September 18, 2004

A Reading List To War

My path to hawkishness followed Matt's almost exactly.

I read Love Thy Neighbor and thought hard about the horrors of Kosovo; I flipped through We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families and decided I could never be silent around another Rwanda; I read The Threatening Storm and was almost convinced by its arguments but mostly horrified at Saddam's brutality and, finally, I lived in Santa Cruz, home of reflexive dovishness and factually incorrect tirades. So I became pro-war. And, in the end, I was proved the idiot, and my predictions didn't comport with reality, and a reflexive aversion to the war would have served me better.

I'm quite ashamed that, during the whole of the run-up, I never thought to notice that the President's rationales and statements were less credible and more infantile than those of the white-bearded peaceniks denouncing him on street corners. I just figured he couldn't possibly be this stupid, his advisors can't possibly believe his rhetoric -- I was still naive enough to believe in the majesty of the office and, even if the inhabitant was not of my choosing, I couldn't imagine him completely incompetent and corrupt (sometimes, the fact that I only started paying attention to politics around 9/11 really shows). I was, unfortunately, quite wrong.

Anyway, that was something of a random reflection, but James Wolcott and Matt Yglesias have insisted on bringing it to mind today, so I was really just going with the flow.

Update: Robert Farley seems to have felt similarly:

I know that one of the hardest obstacles I had to overcome in adopting an anti-war position on Iraq was the recognition that I would be on the same side as all those dumbass hippies I knew at the University of Oregon, as well as those dumbass hippies I know in Seattle. At the time, I always strove to distance my arguments from theirs
Truly a brother-in-arms. One of the tougher lessons for me to learn was that bad arguments don't necessarily indict a point-of-view, doesn't matter how many of them there are. Nixon used to force his advisors to submit written arguments with the facts clearly laid out; he knew that a cunning oral presentation could lead him to support an incorrect position while a shoddy case could doom a good policy.

And to answer some in the comments: you're right, there were many level-headed folk making perfectly cogent points against the war. I don't defend myself for reaching the wrong conclusion. But my environment, same as Matt and Robert's, was a reactionary campus packed with far-leftists, and their arguments were the ones being screamed into my ear, and thus their arguments were the ones I reacted to. Again, I don't defend it; that's just where I was coming from.

Posted by Ezra Klein at September 18, 2004 07:46 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Ezra,
You are very bright.

Posted by: Nancy at September 18, 2004 07:53 PM

I didn't start paying attention to politics until the Clinton impeachment, which--second to Pat Buchanan's declaration of war against me--largely informed my trust of Republicans in general, and particularly about this war.

Although I have to admit that I thought it was a good thing the Repubs were in charge after 9/11, since they're so very very good at waging the sort of off-the-books, secret, intelligence-laden war that would need to be employed to combat terrorism. I didn't realize it was actually the pie-in-the-sky neocons who were in control. Of course, I didn't know what neocons were.

We've all learned an awful lot since then, Ezra.

Posted by: Julie O. at September 18, 2004 08:00 PM

...don't worry, Ezra, over time you will develop the powerful cynicism that lends some of us old middle-aged grey-haired guys to be so deeply suspicious when we see the sort of show that led up to the Iraq invasion...

...of course, I've worked for the government for 30 years, so maybe I come by my cynicism honestly...

Posted by: Jack K. at September 18, 2004 08:28 PM

Didn't vote for him and didn't trust the folksy bullshit he was peddling. But after 9/11 I gave him a pass. Admittedly during the years of my favorite president Clinton I was angry with him for Rwanda and for the weasly lack of support for Lonnie Guinier and the gays in the military nonsense, but I was also very upset that he didn't take on the Taliban although I understood there was no defensable reason at the time. So, 9/11 and I had my war. I had no problem with it. But really, is there any sentient being within earshot of a news report or walking distance of a library that didn't know that the Iraq issue was cooked? I was a freakin' waitress in Simi Valley and I had access to enough information to suspect the motives of this guy. we weren't all duped.

Posted by: kerril at September 18, 2004 08:45 PM

Was against this war all along, but, living out of the u.s., that's nearly an of course. I don't share at all the bitterness some have against the ex-pro-war-left.

Nevertheless, i fail to see, in all the post reasonings, ruminations and flagellations, what seems to me the real reason.

You were for the irak war because the u.s. government put enough money, influence, ressources, time, people, will, in his marketing plan.

All the other reasons flow from that, and are pretty much irrelevant, imho. Of course, a few irak monomaniacs escape that, or maybe some war enthusiasts. Overall, no one cared one way or another, before it became that very awful thing, and until Something Had To Be Done : this is, finally, the story of a huge marketing plan.

Posted by: yabonn at September 18, 2004 08:59 PM

There were two alternate paths to supporting the war. There was, as you say, the marketing plan, the president's argument that we must stop Saddam now lest all children perish and widows be damned. There was also the alternate path, best exemplified by Pollack's "The Threatening Storm", which had people deciding that even if the president's rationale was flawed, toppling Saddam was virtuous and necessary from a number of other perspectives and arguments.

Now, the problem was many of us decided the president secretly saw it as we saw it when, in fact, he seems to have believed in his own duplicitousness and planned as if his fantasies were the only possible outcome. We were wrong to try and divine his inner thoughts rather than evaluate his spoken case, but that's not the same as being fooled by the clearly false arguments he laid out. I figured that political rhetoric is almost always full of lies and untrue urgency and no president in memory had honestly justified a war, not even necessary ones. I was wrong, however, to place Bush in the company of presidents who could be trusted to carry out a war, and had no idea how unjust this one would become.

Posted by: Ezra at September 18, 2004 09:10 PM

I just came from the Buzzflash site and there is a headline called "The New Pentagon Papers". It takes you to an article in Salon. I usually just back out of a Salon article but this one is up with a small paragraph from Salon saying why they are posting it. If you have seen it already and I am late to the table, so be it. But if you have not, take my word on this one and go read it. And it actually relates to how we got where we are in Iraq.

Posted by: Nancy at September 18, 2004 09:12 PM

I was, unfortunately, quite wrong.

You sure as fuck were.

Posted by: dave at September 18, 2004 09:32 PM

Another important point is to recall how the process first went to the UN. After almost 8 months' worth of regime-change/he-gassed-his-own-people rhetoric that was matched with precisely zero policy, starting from the "axis of evil" speech, things changed in an instant with Bush's speech at the UN in Sept. 2002. I was pretty floored when he gave it, since it was almost exactly the speech that I had been hoping to hear from a US president on Iraq for almost a decade. And within two months, resolution 1441 passed unanimously, which almost nobody had predicted would happen. It really was a great diplomatic achievement to mobilize the international community behind getting inspectors back in with no strings attached.

So, it wasn't like Bush was doing nothing right on Iraq. Unfortunately, that was literally the only thing he did right. In retrospect, I have no regrets about supporting the policy as far as it went on getting the inspectors back in, but of course I was wrong to trust these assholes to follow through successfully. It's certainly a lesson learned for me--even if you support part of the policy, and even if it's the major part of it, as the inspections were in the run-up to the war, that's not good enough on its own. Anyone who wants my support for anything remotely resembling this in the future will have to work a hell of a lot harder to earn it.

