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October 11, 2009

Comments

One of his first acts was to order the closure of prison at Guantanamo Bay. That was an courageous act of profound national and international significance.

...except for the bit about not actually planning to release many of the illegally-held prisoners, but instead ordering the prison at Bagram Airbase to be expanded so that they could be transferred there from Guantanamo Bay.

...and it kind of took the shine off his good intentions to discover, after a prisoner long-since declared innocent was released - a legal UK resident, not one of the nameless Afghans who have no pull with the US government and so merit no justice - that torture had continued at Guantanamo Bay at least until February 2009.

Sure, Barack Obama was nominated for not being George W. Bush.

I have major problems with Obama - of which, oddly enough, his blank refusal to do anything but talk pretty nothings about GLBT equality is actually the least - but yes: that George W. Bush and his corrupt crew of criminals, liars, and incompetents are no longer running the world's last superpower, is a major source of hope.

Just a shame that Obama has been spending the last nine months doing his damnedest to ensure that right-wingers don't need to worry: he's not going to be a leader on equality and human rights and he's not going to let anyone try to prosecute Bush for his crimes.

The thing is Lindsay, even a bloody plank would have changed the "orientation and posture" of american foreign policy.

I could have done better, so could you, even Jes would've. (Though Jes and I dont have a chance of being in that position cos we're not americans)

1.What actually stands in the way of Obama doing better?

2. The nobel prize is usually not given to nascent changes but actual accomplishments. So giving it to him for just the beginnings of change is rather anomalous.

3. How much of the difference in Obama's foreign policy is just perception instead of real change?

4. Is the Nobel Peace prize really meaningful anymore? Woodrow Wilson got it.

I have no clue how no one on the morning news shows that I caught today was able to make the same realization that the Nobel committee obviously made: America deserves the award for replacing an administration that sent an ambassador to the UN whose lifelong dream was to destroy the UN with one that elevated ambassador to the UN to a cabinet-level position.

The Nobel committee has historically awarded developments in international diplomacy; see Wilson and the other League of Nations award, Cordell Hull, Kofi Annan (and other former Secretaries General), etc. America shifting from a position of contempt for international diplomacy to a position of engagement has an effect on par with any of those achievements.

Not to mention that Obama's accomplished as much via personal diplomacy in the first few months of his administration as Bush did in the entirety of his (if you exclude bribing small island nations and European nations in exchange for token war support). Obama's gone about as far as Clinton did on nonproliferation/disarmament and will almost certainly go much further, having promised to push the CBT that Clinton was too distracted to focus on during Monicagate, secured preliminary commitments from Moscow, and reengaged Iran and North Korea.

I have to disagree with the slow walk of the Honduras coup. In an earlier thread, a commentator noted that the non-intervention in Honduras actually represents a new way of doing things. That Jim DeMint and his ilk want the US to back the military is unremarkable, that Obama has chosen not to intervene beyond diplomatic channels rather surprising in terms of policy.

Reading the link from that point of view, it doesn't really seem to argue for a slow walking.

"In fact, Obama earned the prize for waging a successful campaign to unseat a ruling party that rejected the rule of law at home and abroad."

In favor of a different ruling party which rejects the rule of law at home and abroad. Whoo, big difference.

Jumping off Jes' point could someone explain why Obama's decision to close Gitmo really matters? I mean, the Gitmo in Cuba might be closing but who cares since the Gitmo at Bagram is getting lots of business? The guys at the Cuba Gitmo at least got some lawyers but I don't believe the folks at Bagram get access to counsel or courts or any such tokens of due process. All those people demanding that Gitmo be shut down probably meant something more than "please move Gitmo to Bagram and continue your institutionalized wanton lawlessness."

In fact, Obama earned the prize for waging a successful campaign to unseat a ruling party that rejected the rule of law at home and abroad.

Great! Now, if only he'd actually restore the rule of law instead of institutionalizing all Bush's worst excesses.

I don't disagree at all with the point you are making, but 'tokens of due process' are there, including representatives (not lawyers) and the opportunity to present evidence. (if you had not said 'tokens', I might not have brought this point up)

I also recall that with the Gitmo prisoners, there were a number of issues concerning information, with much of the information uncollated and spread out over a number of agencies. Given that the Bush admin were routing prisoners to Bagram since 2004 to a place that is more distant and presumably less secure than Gitmo, I imagine the situation is even worse.

