Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I had not read this blog for quite some time, and I was glad that instapundit linked to this article today. Two memorable passages:

1) "...all of this rage and fury and spitting and tearing up of signs, all of these insults and spinmeisters and forgeries and all the rest, seem to come down to the fact that about half the country thinks you deter this sort of thing (another Sept. 11th attack--wjd) by being nice, while the other half thinks you deter this by being mean."

2) "...It all comes down to carrots (liberals) or sticks (conservatives). By the way: if you’re in a rush and need to run, here’s the spoiler: You can offer a carrot. Not everybody likes carrots. Some people may hate your carrot. Your carrot may offend people who worship the rutabaga. But no one likes being poked in the eye with a stick. That’s universal."

I don't much care for carrots, especially cooked ones, even though I know they're good for me and I should eat more of them.

Please read the whole thing.

11 Comments:

Blogger Curious G said...

I'm feeling a definite hostility towards the liberal viewpoint in this blog... what is up with "Whiny Texas Peacenik??"

October 7, 2004 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Wm said...

I felt "William the bloody in Seattle" deserved a responsive counterpart. Like, duh.

I don't believe you have seen me be "hostile" as I know myself to be hostile. I don't believe legitimate criticism is necessarily hostile, though it can be taken as such. Further, my expressions of opinion which you find hostile are directed only against those points of view I consider at-odds with classical liberalism, and not necessarily against individuals (even those individuals who hold those, from my perspective, mistaken points of view). Specifically, I mean those points of view which, if taken on as policy on the national political scale, would endanger the continued existence of this, the most liberal country that has ever existed, thus subverting the possibility of liberal thought for all who live here.

So if you mean, "why are you being hostile to the Kerry/Edwards camp," as I suspect you do (based on the proximity of your comment to an article criticizing Kerry's campaign thus far), it is because I find the foreign policy positions put forward by that camp worthy only of criticism. And if those criticisms are compounded, as each gaffe is further revealed and deconstructed, and frankly there appears to be an infinite supply of those gaffes, then I could see how that would appear hostile. But then you should consider where fault lies for that by consulting a baseball analogy: You pitch 'em over the plate, and they'll get knocked out of the park. You can't blame the team at-bat for swinging hard.

October 7, 2004 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Curious G said...

"William the bloody," AKA "Spike" is a vampire. The only vampire to kill 2 slayers within his lifetime. One in the 1970's aboard a moving New York subway. Very memorable scene, one of many that appear in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," a cult show that bears little resemblence to real life.

"William" is a name that few people have, fewer still that use it in its unabreviated format. "Faust" was born on the heels of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer binge, so at the time, "William" was synonimous with "William the bloody." "William the bloody" in turn, was not synonimous with killing or an apetite for human blood, but rather with a memorable and well thought-out character, my favorite on the show. In this context, "William the bloody" is an honerable title to bear, even if you do not share my appreciation of the series, and even if the reseblence was merited on a common namesake. But in the context of the discussions presented here, your oversight is most certainly forgivable.

October 8, 2004 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Curious G said...

"I don't believe legitimate criticism is necessarily hostile, though it can be taken as such."

It is true that your arguments are well reasoned and require careful thought, structure, and presentation to effectively counter. But one phrase in your writings always sticks out with me, in this case, "this, the most liberal country to have ever existed," (or similar, not claiming it to be an exact quote.) Words like "most" and "ever" are not qualified and are more synonimous with emotions. Emotions that to me come closer to the concept of "faith;" a concept that does not belong among the realm of logic or reason.

There are two types of arguments: ones that are based on a legitimate desire to arrive at a conclusion to a stated problem, and ones that are used to justify a pre-determined conclusion arrived at by some other means. An example of the former would be something like "we used a floating bridge to span this river because the soil was too soft," where as "I love my girlfriend for X and Y reasons" would be an example of the latter. It is rarely this clear-cut of course.

A relatively constant theme throughout the debate leading to Iraq, its aftermath, and all the related politics was this: "They FUCKED us" (a direct quote) on September 11th, "we can't afford to be nice," (indirect quote) or else the existence of "this, the greatest country on earth" is in mortal danger.

I take great issue with the statement "greatest country" and all its derivatives simply because such a statement cannot apply in a reasoned argument. It does, however, instill within me a reaction that you're arguing from the heart and not the mind; a reaction that I can't seem to get over. (This is how the term "hostility" crept in there, though I concede that is stupid on my part--we ARE friends after all.)

