Cohen also underscored the need for increased military spending, particularly on the part of Europe: “We envision the NATO countries acquiring what we call precision guided munitions. This was demonstrated during the Kosovo conflict, compared for example to Desert Storm, where most of the munitions that were dropped were not precision guided ... those that have them in short supply will have to replenish them and increase their inventories; those that do not have them, we hope that they will turn to them as well for the future.”"

That isn't ridiculous, nor is it trying to thwart the ability of Europe to have a military.

Furthermore, a huge problem with US support of the EU defense concept was the demand that the US 'share' technologies without the EU paying for the research. That the US wasn't interested in letting the EU free-ride in yet another expensive research area is rather non-shocking.

Furthermore, what does that have to do with France blocking even non-military action against the Sudan a year ago? If you block non-military action, that is a pretty good indication that you wouldn't be interested in military action. Recently they have moved to the slightly better position of letting China block non-military action, but I'm not sure that is a change in heart so much as an attempt to avoid criticism while knowing full well that they don't have to do anything.

Furthermore, if the EU really wanted to pay for a military, it would have one. Blaming the US because it allegedly doesn't want you to have a defence is kind of silly. What is the US going to do? Embargo the EU for getting a military? Nuke the EU for getting a military? Invade? Since when did France care what the US thought about how the EU should function? Since when did the EU defer to US wishes? US worries that the EU forces wouldn't work through NATO had nothing to with the fact that the EU forces pretty much don't exist.

Oh, and even if you had to rely on the US for military action in the Sudan....so what? I don't see France proposing that the UN take action (meaning that the US take action).

I blame the US for not acting.

You blame the US for the world not acting.

That is a huge difference.

Sebastian: I blame the US for not acting.

You blame the US for the world not acting.

No, Sebastian. Notably, and regularly, you don't blame the US for not acting on an international issue unless you can also blame the rest of the world for not acting.

You may not have noticed this pattern in your responses, but it's surely there - every time there's an area of the world where (possibly) you feel that the US ought to act, your reaction is to blame the rest of the world for not acting.

That is a huge difference.

What, there's a huge difference between your blaming the rest of the world for not acting and anyone not American pointing out that the US isn't acting? What is the "huge difference" you perceive between your constant carping at Europe, and my constant carping at the US? (The difference I see is that I blame the US for what it does do: you frequently blame Europe* for what it doesn't do.)

*Europe is a continent, and not a political entity. You can more accurately say "the EU", which is a political entity, or you can name specific European countries, which are political entities, and I do actually wish you would: if you mean the EU, say it: if you're referring to specific countries in Europe, name them. To say that "Europe" does something is about as accurate as to say that "North America invaded Iraq".

(And you may fairly say that I carp at the US more often than you carp at Europe. That's true: this is an American blog discussing US-related issues. If it were a British blog discussing UK-related issues, the situation would be somewhat different.)

And - off-topic, for which I apologize - I am seriously interested to know what you think of this, Sebastian. (I can predict the reactions of virtually all the other frontpage bloggers here to this, but not yours.)

Sudan is a mess, but so are many area's in the world. In the Congo more people die and suffer monthly than in Dafur (38000 a month), Uganda is about to erupt and that will spill over to Sudan, Chad is being dragged into the conflict...

You cannot do everything at once, things need time. The good news is that prevention and diplomacy work:

The first Human Security Report documents a dramatic, but largely unknown, decline in the number of wars, genocides and human rights abuse over the past decade. Published by Oxford University Press, the Report argues that the single most compelling explanation for these changes is found in the unprecedented upsurge of international activism, spearheaded by the UN, which took place in the wake of the Cold War.

The UN needs improvement, but it is doing a lot of good with not many resources. If you want it to work better, you have to give it the necessary resources. It would help if the US started paying what it is due. There are actually lots of area's where the US could contribute positively - but I don't really see that happen with the current administration.

What is important now, is that the East of Sudan stays calm and that requires diplomacy. What is important too is that aid is given to all the refugees - feel free to donate. We still give a lot of money every year (government and private donations) to help the population. We also have budgetted government money for rebuilding but you cannot start rebuilding untill there is more stability.

Intervention sounds nice, but first you have to have the resources to do that with. The UN will decide how they will take over from the AU this month and to get things done there you need diplomacy (unfortunately the US appointed Bolton who has a really bad track record in that area). You also need resources and commitments and expertise to build something up afterwards. One would think the importance of such planning and the skills to implement it would be generally understood.

Mind you: I am in favour of upping the resources for Darfur. But the "let's just go in there and beat them with a stick" attitude some display is too simplistic IMHO.

Well, using "Europe" to indicate the EU is no less accurate than using "America" to indicate the USA. I suspect everyone understands what Sebastian means.

The problem in general with "EU" (as well as using Europe) is that it is often compared with the US as if it is one political entity too. Which it is not.

Well, using "Europe" to indicate the EU is no less accurate than using "America" to indicate the USA.

And no less accurate than using "America" to indicate Canada, either.

I suspect everyone understands what Sebastian means.

I don't. Or I didn't. If whenever Sebastian uses Europe he means "the EU", that's understandable. But my impression is that Sebastian doesn't mean the EU - he means individual countries which belong to the EU.

I think he means individual countries that belong to Europe (since I assume he doesn't exclude Norway or the Swiss)

Jesurgislac: And no less accurate than using "America" to indicate Canada, either.

That would be more akin to "Europe" being used as shorthand for "Norway", I think.

I don't. Or I didn't. If whenever Sebastian uses Europe he means "the EU", that's understandable. But my impression is that Sebastian doesn't mean the EU - he means individual countries which belong to the EU.

