« Choose Your Poison | Main | There hasn't been nearly enough freaking out, apparently »

September 16, 2016

Comments

Why do Islamic terrorists want Pence/Trump elected?

Who is directing Islamic terrorists to campaign for the Republican Trump's election is such a fashion?

"I'd like to know what conservatives here are going to do about the fact that your Trump/Conway/Priebus vermin Republican Party is coming after you and wants you gone:"

We left. I watched Priebus yesterday. Funk him. We need Gary Johnson to get funding so we can just replace the lot of them next election.

Is this Trump pig complicit in the New Jersey/New York terrorist attacks to take attention away from his thuggery?

http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/9/19/1571882/-Christie-knew-about-bridge-lane-closures-prosecutors-say

We must follow these terrorist leads to the heart of the Republican Party just as we must find out precisely what fatal, hidden disease will kill Hillary Clinton days before the election.

Opinions about the truth will out. All is narrative now.

The truth itself, not so much.

Stein/Johnson in 2020. Yeah, that's the ticket.

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a48704/jill-stein-clinton-worse-than-trump/

Personally, I'm looking forward to a Franken/Stein ticket.

The 11-state West I talk about, largely through its almost universal veto-proof ballot-initiative "parallel" legislatures, is becoming a pot-smoking, vote by mail, independent redistricting region.

Here's an interesting thought experiment for you. Suppose this happens. What will be the broad political impact?

Do you expect the currently (very) red states in the mountain west to move towards the Democrats? Or do you see them as being the first states to have explicitly Libertarian state governments? Because it's hard to see the characteristics you describe mesh with the social conservative side of the GOP.

I don't think we're getting rid of racism anytime soon.

Getting rid of it completely? Nope, not happening.

But if you're old enough to remember the 1950s, or have studied the history of the time even a little, it's striking how much has changed on that front. We still have a long way to go, but on any objective assessment the distance we have come is amazing -- especially when you consider how much of the population is still people who grew up marinating in the racism of the time.

I think this is one of those cases where we need to work at remembering that a focus on perfection can be one of the worst enemies of progress.

So what public policies logically follow from this assessment?

I don't understand the question. You're proposing public policy to remedy some aspects of human nature?

I have to conclude that I don't understand.

Who are "they"?

Racists, nativists, isolationists. Mostly all of a piece with one another, although there are some that are one of those without being the other two.

Michael Cain: fascinating, thank you.

Why do Islamic terrorists want Pence/Trump elected?

Count, faux naivete is a new tactic for you! As we all (and you most of all) know, Trump is the wet-dream US President of Isis/Al Quaeda/Putin and all other friends of the democratic west.

A person can be realistic about the harm that forced perfection on the prejudice front might do, but also draw a line in the sand that we're not backsliding in any way because a political movement wants us to.

If Trump's Breitbartian anti-semitic operatives, for example, are working to take us back to a previous time in this country when such sentiments were tolerated, then I believe we have a right as Americans to prevent that backsliding, even if it includes the use of violence against the perpetrators.

If alt-conservatives, even assholes who happen to be gay, want to harass black and female performers who dare to act in productions for which they are hired, then we have a right as Americans to stop that harassment in its tracks, including with whatever physical violence is deemed appropriate.

If the law protects that expression of hate, then the law is an ass.

My two cents. We may never reach perfection but we're not going back either.

Mileage may vary.

I don't understand the question. You're proposing public policy to remedy some aspects of human nature?

So, you are asserting that racism is a "aspect of human nature"?

You can't be serious.

Five steps forward, two steps back (if only briefly) can be extremely frustrating. But while there's no reason not to resist the backsliding, it's a mistake to treat it as a permanent change for the worse. Fight back, but don't give in to despair if you lose the occasional battle along the way.

I think this is one of those cases where we need to work at remembering that a focus on perfection can be one of the worst enemies of progress.

With all due respect, wj, this strikes me as a dodge. People who oppose racial progress have been making this same claim since the end of the Civil War.

I'm not lumping you in with "them", but I'm seeing a tendency to define "the perfect" downward, thus enabling trotting out that hoary old maxim, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

So it is incumbent on you to tell us what you think "a focus on perfection" consists of before it can be so cavalierly written off.

OK I'll take a shot at that. By "a focus on perfection" I mean taking the position that, if there is the slightest slippage, it must be greeted with horror and despair. Not just opposed, which it should be. But treated as cause for panic.

In the current political environment, we have seen racism coming out of the closet. And that's certainly not a good thing.

But the fact that some, or even a lot of, people are feeling freer to give public voice to their racism is NOT an indication that racism is exploding to new levels. Yes, it would certainly be desirable if overt racism became once again "not the done thing". In part because hearing less of it reduces the numbers of the next generation who learn it.

But what we should not do is go into panic mode. Not decide to lash out blindly. And not just hunker down and hope the bad guys will go away. Both of which I feel like I am seeing way too much of lately.

So, you are asserting that racism is a "aspect of human nature"?

It seems to me that the evidence is in slarti's favor on this one.

It seems to me that the evidence is in slarti's favor on this one.

Well, golly gee. Perhaps I missed that class on "human nature". So here we have, apparently, it all laid out.

Humans are racists.

So, let's say, just for the sake of argument, that this is true.

What do we do about it?

Shrug our shoulders?

Adopt public policies to mitigate the effects flowing from this natural state of affairs?

Pick one.

But please do not reply that you "don't understand the question.

It's pretty straightforward.

OK I'll take a shot at that. By "a focus on perfection" I mean taking the position that, if there is the slightest slippage, it must be greeted with horror and despair.

Swing and a miss.

I'm not sure what that has to do with making the perfect the enemy of the good.

An example from internecine left blog warfare would be those who opposed the Affordable Care Act because it was not a full blown single payer system.

Still not clear what you're about on this, wj.

In part because hearing less of it reduces the numbers of the next generation who learn it.

Not likely, it would seem, as I have been admonished that racism is part and parcel of "human nature".

:)

But what we should not do is go into panic mode. Not decide to lash out blindly. And not just hunker down and hope the bad guys will go away. Both of which I feel like I am seeing way too much of lately.

A couple of examples of each might help. Should be easy to produce given you've seen "way too much" of it out there.

:)

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/09/everyone-agrees-chris-christie-knew-all-about-bridgegate

This just in:

Donald Trump today dumped Mike Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in favor of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, citing news from the Bridgegate trial of Christie's direct role in ruthlessly seeking vengeance on his political enemies by closing all but one lane of the bridges in question during rush hour.

