The two leaders also had to paper over their different approaches on
how to respond to terrorism. While maintaining a united front, Mr Brown
told President Bush that the fight could not be won by military might
alone, and called for a "Cold War-style" propaganda battle in the
Deliberately avoiding the phrase "war on terror," Mr Brown said:
"Terrorism is not a cause but a crime - a crime against humanity." In
contrast, the President spoke of "this war against extremists and
radicals". But he said of Mr Brown: "There is no doubt in my mind that
he understands the stakes in the struggle." -- Andrew Grice, The Independent
Uh oh. It would appear that Gordon Brown has it exactly wrong, even on his own terms. Certainly Bush is right that fighting our particular terrorist foes requires the sort of behavior that falls firmly under the rubric of war -- even if not every terrorist or would-be terrorist must be shot or bombed to be dealt with adequately. Certainly there is nothing wrong with calling a war on al Qaeda just what it is (and then of course to fight it accordingly).
But Brown's problem would seem run deeper, to this awful new British queasiness over declaring an unqualified intent to combat people dedicated as a matter of principle to killing civilian Britons. So, yes, Prime Minister, terrorism is a 'crime,' but it is also a cause, and in the language of both descriptions the crime and cause is murder. And unless something very funny has happened to Anglo-American jurisprudence (a situation I cannot rule out of hand), murder is not a crime against humanity. Maybe we would stand to gain from getting a rule put in the UN Charter that terrorism is a crime against humanity, but look out anti-Zionists, we'd have just sunk your battleship. The pussyfoot class wants to wrap terrorism in the language of humanism, but not dare actually to do it; terrorists, you know, aren't some monolithic group, 'War on Terrorists' perspective stereotypes the poor sods, treats them as interchangeable, dehumanizing abstraction sort of thing.
Only ski masks and head-to-toe shrouds for the living and decapitations and nailbombs for nightclub girls are precisely dehumanizing and abstracting manifestations of a 'cause' (to secularize for a minute) devoted in its demented cubbyhole to the fullest abstract dehumanization of those under its sway or vulnerable to its power. Why is this so tough for Brown to register in a word or two?
It's all tragically reminiscent of the President's flight into the nonsense words of 'extremism' and 'radicalism,' words which can mean now virtually anything. Bush's terminology fails utterly to underscore that plenty of radicals and extremists (reactionaries included) can be and are law-abiding human beings, certainly not terrorists to the last. Many terrorists -- maybe not all -- are extremists and radicals, or one or the other. (And yes, what a tautology to explain 'extremism' as the propensity to blow up innocents.) But it's another one of them logical fallacies to conclude that all e's and r's are terrorists. The outrageous corollary to this busted logic is, as Bush's second inaugural suggested, that not only 'terror' but extreme-'ism' and radical-'ism' are actually enemies, standing threats to national security. This is even worse than imagining 'tyranny' to be the eternal and looming foe of America.
Bent notions like that, of course, typically cause Americans to exhume the Cold War and apply it to whatever military or geopolitical situation presently obtains. But usually American commentators retain the residuum of sense to necessary to extend Cold War metaphors only to our relationships with other states. The not terribly promising new Prime Minister seems to think that, in opposing such Yankee extremism, we are best suited extending the absurdity to cover our relationship with that great misnomer "the Muslim world." Check, please.
Worst idea ever. Though, oddly, H! Clinton's concept of a public service academy would instantly become ten times more attractive if the 'service' portion were dropped out. The truth is that conservatives really hate federal education because it teaches kids things they think are stupid and wrong and doesn't teach them things they think are smart and right. That conservatives everywhere love the military academies suggests that a massively bankrolled and highly competitive free system of federal universities would be a big hit once they got the curriculum 'right.'
But then a meta-conservative comes along, points at the quotes around 'right,' and laughs. And we go right back to square one. Another instance of Hillary the Moralist-Nationalist to put in the log books. This is the alternative to Bush?
Obama is taking a gamble that the bubbling discontent with the foreign policy
consensus since the end of the cold war – culminating in the invasion of
Iraq – might be creating a space for something new in American politics. On
the other side of the aisle, Congressman Ron Paul is making the same bet. Paul has no hope of winning. But his antiwar, isolationist message has
catapulted him from oblivion to fourth place among the Republicans in funds
on hand – ahead of John McCain. Both Obama and Paul are internet-driven
candidacies, crammed with small donations and hyper-enthusiastic volunteers.
