Philip’s Complaint, or Liberal political thinking in a nutshell

I’ve never been able to read Philip Roth’s novels because I cannot stand his navel gazing (or should I say penis-gazing?) characters. They are, for me, profoundly uninteresting — I find them infantile and narcissistic in their concerns. Perhaps my the problem with his writing is his thinking. Why do I say this? Because Roth unloads about politics in Spiegel interview, and pretty much highlights everything that’s infantile and narcissistic about liberal thinking with regard to the Bush administration and the upcoming elections:

Roth: Unfortunately, yeah. I didn’t, until about two weeks ago — until then it wasn’t real. Then I watched the New Hampshire primary debates, and the Republicans are so unbelievably impossible. I watched the Democratic ones and became interested in Obama. I think I’ll vote for him.

SPIEGEL: What made you interested in Obama?

Roth: I’m interested in the fact that he’s black. I feel the race issue in this country is more important than the feminist issue. I think that the importance to blacks would be tremendous. He’s an attractive man, he’s smart, he happens to be tremendously articulate. His position in the Democratic Party is more or less okay with me. And I think it would be important to American blacks if he became president.

SPIEGEL: It could change society, couldn’t it?

Roth: Yes, it could. It would say something about this country, and it would be a marvelous thing. I don’t know whether it’s going to happen. I rarely vote for anybody who wins. It’s going to be the kiss of death if you write in your magazine that I’m going to vote for Barack Obama. Then he’s finished!

[snip]

SPIEGEL: Do you actually believe that Obama could change Washington or could change politics?

Roth: I’m interested in what merely his presence would be. You know, who he is, where he comes from, that is the change. That is the same thing with Hillary Clinton, just who she is would create a gigantic change. As for all that other rhetoric about change, change, change — it’s pure semantics, it doesn’t mean a thing. They’ll respond to particular situations as they arise.

You got that? Republicans should lose because they’re “so unbelievably impossible,” as fatuous a statement about national politics as I’ve ever heard. And Obama should win solely because he’s black and “articulate,” the favorite liberal code word for a black who isn’t an embarrassing representative of his race. Incidentally, my last, italicized phrase is deliberate, and harks back to the acceptance speech Hattie McDaniel made, at the studio’s urging, when she accepted her Oscar for her performance in Gone With The Wind, the first Oscar ever awarded to a black actress:

“Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting for one of the awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you.” (Emphasis mine.)

You do appreciate, don’t you, the fact that Roth is completely uninterested in Obama’s abilities, background, politic beliefs, political experience, associates, ideology, indeed anything of substance? All that matters to Roth is that Obama is a credit to his race. How utterly embarrassing that our great tradition of democracy should be reduced to this kind of inane banality.

That same absence of deep thinking colors Roth’s commentary about Bush. Keep in mind that Roth, via his “profound” (but humorous) books, is considered one of the great social thinkers of the Baby Boomer generation. That “intellectualism,” however, assuming it actually exists, abandons him when it comes to describing why Bush is bad. He throws in a few conclusory statements about the war and global warming, but he just can’t get a handle on substance. (As an aside, we’ll assume, just to be nice, that this interview was recorded before recent news that the Greenies’ purported remedies are actually speeding global warming. Of course, that may not be a problem, because we’re possibly entering a period of solar induced global cooling. But let me undigress.) What you really have to do is just take Roth’s word for it that Bush is bad, really, really, really bad. Really bad.

SPIEGEL: What will remain of the current president, George W. Bush? Could he be forgotten once he leaves office?

Roth: He was too horrendous to be forgotten. There will be an awful lot written about this. And there’s a lot to be written about the war. There’s a lot to be written about what he did with Reaganism, since he went much further than Reagan. So he won’t be forgotten. Someone has said he’s the worst American president we’ve ever had. I think that’s true.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Roth: Well, the biggest thing would be the war, the deceptions surrounding the entrance into the war. The absolute cynicism that surrounds the deception. The cost of the war, the Treasury and the lives of the Americans. It’s hideous. There is nothing quite like it. The next thing would be the attitude towards global warming, which is a global crisis, and they were utterly indifferent, if not hostile, to any attempt to address it. And so on and so on and so on and so on. So he’s done a lot of harm.

Of course, it’s not all Bush’s fault he’s so appalling. It’s your fault and my fault too. That’s because we’re brutal. Did you know that?