Turb and others may point to plans to expand facilities as indications of bad intentions, and I can agree with that reading, but it also may be that the securing the facilities requires some investment, given this description of the facilities

"I can't speak to what the conditions may be like now. But in my tenure, the prison population lived in an abandoned Soviet warehouse. The warehouse had a cement floor and it was a huge square-footage area. "On the floor of that, what must have been some sort of an airplane hangar, six prison cages were erected, which were divided by concertina wire ... Those prison cages had a wooden floor, a platform built above the cement floor of the hangar. Each prisoner had a bunch of blankets, a small mat, and in the back of each one of those cages was a makeshift toilet, the same type of toilet that the soldiers used, which was a 50-gallon drum, halved with diesel fuel put in the bottom of it and a wooden kind of seat to that platform ... It's very similar, incidentally, to the conditions that the soldiers lived in; almost identical."

link

I'll repeat that this is not to completely refute Turb's point, but just to point out that similar questions occurred previous to the release of the first group of Uighur prisoners.

On an unrelated note, I thought this Guardian article about Terry Holdbrookes was worth reading. This newsweek story on the same topic from March has this

The exchanges reveal curiosity on both sides—sometimes even empathy. "The detainees used to have conversations with the guards who showed some common respect toward them," says Errachidi, who spent five years in Guantánamo and was released in 2007. "We talked about everything, normal things, and things [we had] in common," he wrote to NEWSWEEK in an e-mail from his home in Morocco.

Holdbrooks's level of identification with the other side was exceptional. No other guard has volunteered that he embraced Islam at the prison (though Errachidi says others expressed interest). His experience runs counter to academic studies, which show that guards and inmates at ordinary prisons tend to develop mutual hostility.

To avoid any unpleasantness, I stress I'm not asserting that we need to keep Bagram open or put taxpayer dollars in Bagram to offer the guards in our service the opportunity to convert to Islam. But it's important to realize that a failure to spend money on improvement is often a way of ensuring the status quo.

Haven't read the whole post yet, but I had to say this:

That kitten can certainly have the Nobel Peace Prize if I have anything to say about it -- for her extraordinary contribution in adorableness!!!:)

I could have done better, so could you, even Jes would've. (Though Jes and I dont have a chance of being in that position cos we're not americans)

Yes, lots of people are not Bush, and lots of people can picture what wonderfully virtuous presidents they would be. Ralph Nader, for instance.

Obama actually got elected, and as Lindsay points out, it was not exactly a slam dunk. And the alternative was Sarah Palin a heart beat away from Commander-in-Chief.

I think the problem people in the U.S. are having is the discomfort of realizing that the outcome of one of our elections has been rewarded with the Peace Prize, as if we were some recovering rogue state.

"the Nobel Peace Prize is not given for nascent changes but actual accomplishments"

Holy Shit! I must have slept through those mornings when Al Gore single-nandedly ended Climate Change, the Dalai Lama achieved a Free Tibet, and Gorbachev actually saw Perostroika through to it's final conclusion. Plus who could forget the magical moments when Dag Hammersgold, Ralph Bunche, and Archbishop Tutu fixed all of the human, social and economic problems of Africa for once and for all.

Don't remember all that? Well me either, just as I don't remember racial justice being accomplished when MLK got his award. I personally think this award might seem premature, but a bunch of previous awards would have seemed premature at the time. I can pick out some mis-fires in past awards but the Nobel Peace Committee has a pretty good record of picking the benders of the bend points in advance.

Probably not one person in a hundred could identify Ralph Bunche or measure his historical significance against MLK or the future Obama but that doesn't mean either that Committee or this made a bad choice.

Interesting NYT article here, too, on Bagram. Note that in addition to some procedural "tokens", Obama is letting the International Committee of the Red Cross see the prisoners, in contrast to what Bush did.

Obama's not giving the Bagram prisoners procedural protections (although he is treating them much more in accordance with prisoners of war). As other commentaries have pointed out, he is probably treating Afghan prisoners there in accordance with prisoners of war under international law, but shouldn't be importing prisoners from other theaters to go to Bagram. Still, better than Bush, and maybe headed towards something actually acceptable. Hope so anyway.

