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February 18, 2006

Comments

I agree with the main point of your post. I do have one nitpick: I'm not sure it's really in our interest to label al Qaida "insane".

The enemy? Yes.
Fundamentally opposed to Western values? Yes.

But mentally unhinged? I think doing so does, in a sense, add unnecessarily to the atmosphere of fear.

i do like how this argument of their's completely minimizes St. Ronnie's single-handed victory over godless communism and the USSR. it also takes the nearly-sainted McCarthy down a couple of pegs, which is nice.

The existential threat has already migrated from Baghdad to Tehran. How many times have we already heard how the worst outcome of all the problems in the world is if Iran gets the bomb?

I’ve just been blogging about a very interesting book: Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History (online at http://www.religion-online.org/listbycategory.asp?Cat=37). This was written in 1952, very early on in the Cold War. Niebuhr wasn’t just worried about the possible destruction of the US, he was worried about the effective destruction of the whole world in a nuclear war. Even in that position he argued that there was a vital need for the US to use restraint and patience and stick to its liberal values. He was also already warning against the idea that American virtue made any action by it acceptable and the persistent belief that the USA is somehow a uniquely innocent nation. He nailed the neo-cons fifty years before the event (or maybe the type just doesn’t change).

Uh, they didn't do duck and cover at his school TEN YEARS AFTER WE DID?

Glenn Greenwald has written another great post (actually, a lot of them, but this is the one I'm writing about.) He's writing in response to a post by Captain Ed....
It's a digression from your primary point, but it's possibly worth noting, for the benefit of those who don't regularly read Glenn and lots of blogs, not just that this post was since replied to by "Captain Ed, but that Glenn subsequently wrote another lengthy follow-up.
Just savor this bit: "when I was going to college, I never dreamed that the United States of America could be attacked."

That just can't be true.

the case to demonstrate this seems to be dependent upon the notion that George W. Bush had a reasonable grasp of the world around him (the political and existential worries of those around him), a concern about countries other than the United States (the Soviet Union, West and East Germany, the Warsaw Pact, Vietnam), and at least some faint concern about international politics and tensions (the Cold War).

I don't find a lot of evidence for those postulates, though it's certainly difficult to prove what was or is in someone's mind. I'm just saying that I find it semi-possible; everyone I've ever read who has discussed knowing him at Yale has said he was oblivious to politics, and utterly unconcerned with it, and had nothing but contempt for those who were concerned it. He was focused on his cheerleading and beer-drinking, and other things. (As Vice-President Cheney famously had "other priorities than military service" at the time.)

The question of whether he could honestly be making a case today that there was no danger during the Cold War is something else, and obviously he couldn't possibly make such a dishonest case without, at least, being liable to being held responsible for the fact that clearly he should know better, no matter how self-delusional he might be.

Similarly so for those followers of his who have been blogging this absurd-to-the-point-of-insanity line about FISA not being written either at a time of war (Vietnam/Cold War), or to apply to War.

At least the "Captain" has sufficient grasp of reality, and sufficient honesty, to have admitted that he was wrong, when the facts were mashed in his face (what his excuse is for not bothering to be aware of the facts in all his previous Expert Postings, I don't know). Perhaps his lead will be a minor, if trivial, turning point of a few of like mind in admitting the FISA applies to both war and peace-time, but even if so, those of like-mind have plenty of further fall-back defense lines, of course.

Meanwhile, at least even Pat Roberts now says that Bush's NSA surveillance program needs should come under the FIS Court.

Small steps, but given all the staunch true conservatives, and leading Republicans, who actually care about the rule of law, and about seeing that Congress and the courts actually have some power in our system of government, not just a "unitary executive," and about there being some oversight on domestic eavesdropping (yes, even domestic eavesdropping on calls between people in this country AND people overseas) by courts and Congress, the absurd line about how objections are all just a partisan plot of traitorous terrorsymp Democrats simply can't hold, any more than it ever had the faintest grounding in fact in the first place. Yeah, Grover Nordquist and George Will: damn those liberals. And Lindsay Graham and Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and Heather Wilson: who are you going to believe? Them, or reliable experts like Rush Limbaugh? Everyone but Rush and the other lunatics is a terrorsymp, you know. Why, Ann Coulter says so, although she finds Rush suspiciously wobbly. Michelle Malkin has the facts!

"(Here's my version of Charles' Gnome Business Plan...."

? I hadn't heard that Charles wrote for South Park eight or more years ago.

I probably should emphasize that I couldn't agree more with your primary point, Hilzoy, about the insanity of the notion that al Qaeda poses anything remotely resembling an existensial threat to the U.S., and the idea that we therefore need to take any steps to remove our civil liberties greater than those posed by the orders-of-magnitude-greater threats of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War (hell, the White House was burned even in the War of 1812, and Washington., D.C. temporarily conquered), World War II, or the Cold War is equally insane and non-fact based; but since I've been ranting this rant for several years, zillions of times, I'd like to think people are aware that I already am rather emphatic on this point. But since I didn't make it as strongly as I might in my previous post, herewith.

Well, quickly, and I will be back:

1)As one who grew up in that era, there was the literally unimaginable threat of nuclear annihilition constantly in the back of our heads, but that possibility eliminated most other fears of military conflict at home. I can't calculate the odds, but it might be more likely that someone in Boston is under greater perceived threat now than in 1965. Hey, the nuclear weapons are still out there, and Russian and China don't look completely stable and friendly. Do you feel scared? Is a terrorist attack a more reasonable fear?

Well, you know, except for the draft and near constant proxy wars we grew up with. George Bush may not have grown up in fear, being of his class and connections, but we lower-middle class in the Midwest took for granted that there would be a dice-throw period in our lives, a possible early death overseas.

2) The internal conditions have considerably changed, and the country that laughed McCarthy out of power has re-elected George Bush. He may be using misdirection, but there are real fears (economic and social?) that he is exploiting that were not as available fifty years ago.

I keep trying to convince moderates and liberals that al Qaeda and terrorism is an existential threat, not because of the physical damage that would result from another 9/11, but because of the domestic political reaction. America would physically survive, but might not be recognizable. Of course, you likely would not like the country I and George and Gary grew up in either.

3) This really is just "We have always been at war with Oceania". The important point is not that we are not at war with Oceania, but why is the propaganda working? I know the polls show a certain skepticism, but if you tell the soccer mom she and her kids are safe, you has better be able to ensure her safety or otherwise convince her on a gut level that best efforts are being made. However safe the Omaha housewife really was in 1965, she was willing to send her sons to Vietnam.

Did he somehow overlook the Cold War? Did he fail to notice that an awful lot of people were extremely worried about the possibility that large chunks of our country might be turned into a pile of radioactive wreckage?

In Bush's defense, he did do a lot of drinking in those days.

From my youth I recall "duck and cover" and also seeing film of the Trinity test and Hiroshima. It's difficult to know what George W. Bush may have seen, even more difficult to judge what he absorbed. Perhaps this explains why he is so proud of mispronouncing "nuclear," I don't know.

But, shifting to today, I think the right way to look at this is as a purely political battle. In George W. Bush we see a spokesman who is able to make such statements in, as hilzoy puts it, a way that sounds persuasive.

Again, I cannot be sure of his intent but I am coming to the conclusion that this is but one example of a deliberate strategy. The intent is not just to defeat political opponents, but to render them completely powerless, to crush them utterly, to make the very idea of opposition ridiculous. It is to make argument from facts irrelevant politically, to recast all dispute as a matter of opinion. There are so many examples -- painting opponents of the war in Iraq as traitors, suppressing or casting doubt on scientific evidence, going all the way back to Newt Gingrich's stated dichotomy of "liberals and Americans."

This, I believe, is the true meaning of "we create our own reality."

The thing that strikes me about the quote Hilzoy provided is that it is so openly an appeal to cowardice. If someone expressed such a thought to me my reaction would be, "What are you so scared of?"

The Sovietization of the American Right absolutely never fails to amaze. But even so, this really is in a special category.

Posting political officers in the science agencies makes a screwy kind of sense, since the Bushist Right hates science anyway. Declaring not only Bush, but Cheney, above the law is also consistent with the Bushist Right's authoritarian way of thinking. Relabeling old-fashioned conservatives as "liberals" for opposing Bush is more Sovietism, with "liberal" the new word for "non-person."

But deliberately obliterating an entire era, for the singular purpose of elevating terrorism to a threat so dire that the Right must overthrow America in order to deal with it, means the Bushist Right is even rewriting its own mythology. Wasn't Ronald Reagan supposed to be one of the greatest Presidents ever for single-handedly bringing down the USSR? If the USSR wasn't all that much of a threat, what does that do to Reagan's place in the firmament?

Has the Bushist Right decided to do a little loose-leaf style historical revisionism in order to make Bush look that much better? Or are they acting more out of spite, since many of the conservatives who've publically denounced Bush are Reaganites?

It took Soviet Russia 30 years and a devastating World War to perfect retroactive revisionism, complete with cutting non-persons out of the record entirely. Let's see how long it takes the Bushists - betcha they'll beat the Soviet record hands down.

"...since the Bushist Right hates science anyway...."

Even though I (I think) know exactly what you are referring to -- after all, specific examples of this is one of the various topics I blog about with considerable frequency -- and even though there are uses to generalization, and this one doesn't particularly bother me, I would say that, nonetheless, the Bushist coalition is a coalition made up of various factions, and while I agree that, overall, the interests and factions that support their goals over that of science (from industrial interests opposing environmental regulations to Christian fundamentalists opposing science which contradicts their beliefs, to various other interests) are overwhelmingly dominant in the Bushist/Republican coalition that presently rules us -- which is why I don't particularly object to your generalization -- I do want to note at least once for the record that not all the factions in the Bush/Republican coalition share those anti-science views.

The reason I wish to mention this at least once is not to provide an excuse or act as an apologist for those who support Bush or the Republicans, to but instead point out that we need to try to peel those pro-science people off from that coalition, and get them into ours. This is, I think, an not unimportant point. It's a mistake to homogenize the opposition when they are no more homogenous than "we" are. Politics, I imagine you'd agree, is more about persuasion than conquest.

And a major way the Bushites and Republicans have been winning is with wedge issues. We need to, as Bill Clinton did (no, I don't support everything Clinton did, yes, there were various stupid things he did I object to, etc., and so on), wedge successfully back.

That's all.

Great post, hilzot. But then what other kind do you write?

Anyway, this leads to a point that has been bothering me for the last four years. This idea that 9/11 changed everything.

Again we heard the quote that we then found out that oceans can't protect us.

While, we found that out in the early 1800's when our capitol was burned. But then, most Americans don't have actual recall of that.

But let's come closer. 9/11 was not the first terrorist attack in this country, or even on the WTC. So we already knew they could attack us here.

In fact, the Clinton administration took terrorism very seriously. Something the Bush administration has almost admitted they didn't do.

So maybe, the "we" he refers to consists of him and his immediate advisors.