SPIEGEL: Since your book is set in that week during the 2004 elections, can you explain why Americans voted for Bush once again?

Roth: I suspect it was the business of being in a war and not wanting to change, and political stupidity. Why does anybody elect anybody? I thought highly of John Kerry when he began, but he couldn’t stand up against Bush. The Democrats aren’t brutes, which is too bad, because the Republicans are brutes. Brutes win.

Funnily enough, a lot of the brutal behavior, lately, seems to be coming from the rank and file Democrats, not the Republicans. An easy example is the fact that Democratic speakers on the circuit don’t need to hire bodyguards. Republicans do. That’s because Republicans get physicall attacked when they speak on college campuses. Ann Coulter was attacked. College Republican student organizations are attacked. Condi Rice was threatened by a Code Pink loony tunes who got within inches of her. The list goes on and on and on. You can add your own, but you’ll be hard put to find corollaries on the other side; that is, conservatives attacking liberals. But back to Roth….

“Brutes.” “Hideous.” “There is nothing quite like it.” This man, this spokesman for a generation, clearly hasn’t thought beyond the Democratic parties’ last list of talking points. He’s got all the nasty conclusions of the kindergarten set, but with a more sophisticated vocabulary:

“Mommy, I hate Tommy.”

“Why, darling?”

“Because he’s a meanie.”

“But what makes him a meanie?”

“He does mean things.”

“What mean things does he do, darling?”

“He’s mean to me.”

And so on, ad nauseum. It’s tolerable in a child because you know they’ll attain reason and leave that phrase behind. It’s intolerable in a literary lion, a spokesman for his generation, who has never been able to emerge from his prolonged and clearly debilitating adolescence.

I’ve vented my spleen, so I’m going to leave the last words to that great philosopher, Bugs Bunny: “What a maroon. What a nincowpoop.”

UPDATE: I’ve switched to a new server, so you can feel free to look around here or check out my new site, which not only has the old stuff, but also will move forward into the future with all my new material.

UPDATE II:  I rejiggered the first paragraph of this post to reflect a point Boran made which, when I finally understood it, was a good one.

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Eating our own *UPDATED*

I caught a minute of Mike Gallagher today, and he was talking about the fact that Republicans are more critical of Republican candidates than Democrats are critical of Democratic candidates. It occurred to me that, at least in this election cycle, that may be because there are real, substantive differences between the Republican candidates. We’ve got Ron Paul, who is a pure libertarian and possible white supremacist; John McCain, who is strong on defense, but weak on free speech, and spineless to environmental extremists; Mitt Romney, who has positioned himself as a traditional conservative who is for strong borders, a strong national defense, pro-life, etc., with a sound grasp of economic issues; Mike Huckabee, who is loudly Christian, a social conservative, and a big government liberal; and Rudy Giuliani, who is a social liberal and a hawk. With the exception of Ron Paul, all have had leadership experience, but of a very different type: McCain was in the military; Romney ran businesses and the Massachusetts government; Huckabee governed Arkansas; and Giuliani ran huge criminal prosecutions and New York. So, just as there are differences in their approach to conservative politics (and all are more conservative than not), there are also significant differences in their practical experience. Republicans have a real choice, and real choice begets real debate.

It’s different with the Dems. For one thing, none of them have any managerial experience. They’ve all been Senators, which means working with a group of 99 other people. None have them has taken the lead in the Senate, so they can’t even point to leadership experience in those august chambers. John Edwards has a bit more private sector experience than the other two but I can tell you that even the most successful lawyer cannot be compared to a manager. Managing a case is not the same as manager a system — whether that system is a business or a government. Obama was an academic, which is the antithesis of management, and Hillary was, well, Hillary managed Bill, I guess. They’re all good at manipulating people, Edwards because he’s a trial lawyer, and Obama and Hillary because they’re Alinsky disciples, but that’s not leadership or management. So, they’re pretty much the same looked at from that point of view.

In terms of politics, they’re peas in a pod: they want out of Iraq, they deny that Islamists pose a threat to America, they like open borders, and they want more government involvement in everything (parenting, health care, education, managing people’s money, controlling businesses, etc), which means more taxes on people they decide are “rich.”

