Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I imagine he thinks he's being terribly clever ...

Before I begin, my condolences to Mark on his current troubles. As I have repeatedly said, my intention is that he mind his manners rather than lose his livelihood and as such have no intention of gloating at his expense.

That said, as Mark's Bush Derangement Syndrome continues apace, he now appears to have settled on a villain and at least a partial explanation as to how the administration can be both Wilsonian idealists and realpolitik Machiavellians. He still gets it wrong (what the hell is "idealistic certitude with realpolitik brutality [that] tends to result in huge promises, big blunders and hopes betrayed for a great many people?" Is this supposed to be anything more than sloganeering?) and of course thinks that he is ever-so-clever by arguing that Dick Cheney has too much power and/or really runs the White House. That particular caricature might be more appealing were it not, you know, repeated ad nauseam since Bush assumed office. If one is going to seriously criticize the administration to the degree that Mark has, he might as well grow a pair and note that Bush is ultimately the one responsible, not some shadowy puppeteer.

Oh, and Mark also regards Bush as an idiot because the Methodist doesn't know the exact nature of the relationship between the Patriotic Church and the Underground in China. I would be extremely interested in asking him or those who yuk-yuk at these types of comments to explain their own understanding of the relationship on the basis of memory.

Also, he once again appears to regard the idea of spreading political freedom as "a classic American secular messianic vision of our national mission." If only we had known during the Cold War that all of our opposition to communism was nothing more than a secular messianist dream! For someone who is quite intellectually aware of the death toll caused by communism and its adherents (among whom he apparently ranks Michael Ledeen), this is once again an example of Mark not understanding the implications of his positions. That he has the gall to call Bush an idiot while doing so is yet a further demonstration of his own hubris.

But when it comes to Ron Paul's support of libertarianism to the extent of wanting to legalize prostitution, Mark is quite happy to shill for the man because "he's said some honest things and he seems to me to keep the rest of the GOP field relatively honest." How this is even remotely true given that no one is following the man outside of the political fringe is beyond me, but this isn't the first time that Mark has had such delusions. So while he continues to condemn legalizing prostitution, he can't quite bring himself to condemn Ron Paul for holding that position. One strongly suspects that had another GOP candidate said anything even remotely similar, Mark would have trumpeted it from the rafters as yet another sign of the Torture Millionnaire Monolith at work. Yet Paul gets a pass because his heart is in the right place.

I also found this quote quite interesting:

Likewise, in the first essay here, he says everything I have tried and failed to say about the stupid charge that if you don't back the Administration then you must hate the troops. He articulates exactly the reverence I have for the people in our military, who are motivated, as a general rule, by an incredible degree of selflessness. It is just because I hold them in such high regard that I am so angered by a ruling class that has used its power to put them in danger both physically (by sending them into a dubious war) and spiritually (by laboring with might and main to make them tools of a new torture regime, courtesy of the newly created Cheney Branch of Government).

Because the "ruling class" has not done either, the duly-elected government of the United States has. The individuals that Mark would refer to as the elites, near as I can determine, would be quite opposed to both the Iraq war and torture due to their reflexive dislike (which he now largely shares) of the Bush administration. I would also note that his statement is worded in such a way that it is unclear to me whether it is putting our troops in harm's way (what is the purpose of having a military, for instance if not to fight our enemies?), a dubious war, or some combination of the two that is the cause of his ire.

In an unrelated, in his latest denunciation of Joshua Muravchik is a classic demonstration not of Baby Boomer narcissism but rather of the two greatest threats in the last hundred years (which I suspect was the time frame he had in mind when he wrote "modern"): World War 2 . In both cases, the tyrants who led both the Axis and the USSR whose expansionist agendas were predicated around the notion that democracies were weak and unable to withstand a real fight. Bin Laden has offered a fairly similar rationale. Mark and Larison can major in minors by offering counter-examples, but Mark fails to completely address his point. As I said, no doubt he thinks that he is being terribly clever.

And while there are some much-needed chastening that comes from this New Republic article, among it a continuing need to correct the degree to which Rumsfeld is still held in all manner of high esteem by the National Review crowd despite his handling of the Iraq war, at the end of the day it is basically little more than a hit piece by an Independent columnist who seems to have gone out seeking to confirm his biases about the nature of American conservatism and done exactly that. While I have no doubt about the quotes, one will forgive me from distrusting the writer to have given a dispassionate account of what was said there. I think that there is much about the current nature and make-up National Review that is quite worthy of criticism, but I suspect that Mark's acceptance of criticism this biased has more to do with the fact that Norman Podhoretz has advocated an attack on Iran than anything else.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Not surprising ...