As far as Saddam being an existential threat, I agree with you. Even if he had had some WMD's, I don't think he was a threat to us. However, and this is frequently overlooked, the best evidence we had just prior to out invasion is that he didn't have any WMD's.

Besides, Bush has already admitted that they weren't the reason we went in, at least not in terms of current possession of them.

Bob talked about al Qaeda being an existential threat not in a physical sense, but in terms of what they could do to destabilize the country based upon our reaction to them.

I think, in many ways, they have already accomplished a lot of that. without 9/11, it is unlikely Bush would have been able to accomplish much of his domestic agenda, and he definitely would have had a lot of difficulty attacking Iraq. 9/11 was the best thing that could happen for this administration, and the worst for the country, not just in terms of the cost in lives and property, but in terms of what the domestic consequences have been primarily due to the people currently in power.

And I know it is hilzoy, not hilzot.

"It took Soviet Russia 30 years and a devastating World War to perfect retroactive revisionism, complete with cutting non-persons out of the record entirely."

Just because I'm into arguing the specifics of history -- and I deliberately made this a separate comment -- which thirty years do you have in mind? Are you saying that either Leninist revisionism or pre-WWII Stalinist revisionism weren't already reasonably perfected?

Because, if you are, I'd certainly argue the contrary. Trotsky, after all, was expelled from the Comintern in 1927.

Arguments about who was being a revisionist Marxist were already ruthless before even the">http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1908/apr/03.htm">the 1870s, and the latter half of the 19th century, long even before the Russian revolutions.

Naturally, the power of the State wasn't applied to enforcing revisionist beliefs until Lenin held power, but it was hardly an insignificant factor amongst Marxist theorists or political factions long before even the Soviet Union existed, let alone before Stalin, let alone before WWII.

Just look at the furious splits and "wars" between U.S. Marxist groups during the 1920s, for instance. Let alone getting to Stalinism/Trotskyism in the 1930s.

"Naturally, the power of the State wasn't applied to enforcing revisionist beliefs until Lenin held power...."

Although I could also start pointing out some relatively small scale examples in some of the little, short-lived, German communist seizures of power in various cities and locales in the 1920s, as well.

I keep trying to do a compare-and-contrast with the Cold War and WoT to see what is going on. And I think there are analogies, some slightly justified, most being cynically used. But they were cynically used back then.

1) The existential or nuclear threat.There really wasn't much to say about it and I don't remember much being said. One can point to things like missile gaps and counterforce and ABM but Eisenhower and Nixon were not on the stump panicking the American people with imminent destruction. Reagan is the first I can remember trying to use it politically. Remember, the media and PTB were not all that different back then, so when you hear the stories of a "nation frozen" during the Cuban Missile Crisis keep that in mind. I think I saw two private bomb shelters during the fifties and sixties. We did't all stock up on bottled water.

2) Foreign policy: Containment,domino theory, rollback, the Reagan doctrine, etc. This was obviously real, I mean Korea and Vietnam and Nicarauga and Afghanistan, but also so cynical and exploited that I had trouble making sense of it.Who was supporting or subverting which regime and why it was oh so critical. We help the Hashemite King in Iraq until Saddam supported by the Soviets overthru him until Khomeini gained power in Iran and we supported Saddam. Whatever.

3) But ahh, the internal threats. This is where I think the unspoken message of Bush lies and gains its power. In the forties and fifties it was American communists, socialists and flouride water polluters; now it is those strange people with scarves and beards living next door. There are millions among us. This may be denied by everyone everywhere, and certainly is not very covert. But just as the fear of the Soviet Union in the fifties was used to keep unions out of the South now you can bark:"They hate us for our freedoms." and gain political advantage.

Xenophobia. The Paranoid Style in American Politics. The racism and tribalism and hatred of cosmopolitanism that goes back at least as far back as the Irish and Chinese and East European Jews and Hispanics and Homosexuals and yes, Muslims. And always underneath our history of slavery and genocide. And I am so tired of it coming back over and over.

And the Cold Warriors can come after me, but that was mostly what the Cold War was about. Xenophobia as domestic political weapon. And revisionism or whatever, here we go again.

Hilzoy, Glenn Greenwald has done well in his efforts to renew bill-of-rights awareness. But part of the societal strains which you aptly depict underlie, in my view, the essence of the fulcrum upon which Greenwald opts to dispute the bill of rights interpretation of CaptE. Greenwald is expert in populist declamation, as well, at least in the argument he posted there around the day before and day following Gonzales' hearing.
So, you cover many points.
Part of the difficulty in Greenwald's framing and even in president Bush's, to my view, has to do with the variant of strain upon the social fabric: as you mention, there are differences between the stresses and threats from decades ago compared with now.
In a sense, I think somewhere underlying the pre-Iraq commentary by Condoleezza Rice reflected that, as well, from her perspective as a sovietologist, aand senior member of the administration; though I looked to her to express numerous other insights, as well, when she began the old cold-war imagery in her speechmaking. I thought something was lost.
But I also thought of Bush as more of an executive than being the entire board of directors of the administration; and he did his best with the board's message.
It feels sometimes like he is the one who they pick to write the prospectus, slightly more removed from reality of the inner workings than the CEO would be, but better with the hyperbole.
While people are tauting Reagan's feats in this thread, I demur. Rather, sometimes I find it instructive to view the change in the USSR from Gorbachev thru the Moscow mayor, to Putin, as an accumulated impact of the unspoken effectiveness of our own system of government; as if people in what finally once again became Russia, began to see it was possible to have our system of government and improve a lot of people's lives here. In a way that kind of moderating influence has affected the PRC, though I avoid specifics of that in this remark, other than to begin by observing the economic factors, in my view, continue predominant in mainland China, above all else, and permissive of a modicum of social development, within the crisp bounds of that land's own civilized value systems.
This rambling circumlocutory post wants to arrive at the following observation: that the extra-national character of the global guerilla-terror self-immolator organization which is Bush's framed oponent insofar as it is his main adversary will have a reflection back upon him; i.e., the effort to address the ways in which such an extranational entity acts undoes parts of our own social order at home. I can see the Bush administration as far off the well trodden path of our nationhood, but so is the terror bunch.
Beyond the parallelism paradigm which I suggest above, you have opined that the scale of threat is different. I think there is a pitfall here when addressing bravado, whatever its source; and I take your point as appropriate.
In my estimation there is no proper home for that bravado, especially on the world stage. But it is a rhetorical tool of the disadvantaged; and, in that respect, I see a similarity between the communist message and that of Al-Q, and even the jargon our own president apparently speaks to some of his constituents.
It is nice finding this thoughtful column of yours at ObW. It is a conversation that is happening in the best places I see on the internet now. Greenwald, among others, is helping push it into the light of day, forcing congress and even the judiciary to evaluate the segments which they can address most readily and remedy.

mcmanus: "Remember, the media and PTB were not all that different back then..."

PTB?

(Sorry to be thick-headed but neither google nor Wiki offer any useful hints).

Great post, bob.

"The racism and tribalism and hatred of cosmopolitanism that goes back at least as far back as the Irish...."

For those who don't like teh books and reading, I might recommend Gangs of New York as (although blurring a lot of history over a few decades together, and throwing in a few things that never happened) gives a fair sense of Nativist attitudes during the early and middle 19th century. Although I liked the movie a lot more than many critics and moviegoers, to be sure (not one of my favorite Scorseses, but he's done worse, and, hey, Scorsese's worst is better than most, in my book).

unless, of course, you just meant "powers that be."

"PTB?"

Powers That Be.

I have a strange and terrible urge to reread Strunk & White.

Thanks for the effort Gary. My 12:57 was just a guess. As to S & W: I find a quadrennial (or so) revisit to "The Elements of Style" deeply refreshing.

xanax, I find googling "abc acronym" usually works directly, and if not there are scads of acronym finder sites.

"The racism and tribalism and hatred of cosmopolitanism that goes back at least as far back as [immigrations of?] the Irish...."

"I have a strange and terrible urge to reread Strunk & White."

I know what you mean. The comment took it least a half-hour, and yet needed editing and proof-reading so it contained like, actual sentences. Much of what I do is intentional, intuitive, and perhaps self-indulgent and sloppy.

"The racism, tribalism, and hatred..."
"The racism and tribalism and hatred..."

I don't know why I preferred the second, but it wasn't because of ignorance. To me, comma separated lists feel kinda columnar. Commas break connections as much as create them.

But I have been called "pre-literate" by the best. I blame Whitman and Joyce. Pretentious excuses are the best.

The administration is doing the best it can to address the country's anxiety. An electoral majority clearly feels that there is an existential threat, and the president's public relations team has been notably successful at coupling its targets of choice with the national angst.

Fear of communism hasn't entirely disappeared, and its variant victims can be still be glimpsed in the dark corners of the paranoid right, railing against the liberal appeasers of the Islamic foe and the threat of our ultimate subjugation. They are in thrall to the thrill of victimization.

I've never understood why those who most ardently asserted the superiority of capitalism had so little confidence in their beliefs that they were frightened by communism, and I'm flabbergasted that any reasonably sane Westerner would consider Islamic fundamentalists a threat to civilization.

It's encouraging that recent polls show a decline in the public's addiction to fear.

I don't care how much of a party animal GWB was; he was 16 at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis- I was 8 and Canadian to boot, and I still remember my parents being white-faced with fear( not that I understood it except that I could play post-Apocalypse Mutant games with my friends).

There are two conditions for the "existential threat":the weapons, and the willingness to use them. When I say the media and the PTB hyped the Cuban Missile Crisis, I am I guess both corrct and incorrect. On the one hand, we might have handled the Crisis more calmly, slowly incrementally: the biggest threat was the lead time problem of having warheads so close, which the Soviets achieved by other means soon enough.

But the PTB were the Kennedys and LeMay and the Kremlin. Something about having your finger on the button leads Presidents to wonder if they have what it takes to push it.
A certain kind of machismo madness seems to go with the job, and let's be honest, part of what scared Americans in the cold war was that we weren't sure that Kennedy or Johnson or Reagan really wouldn't do it.

So to this day I can't tell you that there was a real rational existential threat to the US from nuclear war. We simply don't know; it wasn't tested. Thank God.

I've seen the same kind of revisionism involving our vital need for an anti-missile defense: George Will argued several years back (before the invasion was a topic for discussion) that if Saddam had even three or four missiles, the west would be forced to bow before him unless we had a protective shield!
That this undermined the rationale of Mutually Assured Destruction that conservatives invoked throughout the Cold War (why did we need all our missiles if three would have done it?) didn't seem to bother Will.

When I first read hilzoy's post, the thoughts going thru my mind had this general order -

Cool beans, she'g got it right again;

Yes, Glenn G has the right stuff;

Bush is an idiot;

WAIT A SEC! - the cold war was an existential threat, but to compare extra-national religion based terrorism to the cold war misses the point. MAD won't work when the enemy is already dispossessed and powerless in the conventional sense. So in one limited respect the Bush administration got it right - it does and will take a whole new approach to "war" to bring a favorable resolution to this threat - existential or not.