The fact that Edwards, Obama and Hillary are virtually indistinguishable on paper may explain why identity politics has become so important. It’s not just Hillary’s dirty politics and it’s not just that the “identity politics” chickens are coming home to roost. The preeminence of racial or sexual identity in this race has become the only way you can tell one Democratic candidate from another. And poor Edwards, distinguished by being white and male, is precluded by political correctness from trumpeting that fact. In other words, identity, by being the only difference between the candidates, is also the only area of debate left for the Democrats. And it’s no surprise that it is in this area — the substance-free area that will have absolutely nothing to do with the way in which a Democrat, if victorious, will govern — that the Democratic debate has become most heated.

So, I guess I’m happy that Republicans are focused on substance, and using their free speech rights to hammer out important issues that will have a lasting effect on America (if a Republican wins). And I’m desperately sad that the cookie-cutter Democrats, in order to have a debate and distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters, have almost completely backed off from any substantive issues (as to which they have no meaningful differences), and devolved into childish racial and gender name calling. If Americans elect one of them, the Country will deserve what it gets.

UPDATE: Regarding the enthusiasm gap the media professes to find between Dems and Republicans, if one does indeed exist, I suspect that has more to do with the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for a shot at the White House than with anything else. That is, I think that, even more than feeling excitement about their own candidates, Democrats are simply excited about a possible chance to defeat Republicans.

UPDATE II: For another reason why there might be an “enthusiasm gap,” keep in mind that, while Bush’s presidency is almost over, Bush Derangement Syndrome continues in full force. Indeed, with the inevitable end of his presidency drawing near, Bush haters seem to be drawing on after burners for some new energy.

Does this mean Bush didn’t lie? Yes, I think it does. *UPDATED*

I’ve never believed Bush lied and, to the extent his information was incorrect (as was information in the hands of all other Western agencies and governments), I assumed that our spywork was to blame. Now we get confirmation of what’s been rumored forever — it was Saddam who lied, never suspecting that his bluff would be called, not by Iran, but by the US:

Saddam Hussein initially didn’t think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.

[snip]

“He told me he initially miscalculated… President Bush’s intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998…a four-day aerial attack,” says Piro. “He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack.” “He didn’t believe the U.S. would invade?” asks Pelley, “No, not initially,” answers Piro.

Once the invasion was certain, says Piro, Saddam asked his generals if they could hold the invaders for two weeks. “And at that point, it would go into what he called the secret war,” Piro tells Pelley. But Piro isn’t convinced that the insurgency was Saddam’s plan. “Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency,” says Piro.

Saddam still wouldn’t admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, “For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq,” he tells Pelley.

You can read the rest of the article here and, of course, watch the 60 Minutes interview.

Incidentally, it’s also apparent from the interview that, even if Saddam didn’t have WMDs in 2003, he was plenty prepared to have them in future:

He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. “Saddam] still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there,” says Piro. “He wanted to pursue all of WMD…to reconstitute his entire WMD program.” This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

But do you think any of this will change of the minds of the Bush lied/people died crowd?

UPDATE: From SGT Dave’s comment to this post:

The only problem I have at this time is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, there were indeed chemical weapons in Iraq at the time of the invasion. We captured some while I was serving in Baghdad (the 500 “old” rounds) and had at least one shell used as an IED.

Saddam had all the physical machinery in place to start making chemical and biological weapons; he didn’t have the chemical precursors, but was seeking them. The same goes with radiological/nuclear weaponry. The only reason he didn’t have these items was lack of ways he could get money out of the country and into the hands of the dealers.

The bottom line remains that at least five tons of the chemical weapons reported destroyed by the UN inspectors were recovered by US forces; the mobile laboratory facilities reported destroyed by Iraq and the UN were captured in western Iraq during the opening days of the war; the Saddam regime attempted to purchase yellow-cake uranium for refining (despite C.Wilson’s false statements to the press – contradicting his sworn report) in a centrifuge array that was captured by US forces – again reported as destroyed by Iraq and the UN; and Saddam ordered items shipped to Syria (though the contents of those shipments is not known/releasable at this time).

The writing on the wall is just about as clear as the German redeployment of the Panzer divisions eastward into Poland. If not for the Germans’ own crazy leader interfering with the battle plan, the ignorance and arrogance of the Russian leader of the time nearly brought down an entire nation in a single campaign season. While Bush is no Churchill or Roosevelt, I fear that the other choices we were given would have given results in the range of Stalin or Chamberlain.
Wow, quite a rant – even for me.