Mark appears to buy into the worst forms of liberal caricature here:

I think it plain that the reason we were so easily stampeded into this misbegotten war in Iraq is precisely because we just wanted to punch somebody and we were happy to buy whatever the Administration was pushing about supposed "connections" between Saddam and 9/11 and the Administration was happy to oblige us by constantly connecting the two rhetorically. I think, in a culture as emotionally incontinent and TV-driven as our, future 9/11 (or say, multiple mall bombings, or some other acts of terror) will likewise stampede us in all sorts of unpredictable directions. A mass media culture is not a culture that appreciates the deliberative process much. So calls to do something beside shut our eyes and lunge somewhere in anger or terror are always needed.

If he truly believes that American culture is no longer deliberative, I think that it makes his increasingly dim view of representative democracy a lot easier to understand. Though he doesn't appear to appreciate the irony of his position:
You say that it is our "TV-driven culture" that allowed us to be tricked into the war in Iraq, but I suggest the possibility that it is the very same TV-driven culture that is seeing a so-called "misbegotten" and failed war in Iraq. We've come to expect wars to be won in two hours with the hero and the girl happy together at the end. Since Iraq hasn't quite panned out like a summer action flick, we're now bored and want to pull out. Folks in centuries past would laugh at us for being annoyed that a war wasn't over in four years.

Just pointing out that the "TV-culture" analysis can go both ways.

While I don't think that either analysis is in of itself sufficient (that there were clearly major mistakes in the post-war management of Iraq appears to be the one thing that everyone involved in the debate now agrees on), I would note that Mark is unlikely to accept this interpretation of events. I would also note that asking him for specific instances of the administration actually highlighting connections between Iraq and 9/11 are few and far between. A lot of people on the right did believe and push this (just as they pushed the notion that bin Laden was killed at Tora Bora in 2001, a view that Mark himself bought hook, line, and sinker until his 2004 videotape just prior to the US election) but the administration did not. They didn't particularly go out of their way to refute it either, but given their inability to do so on just about anything it seems to me that this is more a matter of their general ineptitude on matters of communication than anything else.

Moving on, Mark is predictably mad that Ron Paul (whom he still denies supporting, despite describing him in terms that, for Mark, are ascriptive to his ideal candidate) was not invited to a GOP debate. As readers know, I myself don't favor banning Paul from the debates, though I do wish that someone would organize a separate series of debates that would remove the various fringe candidates from either party so that we could learn what the presumed frontrunners are actually trying to say without all the background chatter. I say this particularly with regard to the much-speeded up primary process that I think is a complete disaster waiting to happen.

Then we get Mark's summation of conservatism. This begins with a far more respectable criticism of libertarianism than his earlier denunciations of it as "an ideology for selfish people without children" when he writes:
The libertarian tends to remember that government is a menace due to the fall. He does not tend to remember that he is a menace due to the fall. He wants freedom from government so that he can do whatever the hell he wants. And frequently, he wants hell. The Traditionalist (and by this, I have in view the Christian tradition since it is, like, the basis of Western civilization) wants freedom in order to attempt, with God's help, virtue.

I actually agree with a lot of this, except the idea that there is some kind of explicitly Catholic view of politics that Mark terms "Traditionalist," even though I agree with his discussion of freedom. As a result of a lot failed experiments over the centuries, the Church has (wisely, IMO) come to a fairly minimalist view of government that you see reflected in the Catechism. As long as justice and the common good are upheld, the particular forms of government are viewed as irrelevant. I think that this is a very wise move because it removes the Church from the mechanisms of government (thus literally placing it quite literally "beyond" the political) while retaining the most fundamental criteria for a just society. I can see ways in which a libertarian society might fit that criteria, just as I can see ways in which an absolute monarchy or a representative democracy could. This is not an unimportant point to be considered, at least in my opinion.

Nevertheless, it doesn't take Mark long to embrace his usual caricatures of the GOP:
With the advent of the Bush Administration and triumph of conservatism after Clinton, conservatives seem to have proved their own doctrines in a paradoxical way. Once they had all the power, they began to abuse it, just as they said they would. Somehow they morphed from critics of Big Government to drunken sailors spending wildly to support nation-building wars while laboring to grant the executive branch freedom from all that check and balance stuff as they suspend habeus corpus and torture people. A fine illustration of exactly what conservatism always said would happen when you give fallen man too much power.