Not in dispute is that this country and its citizens have an understandable desire for self-preservation and prosperity. And of course, what we often argue about is whether or not the terrorists can fell this vast nation, and if they can, how to best deal with them.

I don't have the answer as to how to effectively deal with the terrorists, and neither do you. There are conflicting historical precedents, no realiable data as to the effectiveness of X or Y policy. It comes down to an argument of emotions and personal beliefs: what do you do when a bum hits you in the face? How do you prevent yourself from getting hit again? The answer is a reflection on your character and beliefs, rather than a statement on effective policy.

I will, however, offer an opinion: I believe your fear about the future of this nation is unfounded. Rome is the supreme example. The barbarians did not destroy Rome. Rome rotted from within. Terrorism takes center stage in today's discussions and politics, but it is one of hundreds of issues we have to deal with on a daily basis, and I would further argue that it isn't even the most important one.

October 8, 2004 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Wm said...

First, your reaction to my argument (whether it comes from my heart or my mind) is your business, but the simple fact that an argument contains emotional appeal does not obviate any reasoned support for the argument as a whole. You can (and I think should) make logical arguments that contain emotional appeal. The facts used to support the argument are no less factual simply because they are tied an emotional position.

Second, I believe your post is predicated on an inaccurate interpretation of what "the most liberal country to have ever existed" actually means. It is not meant as a slur against this country. Quite the contrary. I consider myself a liberal (in the classical sense of the word), thus I find that it is both quantifiable and admirable that this is the most liberal country ever to have existed. This is a nation founded on the principle that all its citizens, and all those that can and do become citizens (even after great struggle, internal and external) can become all that they themselves choose. That they shall have, at least in principle, the opportunity to shape the limits of their own destiny. In a truly liberal society, the realization of all citizens' destiny as they so choose is the greatest achievement for that society. Since this country, in terms of population size and historic consistency, has provided that opportunity for more people than any other, I do not feel I am overstating the case that this is the greatest, and most liberal, country ever to have existed.

It is obvious that you don't have the answer as to dealing effectively with those who've made themselves our nation's enemy. You phrase your position in terms of complete destruction of the nation, as if complete destruction is all we have to worry about from these people, therefore you immediately limit what you would consider an "effective response." For me, it doesn't matter WHETHER the terrorists can "fell this vast nation." Instead, it matters that they even want to try. There is no compelling argument why we have to find the "best way to deal with them" AFTER we know for certain that they can "fell this vast nation."

You are further incorrect in stating that there are "no reliable data as to the effectiveness of X or Y policy." Let X=the execution of any person sworn to the destruction of the United States. Level of effectiveness: 100%. You don't need a statistical sample to figure that one out. And just because I advocate for the extermination of all those types of people does NOT mean I am opposed to coincidental, non-lethal types of persuasion.

Although you say blithely, "I would further argue it (terrorism) isn't even the most important one (issue facing the country)," you fail to state why, or which issue is most important, and why. Nice rhetorical try, but I don't accept that statement on its face. I challenge you to name me "hundreds" of political or social issues that have the widespread national and international implications that global terrorism has. I'll even spot you a few: international territorial conflict, global warming, natural resources depletion, and international disputes regarding water. Now, see if you can spot "hundreds" (hell, make it just ONE hundred) other issues, as important, as deserving of our attention as terrorism.

Based on your post, I conclude that if you were struck in the face by a bum, you would think long and hard about *why* you were struck, and you would change all sorts of things about your character and beliefs, and then, if you were unfortunate enough to get hit again, the next time a bum hit you in the face, you'd be mystified because after-all, you did all kinds of changing of your character and beliefs... Until maybe you started to realize that it's not YOU, it's the bums who need a character-adjustment, and you're operating on one set of assumptions and they're operating on another, less polite, less pleasant (and frankly, less caring about your character and beliefs than you're giving them credit for), and then maybe you'd do something other than change your character and beliefs when some bum hit you upside the head. Like maybe, run away, or walk down a different street, or ride a bike.

And yes, based on my post, you can bet your ass that if some bum strikes me, I'm going to do my damndest to make sure he doesn't do it again (and that may include an assessment of my character and beliefs, but it's much, much more likely to include an evaluation of my physical ability to deal with bums like that). And if he does manage to do it again, I won't feel as bad about it as I would have had I simply had a chat with myself about how I feel about bums, and how maybe I deserved to get hit in the first place.

