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June 05, 2009

Comments

Way to smear anyone upset over Obama's condescending lecture to Arabs about the pain of the Holocaust, along with anyone upset that Obama freely condemned Palestinian violence, but dare not speak out against Israeli violence, which is more frequent, destructive, and deadly.

Um, huh?

I posted a couple of comments with multiple links in the Cairo part 2 thread, about Palestinian/Israeli efforts - in the past, and ongoing - to make use of non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Obama ignored all of these, and instead spoke as if none of them had ever existed.

Eric is right. The extremists are pretty pissed off.

You applauded that Obama was "reinforcing the moderate position while marginalizing the opposite poles." You then approvingly cited Kleinman via Yglesias, who said that "Extreme elements [(i.e., those who disliked the speech)] on both sides of a conflict are in a symbiotic relationship".

Yet anyone who support the Palesitian cause would find a helluva lot of problems with Obama's speech--same thing with the neocon right in America. However, the neocon right in America is crazy. Criticizng the speech for condescending Holocaust memorializating and ignoring violence against the Palestinians is clearly not crazy, nor is it extreme.

Criticizing the speech for condescending Holocaust memorializing and ignoring violence against the Palestinians is clearly not crazy, nor is it extreme.

Just like an extremist to say so!

See how this works? ;-)

The part about the Holocaust was not condescending. It was intended to take-on conspiracy theories rooted in an ugly anti-Semitism that have been rife in the region since before Israel even existed.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is treated as gospel by many elites, from the Saudi royals to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Before there was an Israel, western oil companies had problems getting some of their employees admitted to Saudi soil. Because those employees were Jewish. They were denied entry (for many years initially).

Regardless, neither I, nor Matt, nor Mark said that any and all criticism of every aspect of Obama's speech is crazy or extreme. In fact, I'm not sure the word crazy was used by any of us.

Eric-

Jews were barred from Saudi Araba by the regime--any Jews admitted after ARAMCO pressured the Saudi government to admit specific Jews (the only modernizing influence ARAMCO ever had on Saudi), there were not widespread problems. Moreover, ARAMCO itself--an American corporation--was more racist and segregated than any other institution in Saudi Arabia. Cf. Vitalis, R.

The debate isn't whether Holocaust denial (an invention of Europe) or anti-semitism exists in the Arab speaking world (they do). Its about whether its appropriate for an American president to lecture an Arab audience about its racism and violence while--in the same speech(!)--ignore the vastly disproportionate violence and racism employed by Israel. That is why the speech ultimately will be a failure.

rick: I read Vitalis' book.

I'm not sure anything you said about ARAMCO and the Saudi regime contradicted what I wrote, however.

We obviously disagree on the menion of the holocaust.

TLTIABQ: This is a very effective rhetorical tactic but it comes with a price of sometimes requiring that Obama construct a strawman on one side or the other in order to balance out his ternary equation.

ObWi comments will reflect my criticism of this technique of Obama's from early in the campaign, in fall 2007, because the left wing of the Democratic voter base was one he was happy to use to construct his strawman smears.

From claiming we were hostile to politicians who professed religious faith, to caricaturing and dismissing anti-imperialist criticisms of the Iraq war as "conspiracy theories about oil", to passing along the right-wing rewriting of history that the Vietnam-era antiwar movement demonized individual GIs -- he's found us handy to caricature. After all, when we protest, it just shows how right he is to stay in the sensible center.

As TLT notes, this approach works a lot better in some situations than others. In the realm of indefinite, extra-legal detention, his failure to lead with the "extremist" position of truth about the innocence of all but a small collection of prisoners, and using Cheney's extremist pole to give him cover for floating proposals to legalize new levels of repression, has resulted in the debate moving way back to the right (see grim results of recent USA Today and AP-GfK polls on torture and Guantanamo; find your own links, I'm tired of guessing whether Typepad will strip them).

Thanks for the lift from comments, Eric.

Something else which I've noticed in Obama's rhetorical approach is that he makes adroit use of the contrast in emotional temperature between his remarks and those of his critics. Obama's critics (thus far) tend to reply to his speeches in a hyperbolic and heated manner, and the contrast between them and Obama’s more careful and measured arguments and cooler tone of speaking then colors and influences the way the debate is perceived by the key audience - folks who are in the undecided zone between the consensus middle Obama is trying to construct and a more polarized opposing position, who are available for persuasion in either direction.

That is the key to Obama's success - he provokes his opponents into overreacting to his rather bland statements and as a result they marginalize themselves by conforming to a stereotype which he has created with his rhetoric but which they confirm and crystallize in the minds of folks in the audience who are not already in agreement with them (the critics).