... At present, the Morphed Conservatives are running the show. And their spectacular failures mean that the will soon *not* be running the show as our emotionally incontinent culture throws the rascals out and votes in an even more catastrophic liberal regime that will promptly build on the disastrous legacy of Leviathan the Bush administration has done so much to build. Sin makes you stupid and our increasing post-Christian culture appears to be ready to explore new regions of folly.

As one who has always disagreed with Mark's "sin makes you stupid" caricature as it relates to the macro-level (else how would either repentence or revival be possible?), let me note a couple of things here. The United States has not, even by the most extreme caricatures available, suspended habeas corpus as a matter of set policy. The Guantanamo Bay detainees are non-citizens and if Mark is referring to Jose Padilla, he has been charged so the accusation would seem not to hold water. There have, however, been times when habeas corpus was suspended, most notably during the Civil War and Reconstruction. One might note that they did not remain suspended indefinitely, which might lead one to doubt the framework of Mark's initial argument. If memory serves, Mark does not subscribe to the paleocon/Confederate view of Lincoln as a dictator, so I would love to see him and his new buddy Larison sit down and chat about the differences between the policies pursued under the Lincoln administration and those of the Bush administration.

In any case, Mark seems quite content to sit back and strum Nero's violin while America burns. If he truly believes that a Democratic victory in 2008 would be even worse than the policies of the current administration he so despises, one might suspect that he would want to do so something about it. Somehow, I doubt that in all his moral outrage and political worries will lead him to do anything other than continue to blog in ever increasingly self-righteous tones about the evils of America, all the while refraining from actually doing anything about it.

And he wonders why we call him a Pharisee.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Also ...

While I am by no means a fan of Giuliani and find his explanation for dropping out of the Iraq Study Group less than persuasive, let me offer a counter-proposal: he recognized, as did a number of others who participated but didn't drop out (Cliff May, for one) that the foreign policy recommendations being offered were Darwin Award winners, particularly for a candidate who wanted to base his campaign on national security. I also suspect that he recognized that the attempt to link the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resolving the situation in Iraq was not going to sell. However, he cannot offend the Washington luminaries who took part in the ISG, so he is forced to explain his lack of participation in another way.

I'm willing to acknowledge credit where credit is due, Seamus ...

In that I'm glad that Mark no longer holds Michael Ledeen responsible for the situation at the Iraqi orphanage. No word yet on linking Ledeen with the victims of communism, but I am still more than happy to acknowledge progress where it occurs.

In the case of the latter, two possible explanations were offered to explain what Mark was trying to say. The first of these were in our own combox:

Mark wasn't saying that Ledeen supports Communism or is responsible for 100 million deaths, only that Ledeen shares the underlying philosophy of the Communist apart from Communism's accidental features like state ownership of everything and the color red. That philosophy, for lack of a snazzier term, is Evilism.

So, according to Mark:

1) Communist butchers believed in Evilism, which allowed them to kill 100 million people.

2) Michael Ledeen believes in Evilism, as can clearly be seen from his work.

3) Therefore it is a good idea to link to this article about Communism killing 100 million people with a Ledeen quote expounding Evilism.

I think that Victor answered it pretty well, so I will repost his response:
Yes, but because "evil" is (1) not an ideology or a program; and (2) comes in so many mutually incompatible flavors, "evilism" is not a meaningful term of political discourse. You might as well use the equally capacious term "politics" and so smear everyone who practiced politics from Pericles to Hillary with every sin ever committed in the name of "evilism/politics."

I am right in assuming that the ridiculousness of this child-like Shavian thought [sic] process [sic] that had to be you point, correct?

Actually, reading anonymous's comment again, I'm not sure that I was ironic/sarcastic. I mean this ...

Mark [said] ... only that Ledeen shares the underlying philosophy of the Communist apart from Communism's accidental features like state ownership of everything and the color red.

... reads disturbingly serious.

What "underlying philosophy" would that be?

It cannot be "evilism," particularly coming from a man who loudly insists that he realizes that nobody practices evil for its own sake. On these very terms, there can be no essentialist ideology as "evilism," distinguished only by accidental opinions like nationalism, history, property, religion, classes, institutions and all the rest of the things that distinguish the various ideologies from one another, whether good, bad or indifferent.

Nor can the "underlying philosophy" be "the end justifies the means," because that presupposes that there are in fact ends. Consequentialist philosophy is not an ideology in itself for that very reason. Even on Shea's kindergarten caricature terms, consequentialism does not, cannot, tell you what consequences are desireable (only that, once you've determined that, all means are acceptable).