Where Bush et al got it wrong was to take the approach that even though the threat is totally asymmetrical - OBL has no standing army, no capital city, no airlines - we would combat the threat posed by political jihad in the same fashion we fought WWII- masses of men and armor supported from the air, with extra-legal remedies as answer to the asymmetry. By definition, that solution can only work with "nations" such as Iraq. Even in Afghanistan it has proved ineffective, at least if you consider the continued existence of OBL. Clearly, our methods are not existential threats to him, or to AQ.

Not that we have been effective or successful in Iraq, either.

I don't think it does any of us good to conflate terrorism with the cold war. I'm just sayin'.

Except, of course, for the cynical use of the threat to consolidate political power. That IS the same.

Jake

Just savor this bit: "when I was going to college, I never dreamed that the United States of America could be attacked."
That just can't be true.

It is and it isn’t. It was always in the back of your mind that it could happen, but to get through the day, to carry on with your life, you had to convince yourself that it would not happen. It wasn’t even an intentional thing; it was more of an unconscious thing (for most people). Otherwise, why get up in the morning? Why go to work? Why buy a house and raise a family if it was just all going to be incinerated?

So I can honestly say: when I was going to college, I never dreamed that the United States of America could be attacked. When I was stationed in Germany and the Pershing II missiles were deployed, I never dreamed that the United States of America could be attacked. When I visited Fulda, and considered the Fulda Gap, the most likely terrain for Warsaw Pact tanks to pour into the west, I never dreamed that the United States of America could be attacked. Even as a soldier, in the FRG during the peak of the greatest tensions between east and west since the Cuban Missile Crisis – I never actually believed it would happen. Of course he is not discounting the cold war. I understand perfectly what that statement means.

Since the collapse of the USSR, we are, once again, in the fortunate position of having no external enemies capable of destroying us as a nation.

I’ll accept that if we say “no current external enemies”. China could become an enemy overnight. They are clearly building up their military and them making a move on Taiwan could quickly escalate into world war.

That's why I always found our focus on Iraq, and our virtually complete failure to address the problems of North Korea's nuclear program and of Russian loose nukes, incomprehensible after 9/11. They are a much more serious problem than Saddam Hussein ever was. And yet our government chose to ignore them.

I’m going to have to call that at least slightly revisionist. In June 2002 we promised 10 billion and got the G8 to pledge another 10 billion to help secure Russia’s nuclear stocks over 10 years.

The Bratislava Summit was less than a year ago.

Has enough been done? No way. But it’s not fair to say “our government chose to ignore them”.

“virtually complete failure to address the problems of North Korea's nuclear program”

I’d like to know what you believe should have been done that was not. We have relied on the multilateral approach, involving the international community. Should we have gone the unilateral cowboy approach? Personally I think we need a MAD2 policy. Inform NK that if a nuclear terrorist attack is traced back to them they are toast. Make it clear that they will be held accountable if the nuclear material is of NK origin – no matter who is actually responsible for transporting the weapon and setting it off.

But who is talking about giving up the Bill of Rights? That is the kind of extreme rhetoric that causes me to tune you out and not seriously consider the rest of your arguments – even if they are good. What essential liberties have you given up? What liberties or rights are you concerned with losing tomorrow? I assume you are referring to the NSA program. Even there I have not lost anything. When I called the states from Europe I always assumed that there were at least 2 governments listening in. When I received a call stateside from a friend in Europe I assumed there were 2 governments listening in. I would think our government was incredibly irresponsible if that were not the case.

"I know what you mean. The comment took it least a half-hour, and yet needed editing and proof-reading so it contained like, actual sentences."

I hate to say it another time, Bob, but my Strunk & White comment had nothing to do with anything you wrote. Further than that, deponent sayth not.

"Fear of communism hasn't entirely disappeared, and its variant victims can be still be glimpsed in the dark corners of the paranoid right, railing against the liberal appeasers of the Islamic foe and the threat of our ultimate subjugation."

I have no idea if Bad Jim, or anyone else here, saw this post or not.

Bob: "There are two conditions for the "existential threat":the weapons, and the willingness to use them."

Sure, and to most of the rest of this comment of yours. Only one quibble: "So to this day I can't tell you that there was a real rational existential threat to the US from nuclear war. We simply don't know; it wasn't tested."

This I don't entirely agree with. The records we now have from the opening of the Soviet archives, and the testimony of many of the Soviet participants, as revealed at the look-back conferences and in tons of published research, clearly show Castro demanding that Krushchev launch his missiles at the U.S., knowing full well Cuba would also be annihlated. Similarly, the documentation from both U.S. and the former Soviet Union clearly show how close we came to a mutual exchange. I consider this a more than sufficiently proven test that the threat was entirely real, though YMMV.

"That this undermined the rationale of Mutually Assured Destruction that conservatives invoked throughout the Cold War (why did we need all our missiles if three would have done it?) didn't seem to bother Will."

Well, that's because a) MAD wasn't a specifically "conservative" policy unless you consider JFK and LBJ to be conservatives; and b) the rationale for more than 3 weapons was to be able to have sufficient force to retaliate after, and thus deter, a first-strike option by the other side.

Now, one can certainly make an extremely good case that the almost unbelievably large number of nuclear weapons the U.S. both constructed and kept in service by the time the first SALT talks began was entirely unnecessary to preserve that deterrence. One can, I think, make a good case for a "minimal deterrent" -- I would most highly recommend Freeman Dyson's Weapons And Hope, which came out in 1984, to make that case -- but to suggest that only 3 nuclear-tipped ICBM's would do the job suggest some possible unfamiliarity with the field of deterrence theory and the history of the debate over MAD, minimal deterrence, counterforce, and so on.

Of course, deterrence theory only holds if you believe your opponent is sufficiently rational. (Digressively, Saddam Hussein was as far, or even farther, from being able to construct ICBMs, as opposed to short-range missiles, or even IRBMs, as he was from constructing nuclear weapons, and that was far more absolutely and indisputably clear in 2003, but, as I said, a digression.)

OCSteve: "But who is talking about giving up the Bill of Rights? That is the kind of extreme rhetoric that causes me to tune you out and not seriously consider the rest of your arguments – even if they are good. What essential liberties have you given up? What liberties or rights are you concerned with losing tomorrow?"

I wasn't, actually, thinking only of the NSA program. This administration has asserted the right to detain American citizens on American soil without charges, without a trial, without any "process", let alone due process. It has also asserted the right to use all the 'incidents of war' on American soil, against American citizens. In both cases, the justification is the 'war on terror.'

"I’ll accept that if we say “no current external enemies”. China could become an enemy overnight."

Stipulating to something like that, that still wouldn't put China in a position of being able to "destroy[ing] us as a nation."

China is estimated to have approximately 24 DF-5s, with an estimated range of approximately 13,000 km (they also take over two hours to be fueled, which can only take place when wheeled out into the open, thus giving some likely clear warning time if we're paying attention, and they haven't constructed some sort of unknown inpenetrable camouflage).

If they were all launched at the U.S., Chinese leaders not caring about a potential rain of thousands of nuclear missiles coming down all over China in response, this would be the greatest devastation ever to strike the United States, but it would a) be limited to the West Coast, and b) certainly not "destroy the nation" in a way at all comparable to a full-on Russian strike with hundreds or thousands of nuclear warheads.

Naturally, the Chinese could and might increase their ICBM threat in years to come, of course. But it wouldn't seem to be particularly strategically useful for them to spend the money that way. Vastly cheaper and more sensible to increase their amphibious and missile capability against Taiwan. This could be quite bad for Taiwan (already entirely dependent upon the U.S. for deterrence, anyway), but not posing any sort of direct threat to the U.S. any more than Saddam Hussein did.

"I’d like to know what you believe should have been done that was not."

Arguably, being willing to live with bribing NK more than have been willing under President G. W. Bush. Certainly there are fair arguments against that. Certainly NK is a hard nut to deal with, with no easy answers. But that's one possible short-hand summary of a possible response.

"But who is talking about giving up the Bill of Rights?"

When the administration and professionals working in political appointments (such as General Hayden) declare that there's no need whatever for courts to grant warrants, as per the 4th Amendment, and FISA, and that the president's war-fighting powers make his authority as a "unitary executive" essentially extensive to sole authority over anything he considers to come under the heading of said war-fighting powers, and that neither courts nor Congress can restrain said powers, I think that it's not unfair to suggest that this brings not just the Bill of Rights, but other chunks, particularly Article I, Section 8.

"What essential liberties have you given up?"

At the moment, the 4th Amendment right to be secure in my person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, that this right shall not be violated, and that no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

There hasn't been an amendment adding "unless the president needs to fight terrorists," is there?

OCSteve,
China could become an enemy overnight. They are clearly building up their military and them making a move on Taiwan could quickly escalate into world war.

I don't mean to jump on you, but we need to be careful and clearheaded when we assess the threat of China. This article discusses the actual state of China's nuclear arsenal.

Past predictions about China's nuclear arsenal have proven highly inaccurate and exaggerated. For example, in the 1960s, U.S. Pacific Command estimated that China could have 435 nuclear weapons by 1973--that's three times as many as China actually had. In 1984, the DIA set "the best estimate" for the projected number of Chinese nuclear warheads at 592 in 1989 and 818 in 1994--approximately 50 and 100 percent above actual force levels for those years. [19]

The fact is that China's stockpile plateaued at approximately 400 warheads in the early 1980s.

These errors should be remembered when considering the latest predictions. Although it is possible that the number of warheads targeted primarily against the United States could increase "several-fold" between now and 2015, the overall size of the total Chinese stockpile will probably remain about where it is today.

You might argue that just because China's nuclear arsenal is not increasing doesn't mean that its conventional arsenal is not growing. (if you type into google China+military+buildup, you get a huge number of doom predicting articles) One of the prime examples of the genre is the Kaplan atlantic article. Fortunately or unfortunately, that has been ridiculed pretty throughly (here is the post by hilzoy linking to the take down by Barnett)

Invoking China is precisely the sort of thing that makes it difficult to give any credence to the idea of existential threats.

OCSteve: Your statements that you never dreamed the US would be attacked, even as you saw the Cold War preparations for same, strike me as odd, in view of the rhetoric that justified all those preparations.

Are you implying that it was all a kind of wink-wink nod-nod, a sort of game the US and USSR played just to keep their respective populations just-scared-enough to continue supporting their leaderships' insatiable appetite for military expenditures?

Or are you implying that, worst-case scenarios aside, the Cold War was premised on the basic understanding that both sides' leaderships were basically sane enough to never actually unleash MAD?

Because, see, both of those positions were held by a lot of liberals and Democrats - who were subject to attack by conservatives for holding them. So it's a bit odd to see someone who I assume (perhaps erroneously) to be a Bush supporter espousing what were liberal positions now that it's politically advantageous to do so.

