The Dartmouth Observer
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
And speaking of pacifism and Shelby Grantham...
The D has the story here. Professor Grantham has a "fervent belief in the goodness of all peoples."
Update: you can read a response here.
Speaking of Conspiracy Theories...
Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn on The Fellowship of the Ring
Recent articles on the Great Neoconspiracy
- The Chronicle of Higher Education
- The Economist
- The New York Observer
This thing cut my body text out of that post and won't let me edit it. Dammit!
I was trying to say that the BBC has reported the surrender attempts of the Iraqi information minister. The US has declined to arrest him. Let us hope he is taken in for safekeeping before he is destroyed like Iraq's other cultural treasures.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Right to Life
Never thought the day would come when I'd see myself actively and rather vehemently defending Singapore, and on a public blog no less.
Last week (Friday, April 25), the Toronto Star published this article. The article's derisive tone -
"But the price of avoiding the dreaded WHO label has come at a high price for Singapore's citizens. The city-state has imposed strict rules on those in quarantine that are usually only seen by those serving jail sentences at home in Ontario.
"...The Singapore Government exercises so much control over its people and institutions that it has instructed the phone company to disconnect call-forwarding capabilities on the home telephones of those under watch. That way they can't transfer the calls to mobile cell phones to escape reporting from inside their houses."
- implied that Singapore's government is a paternalistic, overprotective nanny state, and that its citizens have few rights, if any.
Granted, the government's anti-Sars measures - home quarantine, electronic surveillance, fines, etc - appear harsh to those more accustomed to a laissez-faire approach. But if people are going to be irresponsible and wander all over the place, possibly infecting dozens with a potentially life-threatening disease, something's got to be done, hasn't it? (The case of a family down with Sars, who wandered off to a coffeeshop and goodness knows where else, was highlighted at a Ministry of Health press conference the other day as 'irresponsible and selfish'. They had walked away from a clinic because 'the ambulance took too long to come'.) Yes, the vast majority of Singaporeans have a modicum of common sense, but then again there are those who don't.
When it comes to the crunch, which would you rather have? Your 'rights', or your life?
(I've got lots more on this, but am copping out for now by rushing off to work)
It's not true to imply, as Frank Webb does, that only "fully-tenured Government profs" are qualified to critique the war or offer foreign policy advice.
Chien Wen, let me clarify my position. I meant not to imply that only govy profs are qualified, what I meant to imply was a stab at Grantham's status as a "senior lecturer" because she apparently isn't qualified to be "fully-tenured." I lack the cojones to simply come out and say that her dubious position within her own department undercuts the quality of her movement. Professors in more pertinent departments have not come forward to pass a resolution and even in her own department, more senior professors have not taken the lead.
I do wholly agree with you, CW, when you more eloquently stated, "But those who do enter into the realm of debate, as Shelby Grantham, Ron Edsforth, David Montgomery, Lee Witters, and other Dartmouth professors have done, must realize that they have a lot of learning to do before they are in a position to take on Allan Stam and Daryl Press..."
From Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, which, if you don't read, you aren't really living (okay, just kidding):
"TMQ would like to point out that the war-for-oil analysis of Iraq is improbable. Even before the assault, the United States was freely buying Iraqi petroleum, about $10 billion a year's worth. The war, by White House estimates, will cost at least $75 billion and perhaps more, depending on reconstruction costs and the length of occupation. Historically, it has always proven much cheaper to purchase commodities than to seize them; the United States could simply buy many years' worth of Iraqi oil for less than the cost of the assault. Whatever else the war on Iraq might have been, it surely wasn't to seize a commodity currently in global oversupply anyway."
Monday, April 28, 2003
Some Words on State Sovereignty
Is it alright for another country to make assertions about another country's ruling regime that violate another state's sovereignty? And why are our values better than the values of another country?
Now here's a thought that's not quite comforting: state sovereignty exists for the great, and once great powers, to prevent the type of meddling and crusading within other state's borders that occurred prior to the Peace of Westphalia (1648). State sovereignty is not a property inherent within any state; it is a privilege secured by a state's position in the international system, which is determined by its military capabilities, its alliances, and its economic importance. In so far as America is much more powerful than Iraq; had been, until the advent of the recent war, patrolling large amounts of territory in Iraq; and Iraq was functionally* isolated from the Arab and Islamic worlds, the state possessed little of this stuff we call 'sovereignty.'
Lest one think that I have applied a double standard to countries based on their material capabilities, I would maintain that all states fear for their own survival. The difference between the great, and once great, powers and the rest of the world is that while great powers have the ability to project power and can guarantee their own existence, non-powers do not have this luxury. The farther a state is down on the food chain, the more likely that a bad move, like invading Kuwait, will result in one's country being either expunged or subservient to outside political leadership. As Mearsheimer said, "In international relations, God helps those who help themselves...it pays [for states] to be selfish in a self-help world. This is true in the short term as well as in the long term, because if a state loses in the short run, it might not be around for the long haul." (Tragedy of Great Power Politics, p.33)
*Functionally means that even though there were many pro-Iraq sentiments from the Arab and Islamic world, this balancing act occurred in rhetoric only. When the Brits, Aussies and Americans landed in Iraq, not one Arab or Islamic country intervened with troops and tanks to slow the American halt. Most of Iraq's neighbors were happy to see its demise.
Problem With Pacifism?
I always see pacifism as an untenable position - it seems to negate the very real power relations that exist between individuals and between states.
Certainly no argument from me on that point. Pacifism may be desirable as an ideal, yet I believe it is an ideal not well suited to our imperfect world, and one that may cause more harm than good.
But I want to pose a question - one to which I certainly don't have the answer: in our world, is pacifism even desirable as an ideal? I would like to say that the answer is yes, because several great leaders whom I revere - Ghandi and MLK Jr., for example, and of course J.C. - were pacifists, and did incalculable good in this world. Yet I cannot help but think that there is a selfish nature to pacifism, one that places personal moral comfort above the wellbeing of others.
Let's say I'm walking down the street when I see a mugger about to stab an old woman (or a fit young teenager, for that matter). I could intervene, and potentially save a life. I would certainly consider that a good thing to do. But if I am a pacifist in the purest sense of the word, then I cannot use force to protect the victim. I could try an alternate intervention, like calling the police (but how is getting others to use force preferable to my using force?) or trying to get the mugger to stop without using force. But if I try to somehow talk the mugger down and fail then I have left the victim defenseless, and call me a skeptic but I don't think a lecture from me is going to deter most muggers. So the end result is that I not only fail to do good, by not saving a life, but I have allowed harm to come to another. What I receive in return is my own moral satisfaction that I stuck with my principles and didn't use force. It seems very selfish to me to put my moral satisfaction above the life of another.
Now, there are some caveats here. I cannot be sure if force will accomplish what I want it to - but I do feel more sure about that than about my non-violent alternatives. If I have been divinely commanded to refrain from violence (as some believe we are, but I honestly do not think that they make up the majority of pacifists, though I doubt the numbers have ever been crunched), then perhaps obedience to divine will is more important than doing good. But I hardly like that belief system. Maybe the victim can look forward to a happy afterlife, but how can I know that, and who am I to judge that it is alright for a life to be taken on such grounds?
The only system in which I can see pacifism working is a world in which all individuals are essentially good, or at least can be reasoned with. Then violence would not be necessary, and non-violence could spawn more non-violence, paying off in the end. But I honestly believe that we are not all angels at heart. I believe there are evil and sadistic people in this world, and even more people who - evil or not - cannot or will not listen to reason. And as long as these people exist, any unwillingness to confront them - at times with violence - only allows them to practice their violence without being checked. In this world, I do not believe pacifism can work in most situations, and when it fails many pay dearly for our self-indulgence.
Any thoughts? I can't claim to be an expert on the subject, so there may be theological/philosophical lines of argument that I'm missing.
Discarding Historical Baggage
The war has done strange things to ideological labels (as if they weren't already hopelessly imprecise). Those in favor of the war, the neoconservatives, wish to upset the geopolitical status quo, by toppling a dictator, in the hope that democracy will eventually be realized in Iraq (and, even further along the road, the Middle East). Meanwhile, the majority of those opposed to the war, who call themselves liberal, would rather a more gradual, less radical approach to dealing with Saddam Hussein (inspections, diplomacy, etc.).
It's all about the end of the Cold War. Back when the Soviet Union was still a force to be reckoned with, conservative realpolitik meant siding with nasty, non-Communist dictators against nasty, Communist dictators. Liberal opposition to such maneuvering on the basis of human rights was, in many ways, justified. Since 1992, however, geopolitics has changed, and the neocons seem to have realized this; they're on the right side of History, if you'll excuse the pun. Without Communism to fight, realpolitik in the Cold War sense can be consigned to the dustbin of history, and a new, more idealistic foreign policy put in its place. Such a policy is essentially liberal in its outlook, but is tempered by conservative tough-mindedness and pragmatism.