Trump issued a statement praising Christie for his "Putin-like leadership qualities in getting his way, come hell or politically correct high water." He said "maybe I've been a bit unfair to Governor Christie up until now. I thought he was a just a fat fuck with a flat head on which I could set my drink while he pleasured me in public, much to his humiliation, but this confirmation of his utter assholishness, I firmly believe, shows he is deserving of even lower callings in the service of the tens of millions of assholes in this country who support my campaign for President."

"Besides, Pence expects me to do all of the name-calling against this country's enemies, and quite frankly, while he wants Obamacare recipients dead just as I do, what fun is it to just murder them without also rubbing their faces in their theft of health from hard-working assholes in this country."

When asked what he thought about Trump's move, rival Presidential candidate Gary Johnson asked "What the hell is a "traffic cone?" and when informed of its purpose, said his budget cuts as President would preclude any use of traffic cones by busybody highway departments, even during terrorist attack emergencies. "If the American people want to cut in line and cause traffic jams all the way from the Throg's Neck Bridge into the New Jersey suburbs, then they are the best deciders of that, along with their firearms. The heavier the traffic, the hotter the day, the bigger the clips.

When prompted that the Throg's Neck Bridge connects to Long Island, not New Jersey, Johnson missed not a beat and said, "Leave it to the incompetent government to build its bridges in all the wrong places. And the next guy who uses the word "Throg" in any title gets fired. What is that, anyway, like a, like a frog with a speech impediment. In New Mexico, we use the King's English. A taco is a taco and that's it."

Obviously not at my most articulate today.

What I'm seeing (or at least think I'm seeing) is an increasing number of comments along these lines: "we're hearing a lot more explicitly racist comments, and not just the sort of dog whistles we have become accustomed to. The fact that the racists are coming out in the open means that we are on the verge of losing all of the progress that we've made in the last half century! Only extreme measures can save us, and even that may well not be enough."**

It's a council of despair. And one which seems to be leading those from whom I hear it to throw up their hands and walk away from involvement in the current political campaign. Not just the Presidential campaign, but any and all campaigns this year.

Does that make it any clearer?

** No, it's not a real quote. I'm using the quotation marks to indicate what I feel I'm hearing, as opposed to what I'm trying to say.

"OK I'll take a shot at that. By "a focus on perfection" I mean taking the position that, if there is the slightest slippage, it must be greeted with horror and despair. Not just opposed, which it should be. But treated as cause for panic."

On an individual to individual basis, I might buy this. However, when an entire political movement informing one of two binary political parties in the United States morphs into that sort of despair-causing horror, I panic.

Not advisable to panic an armed populace.

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a48707/australia-refugees-island-trump/

Trump and his buddy-in-waiting Gary Johnson want to treat the New York/New Jersey Islamic/Republican Party jihadist just like they are going to treat 20 million or more American citizens now on Obamacare and Medicaid:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-ahmad-rahami-bemoans-hospital-lawyer

Pick one.

(B)

Here's an interesting thought experiment for you. Suppose this happens. What will be the broad political impact? Do you expect the currently (very) red states in the mountain west to move towards the Democrats? Or do you see them as being the first states to have explicitly Libertarian state governments? Because it's hard to see the characteristics you describe mesh with the social conservative side of the GOP.

Speaking hypothetically...

Yes to a blue-ward shift. Per the Census Bureau, the West has the same percentage non-rural population as the Northeast, both well above any other region. The population in the West is growing, and the large majority of that growth is in the region's small number of major metro areas. The suburbs in those areas are shifting; consider that Denver's suburbs voted for a sales tax increase to pay for light rail.

Personally, I think there are differences between the Mountain West GOP and the South/Midwest GOP that drives the national party. For example, eight of those 11 western states have adopted the Medicaid expansion (as did Alaska and Hawaii). In each of the other three -- Idaho, Utah, Wyoming -- the Republican governor has come out in favor of expansion. I expect all three to adopt it by 2018. Ballot initiatives have something to do with it; red Arizona passed independent redistricting over the state GOP's official opposition pretty easily.

My expectation is that you'll see an emerging regional caucus in Congress. Recall that Congress-critters from the West voted against the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act almost unanimously. A few years ago, Rep. Ryan wrote a budget that included cuts to fire fighting on federal lands, and the entire Republican delegation from the region showed up at his office to say they wouldn't vote for it for that reason.

Finally, with tongue only partially in cheek, consider the case of major college football. The Pac-12 and MWC have become regional conferences, both spanning from the Rockies to the Pacific. In the process, ties across the Great Plains have been cut. Based on almost 30 years of observation, Denver sports talk radio is no longer focused on how well the rival Nebraska Cornhuskers are doing, it's all about Stanford or Oregon.

(B)

Thanks! You are now in the minority of white people in this country.

Now for the hard part. What are the most effective policies? Leave aside any consideration of how politically tenable they are.

Food for thought.

But right now, the battle is to stop the election of a narcissistic racist asshat to the presidency.

"What are the most effective policies? Leave aside any consideration of how politically tenable they are."

I've always been in favor of kick-ass criminal penalties for acting out your bigotry.

Like, jail.

But I'm not sure that would change any hearts and minds.

So, you are asserting that racism is a "aspect of human nature"?

You can't be serious.

You can't be serious.

Sapient, again your response had absolutely nothing to do with the facts of what was happening in Libya and given your rich fantasy life or willingness to accept baseless propaganda then anything can be justified. If Libya was a success, then any intervention which creates chaos and civil war is a success so long as the war dies down eventually. Three cheers for Clinton.

As for Syria, that war has dragged on because outside forces on all sides keep it going. Syria is not the anti- interventionist lab experiment-- the rebels had support from the beginning and much of it went to Al Qaeda.

As for isolation, cheer up. Both Britain and te US support the Saudi war in Yemen.

Incidentally, Obama saw Libya as a failure.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/

I would take the self justifications in the piece with a truckload of salt, but he didn't think as of last April that you could present it as a success.

This election has me feeling more sour than I can remember feeling at any point. Trump is a bizarre freak show and to stop him I am voting for someone I think should have been driven out of politics along with everyone else who spouted Bush's pro Iraq War propaganda.

You're mischaracterizing Obama's remarks, Donald. He said this:

"We averted large-scale civilian casualties, we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess."

He then says:

"I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up."

He didn't say that it was wrong to intervene.

You spend a heck of a lot of your time loathing people. It's really a bad look.

I picked this up at cleek's joint about my hometown's classic insult:

http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/11154076-74/jagoff-added-dictionary

Finally, Donald Trump and a raft of Republican political and media personages can open the Oxford English Dictionary under "J" and learn what the world thinks of them.

and given your rich fantasy life or willingness to accept baseless propaganda then anything can be justified

This is a story from The Washington Post, dated February 23, 2011"

"Even top military officers have defected. On Sunday, Maj. Gen. Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the Tobruk Garrison, took off his shoes and entered a mosque, he said. Inside he hailed the martyrs of the revolution and told the people he was with them.

