Left, Right, and Miscellaneous


Next time we should invite this guy.

Last Saturday I sat down for an eight-hour conversation with a couple dozen writers and activists from different parts of the political spectrum. We were a diverse bunch, united only by our belief that the U.S. needs—to borrow a phrase—a more humble foreign policy. Another attendee, Sam Smith of The Progressive Review, has posted a wrapup of the event on his site. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but for now a few excerpts will do:

The topic was, by itself, depressingly familiar: building an anti-war coalition. What made it so strikingly different was the nature of those at the table. They included progressives, conservatives, traditional liberals and libertarians. Some reached back to the Reagan years or to 1960s activism, some—including an SDS leader from the University of Maryland and several Young Americans for Liberty—were still in college.

In a time when politics is supposed to be hopelessly polarized along the lines proposed by Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann, the most heated debate occurred not between left and right but over tactics between Ralph Nader and Bill Greider….

As I sat around that table, I tried to recall those few occasions when I had experienced something close to this….One that worked was the anti-freeway coalition of the 1960s and 70s that kept Washington from becoming another Los Angeles. It was started by among the least likely activists—black and white middle class homeowners whose neighborhood was about to be ruined. It expanded to include those of us in the civil rights group SNCC as well as the all white Georgetown Citizens Association….There was only one qualification to join the anti-freeway movement: opposition to freeways.

Smith calls this "existential politics—in which one defined one's existence by one's actions rather than by one's ethnicity, class, party registration or magazine subscriptions."

I was likewise impressed with the discussion. It was the sort of event that was going to be interesting even if it ended in a great big food fight, and was all the more interesting because it wound up being generally amicable instead. It helped that the folks around the table were, for the most part, more interested in listening than in talking, a rare thing among people professionally engaged in politics. Maybe it was the fact that we all knew going into the room that it would be filled with deep-set philosophical disagreements. When there's little chance of converting someone to your point of view, you just might spend some time focusing on the things you can do, like figuring out ways to work together in the areas where you're already aligned.

NEXT: Another Way of Looking at the Stimulus's Impact on Public vs. Private Employment

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  1. In a time when politics is supposed to be hopelessly polarized along the lines proposed by Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann, the most heated debate occurred not between left and right but over tactics between Ralph Nader and Bill Greider….

    Yep – it was written by a rag called The Progressive Review, all right!

  2. We were a diverse bunch, united only by our belief that the U.S. needs — to borrow a phrase — a more humble foreign policy.

    Good luck with that. If you ever get organized enough to set up a paypal account let me know. I’m sure I can scrape a few nickles out of the cushions.

  3. Jesse,

    You all agreed on the war and that was what you were there to talk about, why is it so surprising it was amicable? You all agreed on the topic at hand. I am quite sure that if the devil himself were a Kansas Basketball fan, we could have a grand time during March Madness.

    1. Oh, I don’t know that I’d call it surprising. But it wasn’t a guaranteed outcome, given what egos and tribal identities can be like.

      1. including an SDS leader from the University of Maryland

        SDS isn’t against war. They are on another side.

    2. It’s hard enough to keep the left from excommunicating each other over an eight-hour period, let alone have them listen to conservatives and libertarians, too.

  4. Today’s news from Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan’s president has taken control of a formerly independent body that monitors election fraud, raising concern Tuesday that he’s reneging on promises to clean up corruption and cronyism – a pillar of the Obama administration’s plan to erode support for the Taliban.

    President Hamid Karzai signed a decree last week giving him the power to appoint all members of the Electoral Complaints Commission, a group previously dominated by U.N. appointees that uncovered massive fraud on behalf of Karzai in last year’s presidential election.

    All together now

    ? One, two, three
    What are we fighting for?
    Don’t as me I don’t give a damn
    Next stop’s Afganistan ?

    1. What do you want to do? If we leave, the Taliban will take over and let Al Quada in again? Are willing to live with that consequence? How do you plan to mitigate it?

      1. Leave with a promise we’ll bomb the shit out of them again and targeting the leaders, if they don’t fucking behave.

        What do you want to do? Prop up an incompetent corrupt government that lacks the people’s support until hell freezes over? Or just until the flower of democracy blooms in central Asia?

        1. I’ve always wondered why this wasn’t our policy. Granted, it could be read as a bluff before an invasion, but I think our willingness to blow shit up and send troops has been established.

          1. It is not our policy because we don’t do that and the world knows it. There is no way in this day and age that the US could ever do a true punitive expedition.

            Further, such an expedition would be illegal under current international law. J sub D talks a good game about “bombing the shit out of them again” but they know we would never really do that. We would kill a few of their leaders, but they could just run and hide in the hills. Without going in on the ground, you couldn’t catch them. And once we are there on the ground, we are right back where we started.

            1. How much of recent history do you have to forget to pen such drivel?

              The bombing of Khadaffi’s home.