Notice how he rarely names names in his speeches when calling people out for extremism. Instead he states without going into details that there are "some people" who are unrealistic, childish, who go too far, who are uncooperative and unwilling to compromise, and who are the reason why we can't have nice things. But he doesn't say exactly who these people are. And then he steps back and lets his opponents decide whether to agree with him either explicitly or by their silence (thereby reinforcing the consensus he is building) or to auto-identify themselves as part of the problem, not part of the solution. He sets a trap and they walk right into it almost every time, in part because they have not yet figured out how to reply back to him in tones of cool and measured detachment comparable to Obama’s voice.

The other thing he does is that by provoking overheated criticism from both sides of a debate, he is able to co-opt his more extreme critics on one side into confirming his moderation and reasonableness in the minds of the audience on the other side of the debate. His more extreme critics on the right help to solidify his position with the moderate left and visa-versa.

"Notice how he rarely names names in his speeches when calling people out for extremism."

Which is part of the point about the holocaust reference: It was a direct dig at A-Jad, with Iranian election season in full swing.

He sets a trap and they walk right into it almost every time, in part because they have not yet figured out how to reply back to him in tones of cool and measured detachment comparable to Obama’s voice.

There ya go; guilty as charged.

Actual suffering and death that I can't seem to abstract away makes it hard to strike the right tones of cool and measured detachment.

Like Muhammad Salih, force-fed in the "restraint" chair at Guantanamo until his death this week brought release.

"Which is part of the point about the holocaust reference: It was a direct dig at A-Jad, with Iranian election season in full swing."

Exactly. He usually has some specific target he is aiming at, but he doesn't call them out. Instead he paints a cartoon caricature which is general rather than specific and then waits for the reaction. Inevitably his opponent gets up on soapbox to start yelling and hollering, and then Obama can step back and say in effect, "See, now that's what I'm talking about". But he doesn't marginalize his opponents directly, instead he provokes them into doing it to themselves.

And the reason this is so effective is that when the yelling begins, the audience is left wondering, "Obama didn't mention you, he was talking about extremists. How come you are yelling like a stuck pig, if you aren't one of those?"

Inevitably his opponent gets up on soapbox to start yelling and hollering, and then Obama can step back and say in effect, "See, now that's what I'm talking about". But he doesn't marginalize his opponents directly, instead he provokes them into doing it to themselves.

This is what always drove me nuts about the Bush Administration; guys like Chavez and A-Jad would do this regularly and the Bushies would swallow it hook, bait and sinker. I have to say, it is really enjoyable watching Obama go overseas and turn the tables. The recent summit in Latin America - and the way he handled Ortega and Chavez - was a thing of beauty to behold. Notice how we haven't heard much out of them lately?

Excellent oratorical analysis TLTABQ! I was thinking that exact same thing - when BHO referred to holocaust-denying as (among other choice adjectives) "ignorant," I sat up in my chair and went, "Wow! Brocco just called A-jad ignorant without ever having to mention his name! How cool is that?"

To paraphrase my wife: Obama is the kind of enemy who can kill you without anybody ever see him spilling a drop of your blood. He's actually a pretty ruthless politician and I mean that as a compliment.

Actual suffering and death that I can't seem to abstract away makes it hard to strike the right tones of cool and measured detachment.

Poor, silly Nell! If only you would adopt the Sensible Liberalism inherent in Obama's pragmatic centerism, why, you'd have no problem presenting your careful, thoughtful opinions in a manner that wholly avoids heated and shrill extremism!

Another thought on A-Jad/Iran:

Obama also mentioned, with regret, Mossadegh and the coup of 1953.

Obama also mentioned, with regret, Mossadegh and the coup of 1953.

And, without much regret, the U.S. overthrow of the government of Iraq. No mention of the millions of refugees created, or the death toll, or the wrecked economy.

But some Iraqis can manage to respond in calm and measured tones that still tell Pres. Obama exactly where he can get off:

:: "I think Bush has dragged the reputation of America into the mud by his aggressive actions, and that Obama is trying to recapture that former presence it had in the minds and hearts of people all around the world. But he asks us to forgive and forget – that is too much. Forgive and forget a million Iraqis killed over the period of occupation? Forgive and forget the indignities and the humiliation of having to scuttle over to the pavement for the "Lords" to pass us on our streets? Forget – and forgive Abu Ghraib? And the list is long. I cannot forgive and forget my relatives who were killed, displaced or detained and humiliated for mere suspicion. We lost our homes, our livelihoods and our families most of whom fled. But in spite of that I am willing to listen. I am willing to give Obama the benefit of doubt. It remains to be seen what he can do to put my country back together." [Mustafa Ayad, 34 yrs, father of two, accountant]::

Obama is cute; however he is still in charge of an extraordinarily militaristic Empire, with elites who are very reluctant about giving up power, and their own historical narratives.

Obama used the word "Palestine"; he described the conditions imposed on the Palestinians as "intolerable."

Perhaps more important, he established over the course of the week before the speech that he would take a hard line with the Israelis on the growth of settlements, even in a private meeting with Ehud Barak where he had no cheering crowd of Muslims to pander to.