Posted by: Haggai at September 18, 2004 10:37 PM

Ezra,

I think i still remember krugman's expression : "they tried the aura of inevitability thing". I think it really is a case into building an aura.

This aura is what made the threatening storm (i haven't read) resonate deep within many people, what made people think bush was trustable in this war, what made that the situation in irak was suddenly unbearable, and too all the many other details that finally lead to war. At some point, because of that aura, all path led to war, alternative or other.

I admit it is a hardly quantifiable thing, and yet the effects are here.

I think that the causes are on the contrary pretty much easily identifiable : this governement's marketing push. From my point of view, the various "how i was wrong" explanations should begin by that push.

I understand it may not be the most obvious, or intellectually satisfying explanation. The readings and ponderings and making one's mind type of explanation offer clear and well reasoned motives, and the fox news style propaganda was transparent.

On the contrary, the responding to a marketing push explanation (yes, expression irks me a bit, too) has a bitter "lab rat" flavor to it. Yet you wouldn't have made your mind the same way without all the mediatic pounding would you? Or, if you prefer, the zeitgeistof the time contributed to the conclusions you drawn from your readings? Or influenced your to-read pile? Or influenced the readings that were recommended to you? That seemed important to you at the time?

So for me, no explanation can be complete without that pessimistic explanation. I care about that because it doesn't mean simply "the media mattered".

It's that it proves that when so much energy and power and influence are dedicated to propaganda, they are out to get you too, even if i you wise enough to see it for what it is. Simply pour enough ressources into it, and alternate ways to war will be found, or receive more coverage, or have more impact, or whatever. It's an aura thing, would say krugman.

It means too that the next rush to war will probably look the same. Remember how goerings passage about bringing people to war was unpalatable, poo-poo at the time? Too raving-leftie to be good?

"Why of course the people don't want war. [...] But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, [...] All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

Add humanitarian reasons, and i think the picture is pretty accurate.

I'll be more sure it won't happen again when along with the talk about the subtly wrong reasons they had to go to war, people mention too the blunt, by-the-book means, used to push them to these reasons.

Posted by: yabonn at September 18, 2004 10:45 PM

What convinced me that there was a threat was the participation of Tony Blair. I still can't figure out why Tony supported the invasion. Was he duped by the neocons? Is he a neocon?

Posted by: Lynne at September 18, 2004 10:47 PM

Well, I don't want to get on your case, but I'm not sure why you thought the only voices opposing president Bush's were peacenik hippes from Santa Cruz. There were millions of "moderate," typical democrats and liberals who were against the war. People who have never once had dreadlocks or worn patchoolie (sic?) oil or gone to a Burning Man festival or Grateful Dead concert.

Being a blogger yourself, I'm pretty confident that in the past 3 years you've checked Atrios, Daily Kos, Buzzflash, etc. on a pretty regular basis. Being a rabid devourer of news, you've probably also found your way to the BBC, Guardian, Toronto Star, Sydney Morning Herald, etc. All of the above were debunking the myths in real time, not months later when it was too late. Every time Powell or Rumsfeld said they "knew" where weapons were, all those media outlets reported otherwise, usually relying on the work of the non-hippy Hans Blix, Mohamed El Baradei, Scott Ritter, etc. That is one memory that I will never forget in my life. While the details may have faded somewhat, I will always remember how the case for war was being debunked in real time, through left wing bloggers, and international media outlets.

I guess I'm bringing this up, not to get on your case, but it's a pet peeve of mine how millions of people like me have just been disappeared down the memory hole. It wasn't George W. Bush vs the hordes of smelly peacenik hippies, it was George W. Bush vs most people in the world. And in many cases, when people do offer up a mea culpa, it follows the same pattern, and it often comes off as an insult. It's like saying that people like me are either hippies, or our voices are so inconsequential that we're below even hippies on the political ladder, not even worthy of a mention. Ouch.

Your mea culpa was ok though, don't get me wrong. That pet peeve of mine is put to the test when fuckers like those at The New Republic say "yeah, we were wrong, but we wouldn't have been wrong if you weren't a bunch of no-good crazy smelly peacenik hippies full of irrational Bush-hatred."

Posted by: Voodoo Chile at September 18, 2004 11:02 PM

Incidently, that feeling that we didn't have a voice - that was what gave birth to the Howard Dean phenomenon. But like George McGovern, he was right too early.

Posted by: Voodoo Chile at September 18, 2004 11:11 PM

I don't think anyone should feel bad for having trusted the president. We have had some bad presidents before, but all of them, including Nixon, LBJ, and even Reagan, were competent men, intelligent men---yes, even Reagan.---and all of them, even Nixon, were patriots. They wanted to do what was best for the country.

Bush is the first president in over a hundred years who is completely unqualified in character and in temperament and in brains to be president. And he is the first I know of who doesn't care beans for the country itself. He cares and has always only cared about one thing. Himself.

I disliked the guy from the first I heard of him, back when his father was president. So I didn't ever trust him. But if you didn't know, and weren't predisposed to hate him, how could you be expected to believe that we had put such a creature in the White House?

Most of the country still can't believe it. They persist in thinking that because he lives where Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln and Jack Kennedy lived, he must be like them.

Posted by: Dave at September 18, 2004 11:12 PM

I still think that anyone who loved democracy should have stood against the war on the grounds that it was being falsely sold, whatever they may have thought of the merits of getting rid of Saddam.

Besides, what of the merits of murdering 20,000 Iraqis? That's alot of people to kill just to get rid of a dictator.

Posted by: Boronx at September 18, 2004 11:15 PM

You make some great points, Voodoo Chile. But for me, a lot of the issue was about the inspections and their potential effectiveness. It's hard to imagine that they could have gotten back in there, with full international backing, without a credible willingness on America's part to go to war. Actually going to war, of course, was a whole other ballgame. But I still don't think that Bush's "if the inspectors find WMD, we invade; if they don't find any, then Saddam's hiding them, so we invade" pre-determined outcome was any less dishonest than the large faction of non-hippie anti-war types who openly espoused the "if they don't find any WMD, they must not be there, so you can't invade; if they do find some, then that proves the inspections can achieve disarmament, so you can't invade then either" position. I'm not automatically assuming that was your position, but it was a very common one, and I thought it was clearly a stupid one.

And if there hadn't been a war, it was probably inevitable that Saddam would have dialed back his co-operativeness on the inspections front, as international pressure waned. It appears that the choice was between a stronger assurance that Saddam wasn't threatening anyone, followed by an inspections regime that would inevitably weaken again, on the one hand, and the complete disaster that we've got, on the other hand. Since I'm not insane, I can obviously conclude that some measure of uncertainty about Saddam's WMD capabilities would have been a far better situation for us than what we have now, but the choice was not as easy as a lot of people made it out to be.

