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Posts Tagged ‘McCain’

We are arming al Qaeda-aligned rebels in Syria.  We are doing this because Bashar al Assad is supposedly a bad guy and now we are told there is a cassus belli in that he may have used chemical weapons.

Was it OK, by contrast, when the rebels massacred a Shia village earlier this week or shot government soldiers in cold blood and posted it on youtube?  Under what principle is it worse for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons than it is for the rebels fighting that government to engage in numerous, intentional, very brutal violations of the law of war?

One or another side’s tactics does not logically tell us that we ought to choose a side and go to war.  It matters a great deal what each of the sides are fighting for.  And it is even more important to assess whether assisting one or the other side is in our interest.  There is always the option of neutrality.  It should be adopted in the vast majority of cases.

Assad is no great guy.  He, like most Middle Eastern dictators, has little regard for the rule of law, has enriched himself at the expense of the public, has used disproportionate violence against his opponents, supported our enemies in Iraq, and has associated with Hezbollah, which is undeniably a terrorist group.  That said, he has led a moderately prosperous, orderly, and tolerant regime that is multireligious, protective of Christians, and otherwise stable and predictable. We’ve seen in recent years similar dictators deposed in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt with totally unpredictable results that are clearly worse than the status quo ante.  We can deal with dictators; we cannot manage anarachy.  Even if Assad deserves to be toppled–and I am doubtful of this–what business is it of ours to sign on with a rebel group that is even more hostile to our nation and its principles?

One may wonder why Russia has become so involved with this conflict, supplying sophisticated arms and a great deal of diplomatic support to Syria.  Two reasons seem clear.  Russia, like the US, has carried on some of its Cold War alliances out of habit, such as its friendly relations with Cuba and North Korea.   More important, Russia  is acting as the protector of Orthodox Christians throughout the world.  This is in line with Samuel Huntington’s thesis in Clash of Civilizations and explains at least a portion of Russia’s foreign policy. This was the chief reason for its support of Serbia during the Kosovo affair, for example.

Why this would be so in Syria is not readily apparent, as the Alawite minority ruling group is a subgroup of Shia Islam.  But there is a pretty obvious explanation.  The Alawaite Ba’athist regime in Syria, like Saddam’s Ba’athist regime in Iraq, grew out of a secular ideology and historically has found its greatest support in a hodgepodge of ethnic and religious minorities. These minorities are all scared of the numerical majority Sunnis and their increasing extremism.  In Syria, the Sunni extremists are part of the broader Salafist/Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam that finds its most militant expression in al Qaeda.

Thus, we have a war with secular and religious minorities (Christians, Shias, Alawites, Druze etc.) on one side, who favor law and order and the devil they know, and, on the other side, fanatical Sunni extremists aligned with increasingly irrelevant secular enemies of the regime. The rebel platform is essentially one of genocide and religious totalitarianism.  This is what we are supporting, and this is undeniably worse than what Assad has delivered throughout his time as leader, in spite of himself, because of the coalition nature of his minority support and the type of governance that flows naturally from such a coalition.

America and Reagan were criticized for “arming bin Laden” during the fight against the Soviet client state in Afghanistan.  This criticism always struck me as pretty stupid and facile.  It’s like saying we were incredibly wrongheaded in World War II to support the Soviet Union, whom we later opposed, in order to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  Things change.  Coalitions come and go. There was no easy way to predict what exactly would come of the anti-Soviet rebels back when there was no Taliban or al Qaeda and, more important, it was worth it at the time to contribute to the devolution of the Soviet regime, even when some risks were apparent.

Whether that criticism of US policy has any merit, it surely is absolutely ridiculous to arm al Qaeda-aligned rebels simultaneously when we’re fighting a war with such people. There is no need for a crystal ball, unlike the 1980s support of the Afghan mujaheddin.  The better analogy would be if the US had adopted a schizophrenic policy during World War II of  aligning with Nazi Germany, while we were fighting Imperial Japan, even as the two remained allies themselves.

Let’s not forget what the real Benghazi scandal is.  Libya spun out of control after the US and European powers in 2011 undertook a totally lawless campaign there, a campaign without UN Security Counsel or Congressional authorization.   The rebels killed Qadaffi in cold blood, when they were not killing black Africans allied with the government.  Soon Libya, like Syria today, became a magnet for the “jihad tourists,” who undoubtedly could not resist the American target. Learning nothing of the very recent past, we’re now going to arm al Qaeda rebels because the regime they are fighting against used one among many nasty weapons in what is invariably the most nasty of wars:  a civil war.

