Each time I strongly criticize Barack Obama a few of my readers ask to unsubscribe. I’m really sorry to lose them but it’s important that those on the left rid themselves of their attachment to the Democratic Party. I’m not certain how best to institute revolutionary change in the United States, but I do know that it will not happen through the Democratic Party, and the sooner those on the left cut their umbilical cord to the Democrats, the sooner we can start to get more serious about this thing called revolution.William Blum
Once upon a time - say, three years ago - your average Democrat appeared to care about issues of war and peace. When the man dropping the bombs spoke with an affected Texas twang, the moral and fiscal costs of empire were the subject of numerous protests and earnest panel discussions, the issue not just a banal matter of policy upon which reasonable people could disagree, but a matter of the nation’s very soul. Then the guy in the White House changed. Now, if the Democratic rank and file haven’t necessarily learned to love the bomb - though many certainly have - they have at least learned to stop worrying about it. Barack Obama may have dramatically expanded the war in Afghanistan, launched twice as many drone strikes in Pakistan as his predecessor and dropped women-and-children killing cluster bombs in Yemen, but peruse a liberal magazine or blog and you’re more likely to find a strongly worded denunciation of Rush Limbaugh than the president. War isn’t over, but one could be forgiven for thinking that it is.Rachel Maddow and conservatism, the new liberalism | Charles Davis (via ronmarks)
“The whole civil libertarian message only really seems to catch fire among liberals when there’s a Republican in the White House,” says [civil rights attorney, Chase] Madar. When there’s not a bumbling Texan to inveigh against, all of a sudden issues that were morally black and white become complex, and liberal media starts finding nuance where there wasn’t any before.
That much is clear in the case of Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking State Department cables and evidence of war atrocities to WikiLeaks. Under different conditions, he might be a liberal hero. After all, much – though certainly not all – of what he exposed, from the killing of Iraqi civilians to US complicity in torture by the Iraqi government, happened during the Bush years. But it is the Obama administration that is imprisoning him. It is Barack Obama who pronounced him guilty before he so much as had a trial (which he’s still waiting for after almost two years in captivity). And so justifications must be made.
President Obama is likely to campaign in part on his repeated successes in killing various al-Qaeda members, Osama bin Laden foremost among them. It’s perfectly legitimate for him to do so. But the various assessments of Obama’s foreign policy record, whether offered by the mainstream media, the conservative press, or the Republican presidential candidates, almost invariably ignore the cost of waging undeclared, under-the-radar drone and missile wars in numerous Muslim countries. During the Bush Administration, the blowback critique was commonplace. It even persisted into the early days of current administration. Said Obama himself:
Instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al-Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists than it ever detained.
But now that establishment Democrats have one of their own in office and are less inclined to advance the blowback critique, almost no one is doing it. Look at our sad loyal opposition: It’s a political liability to be seen as overly apologetic to foreigners. A single press conference about American exceptionalism has generated critical mentions for years. But a bungled raid that kills dozens of innocents? Opinion polls positing that Obama is less popular in the Arab world than Bush? Aren’t those major fails? Neither Republicans nor mainstream Democrats act like it.
In our politics, dead innocents aren’t generally treated as costs that are set alongside the benefits of Obama’s policies. They’re just unmentioned, as if they’re insufficiently consequential to merit it. As if we could stop worrying about blowback when “bellicose cowboy George W. Bush” left office and “cosmopolitan Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama” took over. Under Obama, blowback is only on our radar when, as in the Koran burning, it might occur within the next several 24 hour news cycles. That’s too bad. I’d feel better about the incentive system we’ve established for our president if it wasn’t so skewered toward rewarding cathartic, short term kills at the expense of morality, relationships with allies, and long term terrorist depletion.
What keeps this madness humming along and makes wars so hard to end once begun is a pack of twisted logic, fantasies about humanitarian war, and perverse partisanship that opposes wars selectively depending on who is president.No Justice Without Peace | David Swanson
Over the years, including the Obama years, I’ve known [Mother Jones reporter, Kevin] Drum to consistently speak out against needless war-making and to be alarmed by excessive claims of executive power, so I don’t doubt his earnestness, and I respect what he has to say on basically every topic. But here’s my problem: though Drum disagrees with those of us who acknowledge Paul’s flaws but value his ability to inject important issues into the national conversation, he offers no alternative. As far as I can tell, most on the left who dismiss Paul are similarly without a plan of their own. It isn’t as if they’re saying, “Your strategy for drawing attention to these issues and trying to effect change is flawed — but how about this other viable civil libertarian strategy.”
It’s just, “Your strategy is flawed.” Left unsaid is the fact that if it’s abandoned, these issues will be aired even less, and the prospect of effecting change will be delayed or killed off.