Posted by: Haggai at September 18, 2004 11:19 PM

Most of the country still can't believe it. They persist in thinking that because he lives where Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln and Jack Kennedy lived, he must be like them.

Well, Teddy did things that would make people like you commit hari-kari.

Read up on the Panama Canal.
-=Mike
...Which US President basically CREATED the country of Panama? Anybody?

Posted by: MikeSC at September 18, 2004 11:19 PM

I'm sorry Haggai, but are you implying that any point of view different from yours at the run up to the war was fundamentally dishonest? hooey. We wanted time to inspect and had the freaking audacity to believe the inspectors were doing their job. We also had a history with a fundamentally dishonest president which led us to question his motives. Sorry but there was too much evidence around for us to draw a sane intelligent conclusion without having to resort to mental gymnastics. give me a break.

Posted by: kerril at September 18, 2004 11:41 PM

War should always be the last resort, because it is the most extreme option. Afghanistan was necessary, Iraq was not. We had to do something after 9/11. We did not have to go to Iraq. That simple. Afghanistan would have been taken care of much earlier if the right had not been obsessed with Clinton's cock, and would have let him go into Afghanistan without screaming "Wag the Dog!"

The right loves war; they get rich. The poor kids die. The "terrorists" die.It's all pretty unfair, but hey, as long as Halliburton makes a profit and we get the oil...

Can't say I'm a dove, I do believe people ought to defend themselves. But I think hawks are misnamed. The hawk hunts for survival, the political hawks hunt for sport. There's a difference.

Posted by: donna at September 18, 2004 11:43 PM

Gotta say it, Mike is right about TR. Teddy said and did things that would make the right blanch too. though.

I don't quite understand why there is so much hand-wringing lately. Jess, Matt, Belle, whomever, you don't matter. There was going to be a war. Period. No amount of opposition was going to stop that war. Why Tony Blair? Well, lots of reasons, but I think Blair looked into Bush's soul and knew there was going to be war in Iraq. He then had to decide how he could do the most good for Britain and Iraq, and chose to be Bush's friend rather than enemy.

Before the war, the only really useful anti-Bush position to take would have been to Bush's right. If people had supported Shinseki more, if the potential downside had been yelled out loud enough, that not enough resources were being devoted to the war, the reconstruction might have gone better, and the incompetence would have been predicted in a way useful to this election.

And be careful guys. If you are too dovish now, you will have no influence whatsoever if there is another terrorist attack. And people who say the war was a disastrous mistake rather than disastrously waged are going to have little influence on what is done on the ground in Iraq.

Politics is the art of the possible.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at September 18, 2004 11:45 PM

Haggai, you've committed two logical blunders with that argument. The first is a strawman. Most non-hippy anti-war Democrats/Liberals were not against an inspections regime. And then with that strawman, you've put us regular anti-war democrats and liberals back into the false dichotomy of George W. Bush vs. Dirty Peacenik Hippies who are so crazy and irrational that they are against even weapons inspections.

I'm not at all interested in arguing about whether George W. Bush was as dishonest as a dirty hippy or a manufactured strawman. All I know is that I'm just a regular non-hippy Joe Schmoe, and millions and millions of people just like me were against the war but were in favor of the idea of weapons inspections. I'm not going to champion a case that I myself never made, and most people in my camp never made either. If you can find something in Atrios' archives (for example) where he says that he's against weapons inspections then you might have a point, otherwise I think that's just a strawman.

As for whether or not Saddam would have complied with inspections if there was not a war, I'm not too interested in arguing about that here, since this particular thread seems to be about a different topic. I'll just say that I disagree with your premise.

Posted by: Voodoo Chile at September 18, 2004 11:46 PM

WTF? Did people not read my post? Who said anything about anyone being against inspections? Not me. Who said anything about any position besides mine being dishonest? Not me.

I'll try to be a little more clear this time. Here is one argument that I heard a lot, and disagreed with: "If the inspectors don't find anything, there's nothing there, so you can't go to war. If the inspectors do find something, then that means they can disarm Saddam, so you still can't go to war." Now, the first premise there turned out to be true: the inspectors found nothing, because nothing was there, so there shouldn't have been a war. Everyone who thought that was obviously right. My problem was with those who said that even if they do find WMD, there still shouldn't be a war. The "no war no matter what" crowd was non-serious, in my view.

Am I saying that the "hey, the inspectors aren't finding anything, so there shouldn't be a war" crowd wasn't serious? No, of course not, as I already said. I didn't address the "maybe I could support this if the administration wasn't full of liars, but it is, so I'm against it" argument--my stance on that is that I regret not having adopted that position ahead of time, which in retrospect should have been clear enough for me to realize it. OK? All clear now?

Posted by: Haggai at September 18, 2004 11:57 PM

More to the point--I bring up the "any outcome of the inspections means no war" argument because I saw it in a lot of places, including from many sources who were not at all smelly-hippie/no-war-ever types. There were are a lot of very serious people who made that argument, which I still think had a major flaw in it. Only a theoretical level, of course, since no WMD turned up at any point.

Posted by: Haggai at September 19, 2004 12:02 AM

Haggai,

Well in your first post you did have a caveat saying that you weren't assuming that was everyone's position. I guess I just glossed over that. Sorry.

Nonetheless, everyone always inflates the numbers of the Loony Left (hippies, peaceniks, and anarchist teenagers) to a proportion that is quite unrealistic. I'm willing to bet that the perentage of Americans who were against even weapons inpsections was less than 5%. In fact, the only people I can imagine were against weapons inspections is hard-core right wingers who want their bloodlust sooner rather than later, and the reasons don't matter so long as they're entertained.

It's easy to misunderstand people's arguments (like me not seeing your little caveat). Are you sure you're not putting words into people's mouths that they were against even inspections? You sure that wasn't a mere reaction against people you didn't like? (that's the theme of Ezra's and Yglesias' posts). Or are you sure you didn't take the argument of a small group of people (assuming that was their actual argument) and extrapolate that to the larger population of American Leftists?

Posted by: Voodoo Chile at September 19, 2004 12:08 AM

In fact, the only people I can imagine were against weapons inspections is hard-core right wingers who want their bloodlust sooner rather than later, and the reasons don't matter so long as they're entertained.

Yeah, Lawrence Kaplan at TNR was one of them. That guy is worse than even most of the people at NRO.

I didn't mean to characterize anyone who opposed the war as having been against inspections as well, if that's how it came off. Certainly anyone who supported working through the UN on Iraq was supportive of inspections, which was the preferred way of dealing with Saddam at the UN. But I do remember the "can't invade if they don't find WMD, can't invade if they do" position being fairly widespread--do you think I'm wrong in casting too many people under that net? I certainly remember widespread support for the "maybe it'd be OK to invade if the inspectors found something, and if the administration wasn't lying constantly, but it's not OK because neither of those conditions are being met," which I think in retrospect was the most honest/accurate one, and which I screwed up in not adhering to myself.