Left-leaning opponents of the war have long memories of American realpolitik during the Cold War. Such historical awareness is good to have, but the left, because of its involvement in Communism, cannot use it to claim the moral high ground. It cannot say, as many have done, 'Look at what you've done in the past! You're doing the same thing again, and I oppose that.' Leftists love trotting out that picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein way back in 1983, in order to level accusations of hypocrisy and dishonesty at the Defence Secretary and, by extension, the Bush administration. Such a critique supposes a continuity in America foreign policy that, as I've tried to point out, doesn't exist. The Rummy of today is in many ways different from the Rummy of ten years ago, and that's a good thing: would you want him to be shaking hands with Saddam Hussein today?
A second tendency on the part of the left is to homogenize means and ends. By launching a pre-emptive strike on Iraq with the ultimate intention of building democracy in the country, the neocons are doing something pretty audacious and seemingly paradoxical: they're claiming that an essentially liberal goal can be accomplished by illiberal means. My good friend John Stevenson, well-schooled in the writings of Henry Kissinger, is skeptical, as I'm sure are many good leftists at Free Dartmouth. But whereas John - correct me if I'm wrong - doesn't think that democracy can be imposed upon another country, the more strenuous critics of the war don't even think that the Bush administration's ultimate goals are liberal (because the means certainly aren't). Cue much talk about imperialism, Zionist conspiracies, oil hegemonies, et al. To the first point, the response should be: democracy and force are not incompatible. True democracy must be cultivated from the bottom up, but a climate that allows such cultivation to take place may have to be created forcefully. A recent Foreign Affairs article by Adeed and Karen Dawisha suggests that the prospects for democracy in Iraq are not as bleak as they seem.
To the second point, I can only say: show me the proof. The coalition is unearthing documents linking British MPs, French intelligence, and al-Qaeda to Iraq (we'll see if they're authentic or not). The conspiracy theorists need to do the same thing, else their theories remain just that - fanciful ideas that can be used to stir up reflexive anti-Bush sentiment. Unfortunately, as Jon Schroeder points out in his post just below, intellectuals, particularly liberal intellectuals, are very prone to theorizing without substantiation. It comes from being in academia, and dare I say it, from too much post-structuralist theory. It's not true to imply, as Frank Webb does, that only "fully-tenured Government profs" are qualified to critique the war or offer foreign policy advice. But those who do enter into the realm of debate, as Shelby Grantham, Ron Edsforth, David Montgomery, Lee Witters, and other Dartmouth professors have done, must realize that they have a lot of learning to do before they are in a position to take on Allan Stam and Daryl Press, let alone the likes of Kenneth Pollack (author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq). I'd be hypocritical if I said that specialized knowledge about International Relations is necessary. But people like Grantham lack even the most basic facts with which to make a sensible argument, and for a person with a PhD teaching at a university, that is unacceptable.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right
I'm not really going to address Frank's friend's claims, which, aside from being poorly written, are generally ridiculous. (Iraq the most tyrannical regime outside of Stalin's and Hitler's? Didn't Mao kill 30 million, or am I crazy? But I digress...) However, I do think the conservative backlash at the liberal intellectual movement is somewhat justified. I often get the sense that the liberal intellectuals care little about the actual fate of the Iraqi people. Instead, they are more concerned with domestic politics; their main concern is with, in Alvin Pang's words, "an ascendent hawkish Republican administration that is prepared to push through its own right-leaning agenda (which includes anti-abortion policies, tax cuts for the wealthy, scaling down on environmental efforts and what its own intellectuals see as neo-imperialist ambitions of replacing one regime with another in order to gain territorial, economic and geopolitical benefits in the Middle East)."
Thus the liberal intellectuals care more about their own political goals than the genuine improvement of the lives of the many. My main problem with groups such as Poets against the war is that they don't understand that a state must weigh many priorities and create a hierarchy of needs. For example, environmentalists who broadly proclaim that no wilderness should be destroyed fail to understand that capitalism entails more and more land usage, more and more production. Preservation must be balanced with the destruction and renewal entailed by the economy. And this is to name only one example.
The recent waves of protests have made protesting an end in and of itself, perhaps due to the glorification and commodification of the Vietnam protests by the media and others. The spectacle is about itself, rather than to promote a cause. It has become a social gathering and a way to show off one's political plumage. Of course there are people genuinely devoted to particular causes, but more and more people get lost in this quagmire. This development is rather disheartening.
Frank makes an important point when he writes "She should stick to writing poetry about war, I'll take my foreign policy advice and debate from fully-tenured Government profs." Too often it seems that the liberal viewpoint is tainted by people with no real understanding of issues in international relations. I always see pacificism as an untenable position -- it seems to negate the very real power relations that exist between individuals and between states. If Ms. Grantham can suggest another ordering of society, then she is by all means justified to maintain her position. Countries will go to war with other countries. What is actually a cogent argument to bring up would be to ask when is one country justified to invade another country. Is it alright for another country to make assertions about another country's ruling regime that violate another state's sovereignty? And why are our values better than the values of another country?
Certainly we have milked our own moral impetus given by Sept. 11 as much as we can. Now maybe we can begin to ask the right questions about our decisions.
And to amuse everyone in blogger-land, this just in....
A blitz sent from a friend of mine to Shelby Grantham:
Date: 28 Apr 2003 00:15:29 EDT
Subject: just a few questions
To: Shelby S. Grantham
what exactly don't you like about the war in Iraq? is it the liberation of millions of people from the most tyrannical regime the world has seen outside of stalin or hitler? the crushing of a government that had already invaded two of its neighbors and certainly had no signs of stopping? stopping funds and weapons information from going to terrorist organizations? the gift of democracy to millions? the opportunity for them to live their lives much closer to the way that we are so privileged to have?
the way the war was fought (with the US forces doing everything humanly possible to reduce collateral damage, while the iraqi forces used citizens as human shields and forced them to drive trucks through US checkpoints on what were essentially suicide missions to make the US look bad in the eyes of the world) shows the total disregard of the iraqi regime for its people, and the US's noble effort to free them. it simply baffles me that after a war that was as successful as almost any in world history that you could possibly Still oppose it, while Iraqis celebrate their freedom. I am baffled. President Bush put himself on the line, and when SOME countries (remember, more than 50 countries supported the US, many of whom were eastern european countries, recently freed from communism, who understand what living in such a society is like) who had huge economic incentives to keep Saddam's terrible regime in power wanted just more resolutions, giving saddam more time when he had ignored resolutions for 600 weeks, Bush refused to let this charade also known as the UN attempt to solve this huge problem. He has shown guts to a level that few leaders have ever been able to, then succeeded, and you want to condemn his actions? please enlighten me as to what was done wrong by the United States, I'm sure you have a long list of examples of how our country has wronged the world, just give me one of your stock reasons that the US is terrible, i'm sure it won't take long.
and her response:
>Date: 28 Apr 2003 00:47:29 EDT
>From: Shelby S. Grantham
>Subject: Re: just a few questions
I don't like war anywhere.
Faculty considering passing a resolution and may prove itself as powerful an actor in Foreign Affairs as the UN
Apparently, faculty member Shelby Grantham is trying to get the Faculty to pass a resolution condemning the U.S.'s actions in Iraq and its current occupation. A "senior lecturer" from the English department, here is an excerpt from her department profile:
I teach writing. It's the second-best way I know to figure things out. Some of the things I want to figure out with students are what to do about racism, how to make non-violence a national priority, why so few students think they can make a difference (and whether they are right), what poetry is good for, when and how to resist injustice, whether it's possible to share the planet with other species, what gender has to do with anything, and where to seek words to make these questions ring and their answers sing.
First, consult this from Michigan University on how qualified Ms. Grantham must be as a "lecturer" or browse this description from the Dartmouth Faculty Handbook. Secondly, ask yourself what place does the Faculty Association have on passing such a resolution? Just what sort of role does or should the Faculty Association play in making foreign policy decisions? I realize that she probably feels our Faculty should "make a statement" to let the Hawks in Washington know how they feel, but is Acadamia's position on this war seriously in doubt? Frankly, Ms. Grantham's resolution is yet another example of the Faculty perhaps exceeding its mandate. Remember the 88-0 vote in favor of abolishing the Greek System? (Where were the other 400+ faculty on that vote, by the way?) I could write you a rant on what role stuffy academics who studied too much as undergrads and went on to more yet more school should have in deciding what I should do with my social life, but that's a different bone to pick. Perhaps the Faculty should be concerned with more pertinent issues in their students' lives such as not enough housing, shrinking library staff or maybe, just maybe how they're being required to publish more and teach less all while their classes increase in size year after year thanks to the Admissions people (both my senior "seminars" this year were 20-something students instead of the 16 mandated by the Government Department).
Bottomline, Ms. Grantham can pursue her own political agenda on her own time (and apparently in her own classes). She should stick to writing poetry about war, I'll take my foreign policy advice and debate from fully-tenured Government profs.