This talking point gets repeated as if it's a witty put down. It's supposed to trivialize the win.

No it's not: it's because it's true. [I believe I actually called it the "F*** you Bush" Nobel when I first heard about it.] I mean, really; I'm psyched that he got it, and I hope that proves worthy of it, but he hasn't done anything to prove himself worthy yet.

The implication is that Obama won just for showing up.

No: he won for also not being a Republican. It's not like Sarah Palin would've won.

On closer examination, winning for not being Bush is a pretty substantial distinction in its own right.

A distinction which I'm proud to bear, but one which doesn't merit me the Nobel.

Why are we even talking about the Nobel Prize and who "deserved" it? It makes me laugh that so many people think they have the right to decide who does or doesn't deserve the Nobel Prize as if the Nobel were an elected office. The people who are per se qualified to decide who merited the Nobel (i.e. the Nobel Committee who has the authority to do so) decided that Obama did. Therefore Obama should get it. If people want to make up their own prize, they can find somebody else who they think deserves it.

I have to disagree with the slow walk of the Honduras coup....that Obama has chosen not to intervene beyond diplomatic channels rather surprising in terms of policy.

I have to disagree with liberal japonicus here. The Obama Admin. has indeed been slow-walking about the Honduras coup. The US can't not 'intervene' - to pretend that it can is a ridiculous conceit, and I find it pretty troubling that the Obama Admin. adopted that conceit. Delay - which is the Obama policy - is in the interest of the usurpers. The coup could've been ended in a very short time if the US had wanted it (entirely without military intervention). I don't understand what, from the POV of the WH, the upside is of not pulling that trigger (as it were). Both Obama's and Secretary Clinton's statements - after the initial reaction - have been phony and cynical.

Perhaps the POV of the WH is that the early statement of disapproval of the coup will be enough to keep other potential golpistas in the region in check, and perhaps (perhaps!) that's right. But what is gained (from the US POV) by the subsequent pussy-footing? Not dissing Clinton's buddy Lanny Davis, or his execrable clients? Maintaining the stupid binary cold-war posture? (e.g. the Administration's official disapproval of Bolivia's Morales no matter what the latter does). And what about Honduras itself?

Pretty disgusting. And not a departure from US policy of the past. In this case the form of intervention is strategic non-intervention.

" The people who are per se qualified to decide who merited the Nobel (i.e. the Nobel Committee who has the authority to do so) decided that Obama did. Therefore Obama should get it. If people want to make up their own prize, they can find somebody else who they think deserves it."

Well, another thing we non-committee members get to do is decide for ourselves whether the Nobel Peace Prize is an award worthy of much respect. This year, no. It's a joke. Not the worst joke ever told (that would be Kissinger, when that commie Le Duc Tho had the temerity to refuse the prize, as he should have). But it's still kind of funny.

jonnybutter, you may be right, I relied on the commentor who made this argument earlier. I haven't been following this so closely. (depressing that a coup in Latin America is so far down the list of problems that I don't have time to read up about it)

A lot would depend on what is happening in terms of behind the scenes work and whether it is different or the same. Things like revoking the visas of businessmen supporting the coup seem to indicate something subtly different, with subtly being a word indicating that I may be dead wrong about this.

But I'm not sure that just because delay is in the interest of the usurpers, this automatically means that delay is a policy that shouldn't be carried out. Any situation is going to be tilted to those who are holding the high cards, but to enter in and demand a redistribution of the cards leads to a complete breakdown in the game.

I would also note that Obama seems to be quite friendly with Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, who brokered the San Jose agreement that is trying to deal with the problem. It's been said that Obama has been a person who prefers to let other people step forward and take credit for breakthroughs, which carries the reward of strengthening consensus, but carries the potential pitfall of not utilizing political capital to get things done (think of the arc of the health care debate) Stepping back and letting Arias and the OAS deal with the problem reflects, I think, Obama's own approach.

Also, though this probably reflects my own interests more than anything, I would not be surprised if the just completed WC qualifier between Honduras and the US carried some weight in this.