Ah, now maybe I think I see where some confusion set in--I was going back over the initial push for inspections at the UN, in the context of defending where I was on the war. OK. My point was that this centerpiece of the pre-war policy was actually handled really well by the administration, so it wasn't all fantasies on the part of pro-war liberals to think that it might work. Now, taking everything as a whole, I have to admit that it should have been clear to me that this wasn't enough, and that since there was so much mis-information and lying coming out of the administration in the run-up to the war, I should have gotten off that train before it left the station. I just wanted to recall that not everything the administration did before the war was dishonest and/or incompetent.

Posted by: Haggai at September 19, 2004 12:22 AM

Haggai,
"It's hard to imagine that they could have gotten back in there, with full international backing, without a credible willingness on America's part to go to war. Actually going to war, of course, was a whole other ballgame." And so on.

The problem is that a bunch of pro-war bloggers confused me and people like me with a grey bearded "no war at any cost" protester. Never was, never will be. I opposed the vote to authorize Bush to go to war because I believed at the time it was not about inspections, it was all about getting a war on that the PNAC boys had been advocating since 1996. I would have supported a properly hedged, consitutionally supported "come back to Congress if that bastard doesn't comply with Inspections by date 'whatever' resolution and we'll unleash a full case of American whoop ass".

But the terribly flawed resolution that Kerry and Edwards voted for didn't consider the possibility that Saddam would comply, and indeed in this very narrow field of accusation be found innocent. He let inspectors in, they found nothing, subsequent rounds of US inspectors found nothing, there was nothing to find. Certain Senators now running for national office should have had more balls. That does not excuse a certain arbusto from sending troops to war and death.

And liberal war-bloggers should be wearing sackcloth and ashes. Some of us grey beards learned the "Goopers are liars" meme back in the day when Vietnam and Watergate were not just entries in a history textbook. "Don't pay attention to Grampa - he is always carrying on about Vietnam and Nixon's 'Secret Plan'"

Well this is one grey-beard who is waving his cane around in the air and just begging you to come over to the park bench so he can give you a whupping. And bring Ezra.

Posted by: Bruce Webb at September 19, 2004 12:38 AM

Heh, well said Bruce, I can't argue with much of anything in your post. I'll be sure to stay away from park benches for now. :)

I would have supported a properly hedged, consitutionally supported "come back to Congress if that bastard doesn't comply with Inspections by date 'whatever' resolution and we'll unleash a full case of American whoop ass".

I think the big mistake that the leading Dems in Congress made was in not getting behind this type of proposition at the only time when they really had leverage--early/mid 2002, when the administration had put Iraq on the agenda, but had failed to come up with any policy beyond swinging their rhetorical dicks around. Had all the leading Dems--Kerry, Gephardt, Daschle, Edwards, Biden, etc.--collectively put that forward as their position, which it essentially was for all of them individually, they might have been able to make a difference and steer the policy in a more responsible direction. I think a big reason that they failed to do so was because they all knew that they would be running against each other for the presidential nnomination (remember that Daschle was still thinking about it back then), so none of them wanted to risk having one of the other guys emerge as the standard bearer of the party's message. It's also just harder for an opposition party without a clear leader to pull together on something like that, although it really should have been obvious to all of them that the administration was going to come with a "give us carte blanche or we'll call you pussies" dichotomy (and then call them pussies in the end no matter what).

Posted by: Haggai at September 19, 2004 12:52 AM

What convinced me that there was a threat was the participation of Tony Blair. I still can't figure out why Tony supported the invasion. Was he duped by the neocons? Is he a neocon?

No: he's a Gladstonian at heart (i.e. paternalist/interventionist) and thought that the 'shoulder to shoulder' thing would maintain the UK's position as a bridge between the US and Europe, and also give him leverage on issues such as the Israel-Palestine settlement, aid to the developing world -- even things like Kyoto.

He got played.

Posted by: ahem at September 19, 2004 12:53 AM

Haggai, yes I think you are casting your net over too many people. The percentage of actual pacifists in this country is far lower than certain popular mythologies indicate. In fact, the idea of the typical liberal being a dirty hippy pacifist is a bogeyman invented by right-wing propagandists. Remember that Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson were liberals.

As for the specific debate of what would have happened when WMD were found, I don't think that most anti-war people were even willing to give the wingers the satisfaction of that debate. The national mood at the time was one of a bullrush, and if you granted just one assumption, they'd hit you with 10 more. Any anti-war liberal who had the misfortune to "debate" a mouth-frothing pro-war conservative and endulged the winger in the assumption that WMD would be found (even if it was purely for the sake of argument) would find himself in an uncomfortable position of having a mouth-frothing winger breathing down his neck and questioning his patriotism. Not fun. The best thing to do in that situation, was to not even give them that assumption, even for the sake of argument. And I for one was quite comfortable with that, for the following reasons:

1) I knew they were lying about WMD. Every myth was debunked in real time by the likes of Hans Blix
2) I knew those wingers had a hard-on for war with Iraq for at least 10 years. I knew this from the PNAC and other of their writings

And finally, and perhaps most relevantly, I don't think there was anything wrong with taking a "wait and see" approach before even starting a debate on whether or not to invade. Even if WMD were found, is war the only way to get rid of them? Can't negotiations work? Can't sanctions work?

So I guess what I'm trying to say, in a long-winded manner, is that I do not believe that an appreciable amount of the leftist population made the argument that "we shouldn't invade even if there are WMD." I'm sure there were some, but I'm talking about an appreciable amount. I think that most leftists were steadfast in their refusal to even have that argument (for the reasons I listed above), or willing to go to war as a last resort. I think that very few leftists would be unwilling to go to war under any circumstances.

Posted by: Voodoo Chile at September 19, 2004 01:40 AM

"I don't think anyone should feel bad for having trusted the president."

Yes, they should. It was obvious that the whole deal was bullshit. I feel terrible simply for knowing it was wrong and being too quiet. People who bought into this load of garbage or trusted that it was going to turn out better than Shinseki, Scowcroft, or Bush I thought need to feel shame and sorrow that they could be so callow.

Then, move on in life and do better. But don't pretend you're better than the million people who were out there protesting.

Posted by: loser at September 19, 2004 01:53 AM

Tony Blair is a Manichaean. Although much more intelligent and insightful than GWB, he still maintains a black vs white world-view at odds with his whole country. (A whole Catholic vs Protesant thing deleted). And much like the Shrub he has convinced himself that he is on the right side of History. Amid a bunch of critics who explain that we spell 'history' in lower case.

Posted by: Bruce Webb at September 19, 2004 01:56 AM

Have any of you guys read The Road to Wiggan Pier by George Orwell? There's a small part of that book that very much parallels this debate. Broadly speaking, George Orwell was commissioned by the Socialist Society to write a book exploring why the working class didn't support the socialist cause. Orwell stated that the working class didn't support the socialist clause not because they did not like socialism, but because they did not like socialists. Socialists, Orwell agreed, were snobby intellectuals who supported such crank ideas like vegetarianism, feminism, and homosexuality. This was anaethema to the working class, and so in reaction, they would support whatever party was the opposite of these socialists, who they despised. (Does this at all sound familiar to the U.S.A. today, where poor people vote Republican because they hate gays?)