National Review Online has been hacked! As of right now, the following message appears instead of the usual page:
Hacked by DarkHunter ... Freedom for palestian and Iraq ... gr33tz to #USG and #teso channels
Saturday, April 26, 2003
The coalition's finding it difficult at the present moment to uncover Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Should this be surprising? You don't expect Iraq to just leave the weapons lying around, do you? While material evidence for WMDs has yet to be found - I'm fairly certain they will be found - the amount of written testimony is overwhelming. The New York Times - that bastion of right-wing reactionary sentiment - reports here on a leading Iraqi scientist who has recently spilled the beans on Saddam's biological arsenal: "8.9 cubic meters of concentrated liquid anthrax, one of the deadliest and most durable germ weapons, and even larger quantities of botulinum toxin, one of the most lethal poisons." Testimonies such as these from top Ba'ath officials will go a long way, hopefully, towards uncovering the WMDs and then eliminating them.
United in hate?
Of the reasons proposed for going to war, that which linked Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden seemed to me to be the most tenuous, as no concrete evidence as far as I know it had been presented by the administration prior to the invasion. However, as CNN reports, the coalition has unearthed documents that might very well confirm their suspicions. It may be early in the game, but what's been discovered looks pretty damning to me. (No doubt there will be those who claim that the documents were forged.) Despite the major differences in ideology between the secular Saddam and the Islamist bin Laden, perhaps their joint hatred of the US may bring them together. We do know that Saddam has terrorist training camps in the north of the country (the coalition bombed them, if I recall), after all. Watch this space in the coming weeks and months.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Top Iraqi leaders captured so far (courtesy of Fox News)
- No. 10 Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti, who headed Iraq's air defenses under Saddam. Queen of diamonds.
- No. 18 Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi, former member of Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and central Euphrates regional commander. Played key role in brutal suppression of Shiite Muslim uprising of 1991. Queen of spades.
- No. 21 Gen. Zuhayr Talib Abd al-Sattar al-Naqib, former head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Seven of hearts.
- No. 24 Samir Abd al-Aziz al-Najim, senior figure in Saddam's Baath Party. Four of clubs.
- No. 40 Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, Saddam's son-in-law and deputy head of the Tribal Affairs Office. Nine of clubs.
- No. 43 Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister.
- No. 45 Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim al-Azzawi, finance minister and deputy prime minister. Eight of diamonds.
- No. 48 Muhammad Mahdi al-Salih, former trade minister. Six of hearts.
- No. 51 Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, Saddam's half brother. Five of spades.
- No. 52 Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, another half brother of Saddam. Five of clubs.
- No. 54 Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Gafar, Iraq's minister of higher education and scientific research. Four of hearts.
- No. 55 Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, who officials say led Iraq's unconventional weapons programs. Seven of diamonds.
Has everyone seen this silly blitz?
No one is pro-sweatshop, but perhaps you don't know the details of the issue or what to do about it....
...easy solution: CUT YOUR TAGS!!!
Tag-cutting will be going on all day today (thursday) and through monday, 4/28. What it means is that YOU cut out your tags - specifically from Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Abercrombie, and Tommy Hilfiger clothing - and put them in the receptacles in your dorms. These will be either on your bulletin board or that of the floor above/below you. You can also bring them to Collis anytime tonight 5-8pm.
Then WE send thousands of tags to the CEO of the above companies, along with a letter requesting:
1) That they disclose the locations of all their factories (right now, no one knows exactly where they are operating, which makes it virtually impossible to investigate their labor practices....)
2) That they allow their workers to unionize (a very simple and basic HUMAN RIGHT)
This is not a radical concept. We are not asking you to boycott a store. We are not asking the companies to shut down any factories. We are not even pushing for them to pay a living wage, give vacation times, or give health care to those who get sick due to working conditions. We are just asking for two basic steps that will allow impartial inspections to occur and allow workers to organize (and then make any further demands themselves). This has been a very successful technique in convincing companies to begin to clean up their act. Join the movement. Take 5 minutes to think of the people behind your clothes. Take 5 minutes to do a simple and easy good deed.
*sponsored by the dartmouth college greens
I believe the author(s) of the blitz assume(s) too much when alledging that no one is 'pro-sweatshop.' Some of us do support poor people having jobs. Of course while we pat ourselves on the back for our 'service to humanity' people will starve if not become less well off as a result of our good deeds. The other great line is that we should honor their 'basic human right' to unionize. 'Basic human rights' is another one of those terms that has become vacuous due to overuse. No one has a basic right to unionize and you are either a fool or a liar if you actually believe that rather radical proposition about the rights of workers. But I guess we should let the idealistic have their illusions, even if they prove to be detrimental to others.
Explaining the obvious
Maybe somewhere along the line both John and Robert have missed the point, but what I first meant by my criticism is that oftentimes commentators skip the actual commenting (in your words: "advancing an argument") and instead heap on the piles of indignation, rather than take up the actual argument.
Thank you for that rather detailed explanation, John, of why people act the way they do, but I think that this rhetorical style would fail in any debate system I've come across. What would happen if, instead of a rebuttal, a presidential candidate quoted at length his opponent's speech, and then made one witty comment about the speech and refused to say anything more? Oh wait, wouldn't that be the current trend in political speeches today? It is certainly a trend that appalls the people at UPenn's Annenberg School of Communications such as Kathleen Hall Jameson and the UMichigan quant. American gov't people. And to put it in Stevenson-ese, I have called this the "grand art of BS-ing."
I'm a bit curious how you begin by saying that indignation is a good way to advance an argument and then say that one facet of indignation is "logic plus," or whatever you want to call it, which you define as dirty tricks such as ad hominem attacks, resort to satirical or ironic means, and unethical means of making a "presence attack." How is this a productive way to address an argument when it does not "[add] anything to the debate?"
By calling Free Pressers Communists and Dartloggers Nazis, we only polarize debate on this little campus of ours and make people waste their time on issues of semantics, something that the Reviewseems to love to do. (Witness their unerring eye for omissions of the Review name in The Dartmouth.) And school debate is made more insipid by these incidents; when The Zetemouth was released, the school was again divided between supporters and enemies of the Greek system and we learned far less from the incident than we could have potentially.
Avoiding inflammatory arguments at least makes it possible to engage in mediation and negotiation. The BS unethical attacks are the suicide bombers of campus discourse.
Side note: Why do you have to write like Homi Bhabha on speed? I'm guilty of sounding like a pompous ass at times too, but maybe we can cool it with the a prioris and insider terms such as hawks and doves. Let's strive for lucid prose without the high falutin' rhetoric. We all go to Dartmouth and we're all smart kids.
North Korea admits to having nuclear weapons, claims it has reprocessed spent fuel rods, and threatens to sell plutonium at U.S./China/North Korean talks.
Reply to JdSS: On Blogging and Logic Plus
The feedback mechanism wasn't working so I post here.
Indignation is always a good jumping point for advancing an argument. It is a way to juxtapose another argument direct contrasting yours for the purpose of comparison. The goal is to demonstrate the utter bankruptcy or fallaciousness of the opposing argument and to maintain that yours is more reasonable/ rational/ just than theirs. Sometimes one feels that the utter silliness of other's opinions should be exposed and refuted in a systematic manner. I have dubbed that 'deprogramming.' The last reason is to observe the blatant abuses of logic, in a technique that I call 'logic plus.'
Logic plus is taking an argument that most likely has bad premises and unethically pulling 'dirty tricks' through uses of the word clearly et al. (obviously, etc.), appeals to guilt and victimization, ad hominem attacks or making trivially true statements laced with emotive underpinning as an appeal to the heartstrings. Examples are: 'clearly, no one can dispute that the war in Iraq was about oil.' 'For some people strict constructionism and original intent of the Constitution will take us back to the time where some of us were on 3/5ths of a person' or 'Sure, voting is all well and good but what the Florida 2000 fiasco shows is that some of us still count as 3/5ths of a person. If my vote doesn't count in white America, why should I use it?' 'Did Bush call Daddy to see if this war was a good idea?' 'This war will kill civilians. Thousands of mothers will loose their children to bombs and starvation. If Bush wasn't so interested in taking over the world, he might stop and think about all those poor Iraqi citizens.’ None of the logic plus maneuvers adds anything to the debate and operates as a 'presence attack' on the other person argument. If I dismissed all my favorite bloggers as Communists (Free Dartmouth) or Nazis (Dartloggers) that would also be logic plus.*
Note: I don't actually believe that the Dartloggers are Nazis. I was employing an example that I have heard others use. The people who usually resort to the 'don’t-be-like Hitler' arguments generally have a wayward relationship with the truth. Though I must admit, making the 'Nazis did it' argument is fun: Hitler was a vegetarian so clearly (note the use of the word) people who don't eat me are bad.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
When War, Indeed
John Stevenson asks:
'When War' would take the more naunced approach that sometimes war is justified, and sometimes peace is immoral. When these situations exist should be determined based on some basic principles and a case-by-case analysis. I hope that readers are willing to offer comments on when they feel that interventions are justified and whether specious reasons like democratization are sufficient.
Well, the obvious response is that there is no magic formula: you can’t just plug in numbers and crunch out an answer, ‘war’ or ‘not war.’ Instincts, intuition, and nuance will always play a supporting role, if only because of the imperfection of intelligence and the uncertainty of the opposition’s motives. However, I think one basic consideration is fairly constant, and can be examined in more detail:
Will the nation (in cases of national security) or the world (in murkier cases of intervention) be safer as the result of war, and will the general human condition be improved?