State ownership of everything is not an "accidental feature" of Communism (certainly not as the color red is accidental). If anything can be called its "underlying philosophy," collective property ownership would be it.

Mark offered his own explanation over at Blosser's:
I merely note that his consequentialist arguments are identical with those of the Duranty "you must break eggs to make omelettes" school of apologetics. Anybody can be a consequentialist, not just a Communist. And consequentialist moral reasoning leads to great evil. I think you can figure that out.

Except, as Victor notes, consequentialism is a philosophy rather than an ideology. I also don't think that it is nearly as self-evident as Mark does that Ledeen is a consequentialist (he has written columns against torture, for instance), but then I don't subscribe to the worst possible view of the man as the source of all that now ills Iraq who seeks to murder prisoners at every turn.

Moving on, I would note that Mark's jihad against fans of 24 continues apace. No word as to whether or not that degree of scorn applies to Jimmy Akin, who has himself used 24 when discussing the issue of torture as it relates to moral theology.

Monday, June 18, 2007

As Mark's Two Minute Hate Continues Apace ...

His incoherence and inability to muster a coherent argument is becoming more and more apparent by the day. I'll be looking forward to his anathema sit against the entire Republican Party when they fail to nominate Ron Paul. Of course, Mark argues that he doesn't support Ron Paul, he just links to his supporters' website while at the same time disparaging Mitt Romney's pro-life credentials and seeing little difference between Romney and Giuliani.

It is this type of willful ignorance and delusion that makes it so troubling for Mark to held up as some kind of luminary when it comes to social and political commentary (which he is, according to the awards he wins). In contrast to Giuliani who has publicly embraced a pro-abortion platform, Romney has done everything in his power to reach out and actively court social conservatives. Now some have questioned his conservative credentials or the sincerity of his conversion, but I personally doubt that Mark even gave either even a passing thought before denouncing Romney. It's just like he had no issue with smearing Fred Thompson's pro-life record last week because of he attempted to articulate a federalist view of abortion, but when it comes to Ron Paul's maximum interpretation of federalism to the point of wanting to abolish the Federal Reserve, Mark is willing to grant him all manner of leeway. Like I've noted before, all of his past virulent criticism of libertarianism and the GOP embrace of the free market gets swepts under the bridge when it comes to Ron Paul. And yet he gets all manner of self-righteous when this pattern of behavior might lead one to suspect that he supports Ron Paul. As I said last time: puh-leez.

Moving right along, I see that both he and Rod are all taken in by Seymour Hersh's latest expose on the Abu Ghraib scandal. As anyone who has bothered to read past Mark's denunciations of Victor and myself is likely already aware, we both regard what happened at Abu Ghraib as being nothing short of disgusting and unpardonable. While a number of the items raised by Hersh in his story have not appeared in the US prosecutions involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal, there was more than enough that was wrong with that prison that my threshhold for believing all manner of sick acts were committed there that I have little to know problem believing what Hersh describes occurred. That said, Hersh's track record here leaves a lot to be desired. Then again, Mark is generally quite credulous when it comes to latching onto sources critical of the Bush administration - witness his breathless endorsement of a massive US-UK attack on Iran timed to coincide with Good Friday.

I also see that Mark continues to hold Michael Ledeen responsible for everything and anything bad that occurs in Iraq. I still see burning an electronic effigy as the most likely place where this is going to end up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Too funny by far ...

I don't know how long this conversation is going to last, so I'm going to transcribe a some portions of the discussion. I think it's a pretty good indication of just which principles Mark is willing to compromise on first when it comes to politics:

First, let me say that I like a lot of Ron Paul's positions, but doesn't some of his some of his libertarian views (e.g. legalized drugs/prostitution), give you pause?
mr. ed | 06.14.07 - 7:33 pm | #

At some point this bizarre Ron Paul fanboyism among serious Catholics going to stop. It's clear that those Catholics cheering him on don't know anything about him other than that he likes to bang on Bush over the war.

One of Mark's refrains has been that the national GOP doesn't care about pro-life issues. How does Ron Paul stack up? Let's see, he hasn't sponsored any pro-life legislation, and around the time of the Shaivo controversy, he said "Our focus should be on overturning Roe and getting the federal government completely out of the business of regulating state matters." In other words, Congress and the president shouldn't be doing anything about abortion issues, which is exactly the sort of inaction that Mark condemns. (More here)

He's also against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Okay, Mark, I get it: Ron Paul hammers Cheney on torture, and you love him for it. But he doesn't come close to passing your ideological purity test. Research the guy a little more (it's not that hard; dig around at http://www.house.gov/paul/legis.shtml for a bit) and tell me if he's still worthy of the Doomed Quixotic Chestertonian vote.
K the C | 06.14.07 - 8:14 pm | #

I went to Ron Paul's website to find out his position on how to fight terrorism. I have no idea how he plans on doing it.