The members of this Socialist Society disagreed that most socialists were actually like that. But whether or not they were, the relevent parallel to this discussion is that both Ezra and Matthew Yglesias were driven to the opposing camp purely in reaction to people that they did not like championing the anti-war view. In this case I'd argue that they probably weren't real people, but some sort of strawman constructed out of various stereotypes and mythologies about anti-war liberals. Namely, one part dirty hippy, one part peacenik, one part anarchist teenager, shaken and served and offered up for mass consumption by neo-conservative propagandists.

It's an easy trap to fall into, because personal revulsion can override so many of our logical facilities. It's why the ad hominem is the favorite tactic of demagogues and propagandists everywhere.

Posted by: Voodoo Chile at September 19, 2004 02:07 AM

"I'd argue that they probably weren't real people, but some sort of strawman constructed out of various stereotypes and mythologies about anti-war liberals. Namely, one part dirty hippy, one part peacenik, one part anarchist teenager, shaken and served and offered up for mass consumption by neo-conservative propagandists."


No no no. I can't speak for Matt, but have you ever been to Santa Cruz? Take one part hippy, one part peacenik and one part anarchic teen and you've created 30% of the student body and the vast majority of the politically active core. I wasn't rejecting the supposed arguments of people I imagined, I was rejecting the faulty arguments of people who were yelling them at me. I'm also a bit of a contrarian and, since my classes all had professors and sycophants making the stock case against the war, I did a lot of arguing for the devil. Eventually, I'd refined the case so well and repeated it so often, I internalized parts of it as true and the moral judgments it made as incontrovertible.

That's one reason I left Santa Cruz -- fighting the orthodoxy was making me reflexively mistrustful of liberals. So many bad arguments and so little dissent was pushing me farther to the right than I actually was, I need to be around a diversity of opinions so I don't fall to constantly defending those I don't believe in. One sad thing about the leftward tilt of campuses is they push the unconverted -- both the undecided and the opposition -- and often leave them more rooted in mistaken beliefs simply as reaction to the perceived persecution.

Posted by: Ezra at September 19, 2004 02:28 AM

Ezra, I've been to Santa Cruz on several occasions, and I've lived in Seattle most of my life. I know a thing or two about the folks so many people here are glibly dismissing as "dirty stinky hippies" (or DSH). In my view, these people are smart, committed, earnest, much too young to express any opinion as forcefully as they express theirs, and suffer from being too influenced by the last serious book they read, while not being influenced enough by Marx Brothers movies. In other words, grooming prefernces aside, they are not much different from many smart, young, earnest, and fundamentally ignorant "liberal" hawks.

Anyone who believed for a moment that we weren't being railroaded one more time by the same folks who brought us Iran/Contra, who brought us the horror of Central America during the 80's, who brought us Watergate and My Lai and "peace with honor" - not the same kind of people, mind you, but the very same people! - was being obtuse. Anyone who looked at the PATRIOT Act, No Child Left Behind, the tortured stem cell research "compromise," etc., and thought for a moment that there was anything about this crowd that was in any way decent, in any way capable of choosing honesty over the basest political expediency, was a dunce. Anyone who lived through the Nixon administration and still had any illusions that the Oval Office magically imbued its occupant with any moral authority at all, was deluded.

So you (and here I mean the rhetorical "you;" this is not aimed at Ezra or anyone else in particular) don't like the DSH - you don't like the way they dress (most of them don't even own a silk necktie or a smart navy suit with pumps, can you believe that?), you don't like their reading material (I'm no fan of Kahlil Gibran myself, but to each his own), you don't like anything about them. Fine. But remember two things:

(1) They're not so crazy about you, either.

(2) They were right, and you were wrong. Tragically, horribly wrong.

Posted by: rod at September 19, 2004 03:32 AM

"No no no. I can't speak for Matt, but have you ever been to Santa Cruz?"

Hey, I been to Santa Cruz, late 70's. One month in a house near the boardwalk, one month on the beach across from Davenport, and one month in the woods outside of Felton. Saw the Dalai Llama up at the campus. Still got the sleeping bag. Beautiful town, but Ezra's right so many crazy hippies that any sane person would become a Republican.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at September 19, 2004 04:25 AM

Being of a hawkish nature (I've been pro- usta bout any UN or NATO mission you can think of within the last couple of decades), one would suspect that I would have been pro-Iraq II, but while I supported the pressure for getting the inspectors back to the country, I thought that they should have a chance to work.
Bush & co. dismissal of the inspectors' work made me distrust any reasons they gave for an invasion, and made me an opponent of the war.

I still support the international mission in Afghanistan though.

Posted by: Kristjan Wager at September 19, 2004 05:22 AM

Being Right

In contract bridge the verb "resulting" is a pejorative, describing the judgment of an action by looking at the eventual outcome.

On the whole I was more anti-war than pro-war, and I generally applaud reflective self-criticism. But I didn't foresee the insurgency (though I did think we were opening Pandora's box) nor do I recall anyone in the US dialogue who did, so I am forced to wonder whether Matt and Ezra would be be pleading mea culpa if Iraq was now headed toward imperfect elections that would nonetheless truly reflect the will of the Iraqi people.

The process leading to the war was more like a game of backgammon than a binary election. Asking whether you were "right" to be prowar or antiwar is really only asking whether you chose the right tribe. Only Bush (and his tribe) and the "war is harmful for children and other living things" extremists were truly prowar or antiwar. Everyone else favored some prospective wars (if the Europeans were gung ho about defending the honor of UN Resolutions, I would have thought we should get on board) and opposed others (e.g., the one we actually fought and are still fighting).

Being "right" isn't a question of general attitude. To be meaningful, it has to be a matter or critiquing specific decisions, based on the information that was available at the time. Did you favor the War Powers Resolution? When Powell spoke to the UN, was his argument truly compelling? Insofar as it made war inevitable, was the troop build-up in early 2003 the right move?

I am glad to see that both Matt and Ezra regret falling for the "hippies oppose it, and they're irrational (not to mention unkempt, if not downright smelly) so I should favor it" fallacy. Actually, I'm a hippy, at least insofar as I absolutely adore toking up. (Sadly, my wife is opposed, and I like sex even more than drugs, so I haven't smoked much in recent years.) Also, I despise the "it's abstract, hence meaningless, so no one can criticize us" cowardice of the headquarters artwork aesthetic of corporate Amnerica. But opposition to a nothing isn't much of a something.

What it comes down to is this: if you really want to be right, you have to be willing to be absolutely

alone, Alone, _ALONE_...