This question has murky areas of its own. First, which is more important – national security or global security? This will be highly controversial, but I will posit for now that American national security and global security are essentially the same. Whether by choice or not, and whether you agree with it or not, America now plays the role of global big brother. American military predominance, combined with an active and involved foreign policy, dampens world aggression, since no nation can safely expect to win an all-out fight with the American military. This essentially limits the targets of possible aggression to (in the case of non-nuclear powers) minor campaigns that do not threaten any American or Western interests, and are not horrific enough to merit intervention on human rights grounds, or (in the case of nuclear powers) side campaigns that do not threaten vital American interests and thus do run the risk of a nuclear exchange. Furthermore, entire regions of the globe – such as Europe and Japan/South Korea – are essentially dependent on American power projection and the American nuclear shield for protection from outside threats, and for the subversion of internal conflict. So, while American military actions may be entirely self-interested – which many of them are, though others are not – the side result is a general reduction in interstate war. However, any real or perceived American insecurity that caused America to focus on self-defense to the exclusion of other global conflicts would thus weaken America’s role as a global stabilizer. Thus, for the purposes of this analysis, I posit that American security and global security are essentially interchangeable. This simplifies one aspect of the question.
What is good for the general human condition? First, I will assume that the human condition is improved when people are granted access to more basic human rights: equal treatment under the law, freedom of speech and religion, the right to due process, etc. That these fundamental rights are desirable is probably pretty well agreed upon. (Please, no posts about how American society isn’t really ‘equal’ or ‘free.’ Deficiencies and all, we do pretty well compared to much of the world. Besides, the absolute amount of rights is less important to the analysis than the relative gain/loss of rights that war will produce, so the initial state matters only in its comparison with the new, resulting state.) A more controversial proposition will be that the spread of democratic government is good for the human condition. But I will offer that point now for this general reason: democracies usually offer much individual freedom, whereas autocracies are generally supported by individual repression. Individuals in a free society, if they wish to live more restricted lives (say, on the basis of a religious code) may do so by choosing not to exercise various freedoms; individuals in a restrictive society who wish to live differently cannot, As always, this is an oversimplification, but generally it leads me to posit that democratization improves the general human condition by allowing more people to live as they would wish.
Alright. Now that the general purposes for which war may be justified have been established, some more specific questions emerge:
1) How tolerable is the status quo?
2) What tools can be used to improve on the security/human condition of the status quo?
3) Is war the most effective tool in the given situation?
4) With what certainty can the net change in the status quo be predicted?
5) Does that change justify the costs of war?
Again, these questions are far from exhaustive and far from concrete, but I think they are a pretty good template for determining if a war is justifiable.
I won’t go into any detailed analysis of how these questions applied the situation in Iraq, partly because it’s late and I’m tired and partly because I suspect most people know my position and can predict my answers. But this is the general model I used to examine the situation.
Sorry you asked, John? That was a bit long.
Articles for the Day
- Oleaginous: 1) Of or relating to oil; 2) Falsely or smugly earnest; unctuous: oleaginous flattery. Lovely word, ain't it? It's the centerpiece of this article by Chris Hitchens on the question of oil in Iraq.
- Reason on Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright turned politician, one of the most prominent anti-Communist liberals of this century. Speaking of anti-communist, Eastern European personalities, here's a personal note: Lech Walesa, Havel's Polish counterpart, was at Dartmouth in the spring of my freshman year (01S), and thanks to Prof. Whelan in the History Department, I got to have dinner with him at the Montgomery House. I then attended the lecture he delivered in Spaulding Auditorium. My overall impression of the former electrician turned freedom fighter was that he was, to use an electrical metaphor, not too bright. (This is not to discredit what he did, of course.) Perhaps it was the translator. Havel, by contrast, is a real thinker, someone whom I'd like to see at the College as a Montgomery Fellow, or even as a Commencement Speaker.
There are many anti-war protestors in the trans-Atlantic developed country zone and in the modernizing Middle East who held, and still hold, the opinion that the war we fought was immoral. Robert, quoting Mill, suggests that the bankruptcy of spirit, 'the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war', is more condemnable than any war. Chien Wen sided in favor of the war, the liberation and democratization of Iraq in his schema, as a basic commitment to human rights. The anti-war movement could have been captured by the clever buzz phrase 'Why War?' as many on campus sought to do. The truly reasonable anti-war crowd and/or the part-time doves would rally under the phrase 'When War' if only to emphasize that the flurry of protest that erupted was not suggesting that war was never justifiable, but that this war, right now was not justifiable.
Why 'When War' then? 'When War' emphasizes that a priori we doves realize that war is sometimes necessary but not in all cases. We also note that some states of non-belligerency are more dangerous/ more unethical than the pursuit of war. In fact what activists such as David, Chien Wen, Andrew or Robert would suggest is: for the Sunnis, the Kurds or the Shi'ia of Iraq the situation we call 'peace' was positively horrific. 'When War' would take the more naunced approach that sometimes war is justified, and sometimes peace is immoral. When these situations exist should be determined based on some basic principles and a case-by-case analysis. I hope that readers are willing to offer comments on when they feel that interventions are justified and whether specious reasons like democratization are sufficient.
What I found most interesting is that while we in the West protested the war, many of the Kurds and most notably the Kuwaitis greeted the war with nothing but enthusiasm. On the first day of the war, the headlines in Kuwait were 'It's about time.' The Financial Times of London opines on the current Kuwaiti "Most of Kuwait's 750,000 citizens have loathed Mr. Hussein since he invaded their country in 1990, and have felt grateful to the US for liberating them the next year. Yet Kuwait knows that by siding with Washington it has exposed itself not just to terrorism and Iraqi missiles - 17 were fired at Kuwait after the invasion of Iraq began - but also to the danger of isolation in the Arab and Muslim worlds." I hope that this war won't have too many repercussions against the Kuwaitis. They persued the course that they thought was correct.
"Kuwaitis not only supported the war in large numbers, many also welcome the likely after-effects in the Middle East. Even those who are uneasy about the US military presence in Kuwait are keen on "democratizing" the region, a goal that unites normally hostile camps of liberalism and Islamism. Of all Gulf states, Kuwait has the longest record of experimenting with modern democratic institutions."
Games and War, Cont'd
Germany has banned the display or advertisement of the popular PC game Command & Conquer: Generals within that country. Stores may not advertise the game or even display the box openly; games must be kept under the counter and can be sold only to adults who request them by name. The government's rationale for the restrictions is that Generals portrays realistic violence and presents "war as the only option."
Well, a heck of a lot of games portray realistic violence and present war not only as the only option, but the coolest option, and almost none have received such treatment in Germany. What is worth noting is that Generals contains a Baghdad level, which seems like the real reason that it's sale has been restricted. (The level and game were designed well before the current war in Iraq.) I guess that when Germany said they would have no part in fighting in Iraq, they really meant it.
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Should the last entry be retitled, "What would a 19th century British imperialist (and admittedly amazing thinker) living before the horrible end of nationalist fervor known as World War I do?" Well, of course not -- that would be far too long -- but you will probably get my point that we should remember our history before bluntly submitting the aphorism-of-the-day on a blog in order to support our own opinions.
If we're going to disqualify all political and philosophical works by writers who either (A) lived before World War I or (B) were European imperialists, then our body of knowledge becomes markedly thinner. Mill was an amazing thinker - that's the point. So were Locke, Hobbes, Marx, Machiavelli, Rousseau, and company. That is why their works are still part of the political discussion today. Remembering the past means remembering those thoughts that shaped the past, becasue they will influence the future as well - all the more so if they are dismissed and not discussed.
Who Wants To Rule Iraq?
New Fox Reality Show To Determine Ruler Of Iraq
OK, it's in The Onion. But - for a horrible spilt second - didn't you believe that it might be true? I bet Fox wishes they'd thought of it.
Not Coming To A PS2 Near You
Sony Computer Entertainment International - the good folks who bring you the PlayStation 2 - has withdrawn its trademark application for the phrase "Shock and Awe." Sony's American division had submitted the application on March 21, presumably to lock-up "Shock and Awe" for future use as a video game title. International management issued a statement calling the application an "exercise of regrettable bad judgment."
Battlefront.com, the publisher of the 3D tactical wargame Combat Mission, continues with their application to trademark "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
I'm a video game junkie, but a relevant criticism is that our perceptual differentiation between video games and wars that look an afwul lot like a video game is weakening. Video games and the military have a long relationship. Back in the 80s, the Defense Department comissioned Atari to enhance Battlezone - a popular arcade game - into a simulation for tank drivers. Marines recruits once practiced playing Doom. The Navy uses's Microsoft's Flight Simulator to train pilots for the T-34C, the real training aircraft that pilots learn on. The Army just released it's own game, America's Army, as a recruiting tool. And technology has gone the other way: Lockheed Martin once had a division that converted its graphics chips for military simulators into arcade technology, giving video game technology development a shot in the arm. The two will continue to merge - technology will make warfare more and more gamelike, and games will become more realistic at the same time that they tackle war as subject matter. Neither development is bad by itself; technology makes war less deadly and more precise (though I suppose some will argue that this is a bad thing, but that's another debate), and games - like movies, TV, and all other artistic media - can have much to say about history and war, in addition to producing some good entertainment. Medal of Honor isn't yet Saving Private Ryan, but the gap is closing quickly. The kinetic control of a video game creates unique opportunities as well.