I'm not quite sure, Donald Johnson, why you and other non-committee members have decreed the Nobel a joke. Although there are many extraordinarily brave people who deserve acclaim and notice, they aren't necessarily in a position to bring such wide ranging change to the world as Obama is. If the Nobel were to be awarded on the basis of who has been bravest, who has worked most tirelessly in direct aid to suffering people, etc., there would no doubt be people who deserve it more - some of these saints are listed here. But if Wikipedia is correct and the prize was for the person who "during the preceding year [...] shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses" who would you suggest has been more effective than Obama?

"...as if we were some recovering rogue state."

Rachel wins.

(That is, as among the commentators. Lindsay seems to be on a roll these days.)

But while I'm up, how about a true story that may provide one of those rare Proud of America moments that Mrs. Obama got so violently attacked for?


Another person who got the Prize without having achieved success in his fight: Linus Pauling. No, not the Chemistry one, but the one that made him the first only person to get two solo Nobel Prizes. That was 1962, and the treaty stopping above-ground nuclear tests was in 1963. But that's not the story.

The shock that Good Americans experienced when the furriners awarded the prize to this subversive guy who opposed the government has widely been forgotten. It wasn't just the Mainstream Media, but fellow academics, who made things bad enough at Cal Tech that their most successful Nobel winner took a walk. Also not the story.

So, he went around campaigning and picketing and all that sort of nasty stuff and critizing the Government all the time. And in April of 1962, President Kennedy, who liked smart people, held a formal dinner for all the country's Nobel winners, including chemist Linus Pauling. He accepted like a gentleman, and went to Washington. In the morning he picketed the White House, urging the President not to resume the briefly suspended nuclear testing; then he went back to the hotel, changed to his penguin suit, and went to dinner with the President. Was POTUS resentful, as much of America was, at this Insult to the Presidency? Well,

'In the receiving line, Kennedy greeted Pauling with a quip: "I understand you’ve been around the White House a couple of days already." Pauling grinned and answered yes. Kennedy added, "I hope you will continue to express your feelings."'

http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/specialcollections/coll/pauling/peace/narrative/page43.html

There, isn't that reason to love America -- or any other republic that would do as well? (France, I'm pretty confident, is one.)

Bonus: We now have another President who likes smart people and has Class. Would be a major upper about America if only the policies better reflected those good points.

I'm not quite sure, Donald Johnson, why you and other non-committee members have decreed the Nobel a joke.

Did you not see Donald Johnson's line about Henry Kissinger? Do you really fail to see how giving one of the greatest war mongers of recent history a peace prize might undermine the standing of that prize?

liberal japonicus:

Any situation is going to be tilted to those who are holding the high cards, but to enter in and demand a redistribution of the cards leads to a complete breakdown in the game.

The breakdown in the game already happened - that's what the coup was. And the Arias talks was just stall - the golpistas wanted nothing more than to drag those talks out as long as possible, and you will notice if you look that they gave not an inch.

I would look into it a little more, if you're interested. There's no shame in not being up on every single thing happening in the world - god knows, I'm not. This really stinks, and it's really no change in policy at all.

Turbulence, one can disagree with the decision of the Nobel Prize committee having given the prize to Kissinger, and still be happy that the prize was awarded to Obama for attempting to improve the possibility of negotiation and diplomatic engagement rather than instinctive warmongering. I'm happy that Obama was awarded the prize. Were you taking the position that the prize is a joke when Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Doctors without Borders, Jody Williams, the Dalai Lama, and other people you might have thought were worthy, got the prize?

On the campaign trail, Obama promised to restore the U.S.'s place in the world community and the Nobel Peace Prize is proof that he's fulfilling that promise. It's a testament to his leadership that he makes it look easy.

This last paragraph is silly. The Nobel Peace Prize is proof of nothing. Except that a few European politicians have accepted Obama's mea culpas for America's past purported bad behavior.

And looking easy? Geez, Lindsay, it only looks easy when you have absolutely no idea you're going to get the prize because you have actually done NOTHING to deserve it.
Oh, except he brought hope and change to the world.

Now Al Gore's "win" makes so much more sense. And Jimmy Carter's. And the U.N's. And Yasser Arafat's. And . . .

I think Drehle has a more defensible position that the committee.

Turbulence, one can disagree with the decision of the Nobel Prize committee having given the prize to Kissinger, and still be happy that the prize was awarded to Obama for attempting to improve the possibility of negotiation and diplomatic engagement rather than instinctive warmongering.