And his advice for the Palestinian fighters was not directed as to a child wanting to be taken seriously, the way other presidents has spoken, but as to an honorable sovereign entity seeking success against long odds.

Of course some partisans of the Palestinian cause have found reasons to complain. Some people's ability to complain is a thing of wonder.

The man knows how to play to win.

It's a thing of beauty.

The man knows how to play to win.

It's a thing of beauty.

When Nixon did it you wouldn't have thought that. Be careful what gods you worship.

"Of course some partisans of the Palestinian cause have found reasons to complain. Some people's ability to complain is a thing of wonder."

Spoken like a true acolyte.

Look, some of us don't think it's a good idea to march in lockstep behind a President, any President. Obama made a speech--some of it was good, especially by American standards (we grade on a curve) and some of it was still too one-sided. You sound as though people who disagree with parts of the speech are just being childish to point this out. I suppose we're all just supposed to stand there amazed in slack-jawed wonder that an American President spoke about Palestinians as though they were human beings with rights. Yeah, it is amazing, but if you think about it, that's a pretty damn low bar he cleared.

"When Nixon did it you wouldn't have thought that."

Nixon was a criminal and a manipulative paranoid freak of a human being.

It's unclear as of yet that Obama is any of those things.

So, I think differently about the two.

"Be careful what gods you worship."

I render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. That seems to work out pretty well.

And I don't need any advice from you.

The man knows how to play to win.

It's a thing of beauty

Your words. Do you own up to them?

His tactics are acceptable because he is on your team?

All that bullsh*t?

This is why I gave up on nihilism. Really.

Obama used the word "Palestine"; he described the conditions imposed on the Palestinians as "intolerable."

Perhaps more important, he established over the course of the week before the speech that he would take a hard line with the Israelis on the growth of settlements, even in a private meeting with Ehud Barak where he had no cheering crowd of Muslims to pander to.

So Obama's big action when he says that the Palestinian situation is intolerable is to block moves to make it worse? That seems a little...inadequate. Frankly, if the Palestinians did manage a sustained and total non-violent resistance (as opposed to the limited non-violent resistance they have tried) you would be amazed at just how long the US and Israel publics could tolerate them being in intolerable conditions. (Fifty years now for Tibet, for example, how long for slavery?).

The really brave thing Obama could have done is to tell the Israelis that Hamas (like almost every other terrorist group) cannot be defeated by purely military/coercive means. He's willing to say that about other insurgency/terrorist groups, like the Taliban, but not about them.

To go back to your last paragraph, Eric, I'm surprised and dismayed that you quoted Yglesias and Kleiman so uncritically. So the MB are now in the "extremist camp"? "Violent radicals" even? I must have missed the extreme, radical antics of the 12 Muslim Brother MPs who were in the audience listening to Obama's speech in Cairo.

Let's see what extreme, radical things the MB had to say in that cited article:

"Muhammad Habib, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, described Obama's speech as "a public-relations address more than anything else." Habib also said Obama displayed an "unjust perspective" toward the Palestinian issue, "one that does not differ from former President [George W.] Bush and the neoconservatives' perspective."

That's it. That's the sole quote from them in the article. It might indeed be dislike, but the way that suddenly morphs into evidence of violence and radicalism in the next paragraph is astonishing. When was the last time the MB engaged in violence against the West, thereby strengthening the hand of the militant nationalists in the US? When was the last time they engaged in violence against the Egyptian regime? Based on your previous writings, I assume you know the answers to those question.

Talk about moving the Overton window.

This is why I gave up on nihilism.

Funny, your contributions to any discussion you participate in here seem pretty nilistic, maybe you should try harder.

"When Nixon did it you wouldn't have thought that."

Or, you know, Hitler. Because comparing things that are completely unlike is useful in these sorts of discussions.

There really aren't many elements in the Obama/Nixon intersection set. I say this as a guy whose tendency is to be more critical of Obama than average, too.

Funny, your contributions to any discussion you participate in here seem pretty nilistic (sic)

Most of my contributions here recently address the question of when it is moral to use violence. An odd question for a nihilist really. The nihilistic answer would be, "nothing is true, everything is permitted", yet I'm still looking for a different answer. Why is that?

>> "When Nixon did it you wouldn't have
>> thought that."
>>
>> Or, you know, Hitler

Well I chose Nixon because the tactic in question - attacking an anonymous straw man and then waiting for your opponents to overreact to your attack - was something that Nixon did frequently, as people who have read Nixonland know. I don't see the comparison to Hitler as apt really, but maybe you do.

Why is that?

Because you are a troll?

I would happily retract that accusation if you could point to some comment here where you are actually setting forth your position rather than just trying to score points off of someone else's. Until then, troll on while I have me some pie.

khawaga,

There is definitely differentiation to be had with respect to the MB along the lines of what you mentioned. They are not violent radicals - any more. But there stance vis-a-vis Israel is extremist. They might not have perpetrated violence, but they do support those that do in the context of Israel-Palestine.