But we must remain culturally conscious that games and war are not the same. Killing humans is not the same as killing pixels, or watching Tom Hanks die on screen, for that matter. How we will maintain that differentiation amid the night vision on CNN and America's Army is not so clear. It will take effort.
Should the last entry be retitled, "What would a 19th century British imperialist (and admittedly amazing thinker) living before the horrible end of nationalist fervor known as World War I do?" Well, of course not -- that would be far too long -- but you will probably get my point that we should remember our history before bluntly submitting the aphorism-of-the-day on a blog in order to support our own opinions.
Brief point about blogging that has always annoyed me: why do people find it so amusing to take a quote or blitz from somewhere and slap it up on a blog and then append a provocative headline? Are there no points worth debating other than pointing out one's own indignance at a particular opinion? Bloggers everywhere are guilty of this, and I don't think it's a coincidence that most people don't respond to these invitations to indignation.
What Would Mill Do?
"War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." - John Stuart Mill
ProtestWarrior has a rather remarkable video of the (in)famous San Francisco A.N.S.W.E.R. protest from before the war.
Campaigning with Posters? De-Recognize them!
Just when I thought student elections at Dartmouth could not be any more irrelevent, in the D today it seems some candidates have already been sanctioned for crimes committed. Amazingly, it seems that at Dartmouth, a candidate is responsible for the actions of his supporters. Actions that are as horrible as having hung too many signs on one wall of non-regulation size. Dastardly! The election process must be protected to ensure the legitimacy of the rubber-stamp on the policies of Parkhurst.
Monday, April 21, 2003
Andrew Grossman draws my attention to a new project of his, Dartblogs, a "site where Dartmouth students, faculty, staff, and alumni can create and host their own easily updated weblogs."
Burnishing my leftist credentials...
The Free Press has just received a 1,400 word article by yours truly on the cultural effects of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in Singapore. Out of respect for them, I won't be publishing the full article here until they do. Here's a teaser paragraph though:
The Chinese, Singapore's dominant ethnic group (of which I am a part), tend to be wedded to a particular belief structure that is anything but modern. Even a Dartmouth-educated government scholar with an abiding interest in English literature and intellectual history, and whose command of his "mother tongue" is anything but exemplary, will have relatives, friends, and neighbors who burn incense in homage to household "Kitchen Gods," consume tigers' testicles to stave off illness, and attend public temples packed with people in order to pray for divine intervention against one of the most contagious diseases known to man. I exaggerate, of course - somewhat. But on a serious note, many people's faith in traditional Chinese medicine has proved fatal. When one falls ill with a high fever right now, the thing to do, knowing that one has most probably contracted SARS, is to get to a hospital immediately, where powerful and proven medicine can be administered speedily. Instead, more than one SARS victim has chosen self-treatment with traditional medicine, a course of action that usually results in death. Now is not the time for ethnocentrism. 90 percent of SARS patients recover completely from the virus - provided, of course, they check themselves in early to a modern hospital. And the hospitals here are, without exception, top-notch.
Friday, April 18, 2003
Love conservatism? Hate Poetry?
Check out the latest issue of the Jack-O-Lantern for The Stonefence Dartmouth Review: Dartmouth's Only Journal of Conservative Political Opinion and Bad Poetry.
Like the war in Iraq? Hate the war in Iraq? Totally indifferent?
Check out the latest Jacko for 212 Ways to Be a Soldier, our take on all things military and a parody of the U.S. Army's ad campaign.
... and, there's so much more!
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Orientalism: An Analysis
As promised, here are my initial thoughts on Edward Said's Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), whose 25th anniversary was celebrated yesterday, and which I just started reading.
3: I have found it useful here to employ Michel Foucault's notion of a discourse...
Uh oh. A bad start. See here.
7: ...it can be argued that the major component in European culture is precisely what made that culture hegemonic both in and outside Europe: the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European peoples and cultures.
But all major cultures - Islam, China, etc. - perceive themselves superior to others. And what does Said mean by "European culture" anyway? One of the main arguments in Orientalism is that there is no essential thing as Western or Oriental culture (see, for example, page 347: "cultures and civilizations are so interrelated and interdependent as to beggar any unitary or simply delineated description of their individuality"). I don't believe in cultural anti-essentialism to the extent that he does, but I do think that speaking of a coherent "European identity" is problematic. Do the French, German, Dutch, and Spanish think of themselves as European? Have they ever? History suggests that Europeans spend more time worrying about other Europeans than Orientals.
11: ...for a European or American studying the Orient there can be no disclaiming the main circumstances of his actuality: that he comes up against the Orient as a European or American first, as an individual second.
Again, this statement presupposes that a coherent European or American identity exists, something Said tries hard to repudiate. He also implies here that only Orientals can genuinely understand Oriental culture and Europeans European culture. That is, we are all trapped within our acculturated selves. Is this really true?
21: The things to look at are style, figures of speech, setting, narrative devices, historical and social circumstances, not the correctness of the representation nor its fidelity to some great original.
Throughout the book, Said emphasizes that he is out to analyze existing representation of the Orient, not rehabilitate a more genuine portrayal of the Middle East. This strikes me as a problem, particularly when he attacks Bernard Lewis and other actual scholars of the Middle East. If Said has "no interest in, much less capacity for, showing what the true Orient and Islam really are" (331), then how is he in a position to take on someone who has spent his entire life studying the Middle East? I don't understand why Said, in interrogating scholarly and not literary texts, should be more interested in literary devices than scholarly accuracy.
[skipping several hundred pages of frankly uninteresting textual exegesis]
342: As I suggest, European interest in Islam derived not from curiosity but from fear of a monotheistic, culturally and military formidable competitor to Christianity.
Here Said seems to ignore the crucial role the Arabs played in the transmission of knowledge. Without Arab translations of Aristotle and other great classical Greek thinkers, the Latin West might never have encountered them until the Renaissance. Medieval Europe was indeed very curious about Islamic culture, because it was superior to their own culture at the time. Whether the reverse was true is another question altogether: I am no expert on Islam, but I do know that one of the reasons China succumbed to European despite a huge head start was cultural arrogance. Even during the last years of the Manchu Dynasty (which wasn't even Chinese, strictly speaking), the Chinese continued to believe that their inherent superiority to Western barbarians would enable them to trump the Western imperialists eventually.
345: It is beknighted to say that Orientalism is a conspiracy or to suggest that "the West" is evil...
Sure thing, Eddie. Only America and Israel are evil. The only conspiracy around is that of Jewish neoconservatives to destroy the Arabs. And among these nefarious figures are men like Bernard Lewis and his pupil, Martin Kramer, whom you are more than happy to dismiss as Orientalists - without actually tackling the substance of their criticisms.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
The New Mascot
So apparently SA has voted to create some sort of new mascot exploratory committee or something. (I don't read the Dartmouth that thoroughly, because if its proofreaders don't, why should I?) I'm sure all sorts of inane mascots will be proposed in my absence from campus. That's why I'm counting on those of you back at school to take up this cause for me.
We must make sure that whatever mascot we have is perfect. It must be either a concrete object, such as an animal, or if an intangible entity, one easily personified (such as the Syracuse Orangeman, who, note, is not a religious icon, but an orange with eyes and legs). It must be devoid of any possible accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, et cetera. And it must carry a suggestion of violence and intimidation, or why bother even having a mascot?
Now, most people will probably push for the moose. This is no good; in fifty years or so, animal rights will be firmly entrenched in academia and students will be pushing for the moose's removal as demeaning to animals. And right they will be -- the moose mascot transforms a huge, majestic creature into a doofy cartoon figure. We must have none of that.
Instead, I argue that we should become the Dartmouth Marauding Death.
Death does not discriminate by race, sex, orientation, or species -- although he tends to come sooner for some groups than for others, Death is generally very equitably distributed in the long term across all groups -- overprivileged, underprivileged or privileged-exactly-the-correct-amount.
Naming our teams the Marauding Death will facilitate all sorts of colorful sports writing, such as "Dartmouth killed Harvard last night 5-4." Or: "The Dartmouth Marauding Death snipped Penn's Thread of Fate yesterday, 8-10." Or, "Dartmouth ripped the condemned soul from Princeton's still-warm corpse last night and dragged it screaming and gnashing its teeth down to Hell, 2-1." I can't think of anything this colorful to write about the Big Green, except possibly: "Dartmouth was all over the field last night like Big Green on grass."
Furthermore, our mascot at games could be represented by a Ghost-of-Christmas-Past/Grim Reaper type figure, who would not egg on the crowd or encourage cheering in anyway, but instead would follow the star players of the visiting team up and down the field, pointing at him or her and beckoning with a long, bony index finger.
This could be great. Think about it.
