Dueling Snipe Hunts

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Here's some Internet fun, of sorts. Eugene Volokh is asking his readers to unearth specific instances of "journalists, officials, or at least famous people" … "who defend the Iraqi insurgents, or at least justify their actions as being a supposed campaign for self-determination, allegedly justifiable rage at Western misbehavior, and so on." In response, the Crooked Timber kids are asking for equally credentialed commentators who have made "egregious claims that a substantial section of those who opposed the war are, in fact, rooting for the other side." As of 5:20 PDT, with 94 Volokh comments to Timber's 64, seems to me that team Crooked has come up with a much more comprehensive list.

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  1. But the Iraqi insurgents are fighting for self-determination. Not to cast it as a struggle for Democracy against a powerful invader, but to kick us out so they can take over.

    What the hell else are we supposed to call it? The Iraqi insurgents are killing and blowing shit up so we leave, and they can take control of the country.

    It’s not like they’re doing it because they “hate freedom”.

    I think Volokh is trying to imply that a simple fact (“The insurgents want the US out of Iraq”) is somehow a more complex moral judgements (“And they are right to do so, and are valiant strugglers for freedom”).

  2. Ouch! Maybe he should stick to writing about law school rankings.

  3. Wow. Should I root for the people I disagree with or the people I disagree with? Tough call!

  4. I don’t see the point of this comparison. Both could be easily be going on. I don’t see how one of these two positions in any way contradicts or invalidates the other.

    And if they are indeed both going on, there is a major difference between them. Rooting for the other side is de facto treason. Questioning motives of political opponents is not.

  5. Don’t mind me. I’m on a Snope hunt.
    Talk amongst yourselves.

    “While in New York in the fall of 1938, Faulkner began writing a short story, ?Barn Burning,? which would be published in Harper?s the following year. But Faulkner was not finished with the story. He had in mind a trilogy about the Snopes family, a lower-class rural laboring white family who, unlike the Compsons and Sartorises of other Faulkner novels, had little regard for southern tradition, heritage, or lineage. The Snopes, often regarded as Faulkner?s metaphor for the rising ?redneck? middle class in the South, more interested in avaricious commercial gain than honor or pride, were to be led in the trilogy by the enterprising Flem Snopes, who in the original story ?Barn Burning? had appeared only briefly as the eldest son of Ab Snopes.”

  6. HJ-

    Or maybe come up with an ethnic dining guide!

  7. Joe B.,

    Yes, right, thank you.

  8. Morat, you’re asking too much of these people.

    They’re utterly incapable of critically examining whether “self-determination” is unequivocably a positive thing. Wilson said it was, so it must be.

    Therefore anyone who claims that the Iraqi insurgents are fighting for self-determination must be trying to say that the insurgents are right.

    It’s elementary.

  9. oh goody! a tard-off!

    i wonder who will win?

  10. fluffy’s comment reminds me of one of my peeves about Iraq discussions – the way that phrases like “the Iraqis” and “the insurgents want self determination” float between applying to just the insurgents that the Iraqis overall.

    I’m not entirely sure, but I can’t recall off the top of my head ever hearing Morat’s very clear headed case being made by someone who was saying that “they want us out”. No one on either side disputes that the insurgents want us out. The question is, what is the point being made by the anti war crowd when they bring it up? I’ve always had a sense that the argument as employed is meant to imply ‘they’ the Iraqis at large, or ‘they’ whose land we are occupying (i hear that one laid out explicitly), or more generally ‘they’ who will be the never ending supply of bodies for the insurgency.

    I don’t agree with the argument, but I don’t think it is especially horrible. It seems odd to me that the anti war crowd would suddenly step away from it.

  11. I think it’s safe to say that almost everybody in Iraq wants Iraq to be run by Iraqis.

    The question is which Iraqis they want to run the place? Those who subscribe to their particular ideology? Their particular clan? Their broader demographic group? Elected representatives with broad support and liberal ideals?

    That’s the rub.