I am neither happy nor unhappy about Obama getting the prize. Given that the committee never provided a reasonable justification for their absurd decision, it is difficult to have confidence in their judgment. Which doesn't mean their judgment is wrong in all cases; it just means that their judgment doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Of all the wonderful people you listed, is there even one among them that you would think any less of had they not received the prize?

Were you taking the position that the prize is a joke when Aung San Suu Kyi...?

I'm taking the position that simply getting the prize doesn't tell us whether or not someone actually has significantly contributed to peace.


I would like to suggest one thing: there is a tendency to view George Bush as some sort of bizarre aberration when it comes to American foreign policy. On the other hand, I tend to see Bush as an extreme manifestation of a poisonous way of relating to the world that was well accepted by Republicans and Democrats long before Bush took office. Andrew Bacevich wrote eloquently on this point in his book The New American Militarism. If you think Bush is a crazy aberration, then the small but not-insignificant steps Obama has taken will easily justify his getting the prize I think. If, instead like me, you think Obama is a big improvement over Bush but one that merely returns the Presidency to a fairly immoral and deadly bipartisan status quo, then you'll be more inclined to see the prize as a joke.

This last paragraph is silly. The Nobel Peace Prize is proof of nothing. Except that a few European politicians have accepted Obama's mea culpas for America's past purported bad behavior.

Ah, see this is a good example of what I mean when I say amoral and deadly bipartisan consensus. bc, let me be blunt: our country started a pointless war that ended up annihilating one million human beings. For nothing. That is not a purported bad act. It is a bad act. Now, obviously, since these are Arabs their lives don't count for much but I'd think that even a people as historically ignorant as Americans might shudder a bit once you cross the line labeled "20% of the Final Solution."

This sunday, like every sunday, I marvel that we have so many people attending church and so few people weeping inconsolably in sack cloth and ashes.

He also beat a senior politician in his own party who questioned and attacked his position on diplomacy with adversaries. Had he not dispatched that opponent, the U.S. general election of 2008 would have featured a consensus view that diplomacy with Iran and other problem regimes was merely naive idealism. It is now U.S. policy (for the moment, for good or ill). That is Barack Obama's work.

jonnybutter, if you have any links, especially about the San Jose agreement, I'd appreciate it. It sounds like you've been following this story but because I'm coming to it at this point, it's really hard to get a handle on it. I'm not sure what Obama should have done, and when the OAS took the lead in kicking out Honduras, it seemed like Obama couldn't throw the weight of the US around.

"immoral and deadly bipartisan status quo"

I find that view impatient and cynical, and makes dangerous Naderesque false equivalencies between very different agendas.

And in a related story:

"Ralph Cramden received a heroism medal for stopping a careening bus from plunging off a cliff. However, half of the passengers expressed dissatisfaction that he had not yet backed up the bus and driven to El Dorado, while the other half viciously attacked Mr. Cramden for not 'staying the course', and is now advocating replacing the driver with one who is objectively pro-plunge."

In the last Lindsay post, wonkie wrote:

I think that this site needs a period of more frequent and serious and substantive posts. The initial posts to some extent set the tone of the comments.

I think Wonkie may be right that the initial posts set the tone of the comments. Specifically, I'm wondering if there is a link between the recent rise of trolling and Lindsay "U CAN HAS CHEEZEBURGER" Beyerstein. No offense to Lindsay, but I suspect the frivolous nature of her posts attracts frivolous commenters, i.e. trolls.

I find that view impatient and cynical, and makes dangerous Naderesque false equivalencies between very different agendas.

Sapient, you are completely and totally wrong. I've donated a lot of time and money in order to get Obama elected. I think he's a vast improvement over McCain and a significant improvement over Clinton and I think in both case, that improvement translates directly into lots of lives saved around the world. But I don't think he's magic. I don't think he can wave a magic wand and undo the political reality that the bipartisan elite consensus in this country strongly favors killing lots of foreigners for no reason.

Consider this: Bill Clinton decided to bomb Iraq on and off for years. He maintained a blockade that killed many Iraqis. People who worked with the sanctions regime contended that it was a joke and that the US/UK governments were never going to let up no matter what. And what did we get in exchange for all the death and suffering we imposed on Iraqis? Nothing. More to the point, how many people objected to that policy at the time out of concern for Iraqi well being or even just the notion that the US shouldn't be trying to force people to make political changes by threatening to kill them? Bill Clinton is much much smarter than George Bush. He's also less evil. But he still did evil things because the elite consensus in DC contains some really fracked up beliefs. I see no reason to believe that Obama won't do the same thing given that he is subject to the same political pressures.

But feel free to call me naderite and whatever other names you can come up with.

Consider this: Bill Clinton decided to bomb Iraq on and off for years. He maintained a blockade that killed many Iraqis. People who worked with the sanctions regime contended that it was a joke and that the US/UK governments were never going to let up no matter what. And what did we get in exchange for all the death and suffering we imposed on Iraqis? Nothing.

On the contrary, we got two things out of it. We eliminated Iraq's offensive military capabilities and destroyed (or degraded past repair) Iraq's chemical warfare stocks and nuclear program.

I don't deny that the sanctions caused suffering to the Iraqi people, but they were nonetheless effective at achieving America's strategic goal - containment of Iraq.

Specifically, I'm wondering if there is a link between the recent rise of trolling and Lindsay "U CAN HAS CHEEZEBURGER" Beyerstein. No offense to Lindsay, but I suspect the frivolous nature of her posts attracts frivolous commenters, i.e. trolls.

The 13-year-old girl talk is annoying, but I'm not sure it contributes to trolling.

On the topic of Obama's Nobel prize, I'm pretty much agnostic. If it is a symptom of Europe's general approval and smoothes the path for his negotiations with EU nations, then great. I don't think his acheivements so far merit the prize, but I understand that it is often given as an encouragement rather than an award.

Hopefully someday Obama will have an achievement to match ending the Russo-Japanese War or the Camp David accords (the less said about Wilson's foolishness at Versailles, the better).

Pericles,

It's not just the nonsensical txt-speak --IDK my BFF Jill--it's that her posts are vacuous. They're just liberal snark, which draws conservative snark, which starts a big flame war.

The 13-year-old girl talk is annoying, but I'm not sure it contributes to trolling.

I give her a pass on that because she's hot. I like the way her mouth looks. But, then again, I can't speak for the so-called "trolls" here.

It's not just the nonsensical txt-speak --IDK my BFF Jill--it's that her posts are vacuous.

Her posts aren't vacuous. I understand what she's saying. Under Obama, American is surrendering its super-power status to alleviate the cultural anxiety of coastal American elites who care more about the approval of Europeans than they do about the security of their own country. Lindsay thinks this is a good thing. I don't, but I see where she is coming from.

It occurs to me belatedly that my comment that posts can set the tone for comments could be taken as an attack on the current posters. I didn't mean it that way. I meant that since we are having a problem with flamewars and trolls, a possible solution is a period of very serious wonkish posts, kind of like what a classroom teacher does: if a science class gets too sloppy and playful with lab time, it is a useful technique to shift the style of instruction for a while to heavy acquisition of book learning until everyone chills. I certainly did not mean to blame the tone on Lindasy. I just meant that maybe the commenters need some heavy doses of multilinked political philosophizing right now. Of course it is easy for me to recommend what I am not capable of doing myself!

Great, Irrumator says he likes the way Lindsay's mouth looks. Whatever could you be implying? And you still pretend you're not a troll.

Turbulence, I respect your comments and agree with them for the most part. But you say that you don't think Obama is magic. Neither do I. That's why I think it isn't possible for him to overcome the political realities you speak of, or extricate the United States immediately from situations that have been a long time in the making. Given that we seem to agree that it is impossible for him to maintain political power and, at the same time, disregard the pressure to "keep America safe" I would think that people would be more forgiving of his position - having been elected facing two foreign policy and one domestic disaster as well as longstanding global challenges that have been insufficiently addressed for the last half-century or more.

As to Clinton, many people were saying at the time that the sanctions policy against Iraq was a bust. I don't pretend to know what might have happened if the sanctions policy had not been pursued. Arguably, as ThirdGorchBro mentions, whatever threat Iraq posed (as alleged by George W. Bush) had been removed by actions of the Clinton administration.

I don't know what the world would be like if the United States quit engaging with other countries, for right or wrong, or what the world would look like if we could refashion our history. America would bear less blame. But I see areas of the world that do quite well on their own to cause horrific pain and turmoil, and I see other powerful nations such as China which are ready and willing to exercise influence based on their own criteria. Rwanda happened, and America was blamed for not stopping it. "First do no harm" would be a good foreign policy mantra, but everyone seems to disagree on what that means, or who would act in our absence.

In the end, I think Obama is trying to make a realistic assessment of what we should do - not based on megalomania, retribution, sadism, and all of the other factors that influenced policy in the Bush era. I believe that he's learning as much about the current morass from the people who are in the best position to evaluate what the consequences of various options might be, and will do what he thinks is most helpful to us and to them. There are certainly people in Afghanistan and Iraq who would not want the United States to pack up and go home. And I'm not pretending that these people are "the Afghan people" or "the Iraqi people". Deciding what to do isn't a matter of deciding that we just don't want to kill anyone anymore, although that would be a great guiding principle before we ever went into a conflict. Now that we're in, we have to determine who is harmed by our leaving and how that will work.

Although I certainly think taking a stand on Obama's various foreign policy options is valuable (especially from people like you, who are incredibly knowledgeable and insightful), I just get tired of his "supporters" complaining incessantly that he's Bushlike, and then even begrudging him acclaim abroad, as evidenced by the Nobel prize. With friends like these, who needs the birthers?

Great, Irrumator says he likes the way Lindsay's mouth looks. Whatever could you be implying? And you still pretend you're not a troll.

I don't see what's wrong with a compliment. I was defending Lindsay against an attack started by Wonkie and Chris McManus.

Irrumator,

Do you look like the guy from Deliverance?

Yes, Brackets, once again a novel theory of yours re: exactly who sucks and is ruining the site is positively brimming with merit. What was that about vacuous 13-year-old-girl 'txt speak?'

Here's a novel idea that might just blow your mind: Don't like Beyerstein's posts? Don't read them! Really, you aren't contributing anything worthwhile with your petulant bitching everytime Beyerstein dares to post something that doesn't meet your arbitrary standards of what constitutes 'substantive', other than providing further evidence that your inner WATB is far-too easily triggered.

Oh, great. The White Knight strikes again. There's a damsel in distress over at Balloon Juice for you to save.

The 13-year-old girl talk is annoying, but I'm not sure it contributes to trolling.

Hey, lighten up! That '13-year-old girl talk' is not only an internet tradition, but is also not actually 13-year-old-girl talk. Somebody needs to get out more...

I don't see why Lindsay or anybody else should write posts specifically to pre-emptively mollify or forestall trolls. For one thing, it's hopeless, and for another, the trolls themselves are responsible for their trolling, not the posters. Lindsay's posts here are (as ever) perfectly well written and reasonable.

liberal japonicus: A good clearing house for Honduras coup news in English is here. Yes, it has a point of view, namely that the coup in Honduras was illegal.

Brackets is so kyoot when he nurses a grudge (and a sore bottom):

<3

Wow, you posted a picture of a cat. I've never seen that before. Did you come up with that idea yourself?

Turbulence,

I would like to suggest one thing: there is a tendency to view George Bush as some sort of bizarre aberration when it comes to American foreign policy. On the other hand, I tend to see Bush as an extreme manifestation of a poisonous way of relating to the world that was well accepted by Republicans and Democrats long before Bush took office. Andrew Bacevich wrote eloquently on this point in his book The New American Militarism. If you think Bush is a crazy aberration, then the small but not-insignificant steps Obama has taken will easily justify his getting the prize I think. If, instead like me, you think Obama is a big improvement over Bush but one that merely returns the Presidency to a fairly immoral and deadly bipartisan status quo, then you'll be more inclined to see the prize as a joke.

Amen to that!

the trolls themselves are responsible for their trolling, not the posters.
This is of course a truism, but the posters do have some responsibility for their ongoing failure to reprimand borderline troll behavior and to effectively crack down on outright troll behavior. Some of the comment threads on this board are quite being overrun of late - although most of this thread has thus far been the sort of attempts by commenters to present their beliefs in a compelling way, assuming goodwill on the part of their interlocutors, that this board has traditionally existed to promote.

I didn't see anything in the text of what Lindsay wrote which lends itself to the "13 year old girl talk" charge. Except, of course, the silly cat picture - which other folks starting using here well before she arrived.

