Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Strong Reasons

I intend this to be an open thread. As is customary with such posts, I'm probably going to rattle on a lot longer than is welcome - and even worse, longer than I intended.

Captain Cabernet made a couple of good points in the previous thread. Taken together, they merit a post in my opinion. First, he said:

Speaking of Harry's Place, could we, perhaps, compile of roster of decentist bloggers who are now backing Obama who once (during the Lebanon war, for example) treated Zombietime as a credible source of information?

Later on he raised Weighing Obama versus McCain, Marko Attila Hoare's self-explanatory post. I actually read that last night, thought "Blimey!" then thought about writing something, and finally thought, "Nah."

But since it's come up ...

I think Marko makes a number of positively strange assertions.

One of the paradoxes of this election is that Obama is perceived by much of the liberal intelligentsia in the West as being the progressive, anti-establishment candidate, even though his likely election victory will owe much to the fact that his campaign has enjoyed much greater financial resources than McCain’s. The richer candidate is spending his way to victory; even if a large part of this funding has consisted of small donations, the hated representatives of American capitalism have hardly been falling over themselves to fund his Republican opponent.

Small fish in a Virtual Enterprise Network engaging Big Fish
Indeed, in Obama's second book The Audacity of Hope, he talks about not having the personal wealth or the rich backers - and this was when he was running for the Illinois Senate. He started needing donations from individuals - and given his politics - mostly poor ones. It's this that has funded his campaign - his campaign is richer in the classic leftist/union-supporting sense: it's the big fish pursued by the legion of small fish acting in concert.

Obama doesn't hate capitalism. He's very clear about that. Neither do most of his supporters - even among the union members you'll have to look for some time before you find anyone who wants to overthrow capitalism. So 'hated'? By whom? By the pure-of-heart comrades who still believe that power grows out of the barrel of a gun and who live on in Marko's imagination and nowhere else. He's right that the super-rich haven't been funding McCain as much as they might. After all, he has his own money, from his wife, so I imagine they're saying, "Hold on, you've got the cash, and you want me to give away my kids' inheritance?" And quite right too. If McCain wins, he enriches himself; their enrichment is just a side-effect. If he loses, the extra money probably wouldn't have made any difference, and they'll need it for taxes. But let's be clear. Obama is not the rich candidate.

McCain will be painted as a continuation of Bush, ...

He has been. He's never made clear how the McCain Republican Party is going to be different from the Bush Republican Party. He did (according to the Obama ad) vote in support of Bush 90% of the time.

...and continue to be punished for the sins, real or perceived, of his predecessor.

I just love "real or perceived." That's a piece of work. Isn't that just beautiful? Please, folks, go back up and read it again. Mmm-hmm, just as good the second time. So simple, yet so ... mendacious. It's almost Rovian. Not real AND perceived. But OR. As if habeas corpus, torture, tearing up the Constitution, and destroying the economy weren't enough. Marko is concerned that some of us may worry about some 'perceived' sins. The real are enough, thank you.

... the world prefers soft US presidents, and Obama will undoubtedly be a much softer president than McCain.

Welcome to the Soft Parade. (It's not just Michael Berube who can sneak in Doors lines.) What does Marko mean by 'soft'? My friends, let me suggest this ... absolutely nothing. The world quite liked Eisenhower and Kennedy - and they were both war heroes, physically brave men. As was George Herbert Walker Bush. Reagan probably qualifies as a 'hard' president. He sat out WWII; he preferred to play war heroes and his aggressiveness as president (outside of his attacks on the poor) consisted of invading Grenada and joking about bombing the USSR before a radio broadcast (any resemblance to similar poor taste comments by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are purely coincidental). Nixon was so 'hard' he could go to China. And where's the applause from the Decents for that? (Good opera by the way.) If you want hard, rent a movie with Vinnie Jones in it. (I'm minded of this after watching the 'Extras' episode with Jones and Ross Kemp on YouTube, because the latter looks a lot like Sam 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher (who isn't a certified plumber and doesn't earn anywhere near the top tax rate and isn't about to buy a business, but is otherwise an honest upstanding guy[1] whom I'm sure hawks like Marko wish they could vote for.)

George Bush Snr betrayed the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 and acted to keep Saddam Hussein in power;...

This bothered me too. So when I finally found what I consider to be explanation, I posted it. Dick Cheney (who was Secretary of Defense under Bush 42) is neither soft nor stupid. I think a fair summary of his position of the way the Gulf War ended is this: regime change would have cost too many American lives and it would have destroyed the coalition of Arab supporters - the US would have lost the peace when it won the war. I, too, think Saddam was a foul dictator. However, Bush Snr and his cabinet made the rational decision. Now, if you don't like that decision, you're free to deprecate it at will. But how you reconcile that attack on Cheney [1991] with support for Cheney [2003] I have to leave to your conscience.