Hamas itself is an offshoot of sorts.

Playing the middle as a criterion for decision making is simply opportunistic. What if those to the right or left of the current consensus happen to have it right on a given issue? As Nell has pointed out, consensus is not equivalent to even-handedness or rationality and this has been proven throughout history over and over again.

I set forth my position quite frequently, here for example.

It's not a popular position. Setting forth unpopular positions is considered trolling. Asking "Is it wrong to kill people to stop them from killing?" marks you as a troll, even if you really want to know what people think the answer to the question is.

That's all par for the course, nothing that would be out of place at RedState. Some people feel the need to find a group of people who believe almost but not quite exactly the things they do and then play make believe that they are engaging in a debate. Non-believers must be purged.

I learn more from talking to people who believe nothing I believe. That's just me though.

consensus is not equivalent to even-handedness or rationality

This is going in the "good enough to steal" file.

"attacking an anonymous straw man and then waiting for your opponents to overreact to your attack"

What straw man?

There aren't militant Islamic terrorists?
There wasn't a holocaust?
There aren't people who deny the holocaust?
Nobody has called for the destruction of Israel?
Palestinians haven't suffered under three generations of displacement and occupation?
We didn't participate in the overthrow of Mossadegh?
There aren't knucklehead liberals who think the most important thing in the world is whether Muslim women wear a hijab?

None of those men are made of straw.

Obama is a skillful guy, with a fairly unique ability to put hot button issues on the table in a way that still makes it possible for everyone to talk.

And, the goals he is articulating seem to be constructive and achievable. Sane, goals that actual people who live in the actual world (as opposed to, frex, the Justice League of America) might actually be able to pursue and perhaps even achieve, even if only in part.

I have my own not-insignificant issues with Obama but he's a very, very skillful politician. That does not equate to "nihilism", it equates to "skillful". The ability to navigate through thickets of opposing interests and stakeholders, some of them quite powerful, to advance your agenda is a *skill*.

If your agenda is a crappy one, so much the worse.

So far, in the area of foreign policy, Obama's agenda does not appear to be a crappy one.

So, yeah, Obama plays to win. He plays to actually achieve the end, rather than just to strut around and make rhetorical points for the folks back home.

And he does so by putting critical, historically and emotionally charged issues on the table in the plain light of day, in a way that at least recognizes everyone's stake and everyone's interests, and which opens the door for dialog.

That's a rare skill. IMO, it's a thing of beauty.

"That's a rare skill."

I wouldn't put it like that, even if I completely trusted Obama. Supposing for the sake of argument that I do. Then what he did in the Cairo speech is make some rather obvious statements that you'd find in a typical NYT editorial. It's just not that difficult to say that both sides in the I/P conflict have legitimate concerns (to put it mildly). It's only unusual in the demented context of American politics, where, as I said above, the mere recognition that Palestinians are human beings with rights that have been denied is somehow considered radical. We have such low standards on this issue that anyone who states the freaking obvious is either denounced as anti-Israel or praised as someone with rare gifts. It's a pathetic comment on America more than it is praise for Obama.

And because Obama has such a low bar to clear, anyone who criticizes him is mocked (not by you, btw) as someone lacking in realism.

"And because Obama has such a low bar to clear, anyone who criticizes him is mocked (not by you, btw) as someone lacking in realism."

But that's not exactly the case. I mean, I have criticized Obama on a number of issues, and intend to do so in the future. The point was not, again, that anyone who found fault with any of his speech is an extremist. As I said upthread - and it was not an argument in this post.

It's just, as russel said more eloquently than I.

"t's a pathetic comment on America more than it is praise for Obama."

Sure, and yet, given that context, it's refreshing to hear it. Because we don't from our leaders. I'll take that positive development and welcome it even if it should not have taken this long, and even if I wish it would have gone further. Given the circumstances, it was pretty good.

Well I chose Nixon because the tactic in question - attacking an anonymous straw man and then waiting for your opponents to overreact to your attack - was something that Nixon did frequently, as people who have read Nixonland know. I don't see the comparison to Hitler as apt really, but maybe you do.

I don't. I don't see the Nixon comparison as apt, either.

"It's only unusual in the demented context of American politics, where, as I said above, the mere recognition that Palestinians are human beings with rights that have been denied is somehow considered radical."

Welcome to our world.

Obama is not a radical. He's not a leftist. He is at most sort of liberal, and that only in the context of American politics.

He's a technocratic, pragmatic moderate. I'll take it.

What straw man?

There aren't militant Islamic terrorists?
There wasn't a holocaust?
There aren't people who deny the holocaust?
Nobody has called for the destruction of Israel?
Palestinians haven't suffered under three generations of displacement and occupation?
We didn't participate in the overthrow of Mossadegh?
There aren't knucklehead liberals who think the most important thing in the world is whether Muslim women wear a hijab?