Hundreds gathered around him and wept. Mahmoud said that he had participated in Gaddafi's 1969 revolution but that his family had persuaded him in recent days to turn against the government. His daughter, who holds a doctorate, sobbed into the phone, telling him of the hundreds who had been killed in their home town of Benghazi. Many were teenage boys, and some were the neighbors' children."

This is from the Human Rights Watch website, dated February 20, 2011:

"A potential human rights catastrophe is unfolding in Libya as protesters brave live gunfire and death for a third day running," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Libya is trying to impose an information blackout, but it can't hide a massacre."

Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that at least 10,000 protesters are protesting in the streets of Benghazi on February 20, after the funerals of the 84 protesters shot dead the day before.

***
"In 1996, Libyan authorities killed 1,200 prisoners on one day in Abu Salim and they still haven't acknowledged doing anything wrong that day," said Whitson. "Today the Libyan government has shown the world that it is still using ruthless brutality against its population."

Here's a Reuters article describing a growing refugee crisis, and food shortages.

These were all my fantasies?

Oh, and Donald, for your further amusement, an interesting real estate deal between Gaddafi and Donald Trump.

Enlightenment comes with the Google.

Donald, more of my fantasies from Mother Jones. See the serial updates that were contemporaneous with events as they unfolded.

Sapient, none of that refutes the British report whose paragraphs I cited. Yes, Gaddafi committed a massive atrocity against prisoners in 1996. And no, nothing of the scale the interventionists talked about occurred in 2011.

The fact is that people claimed mass rapes and imminent mass slaughter would occur if Gaddafi retook Benghazi, yet he had already retaken towns and the death tolls were in the low hundreds. Not mass genocide. And of course rebels who wanted intervention played up the threat for all they could, including warnings of " African mercenaries"' which was racist crap that endangered Africans. You don't refute anything by citing what interventionists were saying. Bad things were happening in Libya. The interventionists then blew those up into imminent genocide.

Again, you might want to make a distinction between what actually did happen and the exaggerated claims that people used to justify an intervention that led to mass chaos. You could read the paragraphs I coped and look at the numbers. The violence was greater in Egypt when Morsi was deposed. Should we have bombed? It was greater when Israel bombed Gaza. It's greater in Yemen and likely to get much worse unless the handful of politicians in DC succeed in pressuring Obama on this. Should we be bombing our allies? Say, why not give them more weapons and deny their crimes? And then ridicule Trump for his bootlicking of Putin. I love how upset Clintonite liberals are about how Trump boot licks Putin even as we are helping the Saudis bring Yemen to the brink of catastrophe. But gosh, wouldn't want to make Democrats look bad.

Does it ever once occur to you even for a split second to be morally consistent about any of this? Why do we make such a huge outcry about the killings of our enemies when some of our friends kill more people with our weapons than Gaddafi did? Does that bother you even a tiny bit?

As for Trump, it's entertaining that you think I give a damn. It's reflexive with you. The world is divided into two camps and you can rebut me by showing Trump is a scum. That's so cute. Trump is a walking disaster and constant liar who can't honestly claim allegiance to any decent honorable position afaik. It doesn't make the Libyan intervention any less of a crap storm , to euphemise Obama's phrase.

Well, again, Donald, you're willing to believe the 20 / 20 hindsight of the British, who are also having trouble getting their heads around their own decision to leave the EU. Regret is their current mantra, apparently. They're way too confused to inspire my confidence in them as the authoritative source on the Libya intervention post-mortem.

It wasn't hindsight-- people were making that point very early on and it is always the case that interventionists take bad events and atrocities going on and portray them as incipient genocide. It's absolutely bog standard behavior. Similar or larger atrocities committed by allies get treatment on page 6 in the NYT and barely a word is spoken by the pundits who constantly urge for military intervention when the wrong guys are doing the killing.

Why is that? I understand government officials being dishonest, but this behavior isn't limited to government officials. I am being rhetorical. Obviously for many people there is some tribal political affiliation going on. As for pundits, there seems to be an unwritten rule about these things. Decades ago you could understand why even the stupid pundit class didn't know about, say, East Timor, but not knowing about Yemen is impossible for anyone who makes it to page 6, yet it has been studiously ignored by most pundits and politicians in both parties. Saudi influence? Obviously. But look over there. Putin. More generally, if the US political class gets together they can ignore anything.

Dismissing the British report because of Brexit is like dismissing global warming because Al Gore is fat and has a big house. It's the same level of logic. Ignore facts if they make one's political tribe look bad. Trump is the logical end result of how partisans approach reality. Why bother with it at all?

Btw, in my own personal case it would be hindsight. I didn't know enough about Libya to know how exaggerated the pro intervention rhetoric was and I don't think you would have found me anywhere online taking a stand. I was naturally suspicious, but ignorant.

But there are people paid to analyze facts and to be experts or to consult experts and see how much evidence there was for the claims made. And the report also points out that the objective of preventing the fall of Benghazi was achieved very quickly. Then the mission changed to overthrow.

not knowing about Yemen is impossible for anyone who makes it to page 6, yet it has been studiously ignored by most pundits and politicians in both parties. Saudi influence? Obviously.

By the way, are you ever going to address the possibility that its not just "Saudi influence" but something tied to the Iran deal, something most sentient humans believe will ward off much more destruction? You accuse me of lacking an imagination, but perhaps you should put yours to use more often.

Comparing Libya to Syria is also instructive. This article by Josh Rogen is something to think about. And articles published since that one indicate that ISIL is practically gone from Libya now.

Really? Did we just see a Mother Jones link, here?

We might was well go back to citing National Review, or Andrew Sullivan, or even Cato. Or Free Republic, even. Hey! Democratic Underground!

Just like real news sources, only...without so much sourcing.

You spend a heck of a lot of your time loathing people. It's really a bad look.

You spend a breathtaking amount of time loathing different people, condescending towards still others, and exactly none focusing the same level of scrutiny you direct outwards back towards your ideological patrons. I don't think you're really in a credible position to dismiss anyone as looking bad on such topics.

Your repetition of the liberal hawk mantra that negative outcomes can only be visible in hindsight is equally hollow, particularly when paired in ridiculous contrast with confident speculation about the negative consequences which would have arrisen had your preferred course of action not been pursued.

You keep invoking Iran in very nebulous but Deeply Significant terms; is the takeaway from such references supposed to be that we had no choice but to offer the Saudis carte blanche everywhere else to get them, a nation who was not central to the negotiations, to sign off on the deal? Just who exactly is the patron and who is the client state here?

"real news sources"

Slart, which of those do you read, that haven't been completely disqualified by the "just like real news sources", for whatever reason?