Biden is, like Obama, pro-Greek and anti-Turkish; they would be taking over leadership of the US at a time when, given the threats posed by the hostile regimes in Moscow and Tehran, we need to maintain the Turkish alliance, and at a time when Greece’s merciless bullying of the fragile Republic of Macedonia potentially threatens disaster in the Balkans.

First off, I'm rather with Nick Cohen in being anti-Turkish. I agree with Nick Cohen, in that I'm pro-science and generally contra wild-eyed fundamentalism. Like PETA, I'm not just against Turkey at Thanksgiving, I'm against Turkey all year round. And maybe I've missed something on this "bullying" lark, but it seems to go like this:

Senior Greek and Macedonian diplomats held new talks in New York Friday with a special United Nations negotiator, Matthew Nimetz, but appeared no closer to a deal.

Earlier this month, Nimetz proposed five alternative names that Macedonia could consider adopting. Under the plan, leaked to a Greek newspaper, the names are: Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia, New Republic of Macedonia, and Republic of Upper Macedonia.

Gosh, it's just like the Eastern Front in WWII again, isn't it? I've never known such depravity since Patrick Kavanagh gently suggested to PJ Kavanagh, "Change your fuckin' name." (Literary anecdote, possibly apocryphal; I can't find confirmation. I'm fairly sure that was the only time they met. The only time Joyce and Proust met, they talked about truffles.)

The Economist has a Flash map of 'what if the world could vote [in the US election]'. Marko is right! Greece is blue for Obama. Now, where's Macedonia? Oh, it's blue too. Poor Macedonians, they need a strong man like Marko to tell them what's good for them. As do the Americans. This self-determination thing, where people decide what they need, it's not really Marko is it? What these countries need is strength; someone who has like "most of us probably" been "friends with various dangerous radicals". Who hasn't given shelter to bomb-makers in their time? Me for one, and, I suspect, all of you.

That's it. Much longer than I meant to write for, but the results don't come in for another two hours, and it kept me from bouncing about for a bit. I think that's enough time to watch 'Bananas' again. Marko's not like the radical who goes mental once he gets into power. He's more like the translator who meets Woody when he arrives back in the US.

By way of apology, here's a choon. Thanx to Andrew Sullivan.

[1] Oh, he's hasn't fought for his country either. But he would if he had the chance, I'm sure. I mean, more of the chance that every American has anyway of walking into a recruiting office and signing up. Pat Tillman did, and I'm sure Sam would have too, if only it didn't require so much effort. Walk in, sign name. No, no, no, that's so elitist you know? In other wars, they came for you. And best of all, they came for the blacks first. That's the way to do it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the macedonian vote on iftheworldcouldvote.com.Certainly not blue.


11/04/2008 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Never really rated Democracy - with Cohen, as with Dylan, even the best of the later songs ones just remind you of how much greater the earlier ones were.

I liked the Cuba vote. Heh.

11/05/2008 08:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I remember of 1991, it would have been a bit difficult to sell to the public a decision to indulge in regime change in Iraq. The Iran - Iraq war has only ended three years before and the official line during the war was the Iran was the real enemy. And at the time Iraq had WMD (and the West knew that Iraq had them but it pretended that it didn't know).

Moussaka Man

11/05/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody see the Hitch on the telly last night? He was on form. Amusing and straight talking. I don't thnk he'd been on the sauce though I couldn't be certai. He slated the McCain campaign (correctly IMHO as it was disgraceful) when everyone else was being very mealy mouthed. Bolton was on as well. What a shit.

11/05/2008 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were genuine popular uprisings against Saddam in the aftermath of the war in 91, and Bush Sr and Dick Cheney let them hang : They didn't need to invade, they could have just stopped Saddam using his helicopter gunships aginst the uprising(s) . Some silly people think that the war to get rid of Saddam in 2003 showed that Bush Jr and Dick Cheney had some kind of moral revelation, and were different from Bush Sr and, er, Dick Cheney: the truth is they didn't give a toss about the fate of Iraqi's in 91 or in 2003, but they did think that America's interests were better served by a wounded Saddam in 91 and a removed Saddam in 2003. Put it another way, when there was a genuine uprising (led by Islamists and Kurdish nationalists) the US were unhappy and turned away, but when they felt able to put themselves in charge of Iraq, with the Iraqi's subservient, they set the tanks and planes rolling

11/05/2008 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got to agree with anonymous pretty much to a tee. There was a good chance that the popular uprising might have overthrown Saddam in 1991. Bush and co could have helped it to succeed with minimum effort and loss of life. But they didn't and those who followed Bush's advice to rise up were butchered whilst the US army which had just massacred tens of thousands of defenceless and retreating Kurdish and Shia conscripts at the Multa Pass just sat and watched.