Orientalism's 25th Anniversary
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism, perhaps the most influential book in post-colonial studies today. Is its vaunted reputation deserved? Martin Kramer doesn't think so, and he's not alone. Read Kramer's chapter on Said from Ivory Towers on Sand here. Check out Said's collected writings here. Finally, see what Kramer's critics think of him here. I've my own copy of Orientalism, so expect a review soon.
My Quote of the Day
From Friedman's NYT Op-Ed today: "For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for."
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
South Park Republicanism?
Stephen W. Stanton observes: "Picture a typical Republican. Perhaps you see images of George Bush, John Ashcroft, Ronald Reagan, or maybe even Alex P. Keaton. Basically, many people think Republicans are a bunch of stodgy white guys with money. Times are changing. The Republican A-list now includes Colin Powell, Christie Whitman, J.C. Watts, and Condoleeza Rice. Women and minorities have been making great strides in the party, but they generally dress, talk, and act like their predecessors. You are more likely to find them at a formal reception than a rock concert."
So he poses a question: "If Republicans are so different from mainstream America, then who voted for them? The nation has more Republican congressmen and state governors than any other political party, plus control of the White House." His answer is that the image of Republicans: white, rich (racist sexist religiously conservative) men is a false public image. He posits that most Americans, or at least half, firmly believe in a seperation of church and state and more fiscal responsibility from the government. It is an interesting read, especially considering the question that a lot of people less reasonable than myself (ahh, shameless self-aggrandizing) ask: how do the Republicans keep winning elections (subtext: when they are so clearly wrong)? Stanton answer differs from the usual stratagems and plots offerred: that they buy the votes, or dupe the electorate, or use racial codewords to incite fury.
"The media generally misrepresents Republicans as religious rich white males. This is patently false. Half of the voting public is Republican. They watch R rated movies, enjoy a few drinks at happy hour, and even go to the occasional Wrestlemania. Hopefully, the South Park Republicans will shatter the unfair stereotype and set the record straight. As Cartman would say, "That would be pretty sweet." "
Also, in a particular sober analysis, Stanton shares some wisdom from Jefferson via South Park.
Sounds like a party to me...
According to MSNBC over the last few days, Uday Hussein -- first son and heir to Saddam -- has had his bachelor pad searched by Marines looking for WMD evidence. Among the items the have found:
(1) Several crates of gold-plated AK-47s inscribed with "Happy Birthday, Uday. Love, Dad."
(2) Lots of heroin AND a home HIV test kit.
(3) A photo of the Bush twins. (?!)
I am not making up any of this.
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Another one from Chris Hitchens. When not talking about Kissinger (or religion for that matter), truly a wonderful mind:
"So I'm glad to extend the hand of friendship to my former antagonists and to begin the long healing process. Perhaps one might start by meeting another of their demands and lifting the sanctions? Now the inspectors are well and truly in, there's no further need for an embargo. I noticed that Kofi Annan this week announced that the Iraqi people should be the ones to decide their own government and future. I don't mind that he never said this before: It's enough that he says it now."
"The next mass mobilization called by International ANSWER and the stop-the-war coalition is only a few days away. I already have my calendar ringed for the date. This time, I am really going to be there. It is not a time to keep silent. Let our voices be heard. All of this has been done in my name, and I feel like bearing witness."
During the war, I mainly tried to keep a low profile. I stated my preferences in the beginning in a post called 'And so it begins.' My hope for a quick war seems to be in the making. The war itself has not been bloodless, though no important major figure expected that it would be. I am happy to see the relatively small American casualties and injuries compared to what we expected with the invasion of Baghdad (sp?). We cannot say the same for the Iraqi military, though being in the military does mean that we can, unfortunately, place a lower value on their loss. One expects soldiers to die. Civilian casualities have also been a low number. These are all very good. Now the Aussies, Brits and Americans must deal with bringing some order to chaos, and decided if France, Germany, and the UN will have a role in the postwar reconstruction. Let us also hope that this is not merely the beginning of a series of short wars: against Syria et al. We also need to decide where the Kurds are going to fit in the picture because Turkey doesn't want an empowered Kurdish province. The delicate balancing act will be handled by the foreign policy wonks: Dr. Rice, Gen. Powell, Dr. Cheney and PWs) Paul Wolfowitz...
The Financial Times documents that last resistance.
Friday, April 11, 2003
Freedom of Expression vs. Political Inquisitions
But what about the argument that some forms of speech are hateful and silence a part of the population? Does Frank's freedom of expression come at the expense of someone else's pain? If Anit and company are right, then everytime the Indian mascot is displayed, someone bleeds and sheds tears of immense pain. Strangely enough, not all Native Americans are offended. However, there appears to be a large correlation between leftist political ideology and the pain of the mascot. Those Native Americans who do not buy into that theory, don't seem affected by it.
Why then are some Native Americans offended when others are not? Ethnicity clearly can't be the factor because you can't explain a change with a constant. It seems then that the stronger argument that Anit could make to explain the change in beliefs is to make an argument about political ideology: leftists tend to be offended by these sympbols. Therefore, display of the symbol is a political crime and acts to supress it our political themselves. This has, if my argument is correct, nothing to do with ethnicity and everything to do with politics. It would be in Frank's best interest then to ask a more important question: is a blatant misuse of the principle of community to further ideological apartheid consistent the with the values of an elite liberal arts school? (Of course this reminds me of an associate of mine who remarked that when she walked around campus she thought, when she saw white students, she wondered whether they had owned her family at some point in history. Ahh, the racism.)
Futhermore, is Frank expressing his desire to wear a T-shirt, or defending the right of others to do so, silencing the leftists (since we have suggested that wearing the T-shirt is not a sufficient condition to offend Native Americans)? We would arrive at the conclusion: no. In so far as people like Frank give them something to protest. His exercising of his speech encourages protest against the ubiqitous and ineffable (hegemonic) power structure.
Lastly, is there a right to comfort on campus? Do you have the right to 'not to be offended'? Dartmouth's own independent thinktank, ingeniously named the 'SLR' (South Living Room) came to the conclusion yesterday that the only place on campus where Dartmouth students have the right to be comfortable is either in their own rooms or in Greek organizations of which they are members.
Of course Frank could make my favorite argument. The Nazis had the SA and they went around beating up people with whom they disagreed. We don't want to be like the Nazis do we?
Regarding radical reconstruction and other such things, I think Congress was at its finest with the South was under military rule. As a kid, I enjoyed reading about the Titantic clash between the Republican congress and Andrew Johnson. (I was a little disappointed they couldn't impeach him because then there would be a radical Republican president along with a Congress that was willing to go along.) It's difficult to feel sorry for the loser in a conflict. I am personally of the opinion that the South was more barbaric then than Iraq is today but that the North was closer to the South and thus ideologically colonized it after burning it to the ground. (Go Sherman and the carpetbaggers!) Whether or not we can reconstruct Iraq 'radical'-style remains to be seen. As I have already mentioned to CW, I don't believe that democracy can exported. If it were possbile to spread one's values by force, then I would more likely support FedExing democracy with the Marines as postmen. The best we can hope for is some stability with a large police force to track down the Iraqis loyal to Saddaam and execute them for treason against Iraq and the US. But determining loyalties is a problem in and of itself.
Frank, in support of your argument, I offer you the following pieces of information:
Dartmouth's Principle of Community - you need to point out just how vague this is.
The life and work of a Dartmouth student should be based on integrity responsibility, and consideration. In all activities each student is expected to be sensitive to and respectful of the rights and interests of others and to be personally honest. He or she should be appreciative of the diversity of the community as providing an opportunity for learning and moral growth.
Freedom of Expression and Dissent - a lot of people conveniently forget this other principle, which is in my view, more important than the one above.
Freedom of expression and dissent is protected by College regulations. Dartmouth College prizes and defends the right of free speech and the freedom of the individual to make his or her own disclosures, while at the same time recognizing that such freedom exists in the context of the law and responsibility for one's actions. The exercise of these rights must not deny the same rights to any other individual. The College, therefore, both fosters and protects the rights of individuals to express dissent.
Protest or demonstration shall not be discouraged so long as neither force nor the threat of force is used, and so long as the orderly processes of the College are not deliberately obstructed.
Membership in the Dartmouth community carries with it, as a necessary condition, the agreement to honor and abide by this policy.
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Old Hat / New Hat
For those of you who missed the mid-paper article, the Student Assembly will be sponsoring a debate on that most treasured of all campus controversies the Dartmouth "Indian." Specifically, the SA wants to discuss whether or not wearing an Indian T-shirt is consistent with the Principle of Community. There will be a free dinner and yours truly will be debating on the behalf of the pro-Indian apparell camp. Regrettably, I feel like I've been preparing for this my whole undergraduate career, yet I can't help but feel a bit of anxiety about being prepared for the potential fury of the campus far-left.
A highlight of what is to come:
"[The ORL Native American coordinator, Michael Hanitchak,] made the key distinction that while a mascot inherently reflects a power differential because the mascot 'serves' someone, the seal can indeed represent Dartmouth's origin as a school that would educate Native Americans," Student Life Chair Amit Anand '03 said.
On first reflection, I'm a bit vexed by the phrase "inherently reflects a power differential because the mascot 'serves'." Frankly, I feel it reflects the fact that true sportsfans are a real minority on campus.