On the War Powers Resolution, my position would have been that the arguments in favor (it strengthened Bush's hand insofar as there were circumstances in which he would go to war even though the American people would not) were more powerful as arguments against. Who will join me now in saying that Kerry's vote in favor was lame, motivated in large part by the wish to avoid expressing the "disrespect for a sitting President" that is inherent in this view? If I think that the 4+ million people slaughtered in the wars in West Africa are about 1000 times more important than 9/11, is there a tribe in the US that will have me?


Posted by: Andy at September 19, 2004 08:47 AM

"But I didn't foresee the insurgency (though I did think we were opening Pandora's box) nor do I recall anyone in the US dialogue who did"

Then you needed to be listening a lot closer to Steve Gilliard, then mostly lecturing on dKos, now on his own blog http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/ . And minor acolytes like me. We were screaming, and on a forum that wasn't particularly obscure then, and obviously less now, that you could not possibly spell 'Iraq' without 'cluster f -'. Perhaps a little less time spent at Harvard Yard and a little more time engaging Markos or Jo Fish of Democratic Vet would have been useful.

Lots of pro-military veterans were protesting this war on the grounds that it was going to get a bunch of American boys and girls returned in boxes. If the goal was to take out Saddam a series of CIA hit teams would have been a little more effective. But this was never about the "long-suffering Iraqi people", it was never about the mass murders, hell none of these people gave a crap in real time. It was always about the PNAC vision, backed up by the crony capitalism of Cheney & Halliburton. You can read the mission statement. I did. Before March 2003.

Read it and weep. Note the signatories. Note that GWB is NOT included but JEB is. Calculate how many top slots in the Bush foreign policy shop would be vacant if all of these people dropped dead tomorrow. And note that it is dated June 3, 1997.

Project for the New American Century: Statement of Principles

But then again, Who Knew?

Except me and Kos and Steve and Atrios and Billmon and Jo.

Posted by: Bruce Webb at September 19, 2004 10:18 AM

"We only look young" v. "white-bearded peaceniks denouncing him on street corners". Hmmmm. Maybe having lived through prior, similar debates actually does have a beneficial effect on decision making. If you've been conned before, you know how to spot a con.

Posted by: Mithras at September 19, 2004 10:31 AM

Bruce Webb -- don't forget that among the anti-war hippies were those old draft card burners GHWBush and Brent Scowcroft.

Posted by: tinman at September 19, 2004 11:02 AM

Mithras, I vividly remember an incident on a bus when my Navy ship pulled into Long Beach and a bunch of us were taking a bus into town. A very nice fellow crewman, totally religious, and a little older than me was tempted into a game of Three Card Monty, which in other forms is known as the Shell Game. I could have intervened, but geez it was just a couple of bucks lost and a valuable lesson for an overly naive guy. People don't get rich giving money away. "I'll teach you how to make a million dollars". Hmm, why don't you mine that market opportunity yourself??

Every thinking individual should rent The Flim Flam Man starring George C. Scott, right after renting Dr. Strangelove, strangely enough featuring George C. Scott. Because between them they totally sum up the Bush Administration. And you could make it a three-fer with Patton, except that George actually gave a shit about his troups unlike a certain Rummy now running the show.

Posted by: Bruce Webb at September 19, 2004 11:09 AM

Tinman, got to watch those initials. GHWB was the youngest Navy pilot in the Pacific in WWII and despite some controversy showed that he was a bold and courageous pilot of a torpedo-bomber. That his entry into the Navy right out of Andover when he had many a perfect out might not have been a direct response to his father having much of his fortune confiscated under the Trading With the Enemy Act, just because Prescott Bush was Hitler's banker in the US Bush Property Seized--Trading with the Enemy has never been proved. And most objective observers support his decision to bail out of his plane without knowing whether both crew members made it out (one did and died on the way down, one didn't but was probably already dead).

GHWB by all accounts has balls. The verdict on GWB is still out.

Posted by: Bruce Webb at September 19, 2004 11:30 AM

Haggai, yes I think you are casting your net over too many people. The percentage of actual pacifists in this country is far lower than certain popular mythologies indicate. In fact, the idea of the typical liberal being a dirty hippy pacifist is a bogeyman invented by right-wing propagandists. Remember that Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson were liberals.

I wasn't trying to attach a pacifist label onto anyone just because of Iraq. I was saying that I disagreed with some anti-war arguments made by people who were not hippie pacifists themselves. Namely, that some of us who supported the war did so on the basis of reasoned argument (which, of course, we turned out to be wrong about in most instances), not because we mistrusted every single person who argued against the war as being a make-love-not-war Woodstock wannabe.

As for the specific debate of what would have happened when WMD were found, I don't think that most anti-war people were even willing to give the wingers the satisfaction of that debate. The national mood at the time was one of a bullrush, and if you granted just one assumption, they'd hit you with 10 more. Any anti-war liberal who had the misfortune to "debate" a mouth-frothing pro-war conservative and endulged the winger in the assumption that WMD would be found (even if it was purely for the sake of argument) would find himself in an uncomfortable position of having a mouth-frothing winger breathing down his neck and questioning his patriotism. Not fun.

I can certainly sympathize, since there was so much assholery out there, but I think you're partly defending the flip-side of Ezra's "all I saw were dirty hippies" scenario. Now, an important difference is that when it came to WMD, you and everyone who didn't go along with the assumption that they were there was proven right, and like you say, it wasn't just guesswork, there were facts out there for all to see. But I don't agree with the "don't give them any rope or they'll hang you with it"-type reasoning. If the inspectors had found lots of WMD, that would have demonstrated the inability of sanctions, containment, and everything else that had been tried for a decade to prevent Saddam from acquiring them. I don't see what option would have been left but war. What good are Chapter VII Security Council resolutions (ones that are enforceable through military means) if someone could blatantly violate them and not pay the price for doing so?

Posted by: Haggai at September 19, 2004 11:32 AM

You know,you're mea culpa was all well and good (if woefully overdue) until you added the "evil hippies made me do it" postscript.

You really are a fucking idiot.

Jesse, please get rid of this prick.

Posted by: dave at September 19, 2004 11:51 AM

Haggai,
You are making perfectly rational points here. But points beside the point. Lets grant the possibility that Saddam had vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons. How exactly would he deploy them? Chemical weapons need to be deployed in vast quanties to have any effect at all. Typically through launching them through artillery batteries. Well when someone detects some swarthy guys pulling rocket launchers into Central Park we can talk. And biological weapons have limitations as well. Do we have people dispersing them in aerosal form or simply being personal vectors. And if the disease is that virulant how do you keep the vectors from being dead? Neither chemical or biological weapons were any serious threat to the US, ten foot drone airplanes aside. The only real threat to the US that could possibly justify intervention in Iraq was nuclear - and that was debunked way before our intervention.

Iraq could be saturated in Sarin and Mustard Gas and still not support invasion and deadly occupation. Because they had exactly zero ways of deploying those here in any meaningful way.

Posted by: Bruce Webb at September 19, 2004 12:11 PM

Oh, one more thing: the peaceniks were right, the chickenhawks were wrong.

Choke on it, dick...