Even now the literate and relatively knowledgable are falling prey to the spin. Don’t concede that there “weren’t” WMD – there were. Don’t even let them put out that there “wasn’t a significant amount” – enough agent to kill over a million people ten times over is quite a bit. They are lying now, as they were before, but they are lying about the lies that they told about the lies. Don’t give them the first step; they will keep lying until the truth is only known by those willing to dig into the classified and official “sworn” documents.

Don’t be a victim of Newspeak and Newthink. They’re lying to you.

UPDATE II: And more from SGT Dave, whose comments here are factual enough that they shouldn’t be buried:

Saddam was killing dozens every day in Baghdad, not to mention the “swamp Arabs” and the Kurds.

Training areas used to practice hijackings – including a set of four that killed about 3,000 Americans.

Mid-grade weaponized anthrax, enough to pollute an area the size of Kansas.

Enough sarin, VX, and mustard gas to kill every Shi’ite in Baghdad.

And I won’t go into the torture and rape rooms – it took days to get the images out of my nightmares.

Saddam may have been lying on some things, but you cannot take that kind of risk. I’m out here; I was there. The truth is that we didn’t do it because we “can”. We did it because the risk was too high regarding what he could have done. There is no defense in thousands of miles of sea any longer.

Maybe I’m a simple reactionary, but I believe it was worth the time I spent there. I have friends that still serve and believe it was worth it. You didn’t get to meet a young woman of my acquaintance, there in Mashtal in Baghdad. She didn’t have fingers on her left hand and her right leg didn’t work quite right anymore. When she was eight Uday thought she was very pretty playing in the schoolyard. She can’t ever have kids and was trembling when she took the aid bag from my hand, with food for her mother and sister. My counterpart with Civil Affairs and her female terp got the story of why she was scared of the big men in uniform.

I will never, ever, forget the look on that woman’s face and the fear those unspeakable individuals made manifest in her. If one – ONE – little girl in that place was spared this by our actions, then it was worth every cent, every drop of blood, sweat, and tears we shed.

Those people were dead, Swamp. They were just waiting their turn to be buried. They have a chance, you selfish, greedy, me-me-me, complacent goof. And some died – but so did the founders of our nation, disregarding the “safe” path that allowed tyranny to rule unchallenged. Too many “liberals” complain of the cost, ignoring the pile of bodies that went to making their right (RIGHT!) to complain possible.

I’m ranting again; God save me, I am not as strong as I should be. I am fallable, weak, and human. But I am a soldier, and I will cleave to my duty and find strength in my honor. Don’t think that the men and women who gave all gave in vain. They gave for that elusive, precious, and irreplacable commodity – hope.

And I hope the Iraqi people fulfill that hope. But I know that the enemy is not attacking my home, my business, or my nation on our land. And I know why – so do you, if you look at what the enemy is saying.

And that too, is what “defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic” means. They would be fighting us anyway – you want the shootout in your house or theirs?

And Ari; there are no dispassionate historians; the ISP could have stopped the hijackers by turning their trainers over to INTERPOL when they crossed the border from Syria and moved overland to Turkey with ISP assistance before boarding planes into the EU to give guidance to the hijackers. Or even by taking Bin Laden out and shooting him instead of throwing a four day feast/orgy congratulating him on the USS Cole and US Embassy incidents.

‘Nuff said – There is a lot of Truth out there, but few, if any, are willing to address it.

America Derangement Syndrome — or, yes, you can call them unpatriotic

While idly browsing the shelves at our local public library, I stumbled across a fascinating book — one that is fascinating on a couple of different levels. It’s called Uncouth Nation : Why Europe Dislikes America, and was written by Andrei S. Markovits, a Jewish man who was born in Romania, and raised during the 1960s in Vienna and America. He is now a professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan.