    As to the competition: As I see it, it’s a battle to figure out who can mobilize more people to find more examples of outrageous statements by pundits and other people whose careers depend on getting as much publicity as possible.

    The results of this hunt will be of pebble-shattering importance.

  12. You can’t just count the number of comments. A lot of the Volokh comments are from people condemning the question (which is an alteration of a statement at the Wall Street Journal), and only a few came up with anything resembling examples.

  13. Iraq is Cunieform for “tub.”

    Rub-a-dub-dub three (or more) ethnic groups in a tub.

    “Light my ‘candle'”

  14. The results of this hunt will be of pebble-shattering importance.

    Well put. This deserves to be mocked all ’round.

  15. Wow, a target rich area for humor. 🙂

    Syd,

    I like the WSJ in general, but the editorials ial pages are so full of pro-Bush red meat its hard for me to take them seriously.

  16. The longer we have to endure it, the more I hate collectivism.
    Big sigh.
    It’s everybody’s fault.

  17. The more pertinent question is – what the hell is an Iraqi, exactly? I don’t see an “Iraqi” insurgency, but rather a bunch of Sunni Arabs who are deathly afraid of being dispossesed by the Shia and Kurds and are reacting violently to that possibility, aided by extreme Islamicist elements such as Al Qaeda. The Shia religious parties are following a more subtle strategy, as outlined by Steven Vincent before his tragic death – placing as many of their members as possible in the police, army and militia units and making sure that they control all of the levers of real power in southern Iraq. The Kurds want Kurdistan, and they’ll get it by sucking up to the US so that we’ll turn a blind eye to their dispossesing Arabs in Kirkuk and elsewhere in the Kurdish provinces.

    All of these groups are working towards “self-determination,” and none of them are overly concerned with democratic forms or values except insofar as they can manipulate them to accomplish their communal goals. I have yet to see commentators like Volokh come anywhere near dealing with the political realities in Iraq – it’s so much more fun to denounce your political opponents as appeasers and traitors.

  18. Congrats to Mark B. for the most on-point and insightful comment to date. Though I don’t think Volokh merits the criticism – I’ve seen him deal with the realities; also, the post in question is not about the realities, so it’s not required to address them.

    Seems to me the 3 main ethnic groups are each pursuing the obvious strategy. That’s not to condemn; none of them has a coherent leadership, and without that a group SHOULD pursue the obvious strategy, even if it facilitates counter-strategies. Still, it does cut down on the usefulness of outsider commentary.

    As anyone following the Volokh/CT debates knows, I’ve involved myself in both. Hopefully in pursuit of useful information, but hey, you can jump all over that too.

    Where’s joe?

  19. Shelby- the only useful information to be gleaned from this food fight is: if you’re going to use terms such as they and substantial, you might want to have some examples handy, so you don’t have to rely on your readers to remove the shovel from your hands.

  20. Fwiw, I’ve more than once heard folks on Pacifica and/or other leftist public radio shows saying, “Wouldn’t YOU want to defend your country if it were invaded and occupied by a foreign power?” It’s hard to say (perhaps by design) whether the point of this rhetorical question is that the insurgency is in the right or simply that it is a “natural” or universal or to-be-expected reaction. Even if it is the former, I would not call such talk ‘treason,” since after all, it is merely talk (my lack of legal expertise notwithstanding, I doubt “aid and comfort” can or should refer to purely psychological comfort, and, eh, what about that little ol’ 1st Amendment?), but either way, it does smack of rather simplistic and self-serving (politically) reasoning, and thus falls short of some of the more realistic takes on the meaning of “self-determination” presented here.

    That said, I doubt such talk holds much sway among any more than a very small percentage of the nation’s populace. I would venture to guess that the argument from the other side that their opposition is treasonous (and can thus be dismissed out of hand) probably has greater influence on a larger number of people, but I have no data to support that, it’s just a hunch.