I know someone who was also in the military in the early 80's, who was stationed in Germany for most of his hitch, and he was certainly not as sanguine as you claim to be. There were a few occasions when he thought for sure "the balloon was about to go up," when most of his base thought the same thing. They surely didn't see themselves as participating in a fake freak show.

You're quite right that fears of nuclear destruction were more background than forefront - but that was after 20+ years of living under the threat, and had more to do (as you point out) with the necessity of getting on with daily life than it did with thinking "it'll never happen." Thinking it could indeed happen, and fearing it might happen at a specific point in time, was very real, and not limited to paranoids.

Perhaps you've forgotten the Cuban Missile Crisis? Or the revival of Civil Defense mania during the Reagan Administration?

Permit me to remind you of something T.K. Jones, a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, said: that Americans would survive atomic war with the Soviets "if there are enough shovels to go around." Jones was (in)famous for suggesting that once the missiles started flying one could dig a hole with a shovel; cover the trench with a door; pile dirt upon the makeshift bunker; and then wait in the hovel until the nuclear blasts subsided.

Are you too young to remember any of this?

Or are you happy to dismiss it all now that the USSR is no more; to, as we've been saying, retroactively say "Never mind all that! We were just foolin' with you then! But I swear we're telling the truth now when we say be afraid, be very afraid, and let the Bush Administration do whatever it wants to keep us safe!!"

Because that won't fly, son. That talking point just won't fly at all.

CaseyL: Did you actually read what OCSteve wrote? 'cause, um, he addressed most of those points in his first two or three paragraphs.

"The fact is that China's stockpile plateaued at approximately 400 warheads in the early 1980s."

This is one heck of a lot less relevant to "destroying the United States" than is the question of what's deliverable where. Even the estimate of 24 DF-5s, capable only of reaching the West Coast (and Hawaii and Alaska) is a high-end, worst-case, estimate. It might be as few as 8.

I think the odds of the Chinese being able to smuggle in as many as 8 more undetected is not a major threat. Meanwhile, if they set off all their other nuclear warheads anywhere else, how this might directly threaten the U.S., I'm unclear.

Needless to say, the article you cite points all this out. So what's the relevance of the "400 warheads" figure?

CaseyL: "Are you too young to remember any of this?"

Since OCSteve refers to "When I was stationed in Germany and the Pershing II missiles were deployed," obviously not.

"Or are you happy to dismiss it all now that...."

Possibly getting a bit far afield into speculative mind-reading there. Possibly not. But it does, on the basis of the single comment thus far from OCSteve, seem to be quite a bit of speculation, to the point where one might possibly fairly take it slightly amiss were one on the receiving end, perhaps. It generally doesn't hurt to wait for someone to actually say what they think, rather then to get too far afield with the speculation and pre-emptive rebuttal; if they've consistently indicated a particular view over dozens of comments, that would be different.

I think OCSteve is right that by the early 1980s, most of us didn't expect that the Russians were actually going to attack. (In conrast to the early 60s). Thing is, it isn't because we had oceans. It's because we had discovered engagement -- from JFK's climbdown from the CMC through Nixon's detente and treaties to Carter's treaties. MAD plus diplomacy. It worked.

(Plenty of us thought that Pres. Reagan's stupid swaggering, while appealing to the base, increased our risk, by possibly scaring the Russians into thinking they had nothing to lose. He gave it up nearly entirely, though, by the early years of the second term, and the moment passed).

What I find most insidious about the President's formulation isn't the stupidity -- it was never the case that the "oceans" protected us, it is that we worked to incent people not to attack, that is, they could attack but didn't want to -- but the open ended nature of the thing. There will never come a day when 5 guys drifting around various trailer parks reading the Turner Diaries can't have a genuine shot at blowing up the Capitol. Or the Mall of America. Never. Similarly, there will always be one person or another with a grievance against the US -- of varying moral legitimacy. The bar of the threat is set so low, that victory isn't possible.

(That's not to say that UBL and Dr. Z can't be apprehended, and thus decrease the visibility of the risk. But the President is right that capturing these two doesn't "end" the "war.").

China is estimated to have approximately 24 DF-5s, with an estimated range of approximately 13,000 km (they also take over two hours to be fueled, which can only take place when wheeled out into the open, thus giving some likely clear warning time if we're paying attention, and they haven't constructed some sort of unknown inpenetrable camouflage).

The same site also says:

As of early 1999 the total deployed DF-5 force was generally estimated at about 20 missiles. By mid-2000 some sources suggested that the total force was as many as 24 deployed missiles

Deployed meaning in silos. No 2 hour warning.

They also increased the range:

As of mid-2002 China was replacing the CSS-4 Mod 1 ICBMs with longer range CSS-4 Mod 2s. The replacement of all the approximately 20 CSS-4 Mod 1s was expected to be completed by mid-decade.

All of CONUS is now reachable.


don't mean to jump on you, but we need to be careful and clearheaded when we assess the threat of China.

Agreed. But I take even 400 warheads as a serious threat.

The largest open question seems to be the state of their MIRV development:

Based on the DF-5A throwweight and warhead shroud the missile could be equipped with a six reentry vehicles with each RV weighing 600 kgs (the size of the single warhead on the DF-21). The DF-5A second stage apparently has four vernier engines which reportedly fire for 190 seconds after the main missile engine cuts off. Thus the DF-5A could direct a warhead bus over a fairly large arc covering an array of aim points. But the exact status of this program cannot be confirmed based on open sources

Worst case is that they can put 144 warheads on target, with all of CONUS reachable. I don’t see how that can not be considered an existential threat.


Arguably, being willing to live with bribing NK more than have been willing under President G. W. Bush.

No objection to that. I’d take it even further and try to purchase all completed weapons and weapons grade material. Purchase, bribe, whatever it is called. Ideally I’d like to see it tied to helping the NK people in some way – but whatever works.

When the administration and professionals working in political appointments (such as General Hayden) declare that there's no need whatever for courts to grant warrants, as per the 4th Amendment, and FISA, and that the president's war-fighting powers make his authority as a "unitary executive" essentially extensive to sole authority over anything he considers to come under the heading of said war-fighting powers, and that neither courts nor Congress can restrain said powers, I think that it's not unfair to suggest that this brings not just the Bill of Rights, but other chunks, particularly Article I, Section 8.

Of course Congress can constrain the president and his powers. Ultimately, they still have impeachment power. Even a Republican controlled Congress is not going to go along with a Republic president overextending his Article II powers.

Other than that – well I’ve made it clear that I’m all for the interception of international communications. It has been a part of every war we have ever been involved in.


I wasn't, actually, thinking only of the NSA program. This administration has asserted the right to detain American citizens on American soil without charges, without a trial, without any "process", let alone due process. It has also asserted the right to use all the 'incidents of war' on American soil, against American citizens. In both cases, the justification is the 'war on terror.'

I don’t have any concerns over Padilla. The AUMF provides the authority, and his case got plenty of court review. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said no, you can’t hold him in that status. The Supremes looked at it then threw it out on a technicality. SC district judge said charge him or release him. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district judge and ruled that the AUMF does in fact provide the authority.

So you may not like the process – but you can’t make it sound like he was ‘disappeared’ or something. You would like my process even less.

Appellee Jose Padilla, a United States citizen, associated with forces hostile to the United States in Afghanistan and took up arms against United States forces in that country in our war against al Qaeda. Upon his escape to Pakistan from the battlefield in Afghanistan, Padilla was recruited, trained, funded, and equipped by al Qaeda leaders to continue prosecution of the war in the United States by blowing up apartment buildings in this country.

Read this again: “took up arms against United States forces in that country in our war against al Qaeda.” This man, as well as John Walker Lindh should have had a speedy military trial followed by execution. The fact that he is now in the civilian court system is the affront here.

I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking about the parallels here with Guy Fawkes and the Spanish Armada.

OCSteve, the facts you quote from the decision about Padilla's activities was assumed to be true for purposes of argument. The next step, if the Supreme Court does not review and overturn the Fourth Circuit's ruling, would be an evidentiary hearing to determine whether or not this is true. The government resisted this strenuously, but lost the point in Hamdi. What the government wanted to do -- and will continue to take shots at getting to do with others as they come along, as the composition of the Supreme Court changes, was exactly that: disappear him.

Well, the factual review would have been the next step, except that the government realized that it couldn't prove this part of its case, and so dropped this, and charged him with some way earlier stuff.

Even a Republican controlled Congress is not going to go along with a Republic president overextending his Article II powers.

Can you point to even a scintilla of evidence for this?

Can you point to even a scintilla of evidence for this?

My only evidence is that to assume otherwise means believing that our country could actually move from republic to tyranny in the space of one man’s term. It means believing that if Bush truly did assume some outrageous new powers (outrageous to most Americans, not the minority who have serious issues with the NSA program etc.) that Democrats could not find enough equally outraged Republicans to bring impeachment proceedings. In short, it takes us straight to the fever swamps…

Disagree with the man and his policies – it’s the nature of our system. But if you truly believe his intent is to turn the country into a dictatorship of some kind – then we just don’t have enough common ground for a discussion.

Agreed. But I take even 400 warheads as a serious threat.

China has 400 nuclear warheads doesn't translate to China has 400 nuclear warheads that they can deliver to CONUS. Just to be clear. As best I can tell, China has a couple of dozen unitary warheads they can deliver across fairly long ranges, plus another couple of dozen they can deliver provided they can get a submarine that close. The rest of their inventory is, possibly, mounted on tactical A-S and S-S missiles. And, just to be clear, the elimination of the two-hour warning doesn't translate to elimination of a two-hour wait prior to launch.

Of course that's according to globalsecurity, which is practically a Xerox copy of fas.org. Still, there's some evidence that points to that many of these can be accounted for in the DF-3A and DF-11 inventories.

OCSteve: It means believing that if Bush truly did assume some outrageous new powers .... that Democrats could not find enough equally outraged Republicans to bring impeachment proceedings.

Given the powers Bush has assumed without sufficiently outraging Republicans enough to risk speaking up against the will of Karl Rove, I somehow doubt that Bush will be impeached until after Rove is indicted.

OCSteve, need I remind you of George W. Bush's repeated "joke" about how things would be easier if he were dictator?

Sure, by itself this is the stuff of tinfoil hats, but there are plenty of other indications. And, it's not just one man (George W. Bush), nor could it be. Others have pointed out above that the real danger is not al-Qaeda, it is ourselves. Can you seriously say that you don't see a disturbing trend?

As to what liberties we've given up, have you been on a commercial airline flight lately? To me, the most galling part is that it is a pretense of security, not the real thing. I think we will stop before we reach a police state, but the current path leads there.

None of this terrorism stuff matters a damn compared to how much global warming is going to upset our applecarts.

Given the powers Bush has assumed without sufficiently outraging Republicans enough to risk speaking up against the will of Karl Rove, I somehow doubt that Bush will be impeached until after Rove is indicted.