Although Markovits occasionally lapses into the terrible writing of academia (e.g, at p. 28, “To be sure, anti-American sentiments have indeed varied in their manifest expressions both diachronically and synchronically….”), he presents his thesis very lucidly, and it’s a good thesis. Markovitz believes that the anti-Americanism that is increasingly present in Europe is not George Bush’s fault, but that it has been present in Europe since Columbus’s time. Even when America was just a little blink over the horizon, elite Europeans viewed it as a threat to their cultural stability and own sense of superiority. This sense of threat only worsened in the 20th Century as America, along with its siren song of freedom (economic and social), gained the actual power to affect European affairs. Now, Europeans have to deal, not only with their ancient and visceral dislike, but also with the reality that they are dependent on a nation they have historically disdained. In other words, Markovits describes an “American Derangement Syndrome” throughout Europe:

Just like anti-Semitism, so, too is anti-Americanism antonymous. Everything and its opposite pertains: too religious, too secular; too idealistic, too materialistic; too elitist, too populist; too prudish, too pornographic; too individualistic, too conformist; too anarchic, too controlling; too obsessed with history, not having any history; too concerned with culture, not having any culture; too dominated by women, too controlling of women. America, in the view of some Europeans, is so obsessed with freedom and individualism that this obsession impedes genuine individuality and creates what one conservative German critic of the United States tellingly labeled ‘freedom Bolshevism”…. In short, the motto is clear: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (p. 24.)

I agree and, with every paragraph I’ve read in the book, I think Markovits makes and proves his point about the deep roots anti-Americanism has in Europe.  There’s more to the book than that, though.

What caught me was the way in which Markovits is forced to expose the anti-Americanism that characterizes the American Left, and that cannot be excused by looking to Europe’s long-standing dislike for America.  The topic comes up because Markovits tries to increase his argument’s credibility by establishing his own position.  At least, that’s why I think he is forced to acknowledge that the American Left, like the world Left, is defined by its hatred for America.  After all, if this were a standard rant against the Left coming from someone on the Right, no one would pay attention to it.  The argument about Europe’s chronic, historic dislike for America gains credence only if it’s made by an insider.  And so, in the book’s preface, Markovits is forced to explain that Europe’s almost hysterical anti-Americanism is a coming together of ancient hatreds and modern politics (most that go far beyond BDS), and that this hatred infects the American Left, which has made him something of an outcast.

Markovits begins by pointing out the anti-American and anti-Semitic animus that is becoming the core definer for the Left:

There can be no doubt that anti-Americanism has become a kind of litmus test for progressive thinking and identity in Europe and the world (including the United States itself). Just as any self-respecting progressive and leftist in Europe or America, regardless of which political shade, simply had to be on the side of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become the requisite proof of possessing a progressive conviction today. [Snip.] Over the last thirty-five years, a steady anti-Americanism and an uncompromising anti-Zionism, which occasionally borders on the anti-Semitic, have become key characteristics that both divide and determine political identity absolutely. They are “wedge issues” — clear articles of faith or “deal breakers” — whose importance overshadows, and even negates, many related components of the “clusters” that characterize such an identity. (p. xiv.)

Because the “litmus test” is hatred for America, all the other standard Leftist tropes become secondary if you want to belong to that club.  Markovits uses himself as an example of this fact.  He begins by establishing his Leftist bona fides. Thus, here are the beliefs this comparative politics profession at the University of Michigan holds:

I am an advocate of affirmative action in all realms of public life; a supporter for decades of numerous civil rights organizations, in favor of complete equality for women and discriminated ethnic groups, especially blacks, in the United States; an opponent of the death penalty. I favor legally recognized marriages for gays and lesbians; support the right of all women to complete and exclusive autonomy over their bodies, in other words, the right to an abortion; support unrestricted stem cell research [snip] and favor the Kyoto Climate Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the Ottawa Conventions on the ban of land mines, and the International Biological Weapons Convention. I do not want prayers in public schools and oppose charter schools; I favor strict gun control laws and — as an animal benefit activist — oppose hunting for sport. I have always supported trade unions in their difficult struggles, always favor increases in the minimum wage, have never broken a strike or crossed a picket line, even when I did not agree with the striking union’s demands; I welcome the legalization of marijuana, advocate a more just and socially conscience health care system, and desire progressive taxation and a much greater role for the public sector in economic matters. I am a decisive opponent of subsidies for rich American (and European) farmers, deride th exclusivity and price gouging of the pharmaceutical industry, oppose trafficking in women and exploitation of children, and am appalled by the erosion of civil liberties in the United States as well as by the shameful, completely illegal situation in Guantanamo and the outrageous abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. [Snip.] In terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I have always supported the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state and have held views that have been akin to the Israeli peace camp’s. I have regularly condemned and opposed certain measures of American foreign policy, regardless of which party needed to be held responsible (whether the Vietnam policy of Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson or the Iraq policy of Republican George W. Bush), and I have therefore — as should be obvious from the above list — positioned myself quite clearly on the left side of the political spectrum in America (and Europe as well). (pp. xiv-xv.)