I read the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and listened to some C-Span years ago (still have NPR on in the car, but even they now feel compelled to offer the other side of the argument "Moon not made of green cheese? Some beg to differ") but I noticed a few years ago that I might as well have been citing the "Arabian Nights", for all it mattered in political issue discussions with folks who thought they were getting truth and fact from some source not associated with the lame stream media, and that is a bipartisan statement.

If I dumb back up, I'll need to find all new friends.

I took a gander at the National Enquirer at the check out stand the other day, and it was running Donald Trump's talking points, most of which had to with Bill Clinton's dinger.

You have goats and pigs to talk to. What do they say, which is to say this may well be the last political cycle in which I have anything to say, nonplussed as I am?

I may find a garden to tend and otherwise fuck it.

Deeply Significant

Is that different from deeply significant?

Perhaps this is something to consider: many people, both in the region and elsewhere, are in hair trigger mode regarding Iran, and are ready to do something extremely violent and destructive. The Iran deal is something that is forestalling that event. Whether or not it can actually be prevented is anyone's guess, but buying time against such things is wise. Nobody has given the Saudis a "carte blanche". Diplomacy is difficult; otherwise, maybe we'd be doing it instead of commenting on blogs.

"maybe we'd be doing it instead of commenting on blogs."

Without wading into your dispute with Donald Johnson, this strikes me as a worthy observation.

We live in a culture now in which the only folks who know anything about any particular subject ... in politics or out ... are those who know nothing about it, and that ignorance in and of itself is held as the highest form of de Toquevillian authenticity.

Everything is fantasy sports.

de Tocqueville.

Or, as Gary Johnson might spell it, de Tokeville, man.

Deeply Significant is pregnant with unknowable implications that must be assumed in our ignorance when someone seeks to question the plans of very serious experts who have only absolute necessity and the greater good in mind when making their agonizingly difficult decisions. It differs from deeply significant, which is the explicitly and exhaustively stated motivations and outcomes that are projected by those same very serious experts when they outline their blindingly nuanced plans.

Oh, and gauging by your response, I was correct in my assumption that your invocations of Iran aren't actually tied to anything beyond "how DARE you question a sitting Democratic President!" - you don't have any reason to specifically connect the two, but you'll speculatively do so anyway... even as you chide us for daring to speculate about the too-serious-to-be-understood-by-peons business of international diplomacy. Funny how the objections to amateur analysis of foreign affairs as hopelessly ignorant and uninformed only come out after someone questions your conclusions in that arena. Lead by example unless it's inconvenient, I guess? Plus ça change...

Funny how the objections to amateur analysis of foreign affairs as hopelessly ignorant and uninformed

Did I say that? Or did I provide evidence for my disagreement with other people here? I purposely included myself in acknowledging that we're here, in the Count's words, playing "fantasy football."

The country's leaders have a daunting task. They're trying to do it well, although sometimes they fail. I don't see the callousness and corruption that you and Donald seem to impute to every decision that's made by anyone in government.

I don't see the callousness and corruption that you and Donald seem to impute to every decision that's made by anyone in government.

This strikes me as a terrible misreading of those who disagree with your opinion(s) on these matters.

This strikes me as a terrible misreading of those who disagree with your opinion(s) on these matters.

Is it? What else accounts for the loathing? Donald has never addressed what might have been necessary to negotiate the Iran deal, and why that deal might be essential. NV claims that we've willy nilly given the Saudis "carte blanche." What accounts for this reluctance on their part to try to understand the rationale of our current policy?

They're simply not generous enough to attribute good faith to policy makers. How about this phrase by NV: "even as you chide us for daring to speculate about the too-serious-to-be-understood-by-peons business of international diplomacy"

You're welcome to your own interpretation.

What accounts for this reluctance on their part to try to understand the rationale of our current policy?

And by this I don't mean "agree with our current policy". I only mean "understand the rationale" in a way that doesn't imply immorality.

Ever here, we are seeing shadows of what I think is the deepest cancer on our political discourse today. Way too many people assume, insist even, that those who disagree with them on policy do so only from malice.

Apparently, the idea that well intentioned people might have different perspectives is fading from the scene. With the obvious corollary that an absolutely enormous fraction of the total population is malevolent. Not just wrong, but resolutely evil.

Among other things, this makes civilized discussion of issues impossible. Not to mention making it difficult to reach the compromises necessary to actually govern -- and electorally risky to even appear to contemplate doing so.

Apparently, the idea that well intentioned people might have different perspectives is fading from the scene.

This attitude is, unfortunately, blinding a lot of people to the fact that there are a few very seriously dangerous, ill-intentioned people around as well. Painting everyone with this brush is an incredible disservice to the truth.

What wj said, assuming he meant to start his comment with "Even here.."

Hey, folks. The same person wrote both of the following quotes....

"They're (people who disagree with me) simply not generous enough to attribute good faith to policy makers (i.e., those they disagree with)...."

"This attitude (assuming good faith to those you disagree with) is, unfortunately, blinding a lot of people to the fact that there are a few very seriously dangerous, ill-intentioned people around as well. Painting everyone with this brush is an incredible disservice to the truth."

Is this what is known as 'having it both ways'?

What I'm getting out of this discussion is that Donald and NV are bothered by inconsistent critical examination, depending on whose actions are under discussion, and what moral implications are or are not taken into consideration.

One can question the moral implications of a particular policy, whether foreign or domestic, without necessarily imputing evil to the people making what one might consider to be morally problematic decisions.

Disagreeing with someone's moral calculations may be the same thing, in some sense, as calling that person immoral. Or it can mean that the person in question failed to recognize or fully appreciate some aspect of an admittedly complicated situation and therefore failed to choose the best option. At some point, you may come to question someone's judgment after they've repeatedly failed in this way.

What I see is that both Donald and NV are presenting cases based on the real-world consequences of the policies they disagree with, as opposed to saying, "I don't like this policy because the people who came up with it are bad."

Certainly, you can disagree with their assessments, but characterizing them as simply imputing evil or immorality to the decision makers as the basis for their opinions is wrong AFAICT.

But maybe I'm misunderstanding the criticism of their thinking.

Is this what is known as 'having it both ways'?

Perhaps you should defend the examples I cited that you characterized as a "misreading".

But maybe I'm misunderstanding the criticism of their thinking.

I would like for Donald and NV to specifically address the complexities of the Iran deal, to state their opinion on how worthwhile the Iran deal is, and to discuss the possibility that in order to arrive at certain nations' forbearance of military action against Iran, we had to do some things that would appease some of the participants, such as provide the Saudis with logistical support in Yemen (which there's no evidence has any effect on the civilian casualties that the Saudis are, all by themselves, inflicting).