For about a month after the NSA story broke, the “I” word was bandied about. I think Democrats would be really pushing for impeachment proceedings right now – but it didn’t poll well. Once polls showed a clear majority of Americans were OK with it the “I” word went back on the shelf and we pretty much stopped hearing that “Bush broke the law”.

Now if ¾ of the public polled had been outraged at the program, every Dem and some (enough) Republicans would be talking seriously about impeachment.

Shorter version I guess – I still have faith in the system. Our country has been through much worse than this and come through intact.

I understand if my faith doesn’t make you sleep more soundly at night. :)

"Deployed meaning in silos. No 2 hour warning."

Fair enough.

"All of CONUS is now reachable."

Fair enough.

"Agreed. But I take even 400 warheads as a serious threat."

I think the relative lack of deliverability rather obviates that for the time being. As I indicated, what's it matter how many warheads they have in storage lockers, or on bombers?

Could this change in ten years? Sure. Of course, then we get into the question of how useful or not the $ invested in ballastic defense will be by then. Would you suggest that we won't be able to shoot down a few dozen missiles by then? If so, perhaps you and Slartibartfast might dicuss this. :-)

"Worst case is that they can put 144 warheads on target, with all of CONUS reachable."

Given that worst-case scenarios of nuclear threats have never once proven in the past to be remotely correct, or even remotely close to the actual later-we-discover-the-true-facts threat, I am, myself, not overly concerned with worst-possible-imaginable scenarios. JFK's "missile gap," was quite non-existent, and later such estimates always also proved wrong. Naturally, you are free to dread such worst-cases yourself.

"I don’t see how that can not be considered an existential threat."

Moreover, why would it be any more of an existential threat than the vastly, orders-of-magnitude, larger threat of Russian missiles today? Do we deem the leaders of China to be interested in having thousands of American nuclear missiles striking China in retaliation for their attack? Do we consider them and their successors more irrational in this than Putin and his successors? Should we also worry about the French force de frappe? (I've always wondered how threatening anyone should find a milk shake, anyway, but I digress.)

"Other than that – well I’ve made it clear that I’m all for the interception of international communications."

Bob McManus here will argue with that, but I don't recall seeing any others here who would, nor hearing of any significant Democratic Senators or Representatives who would.

Re Padilla: "The fact that he is now in the civilian court system is the affront here."

So you feel that the Bush Administration didn't do a good job of protecting us with that decision?

How do you feel about the fact that only a small percentage of the prisoners at Guantanamo, or rendered elsewhere, are known to be guilty of engaging in hostile acts towards the U.S.?

And assuming you're fine with it, what makes you sure that, say, your sister/mother/brother/niece might not wind up in similar circumstances, given your lack of, under Bush Administration rules, ability to legally pursue any objection to any possible mistake? Would you trust, say, President Hillary Clinton, or President Al Gore, or President Noam Chomsky, or President Cindy S., with such powers? (Myself, the answer to each is "no.")

OCSteve: Our country has been through much worse than this and come through intact.

What "much worse than this" are you thinking about?

"My only evidence is that to assume otherwise means believing [...] [i]n short, it takes us straight to the fever swamps…"

Certainly you can't be made to believe something you wish not to believe, and I prefer to avoid inflammatory and undefined terms such as "tyranny," but would you grant that the only rebuttal you are presenting in this comment is a form of I-don't-believe-it-because-I-don't-want-to-believe-it,"a and grant that this is unlikely to be persuasive or convincing to those who would also strongly prefer to not believe it, but nonetheless have greater concerns than you appear to?

"But if you truly believe his intent is to turn the country into a dictatorship of some kind...."

Personally, I have no belief that the man sits around rubbing his hands, a la Dr. Evil, cackling and thinking "bwahahahaha, at last, the dictatorship shall be mine!"

I certainly believe that, like most people, the President largely believes that everything he does is for right and just cause, and in the interests of the country and in other good interests.

Nonetheless, I'm thinking you might possibly agree that good intentions don't necessarily command good outcomes, and that good intentions don't serve to demonstrate that we should approve of all decisions made with good intentions. Am I guessing wrongly on this?

Slart: "China has 400 nuclear warheads doesn't translate to China has 400 nuclear warheads that they can deliver to CONUS. Just to be clear. As best I can tell, China has a couple of dozen unitary warheads they can deliver across fairly long ranges, plus another couple of dozen they can deliver provided they can get a submarine that close."

This sounds strangely familiar.

"Of course that's according to globalsecurity, which is practically a Xerox copy of fas.org."

Not in the past year or two, over the site, it isn't; generally, globalsecurity is more up to date, and both sites have diverged considerably, overall, since the time John Pike left fas.org and created globalsecurity.org.

ral: "As to what liberties we've given up, have you been on a commercial airline flight lately?"

I don't consider this, myself, a terribly good example of a right or liberty surrendered, unless you can point to a Constitutional right to board someone else's private property that I'm unaware of, I'm afraid. If we had a government monopoly on the ownership and operation of airplanes, that would be different. Morever, there's no compulsion involved in choosing to voluntarily get onto an airplane.

Gary, we could discuss that at great length but I will be brief. I can drive across the continental U.S. if I have a mind to but it's quite a bit less convenient. Private property? The airlines are common carriers and the TSA is not administered privately. Security pat-downs, the "no fly" list, etc.

We don't have internal passports yet but try to do a financial transaction without a driver's license or a credit card.

"What "much worse than this" are you thinking about?"

My guess would be that he has things like the Revolutionary War and the Civil War in mind, but I'm just guessing. Of course, Lincoln's unilateral suspension of habeas corpus, and engaging in other contra-Constitutional acts were a) addressed in Section 9 of Article I ("The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."); b) as soon as Congress was convened following that, in special session on July 4, 1861, Lincoln asked for Congressional approval of his actions, which was ratified by the Habeas Corpus Act of March 3, 1863.

Since we're not in a state of rebellion, nor a state of declared war, and since the president has not asked Congress for ratification of his actions, the Civil War precedent does not apply.

"I can drive across the continental U.S. if I have a mind to but it's quite a bit less convenient."

Indeed, but there's no constitutional right to convenicence, either.

"The airlines are common carriers and the TSA is not administered privately."

And submitting to them remains a voluntary choice. I've not been so searched in four years, and no one has compelled me to volunteer to be so searched. No one not under arrest is compelled to get on an airplane, so far as I'm aware.

"We don't have internal passports yet but try to do a financial transaction without a driver's license or a credit card."

I've spent many years without a driver's license or a credit card. In point of fact, I've never once had either in my entire life. But I'll write you a check on my bank account, in return for the same amount put into my PayPal account, if you'd like.

Given that worst-case scenarios of nuclear threats have never once proven in the past to be remotely correct, or even remotely close to the actual later-we-discover-the-true-facts threat, I am, myself, not overly concerned with worst-possible-imaginable scenarios. JFK's "missile gap," was quite non-existent, and later such estimates always also proved wrong. Naturally, you are free to dread such worst-cases yourself.

I agree with you here. I do believe that the worst case is far from the likely case. Liquid fueled ICBMs are notoriously finicky. The fuel is incredibly corrosive. Chances are that they would have a high failure rate if they attempted to fire them all. They also have not done a lot of testing and their guidance package seems questionable (one test firing seems to have gone 800 miles off target). Finally the MIRV question seems most important. I don’t believe they have it.

So while I say 144 worst case – likely case is probably closer to fewer than 10 warheads hitting their intended target. So no I don’t dread my worst case.


Moreover, why would it be any more of an existential threat than the vastly, orders-of-magnitude, larger threat of Russian missiles today? Do we deem the leaders of China to be interested in having thousands of American nuclear missiles striking China in retaliation for their attack? Do we consider them and their successors more irrational in this than Putin and his successors? Should we also worry about the French force de frappe? (I've always wondered how threatening anyone should find a milk shake, anyway, but I digress.)

No. Again I agree. The concern I think, is a conventional attack on Taiwan, whom we are obliged to defend. A conventional attack that then spins out of control leading to a nuclear exchange. I can see that starting by China resorting to taking out one or more of our carriers using nukes. It doesn’t keep me up at night any more than the Soviets did.


So you feel that the Bush Administration didn't do a good job of protecting us with that decision?

I think they could have done a better job of defining the process for “unlawful combatant”. I think unlawful combatants should get a speedy and fair trial by military tribunal and not have recourse to American civil courts.


How do you feel about the fact that only a small percentage of the prisoners at Guantanamo, or rendered elsewhere, are known to be guilty of engaging in hostile acts towards the U.S.?

I’d like to see the process speeded up – determining who is and is not a bad guy. Freeing those that are just caught up in things. The other side of that coin though is that some we have released have gone right back and killed our troops. So I think we need such facilities, and we need to speed up the process of determining who is really OK to release, but without inadvertently releasing any bad guys.


And assuming you're fine with it, what makes you sure that, say, your sister/mother/brother/niece might not wind up in similar circumstances, given your lack of, under Bush Administration rules, ability to legally pursue any objection to any possible mistake? Would you trust, say, President Hillary Clinton, or President Al Gore, or President Noam Chomsky, or President Cindy S., with such powers? (Myself, the answer to each is "no.")

That one is tougher for me to respond to. I can’t dream up any circumstances where my sister/mother/brother/niece could end up being classified as an enemy combatant. Assuming it happened; they should have a trial by military tribunal as soon as possible. Assuming they were not actually an enemy combatant they would be cleared by that tribunal.

Padilla should have been tried by tribunal. If it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he took up arms against American troops he should have been executed. If not, he should have been jailed on lesser provable charges or released.

So I keep coming back to the military tribunal. I think that is the piece that needs work. Rather than just holding people indefinitely, we need to get them in front of tribunals. Maybe a fast-track initial review process (where my sister/mother/brother/niece would be able to quickly prove it was a mistake) and a full trial as soon as possible.

My only evidence is that to assume otherwise means believing that our country could actually move from republic to tyranny in the space of one man’s term.

Right! Exactly!

but would you grant that the only rebuttal you are presenting in this comment is a form of I-don't-believe-it-because-I-don't-want-to-believe-it,"a and grant that this is unlikely to be persuasive or convincing to those who would also strongly prefer to not believe it, but nonetheless have greater concerns than you appear to?

Certainly. I ended a follow up comment by saying, “I understand if my faith doesn’t make you sleep more soundly at night”. But I would put it more like I-don't-believe-it-because-I-would-have-to-stretch-everything-I-know-about-my-country-to-the-breaking-point.

I also tried to make the point that if a clear majority of Americans were outraged then impeachment would be a very real outcome. I have faith in the system.


Nonetheless, I'm thinking you might possibly agree that good intentions don't necessarily command good outcomes, and that good intentions don't serve to demonstrate that we should approve of all decisions made with good intentions. Am I guessing wrongly on this?

Nope. I can agree with all that.

What "much worse than this" are you thinking about?

Gary had part of it. Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War and internment camps in WWII would be my main two examples.