One day soon, Ron Paul will pass from the scene. At that point, his son, Rand Paul, the civil libertarian and Republican senator from Kentucky, will be one heir apparent. Libertarian Gary Johnson will be another. And inevitably, progressives will find plenty not to like about them too.
So why not do something about it?
If progressives are frustrated that relatively doctrinaire libertarians are attracting the attention and support of people who care deeply about civil liberties, why don’t they work to offer some alternative? […] Is it really the case that the Democratic Party can’t produce a prominent civil-libertarian politician who [Progressives like] Glenn Greenwald would prefer to Ron Paul?
That is itself a devastating truth about the post-2009 left.
As Election 2008 proved, however, it isn’t impossible to change. Democrats can in fact unapologetically run against indefinite detention, excessive executive power, and needless wars, and get elected doing it. What’s additionally required is a civil-libertarian constituency big and motivated enough to hold them to their promises. That is what progressivism apparently lacks. Until progressives have a plan to change that, they should think twice about marginalizing and dismissing a civil-libertarian voice that, however flawed, is better than any they’ve got to offer.
As usual, this will be ignored and spat on by my followers, but this is important. What are we (the disappointed left) going to do here?
Mr. Huntsman, who had struggled to live up to the early expectations of his candidacy, was to deliver a speech Monday morning in Myrtle Beach, where the five remaining major Republican candidates will gather hours later for a debate. His endorsement of Mr. Romney is indication of the party establishment getting behind Mr. Romney and trying to focus the party on defeating President Obama.
When the doctrine of allegiance to party can utterly up-end a man’s moral constitution and make a temporary fool of him besides, what excuse are you going to offer for preaching it, teaching it, extending it, perpetuating it? Shall you say, the best good of the country demands allegiance to party? Shall you also say it demands that a man kick his truth and his conscience into the gutter, and become a mouthing lunatic, besides?
Mark Twain (via lunaticprophet)
The conundrum - You’re a hawkish republican pundit with an opinion column. The president’s foreign policy closely matches the foreign policy approach preferred by the majority of your party, but you still want to paint him as “soft on defense” or some similar ad hominem.
Added pickle - one of the candidates for prez in your own party opposes the president’s foreign policy, but you oppose his, even thought he’s in your party.
Solution - pretend the President’s foreign policy is the opposite of what it actually is and place the candidate from your own party in the same tent, thus maintaining party loyalty, pissing on the “rogue” member of your own party, and continuing the myth of a “soft on defense” President. Suggest that another member of your party would kick more ass.
Welcome to the right-wing opinion pages of the WSJ.
Conor Friedersdorf writes:
Perhaps the most wrongheaded analysis ever offered of President Obama’s foreign-policy posture comes from Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal, who offered it as an aside in her attack on Ron Paul:
President Paul won’t be making decisions based just on the parts of his values that his supporters find endearing. He’d be making decisions about the nation’s defense, national security, domestic policy and much else. He’d be the official voice of America — and, in one conspicuous regard, a familiar one.
The world may not be ready for another American president traversing half the globe to apologize for the misdeeds of the nation he had just been elected to lead. Still, it would be hard to find any public figure in America whose views more closely echo those of President Obama on that tour.
Admittedly, it can be hard to coherently put all of one’s enemies in a neat category. Charged with that task, David Frum came up with “Axis of Evil,” and perhaps Rabinowitz should’ve settled for something similar by asserting that in her view Barack Obama and Ron Paul would both be horrific stewards of American foreign policy if either occupies the White House in 2013. Instead there is the reassertion of the inaccurate talking point that President Obama has gone on an apology tour of the world, and more remarkably, an assertion that President Obama’s foreign-policy views most closely echo those of Ron Paul, the GOP candidate — perhaps also the Congressional Republican — whose foreign-policy views have the absolute least in common with Obama. Can Rabinowitz possibly believe that an Obama diplomatic tour would look more like a Ron Paul tour than a Mitt Romney tour? If so, she hasn’t been paying attention to Obama’s policies.
If you operate from the presumption that every president pursues some flawed policies, and that the country benefits from a loyal opposition — whether in Congress, the press, or the opposing party — that acts as a check, it is unfortunate indeed that so many Obama foreign-policy critics aim their fire at a pretend version of the president’s approach instead of the real thing. A lot of pundits have contorted themselves on this subject in order to pretend that Obama is more antagonistic to their worldview than is in fact the case. But I’ve never seen anyone go so far as to suggest that if Ron Paul is elected president, people would look at his approach to foreign affairs and say to themselves, “My, this is so familiar, it’s just like it was under Obama.”