Thursday, February 07, 2008

# Posted 4:07 PM by Patrick Porter  

STABBING IN THE BACK: As Mitt Romney withdrew from the campaign, he announced that 'frankly in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.'

So if you don't agree with Romney on Iraq and terrorism, you are in favour of surrendering to terror. How easily a commitment to national defence can degenerate into shrill accusations against other people's patriotism.

Hopefully in the rest of the campaign, John McCain stands above the urge to question his opponents' patriotism. And hopefully his critics don't indulge in similar rhetoric.
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It is perfectly logical. HRC and BO have both signaled positions on the war that are not to the GOP's way of thinking. The one thing everyone believes McCain will not do is to flee the battleground, and this is (per Romney, and I agree) the necessary and sufficient condition to coalesce around McCain as the Republican nominee.

I for one am alarmed at the notion of running away from Iraq. I think that would indeed be a surrender to terror. Must I not say so? Is the thought itself shrill, or only when voiced? What if I utter it in basso profundo? In short, how may Romney or I say the same thing so that it will be more acceptable unto you?

Besides, what has surrender to terrorism got to do with patriotism? Maybe it is the highest form of patriotism, like dissent. Like Sir Robin bravely ran away. Nobody said the engineers of Dunkirk were unpatriotic. So I think you are conflating some issues here. You're the one saying the Dems are unpatriotic, not Romney. Shame on you, you shrill accuser! ;>

To avoid this acrimony in future, it would be best if you were to issue a daily list of words, phrases, concepts and tones of voice that certain people are allowed to use.

I also am not in favour of withdrawing from Iraq, and support McCain.

But to be in favour of withdrawal is not necessarily to support surrendering to terror. There is a serious alternative argument that being there has mobilised and galvanised terror. I don't agree with that entirely, but its a legitimate alternative view.

In a time when we should be discussing strategy in a sober way, people are accusing others of being defeatists, traitors, or surrender merchants, and this is a discourse that is evident throughout the spectrum.
"is a serious alternative argument that being there has mobilised and galvanised terror."

What is the serious alternative?
How easily a commitment to national defence can degenerate into shrill accusations against other people's patriotism

Hence it's being the last refuge of scoundrels.
All right, Patrick, but I don't see a lot of restraint on the part of (those who advocate fleeing in terror) about the aims, motivations, honesty, integrity, brainpower and personal hygiene of those who think as you and I do.

But if you want to rise above it, and to be holier-than-thou, and advocate a Senatorially decorous style along the lines of my-learned-friend-and-colleague- may-not-have-fully-considered- the-lamentable-ramifications-of- premature-withdrawal-from-Iraq,

well, that is all very charming, but, among other things, simply not viable in this media environment of increasingly compressed soundbites. So no one will know you said it.

Romney did not call anyone defeatist, he did not say traitor. I am not sure whether expecting a partisan political figure to be so open-minded that his brains fall out, to give half his media time over to stating the opposite of his case, is either theoretically or practically fitting.

Will Hillary or Obama not be able to stand up and say Yes, it is a very good idea to surrender Iraq to chaos and the law of the jungle? Have they failed to do so in the past? Yes, they have cast the argument differently.

For a Republican to recast it in order to sweep away the camouflage of sophisticated rhetoric, and show what it is that the flowery phrases of their opponents really mean, is IMHO entirely fitting.

I wish John Kerry could be - not seriously hurt, just, say, jabbed with a hatpin - once for each Vietnamese boat person forced to flee the country after the fall of Saigon. Woken from a sound sleep with a bucket of cold water for each southerner forced into reeducation camps. Given a wart on his pretty face for ever one murdered in the camps, or by pirates in the South China Sea, or by sharks when their escapes failed.

But since it would be cruel to leave John Kerry without a drop of blood in his body, a sane REM wave in his brain, or a single human being who could look at his face without gagging, I think it's spot on to note, publicly, loudly, for the record, that his casual dismissal of the woes of the South Vietnamese populace - never mind his working to bring these woes about, just his sneering remarks to the effect that the fall of RN would lead to a few thousand people having a bit of a bad time - were both erroneous and in the, however unwitting, service of evil.

Some things you can't say nicely. Some things aren't nice. But if they are true and they are necessary, perhaps one must say them anyway.
I should also note that people who it is now safe to despise, because they tended to be Republicans, made similar arguments leading up to WWII (far fewer after kickoff).

And that many, whom it is touchy to despise, because they were Democrats, did so much more virulently, leading up to, and also during and after, the onset of the Civil War.

But calling such people "copperheads" would of course be extreme, polarizing, unfair.