NV should explain how that is giving "carte blanche" to the Saudis, especially since we're sending our nation's highest diplomat to take the Saudis to task for their atrocities. Not sure I'm understanding her argument. But maybe that's because I have trouble fathoming the unknowable implications of NV's pregnant writing style.

"Apparently, the idea that well intentioned people might have different perspectives is fading from the scene. With the obvious corollary that an absolutely enormous fraction of the total population is malevolent. Not just wrong, but resolutely evil."

Well, despite my comments above, let's not go all reasonable yet, just when an enormous fraction of the total population has coughed up true malevolence against the rest of us, including conservatives who are former Republicans.


https://www.balloon-juice.com/2016/09/21/the-beclowning/

Didn't Don King kill a guy? Now he's Trump's MLK?

Thank you, Count. Exactly.

I don't know about "Exactly", but let's not get our Donalds mixed up.

By the way, this, in my previous 3:57 pm comment ...


"including conservatives who are former Republicans."

.... refers to "the rest of us", NOT "true malevolence", earlier in the sentence.

Last great hope of mankind (sic)...
http://www.slate.com/articles/life/inside_higher_ed/2016/09/why_did_a_quarter_of_this_librarian_s_gift_go_to_football.html

If I have heroes, which I am reluctant to admit, even recognising that all heroes are deeply flawed in one way or another, one of them might just be...
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/26/jane-jacobs-street-smarts

What HSH said. Well put.

Bernard-Henri Lévy on Libya from today's Guardian.

"Sarkozy and Cameron are criticised in the committee’s report for overstating the threat Gaddafi posed to civilians and acting without first taking the time to “verify the real threat that the Gaddafi regime posed to civilians”. Like the other arguments, this is just not serious. How do you verify “a real threat”? Should we have waited (as happened in Syria) until 100,000 people had died – 200,000, 300,000? And those tank columns I saw and filmed in early April 2011 as they levelled the outskirts of Benghazi – would it have been better to let them gut the entire city? Not to mention Misrata. Imagine how the survivors of that shelled and massacred city, with its roads reduced to ash and rubble, its remaining inhabitants fleeing bombs and sniper fire, would respond to the report’s strange questions. And that battle happened in April, lasting through May – weeks and months after Gaddafi had made the threats that today, from within the panelled halls of Westminster, we are urged to consider as having been mere 'rhetoric', not to be taken 'literally'."

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Sometimes there is NO good outcome. Getting involved in a civil war is almost 100% in that particular basket of deplorables.

all I have to say about the middle east is that I wish Dick Cheney would STFU and go away.

I don't know why anybody listens to a word that man has to say.

As you were.

I would like for Donald and NV to specifically address the complexities of the Iran deal, to state their opinion on how worthwhile the Iran deal is, and to discuss the possibility that in order to arrive at certain nations' forbearance of military action against Iran, we had to do some things that would appease some of the participants, such as provide the Saudis with logistical support in Yemen (which there's no evidence has any effect on the civilian casualties that the Saudis are, all by themselves, inflicting).

Really?

You're the one who keeps implying this should be taken for granted as being the case. And yet that's all you do. You don't cite sources, you don't discuss rationales. You just waggle the implication about as if a magic wand that absolves us of any consequences of our insignificant logistical support like munition provision and airborne refueling missions that extended range and loiter time of Saudi bombers... you know, the ones causing the civilian casualties via the arms we provide that you lay solely at the Saudis' feet. So if you really want a serious discussion of this, lead the way. I don't lay out laundry lists of what I expect you to discuss, let alone the conclusions I'm supposed to reach and weigh in doing so (!!!). I frankly find it more than a little offensive that you'd expect anyone to do so merely on your whim.

Your question about my accusations of giving carte blanche are far more reasonable, however... so the Saudis are committing atrocities against civilians with our continued logistical support, right? Right. But the US is diplomatically taking them to task. Obviously, they're being held accountable... except they're not. We provide logistical support and impose no meaningful restrictions. So... are we actually supposed to believe that words speak louder than actions? It's all well and good to criticize Saudi Arabia - indeed, it's very well justified - but when the criticism is accompanied by no change whatsoever in our concrete military policies...

I must also say it's slightly appalling that you'd be so myopic as to see no reason not to post the Lévy quote you did:

Sarkozy and Cameron are criticised in the committee’s report for overstating the threat Gaddafi posed to civilians and acting without first taking the time to “verify the real threat that the Gaddafi regime posed to civilians”. Like the other arguments, this is just not serious. How do you verify “a real threat”? Should we have waited (as happened in Syria) until 100,000 people had died – 200,000, 300,000?

-----

On a slightly less vitriolic note, hsh's 3:27 nailed it. Thanks for that.

OK, let's suppose that the US was to take some effective action.

1) what sort of action might that be? That is, what action would actually impact the Saudis on this? I ask because I can only see two options:
- threaten to (and when our bluff is inevitably called, follow thru) make Iran our chief regional ally instead, or
- take military action in Yemen ourselves in opposition to (i.e. attack) the Saudis.
Would anything less work? I don't think so.

2) what would be the consequences outside of Yemen? Either of those or whatever alternative suggestions you have.

Some discussion of how this is better than the mess we have would be a plus. Because no question the current situation is not good. Least bad, perhaps, but not good.

It's fine to denounce things we are doing. But it's more effective when combined with a proposal for an alternative. With enough detail to show that you've thought through the consequences.

Countme-In: "I may find a garden to tend and otherwise fuck it."

This adds a whole new dimension to Candide's closing line: Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

(Possibly intended by the Count.)

The last time a government claimed to be pursuing a specifically "ethical" foreign policy...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/uk_politics/2001/open_politics/foreign_policy/morality.stm

... didn't work out particularly well.

While not advocating an explicitly unethical foreign policy, maybe a principle of 'least chaos' might be more sensible ?

And yes, in some respects Iran ought to be a more natural ally than Saudi Arabia - and it's not as though the existing relationship doesn't have elements of the callous and immoral.

Hi folks,
I'd appreciate it if, rather than posting 2 or 3 comments in quick succession, everyone aims to post one comment and waits for a reply. I think this makes it possible to have a bit more detailed conversation. I realize that it is often the case that you write something and then realize after hitting post that you want to add something, but if that is happening often, it might be better to take a bit more time and make it one comment. Thanks.

No, sapient, I don't think we should give arms to the Saudis because they are unhappy with the Iran deal. We have an unfortunate relationship with that loathsome ( oops) government because they have a lot of oil and I understand that, but there are limits to what we should do to spare their hurt feelings. The Iran deal will not fall apart because the US refuses to give them aid until they stop bombing hospitals and bringing Yemen to the brink of famine. But supposing it did, then own it. We support state terror on a massive scale because we have good intentions. Then go back to the regularly scheduled denunciations of people who support terror because they are loathsome.