(btw, Jon: I managed to remember my password after sipping some herradura reposado tequila).
Website of the Day
A loving tribute to everyone's favorite Iraqi Minister.
As of yesterday, many opponents of the war now find themselves in an awkward situation.
Or so says Chien Wen, below. However, this depends entirely on your reasons for opposing the war. It is circular reasoning to claim that the conclusion of the war negates the premises on which it was opposed. If I opposed the war on the grounds that I thought it was, say, unnecessary or unwise to undertake at this specific time, for you to claim that some positive outcome of the war defeats my argument does not follow. More clarity later (maybe) if I have time.
Foot in Mouth Time
As of yesterday, many opponents of the war now find themselves in an awkward situation. Andrew Sullivan, National Review, and the Daily Telegraph have the goods here, here, and here respectively. Meanwhile, (mostly) anti-war Free Dartmouth remains strangely silent on the scenes of jubilation in the streets of Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and elsewhere...
Poem for the Day
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things.
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
From the U.N. Security Council's debate on North Korea:
"The only way the problem is going to be solved is direct bilateral dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, and whatever multilateral formats are used should be in addition to this," said Russia's U.N. Ambassador, Sergey Lavrov.
Wait wait wait - now I'm confused. I thought that U.S. unilateralism was bad and U.N. multilaterialism was good. Now my head is just spinning...
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Is John's idiocy hot or not?
John said: "good looking queer people need only to meet the same standards that I use for everyone else. There is nothing about being queer that a priori changes their status on the 'I am hot or not' scale."
Aside from the fact that queer people tend to not just be attracted to people of the opposite gender of course!
I don't have much personal empirical knowledge to base this on, but let's use some 'a priori' reasoning and common sense: having differing objects of attraction than the 'norm' and different people attracted to you might, just might, somehow lead to a different 'am I hot or not scale'. Just a thought.
Stevenson Watch Cont'd
This was my personal favorite: John says a friend of his "agrees with me when she said to me last summer on the subject of minorities and freindship: 'John, you are different; you make white people feel comfortable.' Why was she uncomfortable in other situations? Because the ugliness of blatant abuses of identities is quite disgusting. "
So John considers most every minority person but himself as ugly? That seems to be the twisted logic: his friend feels uncomfortable around minorities, because most all of them abuse their identities in ugly ways (where the heck does he get this?!?). So is it minorities' fault that John's friend feels uncomfortable and has nothing to do with John's friend or society, perhaps?
I'll note that John did not say the people at the party would be ugly or not beautiful. He said they would not be 'good looking'. John is trying to get us to believe he meant that all people with militant ideologies are less beautiful to him, rather than the obvious meaning of his statement, that he does think they will have as good of physical good looks as 'normal' people. Either way, it is ridiculous. This is a guess here, but I'd think that people who are comfortable enough with who they are to show up at the party have a certain 'inner beauty' as well.
The Indefensible? Inside the Idiot Box
I know that we all get one chance to stick our foot into our mouths and it seems that I have taken the oppurtunity to do regarding QBN. Even CW emailed me the digital equivalent of confusion about the quote. However, this is not an attempt at a behind-the-back apology. In so far as I expressed the same sentiments to Laura over lunch last Tuesday, I still stand by the comment: there won't even be good looking people there. Now, this only begs the question that has been begged from day one: what exactly do you mean? Well, I will tell you the thoughts behind the comment by offering my theory on beauty and on the physical composition of populations. Before I do so I offer this: if it is idiotic to express preferences on what one considers attractive, then I admit that the comment made earlier was idiotic and the ones to follow will be equally, if not more so, idiotic. Since I do not, however, often comment on what I consider to be attractive, I believe that I should be allowed some leeway.
I appreciate human beauty in all its form. Most people are quite attractive. The largest source of ugliness in my mind has more to do with personality traits and less to do with physical apperance in most cases. Though being male I cannot totally discount the physical power of the flesh; I have been enthralled by very charismatic, beautiful people for a while until I realized that they weren't good people. Then the challenge becomes ignoring their charisma and seeing them for who they really are. So to answer the question on physical attractiveness: good looking queer people need only to meet the same standards that I use for everyone else. There is nothing about being queer that a priori changes their status on the 'I am hot or not' scale. (However, flagrant projection of any 'identity' quickly drops people on my 'hot or not' scale. I see homosexuality the way I see being black: it's perfectly normal and is no different from anyone else on the planet.)
Secondly, there is my theory about populations in general: there is the community that you see and the one that you don't. In general the best looking people, the ones most likely to become good freinds and/or datable material (if you are into that sort of thing) usually exist in the community invisible. The ones on the forefront of the community seen are usually not the best looking ones. I was lamenting that most of the people who would be going to QBN would most likely be the latter and not the former. Any justifications that I may have had for going: i.e. cruising the social scence were nullified by the fact I would be surrounded by people whose way of expressing their identities I find quite repulsive and unattractive.
This thesis, attractiveness is inversely varies with political activism/ identity politicking, has held true over time: the best gay people I know are not actively involved in the identity movement, the best Christians I know are not on the forefront of the culture wars, the best reasons for supporting feminism are not in the 'women's' movement, the best Greeks are not the ones figthing the reformists. The best people I know are mainstream normal people and the last thing one thinks about when one is with these people is their 'identities' which has become quite controversial as of late.
(I would like to think that a freind of mine, and she knows who she is, agrees with me when she said to me last summer on the subject of minorities and freindship: "John, you are different; you make white people feel comfortable." Why was she uncomfortable in other situations? Because the ugliness of blatant abuses of identities is quite disgusting. The best people are the ones who if you couldn't see their skin color, knew their gender or their sexual oreintation would still be good freinds of yours.)
Saturday, April 05, 2003
Longer responses to both Tim and John to come, but first, a lengthy and engaging article by Stanley Kurtz in Policy Review on the question of "democratic imperialism." His argument is worth reading because it draws upon historical precedent (India, as opposed to Japan, should be the Iraqi model), discusses major thinkers (Edmund Burke, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill), and avoids the sort of blustery triumphalism neocons often fall prey to. Kurtz doesn't, unfortunately, address the larger problem of anti-Americanism, but I guess that's slightly beyond the scope of his essay.
"There won't even be good looking people there."
That is what you said, John. Admit you were an idiot there. Or try and explain why you do not regret saying that (I'd like to see that). Or at least do not get so indignant for others placing you in the idiot club, especially when you obviously didn't know what the fuck you were talking about when you said the quote in the title of the post. I have criticized John before, but I don't ever recall thinking that he was acting like the Review guys. (Well, let me amend that... John appears sincere rather than baiting... which might be worse... sigh...)
Welcome to the Idiot's Corner
In the quote that Kumar mentioned, I was referring more to people who were so wrapped in stressing that they were 'gay', 'queer', 'liberated', or choose your euphemism for ideological tunnel vision, that the experience would somehow become less enjoyable. Parties that are meant to stress some irrelevant characteristic of a person make the atmosphere quite unenjoyable for those who are much more interested in hanging out and meeting people. I mean if I started 'Niggas in the Club Night' at Long Pine (we would send the blitz from some organization that represents 'black people' and other assorted minority interests to prevent accusations of insensitivity and racism) and engaged in stereotypical 'inner city' behaviour as an expression of my identity and hip-hop cultural roots, I'm not sure the more refined and civilized elements of campus would either feel comfortable or be quite welcome there.
And I do hope that someone would call me on my identity-ist, acting in such a way to magnify marginal identities to the detriment of yourself and your larger community, approach toward life. While it has become standard for some elements of society to shy from value judgements regarding certain behaviour, I prefer to not strategically loose my moral backbone and ethical compass often. (I'm sure it happens on occasion but we must always be viligant against the bigotry of lower/ double standards. A person or group that you pity or fear is not, and never can be, a person or group that you respect.) But it seems that for me expressing a preference on more civilized and less degrading modes of interaction, I get placed in the 'I am an idiot' club.
I tried posting this earlier but my the wireless network has a very wayward relationship with my computer.
Repeat after me: hope is not a foreign policy
Chien Wen nicely shows that a country violating human rights is not a sufficient reason to go to war. He also says: "At present, we can but speculate. Yet I don't share the pessimism of those who distrust the administration's desire to rebuild Iraq into a thriving, functional democracy. I actually believe Bush and Blair on this point. But again, we shall see - and hope." Hope is not a foreign policy! (esp. when it is not a war that is absolutely necessary to undertake.) We should have based the war on speculation. Even if the neocons gamble pays off (and I don't think it will), the fact that Chien Wen is saying that all we can do is speculate is a HUGE problem, because it shows the dangers of having gotten into this war. As for this crap about spreading democracy accross the middle east: are that stupid? How will that happen, exactly? Esp. with a large U.S. occupying force? And a lot of the populations of countries (say Jordan), actually would want a more anti-U.S. stance. You think regime change will necessarily or even likely favor the U.S.? And do you think the U.S., Bush and the neocons will stand by and let anti-U.S. regimes develop without conflict? If you think they will put democracy (As oppossed to some vague largely bullshit word in this context like 'freedom') ahead of every other goal in U.S. foreign policy... do tell me, please: I need a good laugh. And as for the admin's good faith at rebuilding: look at afghanistan. (hell, look at home: Bush is not even coming through with the money he promised New York City). Anyway, alienating almost the entire world, getting arab populations pissed off at us, breeding resentment and hatred, and more to the point, the problems associated with maintaining a military occupation, are unlikely to lead to Iraq being this great model of democracy. The neocons are playing a risky game where they assume everything will break their way. They haven't so far. Read Marshall's article which I linked to above and tell me how invading countries in the middle east is going to lead both to a democratic middle east and a middle east that isn't even more hostile to America.