They are also representative of a budding and clear revival of what can only
be called neo-isolationism. And they have the wind in their sails. -- Andrew Sullivan
Andrew is sharp enough to connect the dots between the stubborn inability of Hillary Clinton to clinch her party's nomination without a fight over ideology and the stubborn persistence of Ron Paul. And there is a force driving the reaction against candidates who seem to be running on the law and order platform of the World's Policeman ticket. I concur that it's probably more helpful than not to call this reaction "neo-isolationism." But this position is utterly at variance with the policies of both Obama and Paul.
Obama, for starters, never met an interpersonal distance he didn't want to close. This is as true domestically, on the therapeutic level of Oprah-like audacity, as it is internationally. Though Obama understands that rapprochement with Cuba -- not an entirely absurd idea -- is not a one-step process, his foreign affairs interest in building bridges, breaking down barriers, crossing boundaries, and so forth looks like the same psychological tic that places such a premium on "creating the space for something new," regardless of what that thing is. Obama's diagnosis of a threat to American national security wherever anybody in the world is experiencing a threat to their own security fits the general pattern of inclusivism, in which nobody in the world, and certainly not the United States, ought to be isolated, and anything unpleasant is everyone's business. Group therapy never had it so good. But isolationism?
Ron Paul, on the other hand, keeps calling himself a constitutionalist, not an isolationist, and perhaps if he keeps it up folks will start to believe him. Absolutely nothing about a policy of exit from Iraq -- whether slow or fast -- transforms a proponent into an isolationist. There is some double-negative thinking afoot: if everyone in favor of staying in Iraq is not an isolationist, then clearly no one in favor of leaving Iraq is not an isolationist! Hopefully Dan Nexon will drop by and correctly label this particular logical fallacy, but logical fallacy meanwhile it is. But the big semantic coup pulled off by robust interventionists since nearly the beginning has been convincing political tastemakers that anyone who is a military isolationist should simply be called an isolationist. In fact a person may retain full enthusiasm for diplomatic, economic, and cultural relations while dropping the desires for bases, encampments, and operations across the world.
This is a balancing act when push comes to shove; 'our' economic interests around the world do drive foreign policy; this is not, in its essence, an injustice, but it is a muddying of waters, with all the opportunities for injustice, cupidity, stupidity, and incompetence that sort of deliberate confusion opens. Nonetheless a candidate could very well espouse an Obama-like therapeutic politics without the intervention-happy component of Obama's security inclusivism. Dennis Kucinich has steadfastly maintained something similar to this stance for longer than most major candidates have maintained any of their stances. But see how well that plays in Peoria, much less Washington.
It's Paul who gets stuck with the isolationist label more often than Obama because Paul actually seems to have no interest in seeking out reasons to get emotionally involved with large numbers of total strangers as a matter of official U.S. foreign policy. But the therapeutic culture which has raised the bar on the acceptable minimum of social intimacy is unnatural and weird, and we ought to try hard to remember that the virtues of polite civility and cordial interaction work well internationally as well as in our personal lives. Obama's foreign policy can be boiled down to two words, whereas Paul's cannot, and understanding the difference suggests in both cases that neither man is best described as an isolationist.
I'm still pondering this, but Reihan's AmScene post here starts me off with something like the below. Read him first, then click back:
Smart, as far as it goes, and to that extent agreed. Only the liberal state, for some of us, doesn't 'give' an individual his rights. Whenever rights are granted by a government, rather than recognized, 'preferences' soon show themselves to be the malleable and inauthentic things they are, and a weak reed for liberty. Since I too have all manner of problems with translating every question of interest into a question of fundamental right, it seems important to emphasize that pragmatism and prudence are not interchangeable policies.
The pragmatist tradition and the prudential tradition could be seen to weight rights differently, with the former defaulting to the 'pragmatic' (inclined toward) treatment of new rights claims and the latter defaulting to a 'prudential' treatment (inclined against). This is a fundamental disposition toward the purpose and just powers of government, as well as toward the source of rights itself....
The best sections of the book concern tactics for maximizing one’s
cultural consumption, or what amounts to imitating Cowen. He lists
eight strategies for taking control of one’s reading, which include
ruthless skipping around, following one character while ignoring
others, and even going directly to the last chapter. Your eighth-grade
English teacher would faint. But the principle here is valuing the
scarcity of your own time, which people often fail to do. It works for
movies, too—Cowen will go to the multiplex and watch parts of three or
four movies, rather than just sit through one. Why wait for a highly
predictable ending when a fabulous scene might be unfolding in the
movie playing next door? Cowen also offers advice for how to defeat the
boredom that, despite our best intentions to be culturally literate,
overtakes many of us minutes after we enter an art museum. How do we
deal with this “scarcity of attention”? Pretend to be an art thief, he
suggests—in every gallery, pick one picture that we’d like to run off
with. Sounds juvenile, admits Cowen, but it “forces us to keep thinking
critically” rather than daydream about the snack bar.