Some senators, mostly Democrats with a few Republicans,agree with me.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=114&session=2&vote=00145

Most Republicans do not. They didn't vote that way to protect the Iran deal. they oppose it. They voted that way to say we are loyal to our ally. Obama, I have read, has sold the Saudis over 100 billion in arms starting in 2009. It's doubtful to me that all of this money flows around and everyone involved supports arming hospital bombers for the best of motives.

And it would really be nice if, when we yet again support some country committing war crimes, if we openly discussed it on front pages. The fact that it languishes on the back pages of the NYT and it isn't heatedly debated shows a willingness to cover it up. People in Yemen know what we are doing. But most Americans don't. I don't know how an honest discussion would go, because I don't think we have honest discussions on such topics while they happen or before they come back and bite us. There is no incentive for people who support the Saudis to be too open about what is happening, which is why the British government just lied about it for awhile, and it muddies the waters in a political campaign if you admit that the good guys are doing this sort of thing.

As for loathing, hypocrisy about war crimes from liberals makes me irritable. I'm serious about Trump being the logical culmination of how we approach serious subjects in the US. People simply pick and choose what facts they want to believe or notice and there is this vast network of amateur and professional BS artists on various sides who try and make everyone stay within the approved framing. It's not surprising in hindsight that some exceptionally narcissistic conman was going to notice how little reality seems to matter in our politics, take dishonesty to new levels and find out that it might actually help him win votes.

Btw, on a totally different subject, JD Vance. I really like this guy. Still haven't read his book.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/opinion/when-it-comes-to-baskets-were-all-deplorable.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

OK, let's suppose that the US was to take some effective action.

How about stopping providing operational and logistical support for Saudi operations in Yemen? How about not approving new $1.15B arms sales to the Kingdom like we did yesterday?

JD Vance has a point of view. I'm going to read his book too. I spoke in an earlier thread about my upbringing in Ohio with the very people he grew up with.

Here's one:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/kathy-miller-mahoning-county-ohio-no-racism-trump

I spent large swathes of time as a kid and young adult right where that ignoramus lives.

She's full of shit and if JD Vance is going to bend over backwards to "understand" her, fuck him.

MLK died in vain. Fuck it all and kill it.

I grew up sort of taking it for granted that otherwise good people could also be terrible bigots or have blind spots the size of small countries, because it was everywhere. I had my own bigotries I wasn't aware of then, which of course makes me wonder what ones I might have now. I would think most white people in America my age could say the same. There's some fine line that I don't know how to draw where you condemn the bigotry with all the harshness it deserves while recognizing the humanity of the bigot. Vance is a conservative, but when I read him he comes across the way I always thought people were supposed to think about these issues. When I was much younger I remember reading a rather Vance-like book by a man named William Campbell, "Brother to a Dragonfly", who made the same sorts of points Vance makes now.

Back to Yemen. This BBC piece is about starving children, without the shocking photos (well, actually, there are a few photos, but at a discrete distance).

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37429043

At some point I think even the US press will start to put this on the front page, unless the Saudis are pressured to behave better. Not even our political culture could ignore a mass famine induced by an ally who we are supporting, not indefinitely anyway.

Now there is cluelessness on an epic scale. So are we reduced to waiting for her kind to die off to be replaced with better? Or is this just "human nature", in which case, we can just expect more of the same?

If you assert her opinions on race are "human nature", well, I vehemently disagree. She was taught that shit.

I hadn't really thought about Will Campbell in a long time, so I googled his name and found he has a wikipedia article.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_D._Campbell

With apologies to LJ for the repeated posts, but I keep finding interesting links. This will be the last for a while. Gotta do other things.

This is a post by Daniel Larison on the disingenuous arguments given by McCain and Graham in favor of arming the Saudis. Note again that in their case the politics has nothing to do with saving the Iran deal.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/mccain-and-grahams-despicable-defense-of-the-war-on-yemen/

Donald:

As I've pointed out, I grew up with many of these people, all close to me and to varying degrees prejudiced, as was common during the time.

Did that woman emerge from a time capsule buried in 1961, her pig coif perfect?

Now, it's 2016 and we have an entire political movement embodying total ignorance regarding racism, proud of it, demagoguing the hell out of it, and intent on imposing that racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, overt racist nationalism, and very other obscenity on this country, like I have to tell you, or anyone else here. ;)

Here's how objective journalism should work from this day forward. Interview a nothing like that woman and when she gets done spouting circa 1958 crap, the reporter should knock her to the ground and kick her head in.

I know all about changing minds one individual at a time. Peace out, and all. Who was the fucker assigned to her that didn't do their job? She needs a Malcolm X to get up all up in there on her in no uncertain terms.

That would be objective journalism and real political incorrectness that the ubltra-sensitive filth Trump/Republicans can sink their teeth into.

Violence is the answer.

I'm perfectly aware of the enormous enlightened strides that have been made in race relations in this country, and to this day, among some beloved friends and family of my own, they just don't like the fucking blacks, even though they work among them and maybe live nearby.

When I'm around them and the subject comes up, especially back East, the conversation is really no different than it was sixty years ago, ridicule and not one iota of patience with anything pertaining to the Civil Rights movement, though no one uses the "n" word, but only because they know I tend to take rooms apart when that shit starts.

I don't know what.

I'm done with this shit.

If you assert her opinions on race are "human nature", well, I vehemently disagree. She was taught that shit.

But there must be an origin. If she was taught that, who taught her? How did her teacher learn it? Is it human nature to teach it once one has learned it? But then, where did it come from in the first place? How long has it existed? Why does it continue to this day?

NV: How about stopping providing operational and logistical support for Saudi operations in Yemen? How about not approving new $1.15B arms sales to the Kingdom like we did yesterday?

I'd agree that those would be good things to do.

But would they have any serious impact on what the Saudis are doing in Yemen? I suspect not. Their efforts would be sloppier and less effective, perhaps. But they are there for what seem to them to be serious foreign and domestic policy reasons. And merely losing our support wouldn't change those reasons.

Which is to say, I'm not sure those would count as "effective" things we could do. That is, they wouldn't change what is happening on the ground.

Even if it doesn't change anything on the ground, the US can't be seen as having very strong convictions about what the Saudis are doing if we're providing material support, knowing full well what's going on.

But there must be an origin. If she was taught that, who taught her? How did her teacher learn it? Is it human nature to teach it once one has learned it? But then, where did it come from in the first place? How long has it existed? Why does it continue to this day?

As with any other piece of culture, it's origins are in the distant past. And not particularly relevant to the quetion of who to change it.