The law of war is important, as is respect for the rights of civilians and other noncombatants.  But violations of the law of war alone are not a reason to go to war.  This is doubly so when the so-called good guys are just as guilty of violating the law of war as those whom we now aim to oppose.  Most important, the people we are proposing to support with arms, in addition to fighting atrociously, are fighting for a goal that is fundamentally atrocious:  Islamist totalitarianism and mass murder of  the Assad regime’s supporters. 

For a guy who appeared to have some sensible, nonideological instincts to oppose a great deal of military intervention during the 2008 campaign, Obama has shown himself to be as deeply wedded to the Washington DC interventionist consensus as anyone before him.  Indeed, he has apparently doubled down in his recent elevation of the interventionist Samantha Power to the post of UN ambassador.

We find the answer to this apparent contradiction in Obama’s lifelong leftism.  Obama is not essentially a pacifist, but rather an anti-American leftist.  He most favors wars that have nothing to do with America’s interest. In the liberal imagination, such wars are far preferable to wars where strategic goods like oil or commerce may be affected, as these interventions are marked by purity of intention.  Thus, he proposed to fold up the tents and scale back the war on al Qaeda earlier this week, even as he propels our forces into messy civil wars in Libya, Egypt, and Syria.  Worse, Obama is willing not only to ignore America’s interest in these cases, but to work directly contrary to it by arming al Qaeda-aligned rebels in the name of “humanitarian war.”

This is more than misguided do-gooderism.  This is treachery that knows no bounds, as it is no ordinary betrayal of the common good, but rather a treachery that imagines itself as a cosmopolitan, universalist morality that transcends parochial and discriminatory notions of mere national interest.

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Obama is getting beaten up by core supporters, his lies are crumbling, his half-hearted war leadership has been exposed, and his lack of political skills and instincts is more and more apparent. Why is this so surprising?  His campaign was a big lie; the media participated in myth-making and didn’t do their job, from checking his Hyde Park left-liberal record to investigating his terrorist associations and the unlikelihood of his authorship of Dreams of My Father.

I am rather enjoying all of this, frankly, and an ideal end game would be a radicalized, alienated, small-government-oriented and ethnically conscious majority, mass disillusionment by liberals, and a serious dismantlement of the welfare state out of sheer necessity.

The only thing to be wary of his the Republican party’s infidelity to decent policy.  From its addiction to nation-building in the Muslim world to its bad faith on immigration, it’s not so clear that this radicalism won’t get defused and wasted on stupid liberal policies simply because they’re advanced by Republicans. That said, Republicans function better as an opposition party, and we are very lucky McCain is not putting the final nail in the coffin that is the GOP.

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I think it’s low down and pathetic that McCain’s operatives are blaming Palin for his loss.  If anything, she pumped him up.  Surely the proposed Lieberman pick would have been a complete flop.  McCain did better in the popular vote than I ever expected considering what an unpleasant mediocrity he was on the stump and considering how much he alienated conservatives with his aggressive attacks on immigration reformers.

Palin is hated because of who she is.  Like Mike Huckabee, she represents a populist appeal and rural way of life and value system that is absolutely terrifying for the “K Street Conservatives.”  The professional punditariat in Washington DC and New York are indifferent or hostile to everything that matters to their base, including abortion and gay marriage as well as gun control and immigration.  I don’t agree with everything from the populist wing, but I do share their concerns and their necessity as a group to a well balanced country, as I argued here earlier. 

Our elites are more out of touch than ever with these people. Their diagnosis of Bush Senior as “too conservative” in 1992 is why we ended up with a big government disaster with almost nothing to show for itself under the rubric of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”  To make Palin’s untutored instincts a symbol of the authentic conservatism of America’s interior ignores the real intellectuals–Tom Fleming, ISI, Vdare, the Von Mises Institute, Thomas Sowell–making intelligent and rigorous contributions to our understanding of culture and policy far away from the most prominent institutions of “conservative” opinion. 

Consider Andrew Sullivan.  He’s still obsessing over this threatening, fertile and religious woman.  And he’s lost all sense of proportion and reason, for example:  “The trouble is that Palin confuses what is settled reality and what is settled reality insider her own head. . . . 46 percent of the country was prepared to have this delusional whack-job as a potential president . . . . Give us the proof of Trig’s maternity now!”  It’s telling that a whack-job like this works at the Atlantic.