I should also note that the reasoned arguments you reference all come under the usefully Clintonian heading of "woulda, coulda, shoulda." In other words, maybe in fact it was better for some reason to leave Iraq to the tender mercies of Saddam.

That in no way means that consequently, it is better that we should precipitously withdraw. Sure, you shouldn't have stuck your appendage in that moustrap/rat-trap/bear-trap, let's say. But if you just pull till you come free, you will leave a piece behind. Far better to first release the jaws of the trap; and more prudent still to wedge them open, to release the spring, etc.

But they are free to spout any wild theories they like, because they haven't the power and the consequent responsibility. Actually they do - they could defund the war in five minutes - so let 'em.

[sound of crickets]

Because, of course, they would be torn apart. And who to save them? Obama Girl?

in some ways we are in furious agreement on policy.

the difficulty with your position is that you will also be maligned- Andrew Sullivan who once called critics of the Bush Administration treacherous fifth columnists now brands others as 'stab in the back' mythmakers like German nationalists after world war one.

And people who get mightily offended when others question their patriotism then freely call General Petraeus a traitor and Bush Hitler.

The whole thing just degenerates into a vicious cacophany and serious argument evaporates.

You are probably right that this will happen anyway. I'm just not looking forward to it.
I'm glad to hear that we agree at least on weekends. I expect an Australian to exhibit some rudiments of good sense ;>

As for 'will happen,' I think you are politely trying to avoid the fact that it is happening, has happened, and has happened for a long - reasonable people may differ on how long - time, with no end in sight.

I think that part of the problem - won't allow myself to look so foolish as to say "THE problem" - is a lack of trust. Prisoner's Dilemma, I believe they call it.

Who is brave/stupid enough to trust the other?

I think the newest thinking in logical game theory is that the best strategy is Tit for Tat; more gently, the Golden Rule; less gently, the Chicago Way. I have no better answer than you.

I think we can agree that Andrew Sullivan is an excitable boy. I took amusement at his vitriol when it was in a common cause, even as I will say I popped the odd eyebrow; now looking back, it's like one big tantrum.

For my part I can only try to rein in my temper and be as decorous and patient as I can in these various fora. It takes work but somebody hopefully is better off and I suppose I benefit from the exercise.

Really it's like politics and the swing voter - 10%, or 20%, or 2% are on the fence; the rest know what they know; and the key is to reach those who haven't locked in yet. So if they are reasoning beings, as some are, how best to approach? I feel it is useful to be on my best behavior. And if there are slings and arrows, it is only verbal, after all. Flame wars are...well, they are what they are.

Of course I myself would vote for a Democrat in five minutes if he or she would convince me they have a better plan for winning the war than the Republicans. Always open to ideas. Ideas?


So they don't really force me to think. Their loss. Whether they could or not if they chose, is perhaps unkind to speculate.

On the bright side, if Hillary (I cannot believe the Billary team will not defeat Obama, with lead if need be, but I guess the same goes for him) wins in November, everything will turn rosy as the NYT, etc., etc., see that it is safe to look on the bright side. So that'll help, I suppose.
And speaking of credit and being maligned - while anyone can pick static out of clear air and call it signal, I would say that President Bush has been as Christlike, if you will, in refusing to malign his opponents, as any human could be expected to be.

If I myself in his shoes wouldn't put people in camps, wouldn't show them pictures of them in bed with dead girls or live boys, wouldn't tap their phones and milk their FBI files, wouldn't damn well disappear them or their families - I like to think I wouldn't - it would only be due to winning a constant struggle.
Stress, to quote a vulgar (apologies) joke, can be defined as "the suppression of the desire to choke the living shit out of some asshole who desperately needs it."

People say Bush is angry, wicked, mean, unfair; they say this of the US government in general; they say it of conservatives. All I can say is, they ain't seen nothing yet. Literally they cannot conceive of true oppression. Unless and until it happens to them.

Projection, transference, whatever $150/hr words you like: IMHO, in broad, the Dems blame the GOP for, accuse them of, the offenses the Dems themselves perpetrate. I can't see an answer for the Republicans but Tit for Tat - to fight back - to show them what it's like. Except the Dems may be at a state of psychological fragility where they would simply crack. Assuming of course that they haven't.

Of course these could be the words of the man in the straitjacket who thinks himself the warden. But in fact I think it has been so advantageous for the left to play this game this way that whether they mean it is almost academic. Once it no longer profits them, then whether they stop or not will be more informative.

Postscript: your word verification typefaces are too demanding. Can't you dial the distortion down a bit? Esp. seeing as I must sign in anyway.
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