And in Nixon's era weren't there communists in America?
Weren't there violent radicals who wanted a bloody revolution?
Weren't there angry black men setting neighbourhoods on fire?
Wasn't there insurgency in universities in opposition to the Vietnam war?
Weren't there people who had lived their whole lives on welfare?
Weren't there elitist liberal intellectuals who thought they knew what was best for poor people?

If you want to laud Obama's policy goals, that's fine.

When people start to see ruthlessness as a good thing, be careful.

That's all.

"When people start to see ruthlessness as a good thing, be careful."

Wait, ruthlessness? Where?

"And in Nixon's era weren't there communists in America?"

Very few, and they had zero political power.

"Weren't there violent radicals who wanted a bloody revolution?"

Very few, and they had zero political power.

"Weren't there angry black men setting neighbourhoods on fire?"

Very few, and they had zero political power.

"Wasn't there insurgency in universities in opposition to the Vietnam war?"

No. There was not "insurgency."

"Weren't there people who had lived their whole lives on welfare?"

There are still. Not sure what that means.

"Weren't there elitist liberal intellectuals who thought they knew what was best for poor people?"

There are still. Not sure what that means.

I don't. I don't see the Nixon comparison as apt, either.

I do see it as apt because Nixon frequently used the tactic in question.

It's on you to explain why the comparison of one person who frequently used a tactic to another person who frequently uses the same tactic is inapt.

Or you could just yell "Hitler!"

"It's on you to explain why the comparison of one person who frequently used a tactic to another person who frequently uses the same tactic is inapt."

Obama and Nixon use a lot of tactics in common. Both are politicians after all, and so there is bound to be overlap.

It's on you to show how this particular tactic in common is problematic and how it is likely to be abused in the same way.

Wait, ruthlessness? Where?

Is the scroll wheel on your mouse broken?

"He's actually a pretty ruthless politician and I mean that as a compliment"

That type of thing.

Thanks for helping out my case with the rest of the comment, though.

The rest of my comment helped you? Care to read and compare?

"There aren't militant Islamic terrorists?"

There are many, and some hold vital political power.

"There wasn't a holocaust?"

There was, and some with great political power deny this.

"There aren't people who deny the holocaust?"

See above.

"Nobody has called for the destruction of Israel?"

Many have, and some with great political power.

"Palestinians haven't suffered under three generations of displacement and occupation?"

They have, en masse.

"We didn't participate in the overthrow of Mossadegh?"

We did.

"When people start to see ruthlessness as a good thing, be careful."

Yes, ruthlessnes qua ruthlessness is not a good thing. A politician that is ruthless in the context of rhetorical framing in speeches by hewing to sensible positions and shedding extremist views is a kind of ruthlessness that Democratic politicians have lacked and which is a compliment in the present context. And, in this context, it is a good thing.

Presuming to speak for russel, I don't think anyone is saying that any and all ruthlessness is a good thing no matter the context, type and use.

Your pedantic point is great when the context is stripped away.

The rest of my comment helped you?

Yes. Anyone can play pick and choose.

I don't think anyone is saying that any and all ruthlessness is a good thing no matter the context, type and use

I agree, no one here is saying that. They are saying ruthlessness is good when their guy does it.

Be careful.

"Yes. Anyone can play pick and choose."

No. Russel made specific reference to Obama's actual speech.

You played pick and choose with a bunch of Nixon era canards that were not analogous. Because of their lack of underlying merit. I pointed that out. Your response was...to reference your playing pick and choose?

"They are saying ruthlessness is good when their guy does it."

Really? Barring another scroll malfunction, do you have any actual evidence to support that?

Did russel say that he supports any ruthlessness on the part of Obama - even Nixonian ruthlessness - because Obama is his guy?

Did anyone else?

You played pick and choose with a bunch of Nixon era canards that were not analogous. Because of their lack of underlying merit

They had merit and you agreed they were all true statements with the exception of the existence of "insurgency in universities in opposition to the Vietnam war" which you denied for some unknown reason.

There absolutely was insurgency in universities in opposition to the Vietnam war during the Nixon era and he would have (politically) smartly used your denial of it against you, as Obama uses the denial by certain people of the Holocaust against them without calling them out by name.

Did russel say that he supports any ruthlessness on the part of Obama - even Nixonian ruthlessness - because Obama is his guy?

The "ruthless" quote was not from russel. Russel gets pissed off more than enough from my comments without being misquoted.

The person admiring Obama's ruthlessness is obviously an Obama supporter, you can ask them if they admire ruthless behaviour when it is Cheney being ruthless.

"I agree, no one here is saying that. They are saying ruthlessness is good when their guy does it."

Other than you, exactly one person has called Obama "ruthless" in this thread. If you skillfully employ your scroll wheel, you will, perhaps, discover who that person is.

What I actually said was:

He plays to win.
It's a thing of beauty.

Perhaps you mistake "play to win" to mean "ruthlessly manipulate people and situations to get his way".