I think keeping the Arab coalition was a minor factor. The key reason that Bush and co were content to see the Shia and Kurds crushed was that a Shia victory would have substantially strengthened Iran making it the major player in the region. Its pretty much always about the geopolitics and we are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

11/05/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

People forget that the northern flank screen of French and US Armoured Cav were as far northeast as Nasiriyah; the Republican Guard actually passed through US checkpoints going south.

11/05/2008 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

MAH is like many others - he likes to argue against caricatures of his opponents - and caricatured arguments - rather than the opponents and arguments themselves.

11/05/2008 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

What a disgraceful piece of crap that MAH piece is.

"Bill Clinton collaborated with Slobodan Milosevic and the Taliban"

call me a bad blogger, but I would shed very few tears and protest only halfheartedly at our terrible UK libel laws if it turned out that there were some sort of consequences for saying something like that.

It is also very much worth following the link by which Marko attempts to establish Biden's credentials as "anti-Turkish". The two examples cited were:

a) he voted against selling the Turkish government helicopter gunships

b) he voted in favour of "partition of Iraq".

Of these two, a) was basically a human rights issue (the Turkish army at the time was using the helicopters to harass the Kurds), and b) is the question of giving the Kurds a homeland (MAH actually wants something very similar to this himself).

I would like to see the high-minded Eustonian reasons for disagreeing with Biden on either of these points.

As far as I can see, cf the Scoopie paper linked above, when it comes down to an issue he actually cares about (as opposed to one which merely provides an occasion for a full-dress parade of his moral superiority to the rest of us), Marko is as realpolitik as the next man. There are, apparently, no neoconservatives in foxholes.

11/05/2008 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its pretty much always about the geopolitics and we are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

And this will be the proof, or not, of any change in significant US foreign policy with Obama in power. You can flag two immediate things with regards to Iraq, even if he has said that he plans to leave.

Will the "enduring bases" endure very long? Will Iraq get it's oil back?

11/05/2008 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will the "enduring bases" endure very long?


Will Iraq get it's oil back?


And Obama will escalate war inside Pakistan. All the same, he appears to have at least thought about foreign policy...

11/05/2008 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Destabilizing Pakistan seems like a really bad idea. Sigh.

There was a further reason that the US was happy to see the Shi'ites crushed - Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's have always been very nervous about their own Shi'ite population (who live in the main oil producing areas), and did not want to see a Shi'ite neighbour.

11/05/2008 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i read -- i think in a new yorker profile of prince banda, five or six years ago? -- that the saudis in fact deny that they pressured the US not to aid the shiite uprising in gulf war one; indeed, they claim they were keen for such aid to proceed; but (or so this article claimed) they were not directly consulted, and only too late discovered they were being used as a reason for the US standing by and allowing saddam to crush the rising

(i seem to recall that they were diplomatic as to whether this arose out of a misunderstanding -- washington making a wrong assumption about the saudi position -- or a deliberate sly misattribution)

(caveat: while the above stuck in my mind primarily because it counters the accepted wisdom, it is a long time since i read this piece and my memory of content and provenance may well be faulty)

11/05/2008 11:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Obama will escalate war inside Pakistan. All the same, he appears to have at least thought about foreign policy...

True. But the possible parallels between Kennedy/Vietnam and Obama/Pakistan are worrying to say the least.

11/06/2008 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidentally did anyone see Hitchen's on Newsnight. He said the McCain campaign was morally and intellectually bankrupt because of its McCarthyite tactics, but forgot to mention that Hitchen's had been withchunter number one on the Jeremiah Wright issue. Wot a slimy hypocrite.

11/06/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Changing the subject for a moment, I'm off to the Foley/Kamm bunfight tonight. Is anyone else going?

11/06/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Foley/Kamm bunfight. Unfortunately I'm not going as I'm on the other side of the world (in a country with a complicated relationship with humanitarian interventions). But I expect a complete report by the weekend!

Moussaka Man

11/06/2008 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I won't be able to make it either, but please do post a writeup in the comments and I'll hoik it to the main page (or alternatively write it on your own blog and I'll put a link up).

11/06/2008 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Will the "enduring bases" endure very long?

Nobody's seriously planning for them to do so. People who imagine that you can withdraw the combat troops and this somehow leaves teh evil bases are drivelling. What are the bases doing in this scenario? Who do they support? Who defends them?

Will Iraq get it's oil back?

Back from who? North Oil and South Oil still own it; there are some service contracts, but the recently announced ones for new exploration aren't signed yet and anyway don't (by definition) affect the actually-existing fields.

11/07/2008 12:17:00 AM  

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