Posted by: dave at September 19, 2004 12:15 PM


One of the weaknesses of the Democratic Party is that it has been bullied into renouncing and expelling its left fringe. That has not happened to the Republicans. Mainstream Democrats play thatgame far too enthusiastically.

Suppose Nader hadn't run, and perhaps half of his voters had voted for Gore. That in itself would have won the election. Then also suppose that the rightmost 3% of the Republicans had deserted Bush for Buchanan. That would have made it a landslide.

The most extreme Republicans are far more sinister than the most extreme Democrats: true hardline racists, Armageddonists both secular and religious, theocrats, FDR-haters. But they are not regarded as an embarassment to Bush, who caters to them in coded language.

I have not seen any signs of a rehabilitation of anti-war Democrats since the war turned out so badly. The people who were disastrously wrong are still in firm control both of the Democratic Party and of the Democratic media presence.

Posted by: Zizka at September 19, 2004 02:38 PM

The most extreme Republicans are far more sinister than the most extreme Democrats: true hardline racists, Armageddonists both secular and religious, theocrats, FDR-haters. But they are not regarded as an embarassment to Bush, who caters to them in coded language.

Thank you, Oliver Stone, for that idiotic, mind-numbing conspiracy theory.

I have not seen any signs of a rehabilitation of anti-war Democrats since the war turned out so badly. The people who were disastrously wrong are still in firm control both of the Democratic Party and of the Democratic media presence.

If the anti-war Dems were so hated by your party, Dean would have been (deservedly) laughed off the national stage a year ago.

Keep going more and more anti-war. It only makes your party more unelectable.
-=Mike

Posted by: MikeSC at September 19, 2004 02:48 PM

Well, I hope this has been a learning experience for you, young man. Taking an indefensible position to spite a certain campus faction you find obnoxious is not exactly a sign of maturity. I trust this kind of thing won't happen again.

Posted by: Donny at September 19, 2004 02:52 PM

Zizka,

Yep. And they will be even after Kerry wins, and if Edwards or someone else takes over after him, they still will be. The progressives have a pretty crap future in America.

Posted by: loser at September 19, 2004 02:57 PM

Too bad Terry Southern is dead so he can't write, "How the Dirty Hippies Made Me Stop Lovin' and Start Warrin'." My suggestion to Ezra and other pro-war liberals (and pro-war, second-thought conservatives, too) is to take out your playbook of pro-war arguments from 2002-3 and figure out which, if any, were valid then and/or now. Next, read Richard Clarke, read Michael Scheuer, read Chalmers Johnson and disabuse yourself of the misbelief that the war in Iraq was necessary for any reason. Make a list of the things that should have been done after 9/11 that were not. Imagine what the next steps in securing America should be, both foreign affairs and domestic policy. Decide now what the US should do the next time it's attacked. Then you'll be better prepared in the future to resist the knee-jerk thinking that led you astray. And you won't have to cover your head with dirt like this again.

Posted by: Dr. BDH at September 19, 2004 03:46 PM

Oh, and for those who remember Lyndon Johnson, I won't have to mention this, but it may make no difference which party is in the White House, the next time you have to decide if America is right to go to war. We don't know that Gore would have made all the right choices, before and after 9/11; we can't know if Kerry will make the right choices if he wins in November. Reflexive support and reflexive opposition are both risky.

Posted by: Dr. BDH at September 19, 2004 03:58 PM

The "Did you or did you not support the invasion of Iraq?" is the wrong question for us to be asking ourselves. It is too small, and too simple-minded for this large, large problem:
1)Saddam Hussein was an absolutely horrendous dictator, and has made more than a few hostile overtures towards the United States.
2)Dispicable leaders such as Saddam exist in many countries around the world.
3)In this complex and intertwined world, dictators and totalitarians (I include terrorists here) threaten not only the freedom of those over whom they preside, but also the liberties and security of people all over the world.
4)We acknowledge some sort of moral obligation on our part to make the world a better place--this includes ensuring that people all over the world are able to live in free societies.
5)We (the United States) have a limited amount of resources with which to accomplish # 4.

These conditions (and many more that I'm sure I left out) leave us with a question that cannot possibly be answered with a 'yes' or 'no'. However, extremists on both sides of the political spectrum have set the debate in these simplified terms (the right with their "with us or with the terrorists" language, the left by not adequately aknowledging the horrors of Hussein's regime), and all of us sensible folk in the middle have acquiesed.

The real question that must be asked is something like "How do we best use our scarce resources to ensure our national safety and protect human rights around the world?" Ask this question, and you'll see that not only does W. stand for Wrong, so do the isolationalist peaceniks who see no value in opening a firehouse in Baghdad.

I'm just a college kid (studying art history, no less...so maybe I really have no clue what I'm talking about), and don't know nearly enough to come up with a decent answer to the question I just posed. I just know that the answer is ugly (it will undoubtedly involve ranking human rights priorities and comparing them against our own national wishes--something every decent person should cringe at doing), that finding it will require a debate between intelligent, well-informed, open-minded people, and that the "Iraq war: yes or no?" question is just a distraction from the real problem at hand.

Posted by: Daphne at September 19, 2004 05:51 PM

MikeSC -- are you serious? Oliver Stone is the most extreme leftist you can dig up to throw at me? Do you actually feel that you made a point?

A significant fraction of the Republican core constituency holds blood-curdlingly right-wing beliefs.

Loser -- my point really was that if the Democrats had finessed the issue the way the Republicans did, Gore would have won. The Republicans really do not want to put the KKK program into effect, but they need to keep the KKK voters on board, and they succeed at that.

(Yeah, sure, Sen. Byrd, KKK. Al Gore's father, KKK. Don't make me waste a lot of time explaining that white racists were mostly Democrats before the Civil Rights Act passed, and have been increasingly Republican since then, until now they're a major part of the R's core constituency. And Byrd and Gore had to change their minds in order to stay Democrats, which they did).

Posted by: Zizka at September 19, 2004 06:27 PM

So you (and here I mean the rhetorical "you;" this is not aimed at Ezra or anyone else in particular) don't like the DSH - you don't like the way they dress (most of them don't even own a silk necktie or a smart navy suit with pumps, can you believe that?), you don't like their reading material (I'm no fan of Kahlil Gibran myself, but to each his own), you don't like anything about them. Fine. But remember two things:

(1) They're not so crazy about you, either.

(2) They were right, and you were wrong. Tragically, horribly wrong.

I *will* personalize the YOU to = Ezra and his ilk. Anyone with Internet access and Google could have seen what was going to happen in 2002. I loathe these now-that-it's-FUBAR mea culpas. You were wrong then, you're wrong now and you'll be wrong for as long as humans exist.

To use the typical line that's used against Freepers: so, Ezra, why didn't go to the local recruiting office?

Posted by: Jim at September 19, 2004 06:41 PM

MikeSC -- are you serious? Oliver Stone is the most extreme leftist you can dig up to throw at me? Do you actually feel that you made a point?

Didn't use him as an extreme leftist --- just a blithering conspiracy theorist who hasn't made a cogent point in well over a decade.