Friday, April 04, 2003
Iraqis thrash British marines...
...at the beautiful game, that is.
On Queer Blitzes:
Some independent points of analysis regarding the Queer Bar night blitz and the FreeDartmouth:
1. It is an insult to people's intelligence to use words like 'Get your Queer On' in alternating caps.
2. The blitz, whether sent by Chi Gam or the CWG, would still be offensive in that gut reaction kind of way.
3. There won't even be good looking people there. It will mostly be a cackle of militant identity-ists projecting images of 'pride.' I would like to think that there exists something more important than sexual oreintation, race, gender, etc. in the world.
4. 'Heterosexist' parties? Come on and get off it. I'm tired of the invisible hegemonic paradigms ubiquitously suppressing all. I believe DMX sums it up with 'I'm about to loose my mind, up in here, up in here.' I'll be having the indignant minorities night at Long Pine sometime soon. Our guest star will be 'Guilty Liberals and their Monochromatic Identities...' The best thing that will ever happen to gays, blacks, women, etc. is when we can honestly say 'Our list of allies grows thin...' *sigh* (And worse of all, though completely unrelated, it's April 4th and its bloody snowing in Hanover. It's been snowing since this month started.
5. Read Sullivan's article "We are all Sodomites Now". It's wonderful.
The offending member:
**********oo, pretty stars*****
QuEER bAr NiGHt
(if this snazzy combination of lower case and caps doesn't grab your attention, we don't know what will)
(now for some perfunctory slang)
Get yo' QUEER on at LONE PINE TAVERN. We'll be mixing it up with CRaZy drinks yo, like:
Out with a Twist
Siegfried and Roy Rogers
one FrEe with a drink ticket when you roll in. And kickA$$ appetizers.
Show off your VoCaL StYLiNZ at our phat KARAOKE machine.
Competition @ 10 pm!!! AWesum prizez... it's gonna be riDUNCulous, yo!
Win some TiGHT DoOR PRiZeS.
(now for some irrelevant pop culture references)
Come see Lone Pine like you've never seen it before! It's HeRE, IT's QUEeR, (go lone pine, it's your birthday....) This bar is not nearly as SkeTchY as Colin Farrell might not have been.
(and now to quote that oh-so-overquoted anthem)
"It's gettin hot out there, so come to Q-B-N... "
So do it... Thursday. April 3rd, 9pm to 1am, at the LPT... coMe sTrAigHT or with a tWisT
*****more pretty stars***********
This message brought to you by GSA.
Much thanks to COSO, Programming Board and LonePineTavern for sponsoring Queer Bar Night at Lone Pine Tavern. Special thanks to Don, Lena, Tim, Patrick, and the awesome staff at Lone Pine.
If You gave me cyanide, I would drink it....
The Review and the Free Press are back out. I was elated to receive a personal copy of the Free Press handed to me while I was visitng in the River. From preliminary sweeps over both, I am happy to report that Messrs. Ramsay and Gorsche run a much tighter ship than the previous editor. The new office looks wonderful, still litered with volumes of books that I haven't read. And the Free Press keeps on rolling: it's hard to stop a moving train.
Much more commentary as I continue to encounter ideas issued. I am sure that someone, somewhere will say something silly that should be deprogrammed. Like this statement from CW: "I make the case for invading (and democratizing) Iraq for several reasons: humanitarian, geopolitical, and economic." Come on CW, you know democracy can't be spread by force. The game's up old chap.
An Iraqi Hero
From Jed Babin's war diary on National Review Online:
"APR. 4, 2003: THE HERO LAWYER
"I know, I know. It's hard to believe, but the guy who risked his life to save Jessica Lynch is a lawyer. The textbook spec ops raid on the 'hospital' where PFC Lynch was being held would not have happened if a brave Iraqi lawyer named Mohammed hadn't given us the word. Described as a 'gregarious 32-year old lawyer', Mohammed was in that hospital visiting his wife, a nurse, when he saw Lynch through a window in the room where she lay under a blanket, being beaten by one of the black-clad Iraqi 'elite' troops. Mohammed walked six miles before he found some Marines. Approaching them carefully, he told them what he knew.
"While Mohammed's information was digested and turned into the plan for the raid, he went back. Twice in the day that followed, Mohammed went back to the hospital, and back to the Marines to tell them what he saw. The rest you know. Mohammed and his family are now being kept safe at a refugee center. We owe him more, much more. If the new Iraqi government is looking for Supreme Court justices, I have a nominee to suggest. We should honor him as well. For that bravery, he should be made an honorary Marine. Good on 'ya, Mohammed."
From a recent blitz about the '06 semiformal tonight:
"So, how does it work? Obviously it's a dance. Secure for yourself a date, and then come dance. Because of the nature of a dance, some people balked at the screw your classmate concept and expressed interest in taking a significant other, so they will be going with their boyfriends/girlfriends. Good for them! If you are one of the vast majority of us who is NOT currently dating someone, have a friend hook you up with one of their friends, kind of like the "blind date" show. (This method explains the "screw your classmate" theme). Other options include: asking a friend, going with a group of friends (for those leery of the "date" concept), or just growing some balls and asking someone you're interested in [Emphasis added]. If all else fails, take a pink, fuzzy, stuffed rabbit. It'd be quirkily cute. Whatever you do, we hope you have fun!"
My, my - what an un-PC comment for a school-wide blitz. I'm shocked that no one has yet screamed bloody murder. Maybe our PC sensitivity is wearing off? More likely no reads blitzes about the '06 semiformal...
The Bucther appeared on Iraqi TV today and appeared to reference the March 23 crash of an Apache helicopter. So, just when my hopes were up, it appears that Saddam lives. Still no way to tell how badly he may have been injured by the missile strike against him, though.
Realism and (Human) Rights
My question remains unanswered on charges that it lacks subtlety (an egregious charge, to be sure). How would you rephrase it then, without deflecting attention from its essential concern? In the meantime, I'll just have to answer Tim's question as best I can. He asks why we don't invade China, Tibet, Zimbabwe, and other nasty regimes around the world whose human rights violations "can be much worse than what is currently going on in Iraq." I don't know about this last point: the Chinese people don't live in fear on a day to day basis, that's for sure. But let's take those countries one by one:
- China: sure, let's invade China and trigger World War III. They've only got one billion people, a huge standing army, a vast amount of territory, and nuclear weapons.
- Tibet: any attempt to act aggressively with regards to Tibet will lead to a conflict with China.
- North Korea: only has nuclear weapons.
- Iran: unlike in Iraq, there is a growing democratic movement in Iran that might very well succeed without the need for military intervention. In fact, as Amir Taheri notes, the current operation, if successful, might go a long way towards triggering a counter-Revolution in the country. There is no democratic movement in Iraq whatsoever.
- Saudi Arabia: the US (unfortunately) has a huge economic stake in the world's largest oil-producing (and terrorist-producing) nation. Unless you want the global economy to collapse, invasion would simply not be possible unless a massive divestment from Saudi oil took place first. That would mean, in part, finding alternative sources of oil somewhere else...wait...
- Zimbabwe, Syria, Congo, etc: see below.
So as you can see, although I support human rights, I'm fairly realistic when it comes to foreign policy. I make the case for invading (and democratizing) Iraq for several reasons: humanitarian, geopolitical, and economic. Of course there are complications and potential problems, and the reasonable opposition to the war has done an excellent job in pointing them out. And Iraq can't and won't be the end of America's post-9/11 involvement with undemocratic countries. But as I see it, all factors weighed and considered, Iraq is simply the best place (out of the worst countries in this world) to start making the Middle East - maybe even the world - a better place. There is no guarantee that the democratization of Iraq will lead to democratic revolutions elsewhere in the region. But if you believe, as I do, that democracy is worth fighting for, then something has to be done.
And I realize that the fate of sub-Saharan Africa and thugs like Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong-Il remains at large. Maybe North Korea will go the way of East Germany. Perhaps when Bush steps down in 2008 (I have a feeling he will win next year), a capable Democrat will take over the reins of power and begin the long and arduous process of rebuilding Africa. Perhaps a new, genuinely-benevolent imperialism is in order. Hopefully, a reformed United Nations will be able to do something substantive. We shall see - and hope.
A lot of our concerns will be either confirmed or repudiated within the coming weeks, months, and years. At present, we can but speculate. Yet I don't share the pessimism of those who distrust the administration's desire to rebuild Iraq into a thriving, functional democracy. I actually believe Bush and Blair on this point. But again, we shall see - and hope.