And like any other piece of culture, we absorb it from the words and deeds of those around us. Which means that the way (probably the only reliable way) to change it is to make expressing those attitudes something that is just not done -- make it seriously impolite to do so.

We had, in fact, made a lot of progress in that direction in large parts of the country. What some of us lost track of is that there were also significant parts of the population where, while it was known to be impolite to say such things publically, they still got said in private. Which meant, the children learned the attitudes at home . . . and that they shouldn't say anything in public.

Being taught one thing, and also that you cannot admit to it, creates a stress. Doesn't really matter if that belief is racism or religion or anything else. If you consider that you are being forced to live in the closet, being allowed to come out can be a huge relief. And that is what Trump has provided for (apparently a lot of) people: permission to come out of the closet on their beliefs about race.**

** And yes, that label is applied with malice aforethought. Knowing the aura surrounding the term will irritate (or appall) those on both sides.

HSH: Even if it doesn't change anything on the ground, the US can't be seen as having very strong convictions about what the Saudis are doing if we're providing material support, knowing full well what's going on.

Fair enough. So we stop providing support. Then what happens?
- a lot of us feel better about ourselves
- the Saudis keep right on doing what they are doing. (Which somewhat reduces the first point. Probably to the point that those who demanded we stop helping now demand that we "do something" to make the Saudis stop.)

But what else changes? Do the Saudis change how they promulgate their fundamentalist version of Islam around the world? (NB They have been cutting back, thanks to their financial strains. Does that change?)

Does Iran start supporting us more? Or take this as a sign of weakness to be exploited?

How do our other allies in the region (including Israel) react? And do we care?

For that matter, what is the reaction of our other allies around the world? And how do we spin it so that they mostly see what we have done in a positive light?

It's all those secondary effects which I don't see enough serious discussion of. While we seem to worry a lot about our "moral standing" when taking a position, that only seems to be an issue for those countries who are opposing us and making an argument of convenience (because they sure don't care about such things on their own actions) that we don't have one.

Count, I read the piece. The woman has beliefs which are inexcusably ignorant and racist. I don't know why she has them. But we have to live with these people and as Vance said in his piece, some in the liberal coalition also have some of the same beliefs.

I have a friend who has some of the standard Trump like beliefs. He was talking about banning Islam soon after 9/11. I started noticing Islamophobia because of him. One of our mutual friends, another conservative, a very smart educated person, was reading Melanie Phillips's book "Londonistan". She passed it on to him. Phillips is sort of a British version of Trump, except a pundit, not a politician. My friend denies global warming. I learned about the other Islamophobic writers through my friend. Consequently I was screeching about this several years before Trump came along--in fact, it was actually a bit of a surprise to me that some Republican politicians distanced themselves from him on this. Trump didn't invent it.

We have to live with these people. I used to blow up at my friend, mostly in long emails that I almost never sent. I sent a few, suitably toned down, and it did absolutely nothing. I don't understand people of this sort. Well, sort of, because we're all human and flawed and demonize, but they cling to what they believe like their lives depended on it.

they cling to what they believe like their lives depended on it.

I wonder if it might not be closer to say that they cling like their self-image depends on it. That is, if they ever start to doubt those beliefs, they would not like what they saw in themselves and their past words and actions as a result.

WJ

I think we might be able to pressure the Saudis by not selling them weapons. Possibly in other ways, but I don't know. But it is sort of a rock bottom basic obligation that when your allies are committing war crimes you don't give them the weapons to do it. There are exceptions--WWII, where you have to ally with Stalin to fight Hitler. WWII is the exception to many rules. But will the world really fall apart if we don't help the Saudis plunge Yemen into a catastrophic famine? Probably not. Also, what is it about America that we see situations like Libya and Syria and constantly talk about our possible need to arm someone, even if allied with Al Qaeda, or to bomb them, and yet when we ourselves are arming war criminals it becomes impractical to simply stop arming them ourselves? It's not just a moral contradiction, though it is that first and foremost. It doesn't make any sense except on the most cynical level, where you assume as some lefties do that everything we do is really motivated by the need to keep the military industrial complex happy. Then sure, we need to intervene or sell weapons to help the heroic moderate rebels fight their oppressors and we also have to keep selling weapons to other oppressors because if we stop it might not do any good anyway. America has demonstrated constantly that even with our alleged good intentions our interventions turn into crap shows (Obama's phrase edited for ObiWi) and yet we constantly are told we need to do more interventions to help fix the situation partly created by a previous intervention. And for goodness sake, if we don't arm our murderous allies then we aren't being practical.

If I reasoned like the typical liberal hawk I would be urging us to support regime change in Saudi Arabia, with weapons supplied if necessary and air strikes if things didn't go well. We don't do this because they happen to be our allies. But the logic is otherwise the same.

As for Israel, they are sliding down the same path that Trump has in mind for America. And they are doing it as America is doing it, through the voting booth.


I shouldn't have to say this and have resisted saying it, but people in Yemen know we are helping the Saudis bomb them even if most Americans don't and it's always possible some small fraction of them might want to take revenge someday. What would Americans feel like doing in their shoes? Is it practical to assist others in committing massive war crimes against a country? Doesn't seem like it would be.

The self-image part is probably more accurate, for the reasons you state. I can see that in myself--it's hard to admit one is wrong and if it involved a huge moral issue where much or most of the society had already moved on it'd be correspondingly very very hard.

Fair enough. So we stop providing support. Then what happens?
- a lot of us feel better about ourselves
- the Saudis keep right on doing what they are doing. (Which somewhat reduces the first point. Probably to the point that those who demanded we stop helping now demand that we "do something" to make the Saudis stop.)

...do they? If we stop provisioning them with armaments and upping the effectiveness of what they have, can they actually keep on doing what they're doing, or are they forced to scale back due to resource and logistical limits?

But what else changes? Do the Saudis change how they promulgate their fundamentalist version of Islam around the world? (NB They have been cutting back, thanks to their financial strains. Does that change?)

Is the perfect the enemy of the good? Is the alternative to that one silver bullet that solves all our problems complete inaction? Especially when "inaction" is not inaction, but rather continuing with our current course of action, warts, atrocities, and all?

Does Iran start supporting us more? Or take this as a sign of weakness to be exploited?

We're far more concerned with our image and how "strong" we appear than any other nation. They may care, but seriously, no one could possibly care as much as us. This is not a serious question; it's a question meant to evoke domestic worries about being seen as weak. Is it Iran's national interest to jeopardize their diplomatic standing with us just to be able to have "got one over on us"? It's strange to see you demand we assume the Saudis are rational actors aware of and promoting their own self-interest, but immediately revert to standard hawkish talking points about how strategic rivals are irrational and act against our interests even when it's against theirs as well...