I don't care if he's against the Iraq war, or if he thinks that we're paying the price for previously arming the Afghans in their fight against the soviets.


He doesn't answer. In general, I think he doesn't think that the fight against terrorism is real. He probably thinks it's just a phantom to scare people into giving up liberty. In general, he's a complete jackass.

I have no use for that. And I have no use for his fringe half-a$$ed support from Truthers. I find it offensive that anyone would support him because he's a complete wimp when it comes to terrorism. Electing Ron Paul is like electing Osama bin Laden.
Sydney Carton | 06.15.07 - 12:21 am | #


Sure, Paul is pro-life, at least to the extent that the Congressional GOP in general is pro-life. But to stop there is to misunderstand Mark's beef with the GOP on life issues. Mark thinks that the GOP doesn't really care about life issues, and that GOP pols exploit those issues to get themselves elected, then do nothing to advance them. (I think he's wrong about that, but the rightness or wrongness of that position isn't at issue right now.) He's made it very clear that he's tired of this, and that he's looking for a candidate who will follow through on life issues.

For some reason he's settled on Ron Paul, which is odd, because the best that can be said about him is that he's no worse than the average GOP Congressman on life issues. He's certainly not a champion of pro-life causes. Moreover, he takes federalism seriously, and doesn't want the federal government to tell the states what to do on abortion. Normally that's not good enough for Mark, but he really, really likes Ron Paul! The only substantive difference between Paul and the rest of the GOP is that Paul has criticized Bush and Cheney on torture and the war. Other than that, he's quite average on life issues. I just wish Mark could see that.
K the C | 06.15.07 - 12:41 am | #

Electing Ron Paul is like electing Osama bin Laden.

Why, I wonder, do critics of the Iraq War so often feel as though their patriotism is being called into question? And what could that possibly have to do with the shock that Bush supporters felt when *their* patriotism was called into question by the Bushies over the Immigration fracas?

Clues to the clueless: this is the sort of rhetoric that poisons American political discourse. Stop it.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 06.15.07 - 12:41 am | #

Why, I wonder, do critics of the Iraq War so often feel as though their patriotism is being called into question?

Because they're unpatriotic.

See, e.g.:

Underground, Democratic
Kos, Daily
K the C | 06.15.07 - 12:47 am | #

K the C,

Not all of them are unpatriotic. But that's irrelevant for my purposes anyway. I don't care that Ron Paul is against the war in Iraq. My concern is with terrorism. He seems to think it's a figment of our imagination, or that its' only as a result of what big, bad America does in the world. As if Muslims wouldn't attack us once we come running back with our tail between our legs.

We weren't in Iraq in 1986, when they bombed the German disco. We weren't in Iraq when they blew up the Pan Am flights. We weren't in Iraq when they bombed the Towers in 1993. We weren't in Iraq when they bombed the embassies in 1998. We weren't in Iraq when they blew up the Cole. We weren't in Iraq when they destroyed the Towers on 9/11.

What is Ron Paul's plan for attacking terrorists? All of you who support him, please tell me. Thanks.
Sydney Carton | 06.15.07 - 1:20 am | #

On Ron Paul. Somebody whose principal description of 9/11 is blowback and doesn't discuss what to do about AQ is betraying the foreign policy weakness of libertarianism. Libertarian foreign policy is free trade with every state that is not in the act of attacking US citizens, the full majesty of admiralty law to deal with pirates, and requests for foreign states to either try or extradite people like UBL.

I am not kidding. All he has to say about war and foreign policy is that we brought it on ourselves, and that we need "...a strong America, conducting open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations." That's great. What does he plan to do about the $%^&* enemy? Does he think UBL is a closet libertarian?

Ron Paul is not even really describing the Iraq war as a distraction from the Afghanistan campaign. He's descibing the Iraq war as an additional error compounding the errors that got us attacked in the first place, and his solution is to tacitly go back to neutrality and assume that we will be left alone. Since he never, ever, talks about what he would do to DEFEAT the jihadis that he does at least acknowledge to be our enemies. I guess he thinks they'll just go away once we quit the UN.
Ed the Roman | 06.15.07 - 9:07 am | #

Ed is right - this is the problem with libertarianism. You cannot make problems go away by ignoring them. The legitimate role of the government is to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This explicitly true for the US and is in keeping with Church teaching. Even when the US Government was miniscule we still had to deal with foreign threats (including the Mohammedans).