              1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia

              H&R only allows two links per post so you’ll have to look up Clinton bombing Sudan on your own.

              1. I will give you Yugoslavia, but understand that Yugoslavia is not Afghanistan. They actually had something to lose. We couldn’t bomb Afghanistan into submission the way we did Yugoslavia. Further, you forget to name a couple of others, namely Dessert Fox and the Clinton response to the African embassy bombings. And what exactly did those things accomplish? Nothing.

            2. Hell, as far as that goes, what the hell do you call Desert Shield/Desert Storm if not a punitive expedition? We left the same murderous asswipe in charge of Iraq.

              1. It wasn’t punitive. A punitive expedition would have have had the purpose of punishing Iraq. Our purpose was the restore Kuwaiti sovereignty. And after we did that we stopped.

          2. There’s even a term for it, punitive expedition.

            1. And if were 1910 rather than 2010, it would be a realistic option. Further, how do you have a punitive expedition in a mountainous remote country? You will do nothing but kill a bunch of civilian unless you are willing to go in on the ground. And then you are right back where you are now.

              1. I’d rather act punitively than occupy a nation indefinitely. Too damned expensive (in money and in lives), and, unlike with Japan and Germany, not really justified.

                1. So would I. But, I also would rather not be attacked in the first place. If there is another 9-11 or worse, the punitive expedition that follows is going to be pretty thin gruel.

                  And also, if we leave Afghanistan, it would be a tremendous propaganda coup for our enemies. The point of the punitive expedition threat is to deter. Why would anyone be deterred after we just left Afghanistan in defeat?

                  1. Is this some kind of lucky rabbit’s foot, occupying Afghanistan? As long as we’re there, we won’t be attacked? You don’t think that actually might encourage attacks?

                    How long do we need to stay? 1 year? 2? 10? What determines when we can leave?

                    This post is brought to you by the question mark.

                    1. This post is brought to you by the question mark.

                      How have the Mysterians been?

                    2. Crying. Crying ninety-six tears, I believe.

        2. Leave with a promise we’ll bomb the shit out of them again and targeting the leaders, if they don’t fucking behave.

          I thought Murtha died. His words live on.

        3. J sub D, The policy you propose is anti-nation building, it is not anti-war.

      2. So it’s better to stay there indefinitely, spending billions, having troops get killed, and suppressing Afghan agriculture (poppies), all to merely keep the Taliban pushed into certain areas?

        Do you not think to the future when you shit your pants, or do you just not care?

        1. If Al Quada goes there and pull off another and bigger 9-11, then we will have wished we had stayed. Another 9-11 will cost us close to a trillion dollars in lost growth and rebuilding. Maybe spending a few billion fighting a colonial war. It is not like we have to draft people to fight it. And it is not like we don’t take in on the order of a trillion and a half dollars in revenue each year. Yeah, we have a deficit, but there are other things we can cut.

          You guys act like we are fighting for fun and profit rather than necessity and if we go home nothing bad could ever happen. If only the world were that simple and the choices that good. Maybe fighting a lousy stinking long war and propping up an incompetent government is the best of all the bad alternatives available.

          1. From what intelligence has gathered, it’d be 9 11 times 100.

            1. no way!! that’s 91100!!!

          2. If Al Quada goes there and pull off another and bigger 9-11, then we will have wished we had stayed it was Bush’s fault.

            Fixed that for your audience.

        2. Stay indefinitely? I would hope not but it seems to be what we’ve done in Europe since WWII.

          True, our soldiers in Europe aren’t getting regularly shot at so there’s less cost in lives, but I’d love to know how much $$ we’ve spent maintaining bases in Europe over just the last 10 years (forget going back 60 years).

          What’s the big threat that our European troops are protecting us from? If we’re so worried about military spending in Afghanistan, why aren’t we worried about spending in Europe.

          1. True, our soldiers in Europe aren’t getting regularly shot

            That finally slowed down after Reagan bombed Libya in the 1980s.

      3. if we leave Vietnam the VC will take over and let communism in again! are we willing to live with that consequence? how do you plan to mitigate it?

        1. the consequences in that case was the deaths of millions. We walked away and the boat people and the killing fields moved in. That was a big deal.

          1. killing fields was Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge not Vietnam. anyways by leaving Vietnam they were preventing deaths. fighting was inevitable whether the US stayed involved or not. didn’t anyone learn any lessons from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? but the point is they ended up opening their markets and we trade with Vietnam now and aren’t enemies and the same could happen for Afghanistan.

            1. The Viet Cong (VC) were effectively gone after the Tet offensive.

      4. When you say “if we leave” do you mean you’re really over there or are you just confused?

    2. Now come on all you big strong men,
      Uncle Sam needs your help again.
      He’s got his little pecker caught in a crack
      Way over yonder in Iraq…


  5. “that kept Washington from becoming another Los Angeles”

    In which city would you prefer to live?