Sorry, not my usage. Perhaps you've been listening to too much gansta rap. Or, maybe, too much Heaven 17.

To "play to win" is to participate skillfully in a contest or other endeavor so that you actually achieve your goal, or advance your interests.

Nixon clearly was good at this. I think his goals sucked, so I wouldn't call his efforts a thing of beauty. I think he should have been prosecuted for war crimes, along with his buddy Henry K, and sent to jail.

Obama's goals regarding foreign policy, and in particular in the context of this speech, appear to be to defuse hostility between the West and the global Islamic community, and to set the stage for a dialog that might, if we are all very, very, very lucky, improve the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.

I think those are great goals, so I see his skillful use of rhetoric as a thing of beauty. Everyone's legitimate grievances were acknowledged, much historical badness was put on the table pretty frankly, constructive goals were articulated.

The thing you call "ruthless" was calling out really bad, harmful, destructive behavior without naming names. Everybody knows who he was talking about, but by not naming names he leaves the door open for those folks to walk back from their hostile, antagonistic, destructive positions.

He can say "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel. That cannot be tolerated".

Or he can say "Some have called for the destruction of Israel. That cannot be tolerated."

In the first case, Obama puts himself in opposition to Ahmadinejad directly and personally, which is not a good idea because any resolution of the many, many issues that bedevil the middle east are going to require Ahmadinejad's participation as a constructive actor.

In the second case, everyone knows he's referring to Ahmadinejad (and others) but there's no way Ahmadinejad can respond negatively without coming off like an @sshole.

Skillful means.

And it's not about "the end justifying the means" because there is nothing wrong with the means. They require no justification.

It's the end that is either good and constructive, or not.

We'll see if Obama walks the walk, but for the moment I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt on this issue.

On other issues, less so, because he has not lived up to his own rhetorical promises.

But on this one, I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. He's already head and shoulders above what we've had for the last 8 years.

"The person admiring Obama's ruthlessness is obviously an Obama supporter, you can ask them if they admire ruthless behaviour when it is Cheney being ruthless."

Seriously, dude, it is to laugh.

When Obama gets "ruthless" private equity bankers have to eat their losses.

When Cheney gets ruthless people get beaten to death.

Compare and contrast. Let me know who comes out on top in your world.

I have my issues with Obama, not least on the beating to death topic, but even with that factored in I find it pretty damned easy to see the daylight between the two.

That's the last last now_what hoop I jump through for today. Thanks for playing.

"They had merit and you agreed they were all true statements with the exception of the existence of "insurgency in universities in opposition to the Vietnam war" which you denied for some unknown reason."

They had merit and were true only in an extremely limited, tenuous sense so as to render them, actually, meritless. That's what I pointed out by highlighting the lack of actual political power, prevalence and potency of the antagonists in the Nixon era statements.

Then I contrasted with Obama's speech and showed the significant politcal power, prevalence and potency of the applicable antagonists.

Did you not see that?

"The person admiring Obama's ruthlessness is obviously an Obama supporter, you can ask them if they admire ruthless behaviour when it is Cheney being ruthless."

Are you really so pedantic that we are to take all forms of ruthlessness as the same?

May I posit a possibility:

Person A admires Obama's "ruthlessness" in the context of using a rhetorical device to marginalize extremists and highlight a sensible policy path.

Does that, then, mean that Person A would support any form of "ruthlessness" undertaken by Obama because the person is an Obama supporter? Such that he would also support Cheney type ruthlessness and law breaking? Nixonian ruthlessness and lawbreaking?

To you, the answer is (apparently) yes. In for one, in for all.

To me, I can see the appreciation for the qualified, contextualized use of "ruthlessness" without requiring, thereby, support for any and all forms of ruthlessness engaged in by Obama.

Your sophistry might make you feel as if you are scoring debating points, but you're not really advancing the discussion in any meaningful way.

Perhaps you've been listening to too much gansta rap

I have been. I prefer the old school stuff (Grandmaster Flash, such joyous music) but I admit, Ice Cube, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Gang Starr have also been in heavy rotation on the mp3 player lately.

I think he should have been prosecuted for war crimes, along with his buddy Henry K, and sent to jail.

Word em up.

And it's not about "the end justifying the means" because there is nothing wrong with the means. They require no justification.

Here's where we disagree. They require justification.

You're not calling it ruthless, someone else is. But they're doing it for a reason.

Be careful.

Compare and contrast. Let me know who comes out on top in your world

Should be pretty obvious which I think is better.


When you get to the point that you say "He is ruthless" and think it is a good thing, you might want to step back and think.

The word ruthless has a meaning.

That's all.

"So Obama's big action when he says that the Palestinian situation is intolerable is to block moves to make it worse? That seems a little...inadequate. Frankly, if the Palestinians did manage a sustained and total non-violent resistance (as opposed to the limited non-violent resistance they have tried) you would be amazed at just how long the US and Israel publics could tolerate them being in intolerable conditions. (Fifty years now for Tibet, for example, how long for slavery?).