I like a lot of what Paul has to say - but I wonder what his response would have been to British impressment of US sailors or to the Barbary pirates.
Michaelus | 06.15.07 - 9:32 am | #


Not all Iraq War opponents are unpatriotic. (I can't believe that I have to explain hyperbole to you of all people, but there you go.) But a large contingent of them are (DU, DailyKos), and rightly deserve to have their patriotism questioned. And those who aren't unpatriotic yet adopt the rhetorical style of the DU/DailyKos crowd forfeit their right to complain about erroneous questioning of their patriotism. Lay down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

A selection of things you've said about Ron Paul:

***"I'm likin' this Ron Paul guy more and more."
***"Ron Paul... had, in fact, been one of the few GOP candidates to actually take seriously what JPII said...."
***"[I]f Paul remains as sensible on the few things I've noticed him talking about in the press, I'm willing to give him a listen. Until his Libertarianism makes war on the Catholic teaching concerning the common good, I have no problem with it. If it never reaches that point, then he may get my vote. So far he's impressed me. But if he turns out to be a kook (as Libertarians often do), I'll have to reconsider.... [H]e does not want the GOP to become the Big Tent of Torture and Abortion. If that's kooky, we need more of it."
***"Ron Paul is so freaking crazy he didn't even applaud when the WarPundits subjected John Paul II to their 15 minute hates"

..and my personal favorite:

***"I will have to keep my eye on Ron Paul.... If he opposes abortion as well as what the Newspeakers of the Rubber Hose Right and the FOXNews Ministry of Newthink technicians call "enhanced interrogation techniques", I may have finally found my doomed quixotic candidate to support."

Mark, Ron Paul doesn't have the pro-life bona fides that you demand, yet your position is that unless he turns out to be a "kook" who makes war on Catholic teaching, you may support him. I suppose I can be forgiven for thinking this means that he's your top choice. He's certainly your favorite Republican, and you're not voting for a Democrat. Perhaps you haven't "settled" on him in a definitely-going-to-vote-for-him sense, but you cannot in good faith deny that he looks better to you than any of the current alternatives. If you want to play semantic games and announce that you haven't settled on any one candidate, fine, but don't deny that you really like Ron Paul. All I'm asking is that you take a closer look at his ho-hum pro-life record and tell us if you still think he's worthy of your vote.
K the C | 06.15.07 - 10:57 am | #

Accordingly, he voted to give the president authorization to go after Osama Bin Ladin after 9/11. In fact, he has been critical of the fact that this authorization has been left unfilfilled, while the authority granted in the Iraq authorization has been far exceeded.

He is so critical of the supposed weaknesses of the Afghanistan operations that his campaign web site doesn't mention them at all, only the ways in which we contributed to being attacked.

Ron Paul, like most libertarians [which is what he used formally to be], is not serious about foreign policy. Whether he was right about Iraq in 2002 is irrelevant. He does not say that he intends to do anything in particular now.

And Madison's Bane, just when did impressment of US nationals cease, anyway?
Ed the Roman | 06.15.07 - 11:27 am | #

The reason that I think it is so critical to highlight this is because it illustrates just how eager Mark is to compromise on many of his principles as long as a candidate is "right" on the issues that now seem to have defined his view of politics (torture and opposition to the Iraq war). His staunch opposition to libertarianism, his views on immigration, his critique of the conservative view of the free market, and even his argument that the GOP should do more on pro-life issues can apparently go right out the window so long as Ron Paul is on the "right" side when it comes to torture and the Iraq war.

It is that last compromise in particular that has me seeing red because Mark has made it a habit to simply assert that no GOP politicians truly care about abortion. For instance, he finds Fred Thompson's pro-life views completely suspect and argues that his understanding of federalism means that he doesn't really care about abortion. Yet when it comes to Ron Paul, Mark accepts his federalist views on abortion (which I guarantee are far more rigorous than those of any other pro-life Republican nominee) completely uncritically. I find this quite telling and would be curious what else he is willing to compromise on in order to support Paul.