    1. If they had bulldozed Foggy Bottom and ran the whitehurst freeway all the way to 395, it would have been a crime.

      1. Perhaps, but then again, if the entire D.C. area were bulldozed and the ground salted, it would be a great victory for mankind.

        1. I’m in. How much salt do we need?

  6. Meanwhile, in the great Mesoptomamian democracy experiment

    The Sunni political party whose two most prominent leaders were disqualified from next month’s parliamentary elections in Iraq because of supposed ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party called Saturday for a boycott of the vote, raising fears of worsening sectarian tensions in an already volatile campaign.

    The action was prompted by the disqualification of hundreds of candidates, most of them Sunni, by a parliamentary commission last month.

    In announcing its boycott, Mr. Mutlaq’s party, the National Dialogue Front, cited not only Mr. Mutlaq’s disqualification, but also a volatile security situation, the arrest or harassment of candidates and the influence of Iran on the country’s Shiite parties, a recurring suspicion among Sunnis.

    One of the party’s candidates in Diyala Province, Najim al-Harbi, was arrested at his home on Feb. 7, part of what Mr. Maliki’s opponents have called a wave of intimidation against challengers.

    Expect Obama to delay the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq past August.

    1. Sucks to be the minority. The Sunnis will piss and moan and boycott the election, but what are they going to do about it? They have already had their asses handed to them multiple times. And if we were to leave, they would just be slaughtered wholesale by the Shias.

  7. Great plan, attack the USA and we will come build you schools and hospitals. Awesome.

    We should have just bombed them, they do it again, we wipe the country off the map and make the area uninhabitable.

  8. John,

    I for one appreciate your efforts and have agreed with your points in this particular thread wholesale.

    The elephant in the room for any hopes at a true libertarian party that could effectively challenge the TEAM RED/TEAM BLUE is foreign policy. The idea that we can espouse 19th century isolationist tendencies in the 21st century world is irresponsibly naive and a major reason why a libertarian party will simply not be taken seriously by a large enough chunk of Americans.

    Nothing annoys me more than the constant whining from the libertarian side about how every military action undertaken post-9/11 is a huge frigging disaster that made us less safe. It is categorically untrue to make this argument and more specifically it reveals the weakness behind the argument which is that the Libertarian alternative would’ve most certainly allowed us to get whacked again and probably magnitudes worse than 9/11.

    1. I would argue that the only legit one (from Lib perspective)is Afghanistan as it could easily be construed as self-defense. How is it categorically untrue to argue that pissing off the world with illegitimate adventurism and handing terrorists something to rally around has made us less safe? Is it because there hasn’t been another large-scale attack? Your last argument is pure speculation with absolutely no warrants. Personally, I am pretty sure the reason we haven’t been attacked again is because I sacrificed a goat to Zeus. It must be true. We haven’t been attacked.

      1. How is it categorically untrue to argue that pissing off the world with illegitimate adventurism

        It’s not illegitimate adventurism. Your premise is false to begin with. It was defined military action to remove threats facing the US and our Allies.

        handing terrorists something to rally around

        Prior to the first WTC attack, the Khobar towers, the USS Cole and 9/11, the terrorists apparently had no need for an extra “rallying point” in order to motivate them. What they did have was a superpower who appeared incapable of responding to a clear attack with any focused application or directive. They felt they could continue to attack with impunity, we never gave them any reason not to think so. Removing the Taliban and Saddam has changed that opinion completely. This has forced the enemy to alter its plans, and more specifically we killed a whole bunch of them. They are currently waiting for us to turn tail and bail from our responsibilities we’ve created. If we do so, we will allow them to return to their pre-9/11 mentality. This is unacceptable, and an invitation for another large attack.

        1. You mean “threats” as perceived by the usual gang of pigs running the U.S. foreign policy establishment and the corporate interests they serve.

          And what “Allies,” other than cough cough Israel cough? Shit, the one regional power other than Israel that was most behind the idea of taking Saddam out, Iran, Bush specifically told to fuck off. After the replacement of Khatami, the Iranian political establishment reached a quiet consensus on working with Bush on the nuclear issue, supporting regime change in Iraq, etc., and got nothin’.

          1. The multinational forces from over 60 countries that were fighting alongside US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are the allies that I am referring to specifically.

            Since you asked.

          2. And what “Allies,” other than cough cough Israel cough?

            Ah yes, the ‘US Foreign Policy is dictated by the Joooooos’ trope. Mr Carson, you’re smarter than this.

            There are over 40 countries involved in the Afghanistan ISAF coalition, including ‘real’ countries like France and Germany.
            (and Israel conseled – albeit quietly – against the Iraq 2003 invasion; better the devil you know and all that)

  9. Am I the only one not seeing the names on the comments?

    … Hobbit

  10. Actually, this is kinda fun, trying to associate the comments to known H&R regulars.

    Also, where’s the Preview button?

    … “Not that I need ot” Hobbit

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