If you didn't understand that he was using the two interchangeably (i.e. talking, hypothetically, about Europe having a military in the same comment in which he talks about the EU funding its own military), how is it that you came to criticize him for conflating the two?

I'm sorry for being imprecise, though I don't want to get too bogged down in definitional discussions. With respect to the Sudan it is easy to say "Europe" because the lack of will (or perhaps lack of ability) to do anything about it is found both in the EU as a whole and the individual European countries in particular (though the more active obstruction has tended to come from France [in Europe] and Russia [in Europe under some definitions but not as I typically use it] and China [definitely not Europe]).

When I speak about "Europe's" inability to act militarily I am speaking about the EU's inability as a whole, and the inability of some of the larger members individually. I obviously don't expect anything useful in that arena from Belgium. But it isn't ridiculous to expect more from France or Germany or Spain. With respect to the Sudan it would make sense to talk about Europe's general inaction and France's specific obstruction.

As for: "The difference I see is that I blame the US for what it does do: you frequently blame Europe* for what it doesn't do."

That is because Europe's (sorry) errors tend to be errors of omission while the US tends to make errors while acting. In a genocide situation, the most likely error is failing to act against it. So when talking about the Sudan, errors of omission are pertinent. (But with respect to France specifically the errors go beyond that to obstructing action against the genocide).

To dutchmarbel

"Mind you: I am in favour of upping the resources for Darfur. But the "let's just go in there and beat them with a stick" attitude some display is too simplistic IMHO."

Upping resources isn't likely to stop the genocide. I'm sorry but it just isn't. I really am not against diplomatic talk--backed with the potential for action, but the refusal to back it up with action is a human failing which countries in Europe especially embrace lately. As for the UN being the main reason for a reduction in genocides, I seriously doubt it. There are lots of factors in the world and correlation isn't causation. (Heck, I'm not even sure there is a correlation there much less a causation). I would say that the most successful case for the UN would be East Timor--though it was successful after a horrific failure (allowing the extreme violence despite monitoring and oversight of the independence vote) first. I suppose that kind of long term success is what we hope for in Iraq.


That is because Europe's (sorry) errors tend to be errors of omission while the US tends to make errors while acting.

I completely disagree. The US frequently makes errors of omission (cf East Timor, etc), it's just that because we didn't act, we tend not to notice them. Contrariwise, it could be that because we don't know enough of them to care, we don't act; the truth's probably in the middle.

That said, your point about errors of omission and genocide is well-taken, and I'd certainly prefer action in that arena -- even if it's not well-thought or even particularly coherent -- to inaction.

I'm coming to this late--the notion that East Timor was an error of omission for the US is inaccurate. The US supported Indonesia's initial invasion during the Ford Administration and gave Indonesia weapons during a genocidal peak in the violence during the Carter Administration and continued to side with the Indonesians through Reagan, Bush I, and most of the Clinton Administration. I'd cite Arnold Kohen's biography of Bishop Belo (the Timorese Nobel peace prize winner), but I loaned it to a friend and never got it back. But there's also Joseph Nevins's "A Not-So-Distant Horror", recently published. And you can probably find plenty of material online.

As for the UN, the US actively opposed it taking any action on East Timor.

Sebastian:

With the Security Council no longer paralysed by Cold War politics, the UN spearheaded a veritable explosion of conflict prevention, peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding activities in the early 1990s. Part V of this report describes the extent of this unprecedented surge in activism, which included:

° A sixfold increase in the number of preventive diplomacy missions (those that seek to stop wars from starting) mounted by the UN between 1990 and 2002.

° A fourfold increase in peacemaking activites (those that seek to stop ongoing conflicts) over the same period (Figure 5.5).

° A sevenfold increase in the number of ‘Friends of the Secretary-General’, ‘Contact Groups’ and other government-initiated mechanisms to support peacemaking
and peacebuilding missions between 1990 and 2003.

° An elevenfold increase in the number of economic sanctions in place against regimes around the world between 1989 and 2001.

° A fourfold increase in the number of UN peacekeeping operations between 1987 and 1999 (Figure 5.6). The increase in numbers was not the only change. The new missions were, on average, far larger and more complex than those of the Cold War era and they have been relatively successful in sustaining the peace. With 40% of post-conflict countries relapsing into war again within five years, the importance of preventing wars from restarting is obvious.

Anarch: I understand the urge to do something when confronted with so much human suffering. Yet you do not answer the points I previously made. One of the reasons the AU has done less than it should is that it is underfunded, but I do not see people rally to urge the US to pay their debt to the UN. Not even to just the peacekeepers fund. One of the reasons Darfur is so violent is that the CPA was negotiated with only part of the country and the rebels in Darfur were excluded. Will that mistake repeate itself with the East of Sudan? That may well explode in a few months if there is no attention given to it NOW, to PREVENT more violence.

If you want the UN to do more, if you want France and China to work against their own (oil) interests you need diplomacy, you need to negotiate. Just saying "but look, those poor people there" will not help much with China and France can point at all the other area's in Africa it is helping. The UN can authorise more, allow the peacekeepers a better mandate, but that will take time and good negotiotors. Unfortunately the US has chosen Bolton to represent itself and the guy is a horrible diplomat.

Yes, the situation for the poor people in Darfur is really hard. The situation in Sudan is really hard actually, and the place is a powder keg with various fuses. You need some kind of stabitily before you can build up, and you need negotiations to reach that. In the East, on the border with Chad, on the border with Uganda...


bolding off?!

tnxs Jay. Sorry all, preview is my friend, even when I'm in a hurry...

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