The really brave thing Obama could have done is to tell the Israelis that Hamas (like almost every other terrorist group) cannot be defeated by purely military/coercive means"

I agree with much of this, magistra. However, I'm not sure what else Obama can do at this point. I don't think that he can cut off the flow of money from the US to Israel for military aid as long as violence from the Palestinians can be used as a justification for defending Israel. ( I wish he could and would. but I wish global warming wasn't happening and i wish there were no puppy mills).

It is true that the world and the US have been ignoring Tibet. However the world and the US are not ignoring the Middle East. That means that nonviolent tactics designed to reveal Israel's barbarism and shame them into appropriate behavior has a better shot at working than it does for the Tibetans who are being mostly ignored and will probably continue to be ignored.
And, yes, it would take a long time for a nonviolent approach to work. It will take a long time for a violent approach to work, too. My guess is that consistant well publicized use of nonviolence accompanied by the martyrdom of sympathetic figures would secure a two state policy sooner than the continuation of the current back and forth of violence.

I'm not naive about people. I don't expect anything from the future except that all of our current problems get worse. I do think though that Obama's message to the Palestinians was correct: the only hope they have to achieve nationhood is to deny Israel the excuse the Israelis use to justifiy their policies: violence.

Eric, I wasn't thinking of you when I complained about someone mocking Obama critics. In this thread it was suzii that irked me on that score. And I've seen it at other blogs --well, mostly Al Giordano's blog, though I haven't been there lately and so I'm not talking about the I/P conflict in his case. Al and Glenn Greenwald seem to have a bit of a war going on between them, with Glenn being willing to criticize Obama harshly on some issues, whereas Al talks about Obama's liberal/left critics online as members of the "poutrage" club. I don't know how common such attitudes are. (And to be fair to Al, he has criticized Obama on drug policy, I think.)

I do see it as apt because Nixon frequently used the tactic in question.

Oh. Well, Nixon probably blew his nose from time to time, also. Probably nose-blowing cannot fairly be described as "Nixonian".

Unless you're adopting the tactics of Rush Limbaugh.

Oh. Well, Nixon probably blew his nose from time to time, also. Probably nose-blowing cannot fairly be described as "Nixonian"

Liberals didn't get pissy about Nixon because he blew his nose. They got pissy about Nixon because he was ruthless, among other things.

Figure it out.

So, it's your position that Obama is ruthless, given that you're comparing him with Nixon? Curious.

Lots of people are ruthless. That doesn't make every ruthless person like Nixon.

OK, sucker that I am, I'll pop back in for two questions.

now_what, did you actually freaking *read* TLTIABQ's comment?

If so, can you tell me what part of the rhetorical strategy that TLT describes you find to be ruthless, or so unprincipled as to be dangerous? Or, really, unprincipled at all?

If you haven't read it, perhaps you should do so before offering your insights, *since that is what we're talking about*.

If all of this noise has been about Awesome0's use of the word "ruthless" I'll offer my opinion that you're wasting everyone's time.

Thanks -

Eric: "Did you not see that?"

DNFTT.

So, it's your position that Obama is ruthless, given that you're comparing him with Nixon?

In a word, no.

did you actually freaking *read* TLTIABQ's comment?

Yes. I freaking did.

if so, can you tell me what part of the rhetorical strategy that TLT describes you find to be ruthless, or so unprincipled as to be dangerous?

I find things like this to be dangerous:

He plays to win.
It's a thing of beauty.

You don't like it when Cheney plays to win.
You don't consider it a thing of beauty.
You don't like it when Cheney is ruthless.

If you want to say you are glad that the policies you advocate are being implemented, well OK. But come on.

(Godwin's law should probably be updated to include Cheney. How sad is it that I still live in this country?)

"I find things like this to be dangerous:

He plays to win.
It's a thing of beauty."

Then you will have to learn to live in fear of me and my blog comments.

I wish I could say I was glad the policies I advocate are being implemented. Sadly, so far all we have are words.

We'll see what happens.

And with that, I really and truly am out of pie.

Ciao.

"It is true that the world and the US have been ignoring Tibet."

Unless "not ignoring" means "going to war," or something not far from it, this isn't true at all.

It's traditionally hard for Americans to understand that America simply has a very limited ability to interfere in any significantly large country. There's just no significant pressure we can put on China to get China to do something it doesn't particularly want to do.

Ditto Europe as regards China.

That's not at all the same thing as "ignoring."

If you want to talk about ignoring, try Somalia:

Rival Islamist groups battled for a central Somali town on Friday, leaving at least 56 militants dead, while the number of new refugees from a month of fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, approached 100,000.

Somalia’s insurgency, which represents the latest cycle of violence in 19 years of conflict in the nation, has killed 18,000 civilians and thousands of fighters.

[...]