Prof. Markovits Leftist bona fides are as impeccable as they come. He has a problem, though, which is that there is a thread of innate honesty and intelligence running through him, and it is this that leaves him unwilling to accept mindlessly the anti-American and anti-Semitic hostility that is now becoming a dominant trait on the Left at home and abroad. Thus, after reciting his sterling Leftist credentials, Markovits had this to say:

Yet I am increasingly avoided by leftists on both sides of the Atlantic owing solely to the two wedge issues mentioned above [anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism].  As a reaction against this, I find myself having withdrawn from the established American and European lefts in whose presence I feel increasingly misplaced.  I am not writing this to elicit sympathy for my increasing political marginalization but rather to make a point of how central anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become to virtually all lefts on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.  (p. xv.)

In other words, from a die-hard Leftist, you hear that, yes, the American Left is indeed unpatriotic because to hate America is the test for admission into the progressive club.

I’m rather impressed with Prof. Markovits’s ability honestly to confront the fact that the anti-Americanism that oozes out of Europe and keeps popping up at home is not just a figment of the Right’s paranoid imaginings.  Instead, it’s real and it’s rising.  It is, as I’ve captioned it in this post “America Derangement Syndrome” (“ADS”).  Just as with Bush Derangement Syndrome, it exists at an emotional level that has no need for facts.  America is evil because it’s evil.  Bush is evil because he’s evil.  No further proof needed.

What’s sad is that, even as Markovits has been able to break away from the ADS, even to the point of becoming shunned by his former Leftist compadres, he’s still in the grip of an unreasoning BDS.  Every few pages, he feels compelled to blame Bush for something, only to back away and acknowledge that, whatever Bush did, it doesn’t excuse the European (and, by extension, American Leftist) animus to America and Israel.  For example:

George W. Bush and his administrations’ policies have made America into the most hated country of all time.  [Wow!  Because apparently everyone loved the Mongols, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Nazis, the Nationalist Japanese, etc., etc.]  Indeed, they bear responsibility for having created a situation in which anti-Americanism has mutated into a sort of global antinomy, a mutually shared language of opposition to and resistance against the real and perceived ills of modernity that are now inextricably identified solely with America.  [I think this paragraph was written before some recent European elections.]  (p. 1.)

After reading the above, I almost felt like snarling, “Smile when you say that, Pardner.  Them’s fighting words.”  If that’s not unanchored BDS, I don’t know what is — and Markovits is completely unaware that it exists.  Even as he’s castigating the Europeans for their unreasoning American hatred, he’s engaging in precisely the same type of thinking vis a vis Bush.  There’s hope for him, though.  That same inconvenient honesty that finally broke him free of the Left’s strangle hold about America, forces him to acknowledge that Bush is not the culprit in failing American-European relations:

While the politics, style, and discourse of the Bush administrations — and of George W. Bush as a person — have undoubtedly exacerbated anti-American sentiment among Europeans and fostered a heretofore unmatched degree of unity between elite and mass opinion in Europe, they are not anti-Americanism’s cause.  Indeed, a change to a center-left administration in Washington, led by a Democratic president, would not bring about its abatement, let alone its disappearance.  [Take that, John Kerry!]  (p. 5.)

Perhaps, as time goes by, and as Markovits peels away the unthinking allegiance he has to Leftist doctrine, he’ll begin to take stands on matters that are informed and principled, and not driven simply by ideological loyalty.  Certainly to leave the ideological trap will make him a more honest thinker and, I’m willing to be, a better teacher (and that’s without regard to how good a teacher he may already be).