Finally, regarding your opinion about Rome. This ain't fucking Rome. And the barbarians the Romans had to deal with didn't know that atoms could be split. And just because Rome rotted from within, doesn't mean the barbarians wouldn't have been happy to help the rot work faster.

October 9, 2004 at 1:41 AM  
Blogger Curious G said...

Wow.. where does one begin? I disagree with just about everything you wrote here, but I'll start with some relatively easy counter-arguments:

"This ain't fucking Rome. And the barbarians the Romans had to deal with didn't know that atoms could be split."

The Soviets also could split Atoms. And they rotted from within and collapsed. What does technological prowess have to do with anything? Scientific knowledge is not an indicator of a healthy country or society.

"Let X=the execution of any person sworn to the destruction of the United States. Level of effectiveness: 100%"

Killing people has repercussions. Martyrs only inspire terrorists to work harder at their aims. Children who loose their fathers are more likely to seek revenge against the perpetrators. Sometimes you miss and kill the wrong guy. "Extermination" works well only when you kill every single one of them. This would never happen because even IF you were able to identify every single one terrorist on earth, the mere act of killing them would only make more of them.

"And just because I advocate for the extermination of all those types of people does NOT mean I am opposed to coincidental, non-lethal types of persuasion."

And I would ask: what are these forms of non-lethal pursuasion you may advocate?

While the lethal force you describe may ultimately be desirable in some instances, the ease in which you dehuminize your enemy distrubs me. This should be self-evident I would hope. The people you advocate exterminating are fanatics who seek out to kill innocent people. It's fairly easy to classify them in the "extermination" category. But it doesn't change the fact that there is a line in your head that seperates people into the "worth living" and "exterminate as many of them as possible" category--and I assure you that precicely such a line exists in the terrorist's heads as well. Abstractly, only the details are different; the fundamentals are the same.

More in a bit..

October 10, 2004 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Wm said...

No shit you disagree with just about everything I wrote. That's why it's called an argument.

You say that killing has reprecussions. A more obvious statement you could not have made. I would say that NOT killing them has other consequences, but I won't belabor the point. The simplistic model I put forward was deliberately structured as such. The reason I put it out there was not to advocate for that approach, but to show you the wrong-headedness of your statement that there is no data available regarding the effectiveness of a policy. As an aside, it is logically impossible for you to say with certainty that killing terrorists necessarily means more terrorists will be created. That may be more likely, but it's not a certainty.

I don't know how you've reached the conclusion that it's been "easy" for me to dehumanize anyone. I don't know how you conclude that I have, but I'll take the two in turn.

The set of beliefs I possess now did not magically come to me. I did not one day wake up (not on Sept. 12th) and decide that I would advocate for the measured extermination of a class of people. But what are the viable alternatives? I don't mean that as an argumentative dirty-trick, I am not asking you to prove a proposition for me. I mean that as an honest question. As far as I can tell, based on many readings and hours spent considering the subject, there are none.

On dehumanizing "people..." Your conclusion that I have decided to dehumanize anyone at all is your own construction. I take no pleasure here.

For me, the fact that you apparently don't understand "what technology has to do with it" and the citation of the Soviet example is an indication that you fail to understand the situation that the country is now. I only mentioned the barbarians without the understanding of the atom to illustrate the differences in the threats posed to the two different (and they are EXTREMELY different, so much so that analogies are at best strained, and probably superfluous) societies.

October 10, 2004 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Wm said...

I feel I should point out at this point that, after reading back over this exchange, I see that you have offered no substantive alternatives to any of the policies for which I've either advocated or defended. In short, you've written many words criticizing (albeit weakly), but despite having ample opportunity, you've written none saying what you think should be done instead.

You stated without support that certain policies won't work (without acknowledging that people often don't know that any given policy will or will not work, until after its succeeded or failed... and then its a pretty damn easy matter of claiming credit for spotting its success or failure), you've said that I have dehumanized people (without evidence), you've said that Rome rotted from within (which is only partly true), and you've said that killing terrorists breeds more terrorists (without being able to see into the future). And you've erroneously stated that scientific prowess is not an indicator of a healthy country or society (healthy countries cannot become or stay healthy without technological prowess... all that shit has to go somewhere, all the water consumed has to be clean, all the hospitals (assuming you have hospitals in your fantastically technology-free but still healthy society) have to run on some kind of power...).