As to Mark's claim that he really doesn't support Paul, puh-leez. This is like Andrew Sullivan arguing that Bush's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment wasn't the only reason that he opposed him in 2004. Mark has stalwartly defended him at every turn and ignored any flaws to him on issues that he would have railed against other candidates. Compare his willingness to defend Paul, for instance, with his eager dismissals of Brownback and Thompson. Any criticism of Paul has been written off as GOP or Fox News smears. In discussions about torture, Mark has frequently argued (that is to say, demagogued) that those who attempt to raise questions about his views on the subject objectively support torture. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander on this one and I will continue to accept his fanboyish support of Paul for what it is in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Moving Goalposts ...

Mark replies on the issue of deportation:

This was fair well gone over by the excuse makers at the Coalition for Fog. The basic strategy (rather ironic for people who were so exercised about Fundamentalist Proof texting) was to point out that since it is absurd to say that all deportations are wrong, then *nothing* JPII mentions can really be intrinsically immoral (and by "nothing" they meant "torture").

Not at all. What we are attempting to point out is that there are a number of unspoken qualifiers with respect to John Paul II's statements from the Gaudium et Spes quotation in question. Thus far, Mark's whole argument on torture has been to appeal to "plain meaning" of a text and then to accuse those who disagree with him of ill motives and loyalty to the Bush administration over the Church. It is my whole point in raising issues such as deportation to note that it isn't that simple. He dismisses the question of deportation on the grounds that it is "absurd" (with which I agree), but then he fails to take it to the next step and understand why it is because of opinions like that which might cause someone to question his invocation of a single text.

Mark writes:
There doesn't seem to be nearly this much energy expended to argue that abortion is not intrinsically immoral. I wonder why?

A couple of reasons, not the least of which being that there is a lot more ink than just Gaudium et Spes and Veritas Splendor when it comes to abortion, to say nothing of a long chain of development concerning Catholic doctrine on the subject. The issue of torture being intrinsically evil, by contrast, is little less than a century old and hence it seems fair to look into the matter closer before pronouncing it as case closed. For those who want to raise the issue of the death penalty or the Church's view of the Jews in order to tar this position as rad-trad, I would say that the death penalty is most assuredly not intrinsically evil and that I believe there is a strong Biblical and doctrinal basis for Vatican II's statements on both the Jews and other religions. One might also note the absence of such statements on the intrinsic evil of torture and be wary of those who would presume to define dogma ahead of the Church.
Anyhow, those of us who are not fundamentalist proof texters point out that when you hit a puzzling ambiguity in Church teaching, the smart thing to do is find out what else the Church teaches about the topic. When you look at "deportation" you discover that the Church does not dispute the right of the state to send a criminal to another country for his crimes. That's called "common sense". Pretty obviously, what is in view here is the violation of "you shall not steal" (by which we mean "It is intrinsically immoral to deprive innocent persons of their homes"). It is also intrinsically immoral to deprive innocent persons of their lives, but not to deprive persons guilty of a capital crime of their lives.

Ah, but if we can kill them, why can't we torture them? Once again, consulting the catechism instead of fundy proof texting helps. The catechism says plainly that prisoners must be treated humanely.

I agree completely with this. And if Mark were arguing that torture is like the death penalty, I wouldn't have a problem with his argument (though his style leaves much to be desired). Moreover, the issue of whether or not prisoners are to be treated humanely is a separate one from whether or not torture is intrinsically immoral. But yes, by all means, let us consult The Catechism:
2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

As Jimmy Akin noted back in 2004:
The Catechism's discussion of torture (CCC 2298) focuses significantly on the motive that is being pursued in different acts of torture. If it means us to understand that having a particular motive is necessary for an act to count as torture then it might turn out that some acts commonly described as torture are in fact not torture--just as some acts commonly described as stealing are not actually the sin of stealing, such as taking food to feed one's family during a time of starvation when the person who initially had the food has plenty. The same might turn out to be true of torture (i.e., not everything that looks like torture would be the sin of torture).

For example, the Catechism's list of motives for torture does not mention the use of physical pressure to obtain information needed to save innocent lives. It thus might turn out that it is not torture to twist a terrorist's arm behind him and demand that he tell you where he planted a bomb so that it can be defused and innocents can be saved. Certainly the kind of things that Jack Bauer may do on 24 are very different morally from the kinds of things that happened in Soviet prisons.

I would be disinclined to go the route of saying that torture is not always wrong. I think that the Church is pretty clearly indicating in its recent documents that it wants the word "torture" used in such a way that torture is always wrong. However, I don't think that the Magisterium has yet thoroughly worked out all the kinds of "hard case" situations one can imagine and whether they count as torture.