The failed Democratic anti-Surge

I’m not giving away anything by quoting here the concluding paragraph from Noemie Emery’s long and fascinating article about the Democrats’ desperate and, at the moment, unsuccessful anti-Surge efforts in the last year.  If you read only this paragraph, good as it is, you’ll have missed all of the really interesting stuff:

As they took control of Congress at the start of 2007, the Democrats vowed this would be a year of historic importance, and it seems they were prescient: Seldom before in the annals of governance have so many politicians fought so long and so hard to completely screw up a winning strategy being waged on their country’s behalf. Some cruelly define this as treacherous conduct, but this is imprecise and unkind. They tried, it is true, to do serious damage, but were compromised in the event by their chronic incompetence, as well as by being too above-board and open to try to do things on the sly. A stab in the back as a concept was wholly beyond their capacities. This was not a stab in the back that works via guile and subterfuge. It was 41 different stabs in the front, that always fell far short of serious damage, unless you count the damage they did to their own reputations (the approval ratings for Congress are now in the twenties). It was the Stab in the Front, the Surge-against-the-Surge, the Pickett’s Charge of the Great War on Terror. It was a year to remember, that will live in the annals of fecklessness. It was historical. It was hysterical. It was the Stab that Failed.

One movie, two views

Dennis Prager likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing here) that liberals and conservatives have entirely incompatible world views. They understand facts in such a different way that there are few points of intersection. I had a reminder of that truism the other day when I watched Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center with a liberal friend.

As you may recall, WTC, which came out last year, tells the true story of two Port Authority police officers (John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno) who got trapped in an elevator shaft when the Trade Center buildings collapsed. The movie traces their day from its ordinary beginnings, to their bewildering mission into the building, to their entombment, survival in the wreckage and ultimate rescue. It also looks at how their families cope with both the news and the complete absence of news, and how they are discovered and extricated. I found it a very moving experience to watch. My friend did not. He thought it was sentimental and pedestrian, despite learning at the end that much of the dialog was lifted right out of newspaper stories and quotations from the people actually involved in the events.

My friend’s perception in that regard could just be an artistic, movie-making quibble. What was more interesting was his emotional response to the movie. As I watched events unfold, especially when the planes hit the buildings and people began to realize that America had been attacked, I became furious all over again at those who had attacked us, and at those who masterminded and funded the attack. I was sorry that the Saudis in the plane died, and that they died fulfilling their hearts’ desires, because it would have been so much more emotionally satisfying to subject to them to some horrible medieval style torture. (And, in that way, it’s probably good for America’s soul that we didn’t get the opportunity to flay them alive, and remove their intestines and burn them before their eyes, which is what they richly deserved.) That was my response.

My friend’s response was this: “Bush is going to go down in history as the worst president ever. He squandered the opportunity to go after the terrorists.” I didn’t want to talk politics during the movie, so I let it drop, but I had a few thoughts: As to the source of this attack, which was Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Bush didn’t squander the opportunity. Instead, he went in and destroyed the Taliban. And as to the fact that it was Saudi Arabia that provided the manpower, the money and the ideology, I doubt my friend seriously believes anyone could attack Saudi Arabia without destroying the West in a single, oil-dripping stroke. In other words, once Bush went after the Taliban, which was a low level player in world Islamism, although a high level players in this single attack, what should he have done vis a vis the Twin Towers?

There will be, for a long time, debate about the wisdom of Bush’s next responsive choice — invading Iraq. I’d like to avoid the justification given for the war — violating UN sanctions, creating a Potemkin nuclear village (although some of the village’s real components seem to have drifted into Syria), funding terrorism, etc. — and focus on the strategic benefit of going into Iraq.

George Friedman, who is the founder of Stratfor, a company that produces intelligence analysis, wrote a book in which he opined, based on information available to the public, that Iraq was a proxy attack on Saudi Arabia. That is, Bush used information available at the time built up a credible and honest case that Iraq was a threat (and I say honest because most of the information was, in fact, true and, as for that which was untrue, there was no way to know at the time that it was false). Neutralizing Iraq, though, was only one goal and, perhaps, even a secondary one. What he really wanted to do was to create a strong American military presence, both short and long term, that was breathing over Saudi Arabia’s shoulder. Saudi Arabia got the message, by the way, and after the War began, Saudi Arabia instantly stepped up its own attacks against Al Qaeda within Saudi borders.

Bush also hoped to create– and, in fact, may have created — a stable pro-American bulwark in the heart of the Middle East. He almost incidentally created a honey pot that attracted Al Qaeda fighters from all over the Muslim world (especially Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia), men who rendered themselves useless by becoming dead. While there may be other fervent anti-American Muslims around the world, not all are willing to die for their beliefs, so the fact that they hate America (as they have done for decades) may be less important than the fact that they’re suddenly not so willing to throw themselves in front of American bullets to demonstrate their hatred.