Even ignoring all that, you are still yet to produce a single alternative strategy, of any kind, of your own. So I have to ask you: what would you do different? How would you succeed where you think others have failed or lost their humanity? What would be your strategy? Can you show that you both understand the nature of what threatens this country, and do something about it? Flawlessly?

And you can't say, "I have a plan, just go to johnkerry dot com."

October 10, 2004 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger SuperBiff said...

Curious G - you have posted nothing of substance in this discussion. I have been following this and all you have done is basically paint all of existence as a large "gray area" in which one cannot draw conclusions (there are no right answers after all), nothing can be qualified, etc. You criticize an outlook on a situation, while providing no alternatives of your own except to say "none of us have the answers". Your statements would carry more weight if fleshed out with something beyond simple rhetoric. However:

"The Soviets also could split Atoms. And they rotted from within and collapsed. What does technological prowess have to do with anything? Scientific knowledge is not an indicator of a healthy country or society."

I could not disagree more with each part of this assertion. The USSR didn't just "rot away" on its own and collapse. They collapsed because Reagan tricked them into engaging in a game of military oneupsmanship, knowing full well that the *technology* of our markets and industry granted us far greater ROI on dollars spent. Their markets were inferior and simply did not provide them the strength to compete with us. Reagan knew this and knew that he could tear their country apart without ever attacking.

So we spent.. and the USSR spent.. And you know what? We built more than they did every year when equalizing monies spent. This panicked them, so they spent more and more and more, all the while causing their people's lives to get worse and worse and thus, more discontented. Meanwhile, the people in the USA had a happy outlook (as proven by Reagan's utter destruction of Mondale in 1984) as the country was finally recovering from the bipartisan damage done to it by the politicians of the 70s.

The argument brought up Rome. Well, Rome is a perfect example of superior technology leading to the betterment of the society, both socially and militarily. Rome conquered due to the use of iron weaponry, advanced siege engines, the Legion (whose design in and of itself should be considered a 'technology'), and the fact that once they conquered territory, they immediately spread their greater technology into it (roads, aquaducts, etc).

There really is NO better way to measure the health of a country than to measure the availability of scientific knowledge in that country, both at the governmental and personal levels.

Finally, I am sick of this whole "we're creating more terrorists by our actions" argument. Do people really believe this? If so, then hell, let's just all lie down and wait to be killed then shall we? Make no mistake. The enemy wants to kill YOU. It does not matter if you understand them. It does not matter if you love them and want to hold hands and sing kumbayah with them while you rail against evil Imperialist Amerikkka. They will kill you the same as they would kill me, one who wants every last one of them dead.

If you don't believe me, then you simply need to open some books and do some research on Wahhabism. Not Bin Ladin. Not 9/11. Not Al Qaeda or Mujahadeen or US actions in the middle east since 18whatever. Wahhabism. Our enemies are Wahhabists; they are cultists following the teachings of a man named Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab Najdi. A man who died just as the USA came into existence.

Yet, from the very get go, his teachings were those of absolute lunacy. To combat the Islamic caliphate, Wahhabists committed countless rapes, murders and tortures against their Muslim brethren. Wahhabism subjugates women and punishes them in brutal fashion for the most minor action that is seen as 'impure'. For the rest of us who do not follow its teachings, Wahhabism labels us 'kafir' and there is only one outcome: death.

This war simply will not stop until Wahhabism is destroyed, or every non-Wahhabist on the planet is killed. That is the simple reality. Ignoring this and stereotyping middle easterners as so weak-minded that they all flock to the nearest Al Qaeda signup sheet whenever a bomb targeting a Wahhabist lunatic goes off target is simple racism.

It really is as simple as that. Wahhabism is a twisted seed of a belief that has infested a religion long known for its peaceful nature. All of this talk about the mistakes the USA has made in the middle east is valid up to a point. But people must realize that the world is fighting an enemy every drop as evil as the demonic wet-dreams of Goebbels and Mendele.

October 10, 2004 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger Curious G said...

Curious G - you have posted nothing of substance in this discussion.Perhaps because it was not a substantive argument to begin with. I didn't start out wanting to discuss politcs or policy--I wanted to know why I was being called a "whiny peacenik." I then made the mistake of bringing the absolutism issue again.