A significant fraction of the Republican core constituency holds blood-curdlingly right-wing beliefs.

As true as stating that a significent fraction of the Dems are Socialists.

(Yeah, sure, Sen. Byrd, KKK. Al Gore's father, KKK. Don't make me waste a lot of time explaining that white racists were mostly Democrats before the Civil Rights Act passed, and have been increasingly Republican since then, until now they're a major part of the R's core constituency. And Byrd and Gore had to change their minds in order to stay Democrats, which they did).

Says who? I have never heard Byrs repudiate his views --- and according to Sen. Dodd, he'd have been right about things at any point in history. Hell, I've never heard anybody ask Byrd to explain himself.

And I love that Byrd and Gore "changed their minds", but Thurmond, who had plenty of black staffers afterwards and quietly changed his ways, in your eyes did not.
-=Mike

Posted by: Mike at September 19, 2004 07:41 PM

I still can't figure out why Tony supported the invasion. Was he duped by the neocons? Is he a neocon?

Are you aware of what New Labour is?

Posted by: BLT at September 19, 2004 07:57 PM

OK, then Mike: WHY the fuck did you mention Stone? I'm now officially baffled.

Supposing that many Dems are Socialists, what's horrible about that? Most of Europe is more or less socialist, and things aren't that bad over there. Though I'm sure that you have abundant disinformation to share on that score.

People who hate Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, people who are praying for Armageddon, people who want to nuke Mecca -- they sound like a problem to me. Ever heard of the CCC?

Posted by: Zizka at September 19, 2004 09:11 PM

Is it just my imagination, or are there a lot more people on the left who are afraid of looking like stereotypical lefties than there are people on the right are afraid of looking like freepers and wingnuts?

Don't get me wrong. I grew up in Berkeley, and I'm well aware that there's a lot of nonsense promoted by the left, some of it by people who might be described as hippies. But there's also tons of nonsense promoted by the right, and by the center. In fact, folks who fit virtually every sociological and polito-cultural stereotype imaginable have been known to spout political idiocy. So I always try to judge arguments on their merits, and not worry too much about the facial hair, t-shirt design, and/or smoking materials of those who agree with me.

But to get back to my original point, I really do think that the desire not to look like a hippie is one of the chief causes of this year's model of left (and left-center) circular firing squad. We need to get over this one. And quick.

Posted by: BenA at September 19, 2004 09:31 PM

OK, then Mike: WHY the fuck did you mention Stone? I'm now officially baffled.

As I said, you're espousing bloody idiotic conspiracy theories.

Much like Stone has a habit of doing.

Supposing that many Dems are Socialists, what's horrible about that? Most of Europe is more or less socialist, and things aren't that bad over there.

Provided you don't mind massive unemployment and rather problematic anti-Semitism.

People who hate Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, people who are praying for Armageddon, people who want to nuke Mecca -- they sound like a problem to me.

And who hates Lincoln and King?

And who is praying for Armageddon?

And who wants to nuke Mecca?

Oh, that's right --- strawmen.
-=Mike

Posted by: Mike at September 19, 2004 09:47 PM

What do you mean when you call someone a "Hippie", or a "far-leftist", and what were the "bad" arguments they were screaming in your ear?

I'd also like to know how a campus packed with far-leftists, can be called reactionary. ;-)

Posted by: synykyl at September 19, 2004 10:21 PM

MikeSC -- are you serious?

Uh, Zizka..

the answer to that questions is.... nope.

Nor cogent, coherent, or concise.

So. Maybe you've got shoes to polish or pants to press or dishes in the sink or something. There are much more productive uses of your time.

But if you're looking for a rhetorical punching bag, he doesn't put up much of a fight. Lots of noise and smoke, but mostly it's just sound and fury signifying nothing....

Posted by: patrick at September 19, 2004 10:29 PM

But if you're looking for a rhetorical punching bag, he doesn't put up much of a fight. Lots of noise and smoke, but mostly it's just sound and fury signifying nothing....

Spoken like a man who knows that exceptionally well.
-=Mike

Posted by: Mike at September 19, 2004 11:13 PM

Spare me this pathetic mea culpa. Blaming your decision to support the war because you didn't like a small portion of anti-war folks in Santa Cruz, a city most certainly resembling the rest of America and its large anti-war contigent (right!). Grow up. And quit trying to play to the center even with your mea culpa - trying to show yourself as the so-called responsible one who didn't bow to the so-called irrational (but in many cases, correct) arguments of anti-war folks (Win Without War, MoveOn, Paul Wellstone, etc). Look, anti-war folks, hippy or not, were right about opposing this war. And you were wrong. And you look like a dick blaming your decision, whether directly or indirectly, on them. Plus, it makes you look like you have the worst criteria ever in determining where to take a stand. The idea that you are just a reaction to your environment is ridiculous. I hung out with a bunch of lefties who had plenty of dumb things to say about their anti-war position but that didn't lead me to the illogical conclusion of then supporting the war. And just because you blame it on the hippies doesn't make you the "sensible centrist" you so yearn to be.

Posted by: Ekim at September 20, 2004 02:25 AM

Ekim kind of proves the point here. He also helps hold up the the 15% rule. (Restatement: 15% of all people are assholes. This applies to any sub-group of people, whether Republican, Democrat, Croatian, Swahili, football fan, whatever.)

I supported the war, but did so more out of liberal-counter-imperialism. We fucked Iraq up by putting saddam there. We should fix it. I still think it was a good thing to do. I knew bush was lying about -why- we were going. And I suspected he would fuck it up somehow. I didn't suspect he would fuck it up this badly, but we're there now, and have to finish the job.


And oh god how I hate hippies. . .

Posted by: emcee fleshy (D-Atlanta) at September 20, 2004 08:47 AM

God no, wouldn't want to be like the hippies, even when the hippies were right.

You 'liberal hawks' are more right for admitting you were wrong, of course, isn't that how it works? "Those hippies may have been right, but they were right for the wrong reasons! Besides, they have long hair and they smell! We were more right, because despite being played for fools by the Bush administration along with most of the sheep, we now oppose the war, the scales have been lifted, proving us better than the people who were against the war to start with!"

Whatever.

Posted by: Chance the Gardener at September 20, 2004 09:47 AM

I supported the war, but did so more out of liberal-counter-imperialism. We fucked Iraq up by putting saddam there. We should fix it. I still think it was a good thing to do. I knew bush was lying about -why- we were going. And I suspected he would fuck it up somehow. I didn't suspect he would fuck it up this badly, but we're there now, and have to finish the job.

So, you supported the war even though you suspected it would be FUBAR, but hey, like some china in a shop, we broke it, so now we get to fix it?

I suspect that the 10,000+ dead Iraqi's wouldn't feel so cavalier about human life. If death comes so cheap, then the same goes for life indeed.

And oh god how I hate hippies. . .

Hippies 1
You and Ezra 0

And I bet they listen to better music too.

Posted by: Jim at September 20, 2004 02:08 PM
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