That’s my view, but I willingly concede that there is room for intelligent disagreement, both about the War’s origins, its conduct, and its eventual results. Nevertheless, I still found peculiar that my friend, watching in almost real time a Muslim/Saudi attack on America that killed 3,000 people, rather than venting at the attackers, used the opportunity to vent against George Bush.

My friend also had one other interesting take on the movie. I’m not giving anything away here, since it was well publicized when the movie came out, but the two police officers were discovered because an ex-Marine, living in Connecticut, recognized that the US was at war, pulled on his old uniform, and went down to the ruins to hunt for survivors. And because he was not affiliated with any official organization, he wasn’t constrained by orders from headquarters calling the search off for the night. He just went in. Once there, he found another ex-Marine, exactly like himself: someone who pulled on his uniform and did his duty. It was these men who, in the dark, dusty, dangerous smoke, went around yelling for survivors to call out or tap. And it was these men who, when they found McLoughlin and Jimeno, assured them that, as Marines, these survivors had become their mission, and the Marines would not abandon them. Since you know how I feel about the Marines, I was really moved by that moment.

Interestingly, when my friend was talking to my son, and telling him about the movie, he described these two rescuers thusly: “These ordinary guys decided to go looking for survivors.” I interrupted to say, “They weren’t ordinary guys, they were Marines.” My friend insisted that I was wrong. They were ordinary guys, he said, because they weren’t fire fighters or police officers or FBI agents or anyone else working with an organization. They just went in on their own. My friend is technically correct — both men were ex-Marines who showed up without orders — but I think he missed something profound, which is that it was their Marine identity and training that drove them there. Strikingly, both of them showed up in their uniforms, which I think was more than just a way to avoid police cordons. I think it was a statement about their identity and their goals: they were Marines, and they were on a mission.

So, one movie, two very different responses.

Report of Bush’s demise highly exaggerated

Mark Morford, who writes a periodic column for the San Francisco Chronicle that is highly consistent with San Francisco’s political ethos, recently gloated about George Bush’s imminent downfall. In the paragraph imagining Bush’s departure from the White House, he manages to cram in every anti-Bush stereotype and nasty attack, short of (for reasons unknown) that Bushitler smear:

It is now safe to imagine. It is now becoming increasingly easy to actually dare to think that, in less than one year’s time, Dubya will begin packing his bags, jamming into his SpongeBob duffel his map-of-the-world coloring book, English-to-English translation dictionaries, mangled pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, Bibleman action figure set and a “Mission Accomplished!” sweatshirt, and heading off to face his destiny as one of the bleakest, most morally repellent chapters in all of American history.

Poor Morford! It turns out that Bush may not quite retreat in the ignominious fashion he imagines. Grudgingly, and with a million caveats, the WaPo acknowledges that Bush is doing pretty well right now:

The war in Iraq seems to have taken a turn for the better and the opposition at home has failed in all efforts to impose its own strategy. North Korea is dismantling its nuclear program. The budget deficit is falling. A new attorney general has been confirmed despite objections from the left.

After more than two years of being buffeted by one political disaster after another, President Bush and his strategists think they may finally be getting back at least a bit of their footing. While still facing enormous challenges, from the crisis in Pakistan to the backlash over children’s health care, they hope Bush has arrested his downward spiral and established a better foundation for the remainder of his time in office.

What I particularly love in Peter Baker’s reluctant little column is the way he tries to spin why Bush is looking good:

In many ways, the shifting political fortunes may owe as much to the absence of bad news as to any particular good news. No one lately has been indicted, botched a hurricane relief effort or shot someone in a hunting accident. Instead, pictures from Iraq show people returning to the streets as often as they show a new suicide bombing.

Did you get that?  Bush isn’t really looking good.  It’s just that bad things have stopped happening and good things are starting to happen instead that makes him look good.  There is no connection between the two.  Repeat:  there is no connection.

You can read the rest of Baker’s article here, but just keep in mind as you read it that the improvements in Iraq, the falling budget deficit, North Korea’s backing down, etc., have nothing to do with the policies George Bush has doggedly pursued for so many years, despite the relentless naysaying from the MSM and the Democrats.  It’s all a coincidence.  When you go to the voting booths in November next year, do not think “Bush/Republicans.”  Wipe your mind of those thoughts.

I trust I’ve made myself clear.