Different churchmen would probably answer the hard case questions differently, some reflexibly shying away from any use of significant physical or psychological pressure, and others holding that the need to prevent an imminent terrorist attack trumps any right a terrorist might otherwise have not to have pain inflicted on him, so that applying physical pressure in such cases might not count as the sin of torture.

Akin later expanded on this in the comboxes to state:
... there is no firm line that has been drawn in these documents between the pain inflicted by corporal punishment and and the pain inflicted by torture.

Indeed, there is no line drawn in them between the pain inflicted by non-corporal punishment and the pain inflicted by torture, since the Catechism and other documents count "psychological torture" as torture.

The fact is, all punishment (even just confinement) causes something unpleasant (i.e., painful) to happen. Further, the threat of punishment is key to deterrence. Unless one is prepared to write off all punishment and threat of punishment (which the Magisterium has not been prepared to do) then one will have to find some other grounds with which to distinguish legitimate punishment from illegitimate torture.

I can think of a number of grounds by which one might do so--e.g., causing excessive pain (i.e., pain that is disproportionate to the good to be achieved) or causing grave and permanent bodily or psychological damage. However, rather than proceding along such lines the Catechism principally concentrates its analysis on the question of motive. Motive is certainly relevant, but the analysis offered in magisterial documents thus far remains non-exhaustive of what does and does not count as torture.

This is pretty much summarizes my own position on the subject. But I'll leave it to Mark to explain why Akin's position is acceptable (or at least tolerable) while mine is motivated solely by loyalty to the Bush administration. Because there's such a huge supply of that among conservative activists these days, yes?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Neoconservatism is the new Communism ...

It is also apparently on par with Salafist jihadism.

So speaketh Shea:

That secular messianic impulse is why I keep banging on about the sinister rhetoric of Creative Destruction that is animating the latest Big Thinkers in their Wilsonian/Machiavellian attempts to create heaven on earth (in this case, via democratic capitalism). Ideologies that attempt a short cut around human nature via violence (whether jihadi or Creative Destroyer) are menaces. The common rhetoric these ideologies share with the Commies is, as the Marxist loves to say, no accident. There are few things more dangerous than a couple of Christian virtues cut off from the Tradition and used as the basis of a militant movement unashamed to use violence in pursuit of the Millennium.

This is yet another of those times when Mark is illustrating his ignorance. Wilsonianism and Machiavellianism is are fairly incompatible political ideologies, as is evident to anyone who has read or is even somewhat familiar either Wilson or Machiavelli. To put it bluntly, they take extremely different views of human nature in order to bolster their philosophies. Trying to conflate the two as neoconservatism once again illustrates that Mark has no understanding of that ideology either, as I think has been demonstrated again and again.

Bringing Islamism into the discussion is yet more idiocy. If you read Sayyid Qutb and other jihadi leading lights, you will find that a large part of his message consists of a condemnation of democracy because it allows spiritual ignorance and vice to flourish. The reason you need a caliphate is because political freedom will be misused for ill ends and hence power must be trusted to those religiously qualified to hold it. This was also the rationale of both the Taliban and Saudi Arabia. Given Mark's condemnation of the United States as being ruled by a clique of millionaires who want to kill off the poor, I would think he might be more sympathetic to this line of hyperbolic argumentation. There is an enormous difference between this type of ideology and communism, incidentally, which is why I have no idea why it is being included. If you want to argue that Salafism has Marxist overtones I'm more than game, but there is a major difference between the overtones and the ideology.

One other thing that Mark might want to consider is that whatever he believes neoconservatism to be, it is not "a militant movement unashamed to use violence in pursuit of the Millennium." If it were, I suspect that he and his paleocon friends would find themselves in a very different state of affairs given, by all accounts, the ideology has been ascendant through most of the Bush administration. There is a difference between someone writing a mean article about you in National Review and someone who is seeking to kill you. I'm not exactly seeing much of a difference between Mark's attempt to tar neoconservatism as communist and the perpetual paleocon complaint that their views are tarred as anti-Semitic when it comes to Israel.

In case someone raises the issue, I am aware that any number of paleocons have criticized what they regard as the Trotskyite roots of neoconservatism. None of the leading ones, to the best of my knowledge, have argued that neoconservatism is the full-blown equivalent of international communism complete with a willingness to use violence in order to achieve their ends. To paraphrase one of Mark's quotes, "If neocons are communists, then why aren't you in a gulag?"

And lest some commentators question why I keep highlighting Mark's ever-nuttier political views, here again this is what he wins awards for. If people are going to keep endorsing him on that basis, I think it's time that they take a good long look at what kind of views are being expoused there.