  21. the line up for that question should be something like: “george bush declares himself president for life, and canada tries to invade. would you fight for the insurgency then?”

    i’m very proud of myself for thinking that one up. i loathe the iraq war and what it has produced, but somehow the loudest anti-war folk…

  22. fyodor wrote:

    Fwiw, I’ve more than once heard folks on Pacifica and/or other leftist public radio shows saying, “Wouldn’t YOU want to defend your country if it were invaded and occupied by a foreign power?”

    Been there, done that. See: Reconstruction.

  23. Chuck,

    Most of my relatives (who were Southerners) fought for the Union. The same is true for my wife’s family. Indeed, the ubiquity of involvement of Southerners in the Union cause tends to be ignored by Confederate apologists who like to view the South as uniform and united.

  24. Fwiw, I’ve more than once heard folks on Pacifica and/or other leftist public radio shows saying, “Wouldn’t YOU want to defend your country if it were invaded and occupied by a foreign power

    The times I’ve used it — or seen it used — it was to point out the rather natural nature of the insurgency, and the fact that they’re fighting for keeps here, and to illustrate how long they’re likely to fight. Those shooting and bombing over in Iraq are either motivated by nationalism or religious extremism (although I believe studies indicate the latter are even worse — NEWLY radicalized extremists. It burns hottest in those folk) and aren’t likely to compromise, give up, or give a shit about the chances for their own survival.

    I admit to surprise — the Iraqis gave us six months to a year more than I thought before the insurgency gained steam. Had Bush appointed more competent administrators, and had they made clear the VERY temporary nature of the US stay, things would have been surprisingly different.

    But we all know the nature of the phase 4 planning — not being any and all.

  25. If I don’t think it’s possible for the United States to win, does that make me a traitor? What if I believe that Bush wanted a quick, decisive victory in Iraq because he wanted to invade Iran next, which would have been even more of a disaster for the United States? Then would it be OK? (Parallel example, setting Godwin’s law aside: I could imagine German citizens wanting the Nazi invasion of Poland to fail because they anticipated that a successful invasion would lead Hitler to further aggression and ultimately to a global struggle that Germany would lose. (Note that this isn’t an ethical argument that it would be wrong to invade Poland, though one could also try to make that parallel argument, that since it was immoral to invade Iraq winning would simply embolden Bush and the neocons to future immorality, which would be bad). So while Germany would “win” in the short term, it would “lose” in the long term. Would that make those people traitors?)

  26. Ted,

    Depends on the definition. Setting aside my previously stated opposition to applying the charge to folks merely stating an opinion or preference, if it is traiterous to prefer military defeat for one’s nation when one feels the military action in question is wrong or would be disasterous in the long run, then any reasonable person should conclude that it is not a categorically bad thing.

    That said, I personally hope the insurgency ends sooner rather than later because there would be less loss of life & limb in the short run, and I lack the proper tea leaves to know what its long run effect would be. THAT said, I acknowledge that the possibility that the intransigence of the insurgency may deter further military action by the U.S. stands as a potential silver lining. That the insurgency may also further encourage Islamicist terrorists, however, is not such a good thing.

    Hmmm, this just occurred to me. Isn’t Bush’s warning that a premature withdrawal from Iraq under fire will embolden Islamic terrorists contrary to what has been said by many conservatives that terrorists act out of hatred and are therefore not affected by what we do?

  27. Hakluyt–

    Yep. My family is from the “Free State of Winston” (my mother still lives there), so I know very well that the south was not uniformly pro-rebellion. It’s a lesser-known fact that the Winston county courthouse has a civil war memorial with two statues: one of a union soldier, and one of a confederate soldier. The plaque lists all those Winston county residents killed on both sides, IIRC. Of course, if one includes the slaves, then southern opinion was even less uniform.

    I think, though, that this makes my Reconstruction comparison even more apt. Like Iraq, a country–the CSA–contains various factions, including a severely oppressed minority group. In comes a liberating occupying force, which proceeds to install the once-oppressed minority group in positions of power. Result? Some of the group formerly in power resort to terrorist tactics, aimed mainly against the newly-empowered minority group, since they present a softer target than the occupying forces.