See, I've had the terrorism discussion with William before. He is familiar with my views, obviously disagrees with them, and I with his. It's one of those things we will probably never see eye to eye on (like spelling), and as in all situations where two people can't agree, the situation can get nasty.

I could not disagree more with each part of this assertion. The USSR didn't just "rot away" on its own and collapse. They collapsed because Reagan tricked themHow the USSR colapsed wasn't really the point in this context. William implied that our huge scientific knowledge would be our saving grace. I was trying to counter that scientific knowledge cannot prevent collapse if other, non-scientific aspects of a nation are horribly weak.

Your above example proves my point: knowledge of the atom was not enough to save the soviet union, just as scientific knowledge will not save us if we overlook something important like the soviets did. I'm not saying we're headed that way or what not, it's just a rhetorical statement.

Finally, I am sick of this whole "we're creating more terrorists by our actions" argument. Do people really believe this?Yes.

If so, then hell, let's just all lie down and wait to be killed then shall we? Make no mistake. The enemy wants to kill YOU. It does not matter if you understand them. It does not matter if you love them and want to hold hands and sing kumbayah with them while you rail against evil Imperialist Amerikkka. They will kill you the same as they would kill me, one who wants every last one of them dead.If we don't kill them, they will kill us. Yes, I agree. The process of killing someone, whether they deserve it or not, is going to piss people off. That's going to have consequences too. What people seem to feel is that there *has* to be a solution that takes care of the issue once and for all (usually a violent one), and I believe there is not--in the simplistic terms you and I are talking about, it's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' type of deal.

Terrorism is like crime--like bums, if you will. You will never eliminate it. It will always be there. The best you can do is manage it as best you can in such a way that hopefully minimizes your costs and damage. That's why I contend there is no answer--because how you deal with it has just as much to do with philosophy as it does real results.

Take my bum analogy again. The "hippie" answer is to give the bum money, clothes, and maybe a job. The militant answer is to kill the bum. But no matter what you do, bums will always exist. So what do you do? Well, I recognize that bums will never go a way. So if it were up to me, I'd rather give the bum some money and maybe a shelter rather than kill him, cause that's just my code of ethics.

Ignoring this and stereotyping middle easterners as so weak-minded that they all flock to the nearest Al Qaeda signup sheet whenever a bomb targeting a Wahhabist lunatic goes off target is simple racismI am not familiar with the philosophy you describe, so I cannot offer any useful thoughts on it. However, I do believe that crime & terrorism are also linked to poverty and disenfranchisement, something which I think is proven and has little to do with racism. If an unemployed Arab has absolutely no means to advance himself, either politically or economically, and someone offers him an easy scapegoat (America and/or Israel) AND the opportunity to do something about (terorism), that individual will likely take the offer to be a terrorist. It doesn't matter if he is Arab or not; white people would do the same in similar circumstances.

Both you and William asked for concrete policy ideas & statements. I'll give you some, likely tomorrow. Right now, the only reason I'm up is because I can't seem to fall asleep.

October 11, 2004 at 3:16 AM  
Blogger Wm said...

George--Go back and read my posts carefully. Nowhere did I imply that "technology would be our saving grace." The issue of technology only came up because I was pointing out the difference between earlier and modern barbarians.

It is disingenuous for you to suggest that you have purposefully not responded to the substantive arguments simply because you wanted to know why you "were being called a whiny peacenik." That link has been up almost as long as this blog has been up, why the sudden urge to know what it means NOW? It's true you started in with the talk of, in your words, "absolutism" (again, I can't see how you see my points of view as "absolute" except through viewing them through your own political lens), but you consistently failed to respond to substantive explanations with substance of your own.

Finally, your analogy between the bum and the terrorist, as well as your proposed alternative solutions to them, are both flawed. In a sense, both bums (those that are violent, and surely not all bums are violent, although all terrorists are) and terrorists want something: either your property or your life. You can deal with someone who wants your property violently but non-lethally. You don't have that luxury with terrorists. It might be unreasonable to kill a bum who wants to take your stuff, or cause you minor physical injury, but it would not be unreasonable to kill one who wants to take your life, just as it is not unreasonable to set about eliminating all terrorists who want the same. It would be most important, however, to recognize your situation, something which you do not seem to be able to do.

October 11, 2004 at 11:07 AM  

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