The United Nations refugee agency said that 96,000 residents had been forced from their homes in Mogadishu since a flare-up in fighting between the rebels and government forces in early May. That has added to the more than one million internal refugees in Somalia.

Aid agencies say Somalia now has one of the world’s worst, and most neglected, humanitarian crises. Among other things, three million Somalis urgently need food aid, officials said.

The United Nations said that about 35,000 of those who were displaced in Mogadishu over the past month were still in the city and were seeking shelter, because they had no means to leave.

How about Congo?
Five years after Congo’s catastrophic war officially ended, the rate at which people are dying in the country remains virtually unchanged, according to a new survey, despite the efforts of the world’s largest peacekeeping force, billions of dollars in international aid and a historic election that revived democracy after decades of violence and despotism.

[...]

The survey, released Tuesday, estimated that 45,000 people continue to die every month, about the same pace as in 2004, when the international push to rebuild the country had scarcely begun. Almost all the deaths come from hunger and disease, signs that the country is still grappling with the aftermath of a war that gutted its infrastructure, forced millions to flee and flattened its economy.

In all, more than 5.4 million people have died in Congo since the war began in 1998, according to the most recent survey’s estimate, the latest in a series completed by the International Rescue Committee, an American aid organization. Nearly half of the dead were children younger than 5 years old.

Perhaps most alarming, while the death rate has slightly decreased in eastern Congo, the last festering node of conflict, it has actually increased in some parts of central Congo, though the area has not seen combat in several years.

[...]

The mortality rate in Congo is 57 percent higher than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, the survey found. Particularly hard hit were young children, who are especially susceptible to diseases like malaria, measles, dysentery and typhoid, which can kill when medicine is not available.

[...]

The Congolese government spends just $15 per person each year on health care, according to the World Health Organization, less than half of what is recommended to provide the most basic but lifesaving care, like immunizations, malaria-fighting mosquito nets and hydration salts.

[...]

Ultimately, using the most conservative and least conservative assumptions, the data show with 95 percent certainty that 3.5 to 7.8 million people have died since 1998, according to the survey’s authors.

How about the civil war in Chad? How about the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda?

And so on.

Mind, I'm not suggesting we start intervening in those, or any other, given countries. I'm just saying they're situations that are more "ignored" than Tibet is. Tibet is one of the most highly paid-attention-to international situations in the world. (Second, perhaps, only to Israel/Palestine.)

Obama's goals regarding foreign policy, and in particular in the context of this speech, appear to be to defuse hostility between the West and the global Islamic community, and to set the stage for a dialog that might, if we are all very, very, very lucky, improve the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.

...and also to maintain American global hegemony while giving it a kinder, gentler multilateralist facelift. This is pretty clearly an overarching Obama foreign policy goal, albeit one he was unsurprisingly trying to keep out of this speech.

I think those are great goals

Given the aforementioned context, you'll pardon me if I curb my enthusiasm. We may very well see good come of the stance laid out here, but I'll reserve my praise for results rather than rhetoric, and in any case shall continue to avoid gushing over an unprincipled center-right "pragmatist". YMMV.

What a happy day it would be if, in the context of American politics, Obama was center-right.

russell, I find what Nell has described above fits the definition of ruthless pretty well.

Getting the activist base within the party behind you to win the primaries, then slowly abandoning them while "moving to the center" in order to win the majority of Democrats and then after the election abandoning a lot of them in order to make your position compatible with the mainstream of society as a whole - that is pretty ruthless.

It's not that Obama is particularly ruthless, rather that he's a politician and this is what politicians at his level have to do in order to succeed, but that doesn't make it any less ruthless. Using the very activists who got you into power in the first place as a rhetorical punching bag to, though, is pretty nasty, but it's not the first time I've seen this either.

novakant, what you're describing is just politics as she is played.

Obama's rhetorical tactics that I was describing (and objecting to at the time they were first employed) aren't "ruthless": they were just an early clue that the man isn't a principled progressive. But I never thought he was. No one could be elected president who was/is.

That doesn't mean I have to approve of everything he says, even when I can see how it might be intended to fit into an overall plan. Rhetoric does have consequences.

I've hammered enough here on the death- and despair-dealing results of his deceptive rhetorical choices wrt prisoners at Guantanamo and Bagram, but there are other examples. Wrt Iraq he's adopted multiple lies to frame his approach: that we invaded and occupied to help Iraqis, and that we're leaving, and that we're leaving because we've done such a bang-up job.

The ruthlessness part enters in when you consider just how much brass it takes for a U.S. president who didn't wait 72 hours into his term to blow sleeping women and children to hell with missiles to lecture other people that "It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children".

Nell, we seem to differ on the meaning of "ruthless" - I'm thinking of usages like "a ruthless businessman", i.e. someone who screws a few people over to get ahead, but doesn't cause extraordinary harm. In that sense, many politicians are ruthless, because screwing people over is part of the game of politics.

But in a more general sense, I agree with your sentiments regarding Obama.

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