    The comparison is far from a perfect match, but there are enough similarities that some lessons could have been learned.

  28. Hakluyt

    Most of my relatives (who were Southerners) fought for the Union. Indeed, the ubiquity of involvement of Southerners in the Union cause tends to be ignored by Confederate apologists who like to view the South as uniform and united.

    Obviously, your relatives should have been executed as traitors, and even their children were legitimate miliary targets deserving whatever punishment the “rebels” could deliver…

  29. Chuck,

    That’s an interesting analogy you make. What conclusion(s) do you draw from it?

  30. …legitimate military targets…

    PIMF!

  31. fyodor–

    That’s a good question, and I’m not really sure at this point, since I just started thinking about it this morning. I wasn’t even going to post it until Hakluyt’s Reconstruction post on another thread, which made me decide to go ahead and spit it out.

    I guess the first thing that comes to mind is that crusaders for freedom and democracy should be careful what they wish for. I’m trying to think of an example where an invading force like this has had a good outcome (i.e. installation of a stable local government) without taking on the government functions itself for an extended period of time (several years at least). I’m not coming up with any, but maybe someone with a broader knowledge of history than I have can think of one.

  32. One more thing…

    Between the carpet-humping guy and Michael Moore’s man-breasts, I can barely stand to look at this site anymore. I’m not especially squeamish–I can watch the paramedic/live trauma shows on TV without flinching–but geez, these guys have got to go.

    Actually, I was getting to where I could pretty much ignore the carpet-humper, so it must be that picture of Moore. My eyes! The goggles, they do nothing!

  33. I did think that

    “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win.” (Michael Moore, April 2004)

    was pretty fucked up.

  34. Hmmm, this just occurred to me. Isn’t Bush’s warning that a premature withdrawal from Iraq under fire will embolden Islamic terrorists contrary to what has been said by many conservatives that terrorists act out of hatred and are therefore not affected by what we do?

    Pay no attention to the contradictions behind the curtain!

  35. Bush’s warning that a premature withdrawal from Iraq under fire will embolden Islamic terrorists contrary to what has been said by many conservatives that terrorists act out of hatred and are therefore not affected by what we do?

    No, because “conservatives” have never said that. What “conservatives” — and by that I assume you mean “supporters of the war” — have said is that terrorists don’t *hate* us because of things we’ve done. It should be obvious to anyone that war supporters believe our actions have an effect on the way terrorists act, or we wouldn’t be supporting a war on terrorism in the first place. We would simply have responded to 9/11 with a stern lecture on national TV and left it at that.

    You’re also overlooking the fact that Bush’s statement is entirely consistent with the common “hawk” belief that America’s pre-9/11 fecklessness was what gave bin Laden the courage to attack us in the first place.

  36. You know, the Swiss have never attacked my people. What a bunch of pussies!

    That’s it, they’re next on the list!

  37. After reading both of these dueler’s sites and many of the previous posts, a few things become increasingly clear…

    1. Most folks have lost site that this is just the latest chapter in a novel-like argument in which the pro-war side very effectively swings the anti-war side around by their dicks.

    i.e. First the argument was about defending us
    from terrorism

    Then the argument was about freeing the
    Iraqis from the horrors of Saddam’s regime

    Now it’s about supporting the Iraqi’s or
    supporting the insurgents (but I thought
    the insurgents were Iraqis).

    2. This is just the latest permutation of the ‘ole “if you’re questioning Bush, you must hate America” ploy.

    3. At the end of the day, this is the most backward, useless, ignorant crap disguised as worthwhile information…yet people keep falling for it.

    4. At the end of the day, the arguments on both sides are pointless because the argue-ers (is that a word) are only marginally saner than the insurgents at the heart of the argument.

  38. But what of the puppies!?

  39. They’re being swung around by their dicks.

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