The soon-to-be-vicious conservative infighting about what to do next will chiefly be between the neoconservative right as represented by the coastal elite institutions that guided the Bush presidency and the anti-intellectual populist-nationalist institutions and people of the interior, the Huckabees, Palins, and Buchanans.  Of course, sometimes the elites are right as on Hariett Meirs or Bush’s penchant for cronyism.  But on the whole they’ve been a disaster both politically and on policies, whether immigration, Iraq, the economy, or the Bush presidency as a whole.

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I thought Steve Sailer’s analysis of McCain’s loss was useful.  Some of the right’s best wedge issues–immigration, gun control, big government, and a bit surprisingly, gay marriage–were items which this faux maverick took great pleasure in bucking the GOP to the delight of his friends in the media.  He was a terrible campaigner with terrible ideas and a terrible presence and personality who  I am not the least bit surprised (nor terribly chagrined) to have seen lose.

Steven den Beste and Lawrence Auster both make a good case that there will be some positives of an Obama presidency, not least that he will be more required to appeal to Republicans and moderates than a McCain, who would have been demoralized by the prospect of defeating the history-making Obama candidacy.  I think for these reasons he’ll be less inclined to push for an irreversible amnesty, which has been Bush and McCain’s obsession for a number of years.  I do think national health care will be a major problem, and a hard to reverse one.  It will make our health care worse.  That said, I don’t think health and health care are always correlates; for a lot of reasons we probably spend far too much on health care as a society.  Government controls will add error to correct an error in the form of the existing tax-subsidy for health benefits.  But we’ll survive.  France and Sweden, though far from ideal, are not Bolivia.  Nor are we, yet.

We face many threats to our traditional way of life.  The mass culture is toxic.  The economy is unstable, ridden with debt, threatened by hyperinflation and mass disenchantment.  Related to these, we are more threatened by our continued addition of millions of less productive, low skill workers from the Third World into our increasingly generous society.   Between the issues of health care and immigration, the latter is more damaging and it has long been McCain’s passion.  Like Bush, his presidency would have led to far too many compromises by conservative critics, who would embarass themselves by making excuses for the globalist, big government managerial gobbeldy-gook of a McCain administration.  Obama at least will sharpen our focus and remind us that in the game of tribal politics, only the majority has engaged in unilateral disarmament.

I’ve talked to a number of Obama voters and was happily suprised to see that the cult-like enthusiasm seen on TV is shared by relatively few of them. They simply judged him the better of the two and feel he deserves a chance.  The intensity of the Obama-worshippers in Grant Park should be contrasted with these folks, some of whom entertained the hope that his presence might lead to more honest and realistic race relations and a revival of morale leading to improvements in the various social problems facing the black community.  Perhaps. 

It all remains to be seen what Obama will do, how he’ll govern, and whether he’ll be a centrist in the manner of Bill Clinton or a committed leftist who can finally advance the race-class-gender-justice policies that he fought for so passionately as a young man.  In either case, we need some sense of proportion as conservatives and as Americans. Even before and after LBJ, America was still America.  Its core values in tact.  They’ve slowly been sapped, transformed, and weakened, but they’re not altogether absent.  Among these, our civic rituals of peaceful transfers of power and respect for the office are valuable.  Our generosity, lack of narrow tribalism, and magnanimity as a people should not be dismissed too quickly by anyone.  And, even though the Obama presidency is worrisome and will likely at times be offensive, conservatives certainly should not induldge the kind of stupid hatred and conspiracy thinking that the Left spewed at Bush for the last eight years. 

I think the Obama presidency will likely be an unsuccessful one, beset by exagerrated hopes, missteps, the evils of party spirit, and Obama’s own hitherto unexamined leftism.  But it all remains to be seen, and there will be plenty enough time in the next four years for gnashing of teeth.

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One of the oddities of Presidential races is that so little actual information about the candidates is generated by the press. Reporters seem to envision their role not as digging up facts, but as rather like that of theater critics. Their job is to evaluate how well the campaigns mount their little fantasies, and that’s about it.

                                                                      –Steve Sailer. 

 

So true.  Thus, when Obama talks about “real issues,” he means the press and McCain should focus on what he wants to talk about and not his record, associations, half-truths, and the like.

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