"So no I don’t dread my worst case."

Okay, so we agree on that.

"No. Again I agree."

Okay. I like agreement. :-)

"The concern I think, is a conventional attack on Taiwan, whom we are obliged to defend."

Not by treaty, last I looked. It's (somewhat erratically, and a bit vaguely) current declared executive policy that we would likely do this under many circumstances, last I looked (and I don't have any problem with that, myself, given that we're not automatically compelled to do so no matter what that Taiwan government does).

"A conventional attack that then spins out of control leading to a nuclear exchange."

Conceivable, but it seems relatively unlikely to me that such a conflict -- which is certainly not an unreasonable thing to worry about, in my opinion -- would tend to go nuclear, for all the usual and obvious reasons. Possible, but I don't lose sleep over it. (The conventional fighting between China and the Taiwan government and the U.S., on the other hand, I don't precisely lose sleep over, but I feel, shall we say, some concern about the potential as regards the mid-term future.)

"I can see that starting by China resorting to taking out one or more of our carriers using nukes."

I think a much higher-probability worry for a few years down the road would be conventional cruise or anti-ship missile strikes, whether land, air, or submarine based, against our carriers and naval forces.

"It doesn’t keep me up at night any more than the Soviets did."

I couldn't literally say that worry about Soviet-American war kept me up many nights, but on the other hand it certainly seemed a considerably, close to vastly, graver threat and possibility than I have any contemporary worry about near or mid-term Chinese-American nuclear war. But this is a statement of personal feeling, and I can't argue that you didn't feel what you say you felt, of course. Such feelings do, however, seem to go rather against the popular Republican wisdom of Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. If such worries weren't legitimate, it's difficult to see why we should have bothered to engage in massive nuclear weapons build-up from JFK through Nixon, and why conservatives should have objected to Kissinger's, Nixon's, and Ford's traitorous SALT talks and treaties, and why Republicans should have failed to vote for and pass Carter's attempted treaty, and why conservative Republicans should have objected to Reagan's START talks, and why the Committee On The Present Danger was formed and was so worried, and why Reagan should have invested in SDI. I assume this wasn't all just for kicks and grins.

"I think unlawful combatants should get a speedy and fair trial by military tribunal and not have recourse to American civil courts."

But who defines who is an unlawful combatant, and have such decisions been made in accordance with the relevant Geneva Convention treaty?

"I’d like to see the process speeded up – determining who is and is not a bad guy. Freeing those that are just caught up in things."

That's at least something we can agree upon.

"The other side of that coin though is that some we have released have gone right back and killed our troops."

I don't think anyone is, or has, or would, argue that no one imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay is a genuine threat. Certainly I don't make any such argument. However, the DoD's own documents and statements state that they have innocent people who have been there for years; the Uighurs, for instance, whom we continue to hold simply because China won't take them back, and because, hey, well, I guess that closes the subject, insofar as any further action has yet taken place by the U.S. government. This seems to me, and to many, I believe the technical term is "unjust."

"...but without inadvertently releasing any bad guys."

I'm fairly sure one would be hard put to find, say, any significant Democratic politicians, or all that many liberal American-types who favor inadvertently releasing any bad guys. I can safely say that I do not call for that. (Where differences of opinion are apt to arise are in what's the precise definition of a "bad guy," and what a sufficient level of proof is, and who should be the authority ruling on these questions.)

"I can’t dream up any circumstances where my sister/mother/brother/niece could end up being classified as an enemy combatant."

Given that we've rendered and imprisoned and killed people whom the U.S. government has subsequently admitted were perfectly innocent, and were merely cases of mistaken identity, the wrong or same name, the wrong picture, and so on (does the name "Dilawar" mean anything to you?), you might want to consider this further, and also consider that given such cases as the aforementioned John Walker Lindh, and wossname the Australian, that ethnic appearance and background are demonstrably of no protective use (let alone let us open the question of why they should be in any just system).

If we have no open mechanism for investigating mistakes, for correcting mistakes, for checks and balances, for the rights our Constitution has hitherto at least theoretically granted us, then such mistakes simply could happen to anyone. That's pretty much the entire point of the whole "Bill of Rights" concept. If we simply knew that everyone charged with being guilty was guilty, we certainly wouldn't have any need for the whole elaborate and imperfect rigamarole of "rights" and the idea that it's wrong to lock up innocent people for long until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the idea that everyone is entitled to a "speedy trial" and justice neither delayed nor deferred.

And then we go back to the question of whether present circumstances and the terrorist threat -- and I certainly agree that there is such a threat -- are, in fact, remotely as serious as was the threat during WWII, or in 1864, or during the Cold War. The difference between "a serious threat" and "a threat far greater than those previous, requiring changing our basic approach to freedom and justice" is very large, indeed.

"Rather than just holding people indefinitely, we need to get them in front of tribunals. Maybe a fast-track initial review process (where my sister/mother/brother/niece would be able to quickly prove it was a mistake) and a full trial as soon as possible."

It's a start, at least. But meanwhile the Administration has been using every power and theory at its command for the past four-plus years to prevent any such thing. Some of us find something valid to object to about that (some with various degrees of emphasis and belief, others with different degrees of emphasis and belief, just as, say, not all people who defend most things the administration has done in the name of anti-terrorism sign up for everything, say, Ann Coulter has to say).

"I also tried to make the point that if a clear majority of Americans were outraged then impeachment would be a very real outcome."

But following the law shouldn't be a matter of popular will, should it? If what the polls show is the test, clearly there were no grounds for the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton, to use but one example. (Practically speaking, Congress is apt to follow popular will, to be sure; but the courts aren't supposed to, and if they don't, that's not supposed to be a problem under our theory of government.)

"Nope. I can agree with all that."

Well, this is much too rational a discussion. We really should call each other some names, or something. Poopyhead.

"Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War and internment camps in WWII would be my main two examples."

I already pointed out the crucial differences between what President Lincoln did and what President G. W. Bush has done. On the internment camps, outside of Michelle Malkin and her enthusiasts, not many tend to today regard Korematsu as a precedent we wish to consider valid. Do you have an opinion on that question? Are you citing Korematsu as a correct policy that you would defend?

I already pointed out the crucial differences between what President Lincoln did and what President G. W. Bush has done. On the internment camps, outside of Michelle Malkin and her enthusiasts, not many tend to today regard Korematsu as a precedent we wish to consider valid. Do you have an opinion on that question? Are you citing Korematsu as a correct policy that you would defend?

Not at all. My point got lost somewhere in the shuffle. I was never implying that those cases lent any legitimacy to current actions. Originally:

Shorter version I guess – I still have faith in the system. Our country has been through much worse than this and come through intact.

My point would be that past president’s have committed (to me) much more egregious acts in times of war – and it was not the end of the republic. Corrections (and reparations) were made. The system and the country survived. History will decide whether Bush is right or wrong – but I don’t see it as the slippery slope leading to the end of the republic in the meantime.


I couldn't literally say that worry about Soviet-American war kept me up many nights, but on the other hand it certainly seemed a considerably, close to vastly, graver threat and possibility than I have any contemporary worry about near or mid-term Chinese-American nuclear war. But this is a statement of personal feeling, and I can't argue that you didn't feel what you say you felt, of course. Such feelings do, however, seem to go rather against the popular Republican wisdom of Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. If such worries weren't legitimate, it's difficult to see why we should have bothered to engage in massive nuclear weapons build-up from JFK through Nixon, and why conservatives should have objected to Kissinger's, Nixon's, and Ford's traitorous SALT talks and treaties, and why Republicans should have failed to vote for and pass Carter's attempted treaty, and why conservative Republicans should have objected to Reagan's START talks, and why the Committee On The Present Danger was formed and was so worried, and why Reagan should have invested in SDI. I assume this wasn't all just for kicks and grins.

Got to go back to my first post on this thread. I was mostly saying it was the most serious threat we ever faced, but you kind of put it out of your mind and went on with life.


But who defines who is an unlawful combatant, and have such decisions been made in accordance with the relevant Geneva Convention treaty?

This is where it gets dicey. I don’t believe the Geneva Convention defines “unlawful combatant” at all. It defines “lawful combatant”, who must be treated according to the conventions. It really does not provide a good framework at all for this situation. It does however provide that soldiers caught out of uniform, not carrying arms openly, etc. are to be treated as POWs until they face a competent tribunal. Back to that again…


I'm fairly sure one would be hard put to find, say, any significant Democratic politicians, or all that many liberal American-types who favor inadvertently releasing any bad guys. I can safely say that I do not call for that. (Where differences of opinion are apt to arise are in what's the precise definition of a "bad guy," and what a sufficient level of proof is, and who should be the authority ruling on these questions.)

Agreed. But it does complicate things – no? Do you err on the side of caution (keep them locked up until you can be sure) or release them soonest if you don’t have solid proof of their involvement? Keep in mind the terrorist you release may plant the next IED or much much worse.


Well, this is much too rational a discussion. We really should call each other some names, or something. Poopyhead.

Back at ya :) Dinnertime. Thanks for the civil discussion.

Sorry, timezone and all that. Gary asked:

Needless to say, the article you cite points all this out. So what's the relevance of the "400 warheads" figure?

That was in the article and I didn't want to be accused of eliding some point that would make my argument weaker, which I only think is fair.

Given that the discussion has moved away from China, I'll bow out except to note that the worst case of China invading Taiwan is, to me, along the lines of War of the Worlds that I think we have a lot of other more serious threats (like the next hurrican season) to deal with.

I would also note that it has been a while since we had any newbie conservatives (I am assuming that OC stands for Orange County), so rather than playing whack-a-mole with the arguments, to slow down a bit. just my 2 yen.

"...but without inadvertently releasing any bad guys."

I'm fairly sure one would be hard put to find, say, any significant Democratic politicians, or all that many liberal American-types who favor inadvertently releasing any bad guys.

I favor it. Say you have 10 detainees, two of whom are guilty and only one of whom is provably guilty. A review policy that results in only the one provably guilty guy being executed also results in the one guilty-but-not-provably-so guy being inadvertantly released.

How many of the 8 innocents must be sacrificed to ensure the 1 unprovably guilty isn't released? It wouldn't be hard to see variations of this as unacceptable systems. Not finding that system acceptable, and thus not allowing it, does leave open exactly the possibility you discuss.

I'll not make the moral case. I'll just state that I find it counter to our amoral national interest to support a system that would kill several of those innocents to (we hope, and without guarantees) ensure that the guilty one for whom we had sketchy or no proof doesn't go free.

Now, I think that your statement is entirely accurate as it pertains to advertant (intentional) release. I hope that it is either inaccurate as it applies to inadvertant release, or that I am completely wrongheaded in my hypothetical. If we'd only have to kill one innocent and the one unprovably guilty guy, letting 7 of 8 innocent go... well someone could begin making the case that this is within our amoral national interests. I still think that case would have to be made, as the moral case is pretty lopsided and not being able make the amoral case would be, "Worse than a sin... a mistake". Do the math wrt Gitmo detainees, let alone Iraqi detainees. Tell me I'm way out of line.

Unless the public (here or abroad) doesn't know about it now, because certainly they'll never know about it later...

I second Matt: I'd release them.

The thought of keeping innocent people in prison for the rest of their lives - 30 years? 40? 50? - on the off chance that they "might be" terrorists, is so repugnant I have no words.

The knowledge that we are, in fact, doing so - moreover, that we're keeping imprisoned "indefinitely" (read: forever) people who are known to be, not only innocent of any terrorist charges, but not even "caught red-handed on the battlefield" - frankly makes me ill. There's no excuse for that, no justification; it is, simply and purely, an evil thing to do.

"A review policy that results in only the one provably guilty guy being executed also results in the one guilty-but-not-provably-so guy being inadvertantly released."

If they're not provably guilty, they've not been proven to be "bad guys," and you don't favor releasing them. Alternatively, since the course of action you describe above is intentional, the release is advertant. You're finding a distinction and disagreement that isn't present in what I intended to say. You're free to make the distinction you've just made, and to make the point you've just made, but I don't agree that you are correctly interpreting what I said. And without getting into questions as to whether the author is the best source on what the author said (certainly in many cases the author is obviously not), let me be clear that, at the least, you haven't correctly interpreted what I meant. (This is not a chastisment, but a clarification.)

The thought of keeping innocent people in prison for the rest of their lives - 30 years? 40? 50? - on the off chance that they "might be" terrorists, is so repugnant I have no words.

it's the kind of thing that makes me wish people could be permanently branded with the word "HYPOCRITE" on their foreheads. the next time some "conservative" gasbag tries to sneak the phrase "original intent" into a conversation about the Constitution, the big HYPOCRITE on his forehead will burn red hot, alerting everyone of his two-faced approach to the Constitution, while giving him a good searing punishment.

i am wrathful.

Gary, I was not at all under the impression that you were going to take the argument in that direction.

I just don't want anyone else taking it there, and someone might read the acceptance of a "without inadvertantly releasing any bad guys" [bold mine] as enabling.

OT: if there are any fans of really good contemporary classical music here, did you see this?

"OT: if there are any fans of really good contemporary classical music here, did you see this?"

Not positive, although I could find out at their website, but saw the Dreyer on Turner Classics a shortwhile back, I believe with that soundtrack.

Wow. I hadn't scrolled to the end. Tristero. Will keep an eye out for a replay.

yep -- read that post to the end. Yow.

The head of Turner Classic programming showed up in the thread, and their version does use the Einhorn (tristero) score. Went to the TCM site, not currently scheduled.

There is always the DVD. What can I say, this is on most critics top ten or top hundred lists. When I saw it, within the last few months, I was pretty weirded out. Didn't feel like I was watching an actress or movie, but watching a saint. There was something incomprehensible and enigmatic up on screen. People who were moved in some direction, well, who understands angels?

Umm, recommended. Thumb up. 4 stars.

"...contemporary classical music...."

This is not a topic I have any significant knowledge of, which is why the first two words strike me as quite the oxymoron. (A similar usage might be "obscure pop music"; I'm not saying either phrase doesn't point to something that people using it know what's being pointed to, nor that folks shouldn't use either phrase; I wouldn't suggest that "oxymoronic," after all, means either such thing; I just find oxymorons amusing, is all.) (And I always feel vaguely apprehensive that someone will take offense if I observe that something is oxymoronic, though I have no such fear as regards you, Hilzoy; my fears in that regard are, after all, a bit niggardly.)

We need the wire taps to keep us safe. How can Greenwald oppose wiretapping terrorists? It makes me wonder if he talking to terrorists. It wouldn't surprise me -- he certainly seems to hate America.

Ten tone polyphony.
Fade to vesper.
Joyce fabricating lace made of downtrodden steel railroad.
Polar bear swims; Lily has it; a century from now the suppressed science will be history; as in right to know; or, maybe, simply, see. This past week NASA lost a top administrator though the prior week ended with the leader climatologist at NASA reporting via NYT that ever since a December 2005 lecture at a geophysical conference in SF-CA, that NASA top administrator Deutsch, had mandated a censor accompany and filter Hansen's every public appearance, comment.
Though looking forward is appropriate and climate is a disaster in the making, or might be, elections tend to address what's on people's minds, and two election cycles might accentuate the issues of climate change more definitively.
I appreciate Casey L's remarks, and CharleyCarp's work. I know our host here has tried to clarify what it was we lost with Graham-Levin, even as it happened; yet, as others might mention, there was a presidential signing memo with the McCain-Feingold that was prototypically unitary as the preferred expression goes these days.
Since we are waxing historical, and, likely, as this thread already faded to the eleven-tone music long ago, it is probably meritorious to assert that with respect to [not Guantanamo] but other nearby early 1960s history, probably it is too soon to write about the Cuba standoff in great detail, though many in this thread are discussing parts of it. In a recollective mode, however: Batista was a very recent memory; Fidel quite anxious to be assertive, very young, just out of the mountains, still relying on a resident scholar who later was to vanish, for foreign policy, especially as it pertained mostly to Latin countries, though referenced toward the US figuratively; Moscow still only slightly more than a decade from Potsdam. It was a world of national boundaries and nationstates, acceleratedly modernizing. There were several southeast Asia strategies, nearly impossible to design, but approaching what might be called a military front; and people designing the Asia contingency plans then were irritating the Soviets. So Cuba deployment of missles made sense to Moscow as a bargaining chip. Though international relations and consciousness were primitive then compared to now, with respect to what effect a Cuba emplacement might have upon US actions. Kennedy was a surprise, after Chicago vote canvasses verified his thin margin of victory, and his historian and diplomat associations equally novel, to the intelligence community.
I apologize for missing the movie of that event.
But my observation was he needed to manage the intelligence contingency planners while at the same time managing the Soviets. Probably many documents are unreleased as yet.
On childhood impressions, likely Bush-2's school was among the first to discard the practice of air raid drills. Niches in the northeast retained the practice but child psychologists were beginning to have a voice and the field of psychology, psychiatry, was accepted as a legitimate humanity science, solidly by that time; if he finished eighth grade in 1960; in lots of fairly conservative places the last drill was 1960 though the hyperbolic public speechmaking was strident still. So people realized it was better to raise children without the drill and it was discontinued within a few years. People wanted to raise kids happy and balanced; parents trying to teach their children, learning from the children's own needs; just the way it always happens; Soviet, Oriental, American parents all discontinued the practice in favor of entering the 1960s more upbeat.
It is to be expected Senator R-KS and Sen. R-TN would defend the status quo on FISA; and equally as marvelous that Sensenbrenner R-WI has forwarded these now slightly outmoded interrogatories to the attorney general, which latter still seems a lot like white house counsel these days. Which is to say, the original questions put by our host citing Glenn Grenwald and other sources of concern, are still unresolved, though the interogs will have a reply by March 2. Real Soon Now, the Supreme Court is going to have an interesting time deliberating with eight justices one of those cases in which CharleyCarp has placed attention; and the DC Circuit is facing the "bundles" of similar cases with rebuttals scheduled within the next three weeks.
I sense the FISA matter is going to have diverse solutions and the senate is going to have to deal with it unless somehow it can swing a way to extinguish it in committee. Moderate Republicans are worried, so congress and the courts are goint to face it as an obligatory exercise to arrive at some catharsis, as the substrate of democracy itself seems at stake. Our host's concerns are well placed, and shared.

Wow, hilzoy, thanks. A link like that makes me feel a lot better about spending time talking to people on the internet.

OT: if there are any fans of really good contemporary classical music here, did you see this?

W?

T?

F?

Well, um... thanks, Tristero, for composing one of my favorite modern pieces. Never thought I'd be in a position to express my appreciation so directly.

PS: While "modern classical music" may strike you as oxymoronic, Gary, I can but say, as one who performs such works on a regular basis: deal with it. [Heck, "classical" music is generally incorrect too, since it's usually neither Classical nor classical.] It's stupid but them's the breaks.

LJ: Just so you're not too comfortable with your internet usage, I have done absolutely nothing of consequence nor produced anything of value. (:

"Heck, "classical" music is generally incorrect too, since it's usually neither Classical nor classical."

Forgive my about-to-be really obvious ignorance of musical theory, but my impression was that "classical" referred to any music that had "movements," a certain amount of mathematical* and/or structual complexity, and more than one kind of string and/or reed instrument. How this description of "classical" is different from "symphonic" is, I admit, entirely beyond me.


[*Over at balloon-juice, a very lively discussion of the egregious Richard Cohen's egregious column dissing high school algebra evolved into an even livelier argument over whether there's any connection of any kind between math ability and musical ability. Balloon-juice is notable for its freewheeling comment threads; even by those standards, that one's pretty special. It ran to over 400 comments.]

Anarch: I was showing my ignorance: trying to find a word that means something like what CaseyL said, to set the music in question off from, say, the Bee Gees or LeadBelly. That was all I could think of.

What instrument do you play?

"I can but say, as one who performs such works on a regular basis: deal with it."

This seems a slightly unpleasant way to respond to "I just find oxymorons amusing, is all" and to "And I always feel vaguely apprehensive that someone will take offense if I observe that something is oxymoronic...."

I wonder why I felt even faintly apprehensive?

"This past week NASA lost a top administrator though the prior week ended with the leader climatologist at NASA reporting via NYT that ever since a December 2005 lecture at a geophysical conference in SF-CA, that NASA top administrator Deutsch, had mandated a censor accompany and filter Hansen's every public appearance, comment."

John, I'm afraid this is slightly off. George Deutsch was in no way a "NASA top administrator." Nor was Hansen "cen See here, here, here, here, , and here. Nor, asinine as what Deutsch did, did it extend as far as having "mandated a censor accompany and filter Hansen's every public appearance."

"...it is probably meritorious to assert that with respect to [not Guantanamo] but other nearby early 1960s history, probably it is too soon to write about the Cuba standoff in great detail...."

It is? Why? All the scholarship done to now on the CMC shouldn't have been done? All the symposia and research and papers written were done "too soon"? What? What's "meritorious" about saying this?

If I might suggest as gently as possible, your comments might be slightly easier to read and understand if you tried using slightly (or even drastically) simpler and shorter sentences; apologies for unasked for advice, which naturally you are free to ignore, and which I apologize for if it's a suggestion you are offended by.

And a contemporary classical music thread opens up on HoCB.

So I keep coming back to the military tribunal. I think that is the piece that needs work. Rather than just holding people indefinitely, we need to get them in front of tribunals.

From your mouth to GWB's ears. He'll never do it willingly, of course, and has tried one dodge after another to avoid it. To very little popular disapproval. And if the courts force him, finally, to do it, he'll rage about judicial activism, and then release hordes of prisoners rather than try them. Hoping nothing will happen, but knowing he can blame liberal judges if it does.

See, the problem here is that unlike either the civil war or WWII, the powers that GWB has been asking the courts to recognize in the presidency won't go away. Because the war can't end. There's never going to be a day where there is no danger of a terrorist attack.

To take a short swipe at the bigger point: republics aren't lost over the objections of the majority; they're lost because a majority is more afraid of something else. As it turns out, many more people on Capitol Hill are afraid of Karl Rove than are afraid of UBL, but it's only the fear in the general populace of UBL that makes this really work in the current configuration.

I can't prove it, but I'd say a majority of each caucus would rather lose the republic than their seat. This is why I'd rather listen to a dog barking at crows than have Admin supporters telling me that some Dem in Congress doesn't object to this, that, or the other, therefore it must be OK (in legal and/or constitutional terms).

. . . for which I'd need to go to Montana, since all the crows in DC seem to have died of West Nile.

". . . for which I'd need to go to Montana, since all the crows in DC seem to have died of West Nile."

Seriously? That's - quite awful; I've always thought of crows as incredibly hardy, adaptive creatures. Is West Nile still active in DC? Is that why other crows haven't replaced the dead flocks?

Or (crows being as smart and communicative as they are) has DC become a dark legend, a Ghost City, in crowdom. The Place Where All Our People Died: We do not speak of it, and we do not go there. Oh, man. I wish I still wrote fiction. That'd be a great story to tell.

Francis Fukuyama offers some thoughts on contemporary neo-conservative foreign policy, by the way.

He's been saying this stuff for quite a while now, of course, but one can expect the high profile of this piece to get some attention.

Needless to say, these points are directly relevant to the discussion in this thread.

CaseyL:

". . . for which I'd need to go to Montana, since all the crows in DC seem to have died of West Nile."

Seriously? That's - quite awful....

Am I being a pessimist or an optimist if I offer the thought for consideration that it's far better to have them all dead of West Nile so they won't be around to spread H5N1 (avian flu/bird flu)?

rilkefan noted the NYTimes article over at HoCB and there is also this piece. Still, I would like to know if he's formally resigned from the PNAC that he helped found and quit the positions that Bush has given him (is he still on the bioethics committee?) You mention he's been saying this in other places, but is he walking the walk, or is he just trying to sneak out of the building before the others get to the exits first? As long as he spouts bs like this

Does Fukuyama regard the recent turn of events – his critique of the war, his debate with Krauthammer, his opposition to Bush’s reelection – as signaling something of a paradigm shift in his self–understanding? “I don’t know whether it’s going to prompt the shift so much as reflect the shift,” he explains. “I’ve been moving towards an interest in development questions over the last few years,” he says.

I fail to be impressed.

"I fail to be impressed."

It seems to me that it's pretty hard to build a winning coalition if one takes the attitude that when people take to agreeing with you, they should be met with chastisment for not having done so early enough, and that they should be interrogated for signs of remaining impurity.

"You mention he's been saying this in other places...."

Well, yeah, for about a couple of years. It's hardly been a secret. Did you notice the date on the article you cited? Or that it was about his critique of the entire thesis back in Februrary of 2004?

"Still, I would like to know if he's formally resigned from the PNAC that he helped found"

I've not paid close attention, but his name isn't here.

I think his views on bio-ethics, last I looked, were asinine, but what that has to do with Iraq or foreign policy, I don't know. Should we reject objections from people to Bush's foreign policy because we don't like their views on bio-ethics? I don't follow. Are we doing purity checks on people before welcoming the fact that they agree with us on things? What's the goal here, exactly?

I'm not even following what's objectionable about the two sentences you quote, LJ. What evil do you see them as revealing?

"your comments might be slightly easier to read and understand"

I like the Lopresti style. So there.

And you ain't seen anything yet, if you think the contemporary classical guys are thin-skinned. "Obscure pop" is my life, and have whole shelves of albums aimed at the top 40 audience, printed in 500 piece runs, sold only to relatives.

What I'm amazed by, with regard to the Einhorn subthread, is that the NY Times appears to be just getting around to recognizing it. Shoot, they showed the Dreyer film, with Anonymous 4 themselves performing "Voices of Light," at the Hong Kong Arts Festival about ten (?) years ago. Where have the Gotham critics been all this time?

Great works, both cinematic and musical, and if the term "synergy" did not exist (and was not hackneyed already) it would have to be invented for this. Not to be missed.

PS: Gary, I think you're over-reacting to Anarch's "deal with it." (I feel I can speak for him here, having observed his prose style over decades.) There was no intent of putting you, or anyone, down in his remark. It was simply a reflection of the fact that, oxymoronical as it may be, "contemporary classic" is a term - nay, in some cases, the term - referring to a certain kind of music which, as both you and he mutually acknowledge, is not "classical" in most senses of that word. It is an embedded oxymoron, all but impossible to avoid or resist.

I suspect it would not be unfair to supply the lacunae in Anarch's phrase as "[We All Just Have To] Deal With It." No offense was intended nor (originally) taken.

Your apprehension was, in this instance, misplaced. (God knows we all have enough other matters to be apprehensive about!)

Speaking of which: "... And now we return to our regular programming ..."

This doesn't list an PNAC affiliation, either.

He's been opposing the Admin's foreign policy since 2001, and announced in 2004 that he wouldn't vote for Bush and that Rumsfeld should resign.

Anyway, I've spent as much time looking up answers on this as I care to.

"It is an embedded oxymoron, all but impossible to avoid or resist."

Sure. I don't recall saying anything to challenge that or contradict it. Maybe others take "I just find oxymorons amusing, is all" to indicate such, but I don't.

"There was no intent of putting you, or anyone, down in his remark."

I'm glad to hear it. Presumably, then, he can just deal with my statement, and we're all copacetic.

I am not so readily assuaged. Gary and I haven't had a flame war for hours.

Psych(and other late 60s early 70s);Groups under "B":Baby Whale,Back Door, Badger, Balloon Farm,Bamboo,Banchee,Barbarians,Baroques, Battered Ornaments,Beacon Street Union,Bear,Beast,Beaten Path, Beethoven Soul,Bent Wind,Bethelem Asylum,Beautiful Days,Bermuda Jam, Birth Control,Bit a'Sweet, Black Widow, Blackfeather,Blacksnake,Blackwell, Blonde on Blonde,Bloomsbury People,Blossom Toes,David Blue, Blue Things,Colin Blunstone,Boa Constrictor,Bohemian Vendetta,Bold,Boston Tea Party, Bow Street Runners, Brain Police,Brainbox, Bread Love & Dreams,Brigade, Jamie Brockett,Broselmachine, Duncan Browne,Bruthers, Buffalo,Randy Burns, Vashti Bunyan,Byzantium

Obscure pop an oxymoron? Harrumph.

It seems to me that it's pretty hard to build a winning coalition if one takes the attitude that when people take to agreeing with you, they should be met with chastisment for not having done so early enough, and that they should be interrogated for signs of remaining impurity.

That's an awful lot of additional notions to be packing in there when I complain about one person, don't you think?

But to try and answer in a substantive way, I will admit that I think we have passed the point of it being a battle of increments, and 'peeling off' support from this administration doesn't really cut it. Partly, I'm worried that we are going to end up hailing Graham and Roberts. Or electing McCain. Or that because Rumsfeld offered his resignation, he is actually 'sorry' and we should all but our differences aside for the good of the country. And yes, Fukuyama. As for Fukuyama voting for Kerry (oh my, what independence!), he signed this open letter from the PNAC in 20 September 2000. It said, in part

We agree with Secretary of State Powell’s recent statement that Saddam Hussein “is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth….” It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.

To back up and say 'I didn't mean go that far' now is not taking responsibility. Simply leaving that stuff off of your bio is a creative retelling of history. At some point, bridges are meant for burning.

I would just like to see people admit they were wrong. A novel concept, I admit, but at some point, you can't claim that you disagree with this administration on one aspect, but agree with them on others and I think that point has come. I would suggest this is part of the McManus thesis, and I have mentioned several times that I am interested in this, so this shouldn't come as a great shock.

A history of the French revolution that I have been unable to locate observed that it was like a volcano, in that when it exploded, it blew off not only the corrupt elements, but also those elements that were trying to reform the monarchy and government. Tant pis pour lui.

And as usual, Yglesias says it more concisely. Though I have observed before that he has an amazingly even temperament.

From your mouth to GWB's ears. He'll never do it willingly, of course, and has tried one dodge after another to avoid it. To very little popular disapproval.

I readily admit that I don’t understand the feet-dragging on this, nor do I condone it.


See, the problem here is that unlike either the civil war or WWII, the powers that GWB has been asking the courts to recognize in the presidency won't go away. Because the war can't end. There's never going to be a day where there is no danger of a terrorist attack.

Do you suppose that in 1942 as Japan swept through the Pacific and we were getting our clock cleaned anyone thought the war was going to end anytime soon? I’m guessing many people felt like it would be going on the rest of their lifetime.


I can't prove it, but I'd say a majority of each caucus would rather lose the republic than their seat.

What a frightening thought. Sadly I would agree that I see some truth in that.


A novel concept, I admit, but at some point, you can't claim that you disagree with this administration on one aspect, but agree with them on others and I think that point has come.

Well, that kind of all or none stance is not going to help in winning over the middle – which is what you desperately need.

Do you suppose that in 1942 as Japan swept through the Pacific and we were getting our clock cleaned anyone thought the war was going to end anytime soon?

I think you really need to rethink this. Roosevelt and Churchill agreed that Germany was the first priority. It was painfully obvious to everyone (but the Japanese) that they could not win (and in fairness to the Japanese high command, they knew this too, and only hoped that a quick strick against the US would lead to a quick peace) There was never any threat of Japanese invasion on the West Coast, nor was there any possibility of Japan expanding or even holding on to the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere for anything longer than they did. And that is omitting the fact that the Allies had broken the Japanese diplomatic code (MAGIC) and by 1942, had broken the Japanese fleet code.

Well, that kind of all or none stance is not going to help in winning over the middle – which is what you desperately need.

That 'you' is interesting. I would argue that's what 'we' need, even people who are not able to understand it or unable to admit it. And my feeling is that if it means not making people realize that they were wrong and having them understand why they were/are wrong, it is precisely the point made by Hilzoy's title. Of course, this is a general principle and how it is applied needs to be taken into account, which is why I spoke specifically of Fukuyama and didn't claim that I had it out for anyone who ever said a good word for Bush. I would also note that I have discussed this quite a bit in the comments here, which I don't expect you to know, but simply add for your future reference. For example, a Bruce Bartlett seems a bit more honest than a Francis Fukuyama, though I can't imagine having a $175,000 a year job, let along getting fired from one.

So if you want to discuss specific examples of people who have refused to drink the Kool-aid and my reaction (since this is a personal reaction, I don't speak for the DLC) I would be happy to, but if you just want to tut-tut about some general principles, I would respectfully suggest that it is simply an attempt to shift the focus from the problems this administration is having.

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