This is a horrible list. Read the below through clenched teeth for maximum effect:
2. The opposite of wasting time is not 'valuing' scare time.
3. The opposite of wasting time is making yourself more time.
4. Serial, unscheduled narrative-hopping wildly increases boredom. So does narrative minimizing.
5. One of the worst forms of narrative-hopping involves rushing to the unknown at the first sign of boredom. In exchange for certain escape of one likely boredom event, you raise the likelihood of ten more. The effect of responding in kind when they come along is cumulative.
6. The result of this lifestyle reduces the flight from boredom and the pursuit of exciting experiences (however fleeting) to a minimal, but maximally abstract, narrative of consumption, which is...an anti-narrative.
7. The experience of culture suffers accordingly. (Eventually becoming impossible, at the point of cultural illiteracy?)
8. But the mindboggling explosion of microcultures, fleeting niche 'lifestyle experiences,' expands quickly and indefinitely. The result is 'smithereens.' The beneficiaries are those whose 'cultural interests' are most lethal to culture itself.
Sorry. But this is what we get when our rules for culture are written by doctors of enjoyment science trying to treat distraction, listlessness, incuriosity, and boredom with the very drugs that cause it. Freakonomics indeed.
Karl Rove, President Bush's political lieutenant, told a
closed-door meeting of 2008 Republican House candidates and their aides Tuesday
that it was less the war in Iraq than corruption in Congress that caused their party's defeat in the 2006
elections. Rove's clear advice to the candidates is to distance themselves from
the culture of Washington. Specifically, Republican candidates are urged to make clear they have no
connection with disgraced congressmen such as Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley.
In effect, Rove was rebutting the complaint inside the party that George W.
Bush is responsible for Republican miseries by invading Iraq. -- Novak, Human Events
Not by invading Iraq. By staying there long enough to gnarl the occupation with the culture of Washington. Yes, good advice it is for Republicans to distance themselves from 'the culture of Washington,' that phantom of perennial palm-greasing and willfully inefficient largess. What better advice it is for Republicans to distance themselves for Karl Rove -- the man who, better than even his President, captures (drop those quotes)...the culture of Washington.
Who needs a new Iraq policy when you can simply withdraw unilaterally from Cunningham and Foley, those titans of the public imagination, those defining issues of our time? Obey Rove only, go down to defeat. Follow Rove's advice and cop to the glaring truth, thereby seizing the initiative with honesty and courage, and go on to victory. But that wouldn't be obeying Rove, would it? There's a little political wisdom for you, open doors and everything.
...the notion that Congressional Republicans need
to mainly worry about distancing themselves from Capitol Hill
corruption, rather than the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, is at
best unpersuasive, at worst absurd.
I don't think Megan is alone in having not read scads of canonical masterpieces, nor do I think she's alone in having largely forgotten the detail and substance that made them canonical masterpieces. How now can I make it through Marlowe or Hawthorne or Balzac when I don't even have the time to plow through the Harry Potter Complete Collection? The lit canon is way too big even for literature PhDs.
On the one hand, this is fine, because I am driven to say in spite of my better instincts that my life would not be any different had I actually read Madame Bovary, that I am no worse the wear for not having read it. Yet I know in some way this is not true, that there is something in Mann or Goethe that would zing me terribly, matter heavily, and I probably will not find out what it is anytime soon.
But even worse is the suspicion that memory is becoming obsolete. I think back to Under theVolcano and remember the feeling of enjoying it, of being moved, and when I went back to reread it the first twenty pages were even more vital than I'd remembered. But I haven't finished the book again. And I don't remember it in the sort of detail that truly keeps it alive. The amount of wisdom I have taken away from it -- stylistically, morally, whatever -- is marginal. And I can't help but think that no small part of this is the continued irrelevance of robust memory to high performance in daily life and professional expertise -- even in academia.
Leading me to ask: is Proustianism obsolete? What does a culture look like where the furthest in search of lost time people wander is to YouTube clips of Herself the Elf? Yes, that's an exaggeration, but a six-volume novel you die before you finish was also an exaggeration, and now it's deemed a wonderful human specialization. Our specializations -- and the virtues they inspire -- would seem to be moving on.