The deeper problem is that OW was originally conceived of as a place where folks could engage with people coming from a different ideological view. As the Republican party has become progressively more extreme that has become harder to do. Witness this "issue", where apparently not being hated by the rest of the planet is some sort of indication of weakness. Or the previous "issue" with Rio being chosen over Chicago for the Olympics. Or the prior one about him having a speech on the importance of working hard and staying in school to schoolchildren. Or perhaps the bit about death panels to kill the elderly, or about him not being an American, or the parade of other substance-free freak-outs about Obama.

Add in generalized left-wing rage about the Bush years that would only be sated with war crimes trials - which can easily be focused on Obama for deviations from the party line. It doesn't lend itself to rational discussion.

I didn't attack Lindsay and I like LOLcats.

I was actually attacking the tone of some of the commenters who I see as primarily responsible for the change in tone due to not being able to handle the current posts in the same way that some classes are not able to handle labs. But I thought it would be rude to say that directly and suggested a change in post tone. I apologize to Lindsay for expressing myslef in a way that was understood as an attack on her.

Wow, you posted a picture of a cat. I've never seen that before. Did you come up with that idea yourself?

It's an internet tradition. But am sure you were aware of that, Brackets. BTW, your snark-fu is weaker than your google-fu.

It's an internet tradition

It's a /b/ tradition created by trolls, which is exactly how you're using it.

Apologies to the Hive Mind and the community for indulging Brackets' ongoing mini-vendetta against all things 'insubstantial.' Sometimes I can't help myself.

Getting back on subject, I think that if it's too early to critique the President for what he hasn't yet accomplished then it's also too early to laud his potential success. That said, speaking as someone who resides outside the US, the powerful symbolism of finally closing the book on the universally loathed Bush 43 Era should not be discounted in its global impact.

Thanks for getting back to the subject, Mattt. I have a feeling you're being trolled.

Thanks for getting back to the subject, Mattt. I have a feeling you're being trolled.

Mattt's the one trolling, not me.

Mattt's the one trolling, not me.

Oh, grow up. You two are having a pointless flamewar that's jacking the thread, which is ironic because you're the one complaining about the lack of substance.

(Chris)'s attacks on Lindsay are sexist. I find his behavior deplorable. There used to be standards on this blog. Now, we've got rampant sexism. McManus might even be a bigger troll than Jesurgislac.

Veteran Washington correspondent Godfrey Hodgson provides some insider analysis re: the NPP selection process:

By a strange chance I was once peripherally involved in a campaign to give the prize to someone I thought absurdly unsuitable as a recipient. The truth is that the prize is awarded as a result of a process that is at once political and provincial. Norwegian notables acquire status by successfully promoting a candidacy that will find favour with an audience in which an admixture of ignorance of world affairs and anti-American prejudice can run strong. Many Norwegians understandably enjoy a ritual that draws international attention to their highly successful but globally peripheral nation.

(Hodgson also notes that both Hitler & Chamberlain came frightfully close to winning the NPP in 1939. Insert teabagger/wingnut revisionist hysteria here.)

This troll-calling will stop now, won't it?

Mattt's just mad that Slartibartfast called him out as a noob in the other thread. He's not actually a troll, and I apologize for suggesting that he was.

The problem is that there billions of people who are NOT George W. Bush.

Only one of those billions of people, however, convinced a majority of Americans to reject the policies of George Bush and to choose a new direction.

Man o man, what a laugh. I read weblogs of dozy bints like (self-appointed) Professor Lindesy Beyerstein merely for cheap laughs. For example:

“If the 2008 election happened in Africa or the Middle East it would seem obvious that an opposition leader who restored the rule of law and set about reintegrating his country into the family of nations would be racking up points towards a Nobel Peace Prize before he even took the oath of office.”

So the 2008 Democratic presidential and congressional campaigns were the equivalent of a “color revolution” a la Ukraine, or Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe, embattled opposition leaders fighting brutal authoritarian regimes who resort to lawlessness and violence amd intimidation to hold onto power. My god, talk about jerk-off infantile uninformed hysterical nonsense. And why? So you clowns can jerk-off to the image of yourselves taking part in some historical moment blahblahblah, as opposed to just another US election cycle. Ugh, it is as sickening as it is amusing.

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