How do our other allies in the region (including Israel) react? And do we care?

We shouldn't. You seem to be saying we're riding the tiger so we can never dismount. That's... problematic. Prioritizing other nations' foreign policy interests is not a safe or healthy course of action, even if it's something factions within our government commonly engage in.

For that matter, what is the reaction of our other allies around the world? And how do we spin it so that they mostly see what we have done in a positive light?

This, as above, has a great deal of assumptions baked in which can be summed up as "everyone supports what is happening now (because it's happening), so everyone would be opposed to any change in the status quo". It may be that you're right, but I don't see it, particularly in light of some of the diplomacy that's been quashed at the UN. And for that matter, we're quite willing to fly in the face of global public opinion when we so choose. So I'm not sure why ceasing to lend material support to the Saudi's brutal adventurism should be a very special case.

It's also worth noting that besides our logistical support, we've also offered the Kingdom diplomatic support even as we've chastised them for their tragic excesses. Talk of how other nations might react to a change of policy is quite myopic in relation to our role in shaping opinion of the conflict; we've repeatedly quashed diplomatic efforts opposed by Saudi Arabia. Your questions imply a degree of passivity on our part that belies how deeply enmeshed we are in the ongoing crisis which simply does not reflect the actual history of the conflict.

Dismissing this as a matter of posturing to improve our "moral standing" misses entirely how much we have supported the development of the status quo as it now stands. You shouldn't worry about what stick we can use to influence the Saudis away from their current course when we're currently feeding them carrots to keep them at it...

If we stop provisioning them with armaments and upping the effectiveness of what they have, can they actually keep on doing what they're doing, or are they forced to scale back due to resource and logistical limits?

My take is that they keep doing pretty much exactly what they are doing now. They have to reorganize some of their command and control -- but that is less of a concern when you don't care about restraining your forces.

Their logistical capabilities might need to be upgraded. But at most that presents a temporary constraint while the necessary equipment and facilities are set up. And the required staff are hired. (Probably ex-pats, like most Saudi infrastructure operations. Saves on training time.)

But overall? Maybe a slight and temporary slowdown. Nothing more. The Saudis** have too much domestic political capital invested in this operation to do stop unless forced. And I do mean forced.

Please note that I am not arguing that we should just maintain the status quo. But that a) it would take drastic action to actually have an impact on events in Yemen, and b) even moderate actions to step away will have an impact on our foreign policy that goes far beyond our relations with Saudi Arabia.

Some of those impacts may even be positive. For example, restoring better (albeit probably not, especially in the short run, actually good) relations with Iran. Iran, after all, is basically a modern country, albeit with a medieval theocratic government currently. Whereas Saudi Arabia is a medieval country that happens to have modern technology.

Also the net impact may be a price worth paying. But to decide that, we can't just assume it. We have to look at what those impacts would actually be -- specifically and in detail.

** Meaning, in this case, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is not only both first Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister (these guys, among other things, run the religious police) but the leading commander of the war in Yemen.

Is it legal for private American citizens to aid foreign militaries engaged in human rights violations?

Also, it is bizarre to read these cost benefit analyses in cases where we are assisting a foreign country in committing war crimes. Would it be different if they were committing mass rapes or torturing people with the help of equipment supplied by the US? Would we have to do a cost benefit calculation to determine whether it was smart to be a participant? Obviously they would continue torture people with their own equipment, so we might as well supply American manufactured handcuffs and electrical devices. This isn't snark. It really isn't. I don't see the difference. Or rather, the difference is in the amounts of money involved. Torture can be done with dirt cheap equipment-- you don't need 100 billion dollars worth of anything to do that.

I have seen this argument made before and it genuinely baffles me. Is it really that hard to understand that if the Saudis want to commit war crimes we shouldn't be helping them to do it even if we can't stop them? Doesn't our cooperation tell the people there that our condemnations of terrorism are pure nonsense? And even here I am using a utilitarian argument, talking about it in terms of the implied costs to ourselves when that shouldn' be the first concern here, but I will go with it anyway. The cost of our support for war crimes is that everyone over there knows we are doing it and people will hold it against us. There will be no chance of justice in court, but then, not everyone tries to go that route anyway. More people are going to be radicalized and in this case, when they accuse the West of murderous hypocrisy they will be correct. That can't possibly be good and yet here we are, participating with the approval of the Senate in war crimes.

I assume that the reason our relationship with the Saudis is so deep is because there is a long history of cooperation and with the oil money, it is very tempting to sell them lots of stuff that then requires parts and guidance yada yada. That doesn't make it better, but when you have Bandar bin Sultan on speed dial, (he apparently is or was a Cowboys fan), it's sadly not a tough call to decide whether you stick up for Yemen or you go with the flow.

I also imagine that the Saudis look like the best tool to get stuff done in the ME, especially with regard to Syria. Since the Saudis are the ones supplying the Syrian rebels, there is probably a quid pro quo, letting them have a free hand in Yemen in exchange for that.

I'm not defending that, but that's what I assume the calculation to be.

Please note: before the US started with the most recent rounds of "giving the Saudis stuff to use in Yemen", the US was conducting drone strikes in Yemen.

I doubt that the (surviving) Yemenis had any doubt at all which country was behind those strikes.

Now, if there were a few "exemplary" drone strikes in Riyadh to drive home the "stop with the war crimes" point, things might change. Better? Worse? Dunno.

I also imagine that the Saudis look like the best tool to get stuff done in the ME, especially with regard to Syria.

I'm not "defending" our assistance to the Saudis either, in the sense that I think that it is a good thing to do in a perfect, or even closer to perfect, world. Perhaps we could be exercising more influence to stop the Saudis from their atrocities, but somehow I think that if we could, we would. There has clearly been an acknowledgment by the administration that the atrocities are happening, and diplomatic attempts to stop it. (This, again, indicates that I have a bit some confidence in the people I elected not to be immoral, callous war criminals, in that I attribute some belief on their part to the possibility that they are making the best set of decisions in a complicated situation that they can.)

In reading about the Saudis, there is a serious discussion of the House of Saud's imminent collapse because of fallen oil prices, among other stress, with the result that the governing entity will be straight up al Qaida. I imagine that the powder keg that is Saudi Arabia also worries people.

It's tempting to believe that we should just "get out of there" meaning the Middle East generally, and I wouldn't be opposed to that idea on its face. But the conflagration in the Middle East isn't really a set of "civil wars' as the region's political history has been shaped by the West for centuries, and the refugee crisis belongs to the world.

I don't claim to know all the answers, but I don't envy our policy makers or loathe them as war criminals. It would be wonderful if we could just rescue the refugees, but that's obviously not going to happen (largely because of the attitudes that J. D. Vance champions).

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad