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(July 25, 2005)

2016 Anyone?

Nov 08, 2012 by Ugh
Now that that's out of the way, let's look to the 2016 race! Yes I'm going there. Paul Ryan for the GOP vs..... who? Biden? H. Clinton? I can't imagine either of them would want to run given how old they'll be, but you never know. Is there someone on-deck for the Democrats? Is Paul Ryan the heir apparent? Inquiring minds want to know because, well, we're insane! Other than Ryan, I honestly have no idea. For the GOP, Santorum maybe (as disgusting as that would be)? Dems....? Drawing a huge blank there. Rahm? I guess something for Obama to consider in appointing his cabinet and high WH officials. Anyway, off to the Fiscal Cliff/Taxmaggedon!


Nov 08, 2012, 05:13:46 Ugh wrote:

I'm going to vote for this as my worst post ever.

Nov 09, 2012, 02:10:01 nous wrote:

GOP has to decide if they want to push the culture war or have a chance at winning the middle. Not certain that they can form an effective coalition. Primaries may be a Jindal type going against a Christie. Think the Christie wing might pull it together if Fox News gives them the breathing room to do so. I suppose there is a chance that Petraeus might decide to give it a shot as well.

Unsure who's in the wings for the Donks. Lots of functionaries but not many leaders. Think Christie vs. Warren would make for epic theater, though.

Nov 10, 2012, 02:01:45 DonaldJ wrote:

Four years is forever in politics. People were writing the obituary of the Republicans back in 2008-early 2009, IIRC. I think that was the moment when there was some chance it might have happened, if Obama really were the reincarnation of FDR, but he's not.

Krugman seems to be hoping he will turn out to be that way after all. But I think he had a better chance back in early 2009, when the Wall Street crowd had nearly plunged the world into Great Depression II.

Nov 10, 2012, 10:32:40 sapient wrote:

Yikes, nous: " I suppose there is a chance that Petraeus might decide to give it a shot as well."

What a difference a day makes.

Nov 11, 2012, 04:40:27 nous wrote:

It may make a difference or it may not. Bunch of right-ish people on my wife's f-list speculating that Petraeus was 'forced out'. Give it a year to die down and who knows? If Gingrich can survive his own personal life I don't see why Petraeus can't.

There again, I think the timocratic appeal of having a general for president may be waning.

Nov 11, 2012, 07:45:23 sapient wrote:

nous, I'm not sure that Gingrich did survive his personal life.

Nov 12, 2012, 03:54:30 nous wrote:

Was it his personal life or his personalty that did him in?

Nov 12, 2012, 12:26:44 sapient wrote:

Hmmm. Good question. His personality might have been reflected in his personal life somewhat - not in the fact of his peccadillos, but in his brazen hypocrisy and callousness.

Nov 27, 2012, 05:25:05 DonaldJ wrote:

There's a NYT article where it turns out that Obama was worried that a President Romney would obtain his drone assassination powers and not use them for good. I nearly died laughing when I read that.

The Glenn Greenwald comment on this practically writes itself, as anything one could say is virtually self-evident, or it used to be anyway.

Nov 27, 2012, 05:26:54 DonaldJ wrote:

Here's the NYT article. It's worth reading even if you don't subscribe and don't want to waste your free ten articles a month on something not very important. (IMO anyway)

Nov 29, 2012, 08:31:46 sapient wrote:

You died laughing - that Obama would have known that he used reason and restraint when Romney wouldn't have? Why is that funny?

Nov 29, 2012, 08:54:29 sapient wrote:

Let me just say another thing. In 1923, Hitler led the Beer Hall Putsch. Certainly "no one would have predicted" the power that the Nazis would have gained a decade later. But by two decades later (plus 2 years), over 12,000,000 people had died in WWII.

Al Qaeda isn't the Third Reich. But they killed 3000 civilians (on purpose) in the United States. They kill civilians elsewhere, including Muslim countries. They're thugs, kind of like Hitler in 1923.

Do we really want to allow them to gain political ground so that we end up in a war that's dicey, or that causes the death of 12.000,000 people? They are internationally despised criminals. They seek refuge where due process isn't available. I have no problem with the "war" on them.

So the cynical and politically pure Donald is laughing his ass off that Obama wants to set standards so that Dick Cheney's acolyte doesn't open up a commercial remote-control hunting business on Muslims in Pakistan? Or maybe (like the quail hunt) letting Guantanamo prisoners free while private 2nd amendment freedom fighters hunt them down?

Hahaha. Die laughing. We have our own thugs. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be fighting thugs here and elsewhere.

Nov 29, 2012, 12:01:00 russell wrote:

"Al Qaeda isn't the Third Reich."

Seriously? That's where you want to go with this?

Please just say you're fine with the drone program, and leave it at that.


Nov 30, 2012, 11:42:50 sapient wrote:

I'll say what I want, and what I believe.


Nov 30, 2012, 11:57:33 sapient wrote:

Nov 30, 2012, 12:26:43 sapient wrote:

By the way, russell, if you don't like what I say or what I believe, you're welcome to say so, and say why, instead of asking rhetorical questions and basically telling me to STFU.

Hitler didn't arise out of thin air. He was a racist, thuggish bully who capitalized on ancient racial hatreds and economic insecurity to gain power. He wasn't an extra-terrestrial. He was just like a lot of people who we see in the news today, and his adherents were just like a lot of people we might know. That's the lesson of Hitler - that he wasn't all that unusual. That's the lesson I was taught by people who lived through it, and who risked their lives to fight him.


Dec 01, 2012, 02:27:11 DonaldJ wrote:

I forgot I'd typed this--my blog reading was mostly about Gaza lately. Where Obama can't criticize Israel's targeted assassinations anymore (as even, weirdly enough, the Bush Administration did) because he uses the same tactics and the same arguments.

Hitler analogies now? Cool. That's right sapient, we gotta kill all the bad people in the world because you never know which of them might turn out to be the next Hitler. You sound exactly like the Bushies defending the war on Iraq. Same argument. They had a better one, actually, since Saddam had killed far more people and really did have a nuclear program during some of his rule. It doesn't occur to you that the drone attacks might actually make Pakistan more radical. Naah, of course not, not if Obama is responsible. It might occur to you if it had been Romney. For that matter, lots of Democrats used to compare Bush to Hitler, so we can go all sorts of directions with this one. I think abject trust given to any political leader is sorta dangerous. Hmm, what analogy could I use here if I wanted to argue on your level?

I should link you to Arthur Silber--Silber is really, really critical of the drone program and a lot of other things, but I don't generally link to him because I think he goes over-the-top and probably turns more people off than he convinces. You and he are on the same page, sapient. Well, on opposite sides of the same page.

Meanwhile, even the stodgy old NYT takes an almost Glenn Greenwald attitude towards Obama's newfound desire to put some sort of limit on the drone strikes. It's on today's editorial page.

Dec 01, 2012, 02:47:05 DonaldJ wrote:

Here's the NYT editorial on the proper etiquette involved in running an assassination program--

Dec 01, 2012, 04:52:13 sapient wrote:

Donald, the NYT is miles behind where Obama's administration is going already. It's quietly figuring out how to end the "endless war":

That, in addition to creating a legal structure to limit targeted killings.

And, no, I don't think that we need to kill every bad person in order to prevent another Hitler, but we would be remiss not to pay attention to the lessons of that history to help us to determine whether early intervention serves a legitimate purpose at a particular time. We certainly have reason to pay attention to al Qaeda, an organization that has killed 3000 of our civilians, and whose purpose is to kill civilians in various settings around the world.

(Bush's war against Saddam Hussein was an imperialist war of occupation, with no regard to the sectarian civil war that would be unleashed by our intervention. It has no parallel whatsoever with trying to eliminate al Qaeda, which poses an international threat. Keep in mind that despite complaints and murmurings, the world community does not seriously object to the targeted killings taking place - quite different from its reaction to the Iraq war.)

Dec 01, 2012, 05:33:14 DonaldJ wrote:

What world community is that? The one where the UN is going to look into the legality of drone killings? You seriously think the world's one billion Muslims, for instance, are all so trustful of US leadership that they're happy to have our government running assassination programs?

The difference between Bush and other American Presidents on the subject of foreign policy is simply one of degree--Bush was a blithering idiot who couldn't run our traditionally imperialist foreign policy in a competent way. Obama objected (in his liberal district) not because Iraq would be an imperialist war, but because it was dumb. Many Democrats, including his Secretary of State, supported it. If they could have toppled Saddam Hussein with hundreds of thousands of deaths, but only Iraqi ones and with no serious harm to American interests as they define them then that would have been peachy. That's what the sanctions were intended to do, after all.

You think Obama would describe Iraq as an imperialist war? Obviously not. No Democrat who rises that high thinks that way. He thought it was dumb and said so. But that's all. Better than the alternative (McCain or Romney), but he's not the sort of liberal sentimentalist who shrinks from being a hypocrite on human rights issues.

Dec 01, 2012, 05:42:41 DonaldJ wrote:

Anyway, repeating a point I've made before, one thing suggested by history is that arrogant actions taken by superpowers sometimes backfires. Though usually the bulk of the casualties aren't American, but the unfortunates where we do our noble interventions.

BTW, what do the lessons of history suggest that others do if they acquire drone technology and think America will continue to act like a rogue state, killing or invading or bullying as it wishes?

I don't really expect anyone to launch drones at us--but if our relative power weakens I expect (and hope) that our leaders will start facing legal sanctions and have to watch out where they can travel once they leave office. I've heard that Kissinger has to worry about such things--I don't know if it is true or if it is also true of the Bushies. It'd be nice if every American President had to think about it.

Dec 01, 2012, 08:57:57 sapient wrote:

"The one where the UN is going to look into the legality of drone killings?"

Yes, that one - and the one where the Obama administration is looking into the legality of drone killings. Drone killings are a novel way of conducting a novel war, and they deserve to be "looked into", limited, and organized. That's what the Obama administration is trying to do, and kudos to the UN for taking an interest in it as well.
"You seriously think the world's one billion Muslims, for instance, are all so trustful</I>

No, I think that some of them are and some of them aren't. I'm not willing to speak for the world's one billion Muslims. Are you? Is Glenn? Do you think that the world's Muslims are a monolith? If so, then you are severely misguided.

<I>simply one of degree simply one of degree</I>

As a religious man, don't you think that all of our human strengths and foibles are simply those of degree? Or are you a saint, and I am a devil? I reject that Manichaean view of the world, but maybe your religious predelictions allow you to think that way. In my view, on the continuum of human experience, we sometimes reach the point where certain actions, if taken in good faith for the right reasons, with prudence and care, are justified.

<I>No Democrat who rises that high thinks that way.</I>

They absolutely do think that way. They don't say it that way because they need the support of the people. Obama would never embark on an imperialistic war - he's not stupid - he knows as well as you (or better) what that is.

<I>what do the lessons of history suggest that others do if they acquire drone technology and think America will continue to act like a rogue state, killing or invading or bullying as it wishes?</I>

Isn't that what we're talking about? Determining when the use of drone warfare is justified, and when it's not?

By the way, I'm fairly certain that few people who comment here would have opposed Hitler. Everyone here, at one time or other, states that WWII was the "good war" but they say it's because of their huge military strength, etc. In other words, if they would have stopped him at all, it would have been at the expense of millions and millions of lives. They don't get the lesson of history that in order to save innocents, you have to identify the threat earlier.

It takes courage to try to determine where moral lines are drawn, and what the nuances are. Obama is doing that.

Dec 01, 2012, 21:16:28 russell wrote:

"if you don't like what I say or what I believe, you're welcome to say so"

I figure some things don't need pointing out, but I could be wrong.

The points at which the analogy between Adolph Hitler and any member of Al Qaeda leadership alive or dead hold up are very thin soup. What they have in common, they share with some thousands of other people in the world, as you yourself note.

The world is, sadly, f**king full of people who are "just like Hitler in 1923". We don't run around the world offing those people with missiles fired from drones, nor should we.

Nor, for that matter, should we have sent teams of assassins to find and kill Adolph Hitler in 1923. And, in fact, we did not.

The reason for taking military action against members of Al Qaeda is not because they're hateful murderous bullying thugs, but because they have actually attacked Americans in a way that arguably calls for a military, rather than a criminal, response.

Some folks consider the military response, full stop, a step too far. Not many, but some.

Some folks are OK with the military response, but find the drone program a step too far. Not everyone, but a fair number of folks.

And some folks are OK with the military use of drones, but find their use by non-military folks in contexts where we are otherwise not at war to be highly problematic. Again, not everyone, but a pretty good number of folks.

And some folks think it's all justifiable, necessary, and proper.

Each of those points of view is defensible. Folks who fall into different of those camps disagree, obviously, but it's a conversation you can have on the merits.

"We have to kill them because they're just like Hitler!!", however, is not. They're not just like Hitler, except in as much as any perpetrator of political violence is just like Hitler.

That's a really, really, really, really, really long list. We don't have enough drones to address it.

When I say, "please just leave it at that", the intent is not "STFU with your stupid opinion, you should not be allowed to express your point of view".

The intent is this:

You are an intelligent person with solid things to say, it frankly makes me sad to see you go for the Godwin angle. No snark.

Much much shorter me:

The Hitler thing is not to the point, and undermines the things you have to say that *are* of merit.

And seriously, the second-to-last paragraph in your last, about who would and who would not have opposed Hitler and why, is just crap. And reading the "lesson of history" as "you have to identify the threat earlier" is both crap, and really really dangerous.

Nobody's tea leaves are that good. Unfortunate that that is so, but it is so.

Dec 01, 2012, 22:55:57 sapient wrote:

Thanks for your comment, russell.

Just to say, I think the "Godwin" rule is ridiculous. The conflagration of the middle of the last century contains the most grave and powerful lessons of our recent history. Figuring out what it means to have allowed the world to get to that point is something that we should feel free to consider frequently. Obviously, history never presents a complete and solid re-do. And no, I don't suggest that we should have drone attacked Hitler in 1923 (if we'd had them). But we let an obvious malevolent movement get way out of control before we stepped in, way too late. We didn't have the military capability to stop it effectively earlier, so that was one lesson learned, perhaps way too well. Another failure was not to have recognized how twisted and destructive the movement was. If you'd like to ignore, or deny, those lessons as relevant to any further period in history, and you support the banning of any conversation about it, then fine.

The link that I provided indicates that the "war" against al Qaeda is not expected to last forever. My belief is that Obama is making a credible effort to minimize the actual threat, then declare it over. He's also trying to make sense of the use of drones, in terms of when and why they are necessary, and the procedures that are required before using them.

My reaction to Donald's note was that I don't think that's in any way laughable. He came in with free reign - Congress hasn't made any effort to narrow his use of drones (and neither has the rest of the world, despite an interest in "investigating") - and now he's taken it upon the Executive department to regulate itself. I don't see that as anything other than responsible leadership.

Dec 01, 2012, 23:49:53 sapient wrote:

Also, I realize that people disagree about drones. What I really take issue with is the tone with which people refer to those who support the use of drones as morally inferior. Donald thinks that it's laughable that Obama wants to specify procedures. Considering that Obama followed a president who showed very few powers of discernment, I don't really get the joke - unless, of course, he considers Obama to be completely without good faith - which is often how he and Glenn Greenwald come across when they discuss the issue.

Dec 03, 2012, 13:13:35 DonaldJ wrote:

"In other words, if they would have stopped him at all, it would have been at the expense of millions and millions of lives. They don't get the lesson of history that in order to save innocents, you have to identify the threat earlier."

Reminds me of that Star Trek episode where McCoy goes back in time and saves the life of a young pacifist before she subsequently starts a mass movement--consequently the US stays out of WWII and Hitler conquers the world. Fortunately Kirk and Spock go back in time to hunt McCoy down and Kirk prevents McCoy from saving the young woman's life (she gets hit by a car), and Hitler is stopped.

So yes, Sapient, it's all about having the wisdom to know years or decades in advance which small-time thug will become a genocidal maniac, and which innocent civilians have to die in order to stop them. This is what makes Hitler analogies so useful--you can justify killing virtually any bad person (with accompanying collateral damage) and pat yourself on the back that you've saved millions of lives. Thank God we went into Vietnam--you can't tell which of the Communists we killed might have been the next Pol Pot. Oh wait...

Dec 03, 2012, 13:25:34 DonaldJ wrote:

Minor correction--went into Southeast Asia, in case anyone thinks I think Pol Pot was Vietnamese.

"They absolutely do think that way. They don't say it that way because they need the support of the people. "

How cynical of you. And I doubt anyone could really maintain the sort of cognitive dissonance it would take to harbor truly anti-imperialist views and make it into the White House. When Obama disowned Jeremiah Wright (and not just on the stupid things Wright said, but his lefty anti-imperialist view of US foreign policy), that sounded pretty sincere to me, or as sincere as any politician ever is. To think otherwise you have to be like the rightwingers who claim against all the evidence that Obama is a socialist.

And anyway, there's a lot of continuity between Presidents on these issues. Obama bragged about the crippling sanctions on Iran--it's late or I'd go look up the piece at Lobelog about what those sanctions are doing to cancer victims. The proper way to react to that kind of boastfulness is to point out how inappropriate it was, even if you think Obama is secretly upset about the sorts of things he had to do and say to win re-election.

Dec 04, 2012, 08:58:18 sapient wrote:

Donald, If you're an idiot, you interpret what I said as "all about having the wisdom to know years or decades in advance which small-time thug will become a genocidal maniac".

If you have a heart, or have a personal history seeing the destruction of WWII (like maybe a holocaust victim among your friends), or have someone who told you about it first-hand, you will at least consider that something might have been done a bit earlier to forestall that terrible world war that resulted in unprecedented lives lost, and apply it to today's wars, to try to figure out how to solve an international problem in a way that minimizes death.

Obama "bragged"? What a rhetorical plagiarist, Donald - Glenn Greenwald ought to sue you. Obama is trying to do something in Iran to prevent a war. Cancer victims? It's no wonder you have trouble finding your b.s. article. What could the Iranian government (the people representing those alleged cancer victims) have done to get our support to help its citizens? Compromise it's nuclear program? OMG, what a thing to ask! Nuclear nonproliferation - such a bad idea!

Dec 04, 2012, 10:29:27 sapient wrote:

By the way, Donald, if we're going to abandon the role of "World Policeman", we need to also abandon the role of "World Pharmacist", "World Breadbasket", "World Mediator", etc.

If you buy into the notion that isolationism is okay, then: It's okay. If you buy into the notion that we should meddle, then: we have a say.

I happen to believe that we should make a difference: by intervening, by withholding, by advertising, by assisting, etc. Obviously, we have to have a government that does these things with an appropriate goal in mind: democracy, nuclear non-proliferation, human rights advocacy, etc.

Donald, would you have intervened, as many volunteers did, in the Spanish Civil War? Just a question - answer it honestly.

Dec 05, 2012, 05:17:28 nous wrote:

Sapient - not weighing in on either side of this debate in taking on two of your points here, just taking on those points on their own merit.

The question of doing more earlier in WWII is horribly fraught and as much as I sympathize with wishing that something could have been done earlier to prevent the deaths of so many in the concentration camps, I gave up the notion that early intervention would have changed the outcome in the Allies favor sometime in the midst of my research for my dissertation (which was largely about representations of veteran experience in WWII). I think any path other than the slow and costly one that was taken would have substantially reduced the Allies chances of winning. But that's my pobabilistic opinion and not my value judgment on the matter. Either way, though, horrible decisions abounded.

Second, our giving up the role of "World Policeman" would not necessitate us also abandoning the other roles if our major military allies also shifted their own stances to take on a part of the overall security/stability burden. As things stand we are doing the majority of the work and Europe is freeriding. If we were less dynamic I think you'd find that Europe would be more interventionist in response.

Dec 05, 2012, 06:10:33 DonaldJ wrote:

Yes, sapient, you and only you in this entire thread have ever wondered if Hitler could have been stopped earlier. It's a fascinating new notion you've got there, and so nobody has ever used, say, Munich to symbolize appeasement or invoked Hitler as a justification for America getting into wars and stopping some really bad people from doing bad things. Too bad--I'm sure we could have done worlds of good in places like Iraq and southeast Asia. That was my point, in case it wasn't clear.

Obama did brag. I'm not singling him out for blame, as it happens. It says something about the political culture that macho posturing is thought to show that one has serious foreign policy credentials, so of course he bragged that he imposed crippling sanctions. It's how the political game is played.

"It's no wonder you have trouble finding your bs article."

Well, it's hard to argue with that logic. I didn't look for it--it was late. Stylistically and substantively you sound very much like a rightwinger. I'll look for the bs article later.

And what does world policeman have to do with world pharmacist and the rest? You're getting weirder and weirder. Also, you want the US to be the world's policeman? I thought you were anti-imperialist. Whatever.

I've read about the Spanish Civil War--I'd have sided with the left. They murdered fewer people, though they did murder quite a few. But the latest figures say much less than the right. But I won't obey your order to answer your question, because I think it is bizarre, both the question and the order. Instead will lie. Here it comes. I would forge a Ring of Power, with lesser rings to hand out to my minions, and I would sally forth with my Nazgul/orc/troll army and beat the living hell out of those fascists.

Dec 05, 2012, 06:17:10 DonaldJ wrote:

Hey sapient, here's that BS article you requested.

There's all kinds of entertaining BS in it--BS about cancer victims, BS about survivors of chemical attacks during the Iran/Iraq war, that kind of thing.

Dec 05, 2012, 06:25:05 DonaldJ wrote:

"What could the Iranian government (the people representing those alleged cancer victims) have done to get our support to help its citizens? Compromise it's nuclear program?"

The Iranian regime is scummy. I realize, of course, that this means we can do whatever we damn well please to innocent people and blame it on them. I know this because so many people reason in exactly this way, whether it is terrorists, or their Western counterparts. It makes sense. We're good, they're evil, they've got to be stopped, and all the guilt falls on them. Go team.

Dec 05, 2012, 06:40:19 DonaldJ wrote:

BTW, sapient, you're not arguing this well. You're supposed to say "Okay, smartypants isolationist Hitler appeasing pacifist Glenn-reading jerkoff, what would you do about the Iranian nuclear program?"

Depending on my mood, I might reply "Not much." Or I could be prodded into something like this--

" Try smart sanctions. Not the crippling kind designed in theory to put pressure on the regime by hurting the people. Target members of the regime to the extent possible, but listen to the Iranian dissident community, the people who actually do fight for democracy, and do what they suggest. If they suggest harsh sanctions, take them seriously, as happened with South Africa. But they aren't saying that here. Here is what they are saying--"

On the other hand, I might go off on some wild tangent about how I'd change history if I had access to a time machine and could join the Lincoln Brigade and stop Franco, or maybe shoot Hitler when he was a child, just because I find your Hitler posturing so dumb and pointless it deserves nothing better in response. The possibilities are endless.

Dec 05, 2012, 08:03:28 sapient wrote:

So easy to get the International community to come together to impose and enforce any sanctions, much less "smart sanctions" or "the sanctions that a particular group of people want" or whatever.

Think, Donald, think! People have to actually implement stuff. Life is not a dream!

Of course, you don't take the idea of learning from history seriously, and I certainly don't want to revisit the drone argument. But no, you wouldn't have supported any movement against the fascists unless Glenn told you to.

(And I read the article you were too busy to find. It's b.s.)

Dec 05, 2012, 12:16:39 DonaldJ wrote:

Sapient, I actually had a high enough opinion of you to think you'd be ashamed when you read the article and found that there are people in Iran suffering because they can't obtain drugs. I was even ashamed of pushing your Obama button. You get irrational when that happens--it's like insulting someone's religion. Only an idiot does that unless they want a screaming match. So yeah, my bad. . There is no point in ever discussing anything with you if it is going to involve criticism of Obama, unless some part of me just wants to stick it to you. You've got no power AFAIK, so what's the point? Still, I wasn't expecting a blanket dismissal of Iranian cancer victims, or a contemptuous attitude towards that article or the other one regarding the views of Iranian dissidents including Dr. Ebadi.

Smart sanctions would be easier for people to support in the long run than the crippling kind--some people worry about collateral damage or even worry that "crippling" sanctions are aimed at ordinary people and are therefore immoral and their consciences aren't eased by the usual rationalizations that people employwhen their political ideologies come into play. And those Iranian dissidents would favor smart sanctions, including Dr Ebadi. But this means nothing to you, because of the Obama factor. It's all bullshit. Wow. You've actually surprised me and not in a good way.

I'm having a similar argument with a Christian Zionist friend in real life--he just can't get it through his head that his chosen set of good guys could be guilty of anything. They're the West, the good guys, the civilized ones. It's a matter of first principles. I might as well be talking to a wall. I do too much of that.

Dec 06, 2012, 03:40:12 sapient wrote:

Donald, if you read the article that you linked to, it says this:

"The sanctions themselves do not prohibit importation of medicine, but the reality is that Iranian pharmaceutical companies and the Health Ministry cannot purchase it because of strict restrictions on Iranís Central Bank and the fact that SWIFT, the body that handles global banking transactions, has cut Iranian banks out of its system. "

In other words, the world is more complicated than just having "smart sanctions". Perhaps, instead of complaining about sanctions, you could head up an effort to import medicine into the country bypassing the banking complications.

It is sad that people are hurt. Why isn't the Iranian government figuring out an answer to this instead of building nukes? Maybe the compassionate people should turn their attention to that problem. Or maybe it should raise money to bypass the banking system so that drugs can be imported. You see, problems don't start and end with U.S. policy (policy that is intended to promote two extremely good causes - nonproliferation and avoidance of war). Instead, the Glenn Greenwalds of the world, and you, talk sneeringly about the fact that Obama is trying to place limits on his own military programs. How misguided you are.

Dec 06, 2012, 05:25:56 DonaldJ wrote:

Sapient, I'm glad to see you backing down from phrases like so-called cancer victims. But yes, there should be a movement to cancel out the effects of the crippling sanctions. Which would begin with people expressing outrage at the damage being done to innocent Iranians. I don't have a problem with sanctions aimed at Iranian government officials, or which are meant to put a kink in nuclear weapons development. I'd listen to what Iranian dissidents suggest though. We are ostensibly outraged by the thuggishness of the Iranian regime, so maybe it would be a good idea to listen to what Iranian democratic dissidents suggest we do (thankfully they aren't suggesting an invasion.) I need to read more, but it's my impression that Middle Easterners who try to send money to groups overseas for humanitarian reasons often get into very significant legal difficulties. It has happened to Palestinians, it happened to Iraqi-Americans, and another blog entry at Lobelog was about how Iranian Americans are effected by the sanctions. I didn't read it, only skimmed part of the intro, but my impression was that part of the problem was exactly this issue. And no, at the moment I don't have time to read it.

There is no significant political pressure on US politicians to behave decently towards civilians in the Middle East if there are other considerations at stake. Unfortunately what pressure there is often has a partisan component to it, and even when it is a Republican in office the crimes they commit against Middle Eastern civilians are pretty far down the list of reasons why they might lose an election. If it's a Democrat, forget about it. And part of the problem has been that Western government officials very much want to use pressure on civilians--it's a tool that they think works,for some reason--, but if pressed on the morality deny that they are doing it. That was the story with the Iraqi sanctions, it's what Israel has done to Gaza, and it looks like the same thing is happening with Iran. So I'm going to concentrate on this country, because it's the one I'm responsible for. It's sad how easily we insulate ourselves from the effects of our policies on other people.

Dec 06, 2012, 09:26:37 sapient wrote:

"It's sad how easily we insulate ourselves from the effects of our policies on other people."

It's sad that we are human and live in the world and aren't Janes. It's sad how people have horrible governments against whom our government has certain policies, and all goes to shit.

I mean, we do have beliefs, interests, and presence.

We can choose to live by leaving the lightest footprint possible, or we can figure out how we want to make a footprint and matter. Making a footprint causes good and/or evil. Mostly a mixture. That's an actual truth. If you don't want to dwell on history, I can't point to examples, but they are definitely there. Read, for example, Ta Nehisi-Coates on the Civil War, a hugely inhumane moment in history. Think of the innocents who were denied what they should have expected of a civilized nation. Etc. But then think of the fact that the slaves were freed. Same with WWII. Think of the deaths of young boys (and civilians). Then think of the defeat of the Nazis, who made lampshades out of people, and the Japanese, who hung the Chinese up by their tongues.

It's sad, and unjust. But at some point, the people themselves need to rise up and reject it. In fact they did, in Iran, in 1979. They need to continue to work on that project, so that their government doesn't alienate the entire international community. At a certain stage, we're not responsible for their poor choice of a government, and we need to act in our interest. In other words, it's not our fault. It's their fault. It's not our policies. It's their policies.

Have you ever looked at a welfare statute, Donald? Just go take a look at the California code, and scroll down to the welfare section. Look at how complicated the law is in order to provide for people, and to protect them. I'm all in favor of it, by the way. But it's not a matter of picking out the story of some pitiful victim of a war we didn't have anything to do with, and blaming the US government for not making everything all right.

Go to any country where beggars are prevalent. There are thousands of seriously disfigured, disabled people with their cups out. Should we blame the U.S. government for each of these people who has a difficult, tragic life? They're everywhere - I saw a person like this in a major European city recently (where there is the best health care in the world).

Am I immoral for pointing this out? How about you, for not saving each of these people - you could probably adopt some of them. The fact is, there's a limit on our individual responsibility, or our responsibility as a country. We can all feel horrible and guilty (and I do), but the world doesn't allow us, even as a society, to fix everything. Or maybe you have a plan? Or maybe you just blame Obama. That's why I think it's b.s.

Dec 06, 2012, 13:38:04 sapient wrote:

nous, I was so caught up in my argument with Donald, I missed your comment. I wish I knew more about your work.

It's difficult to second-guess the decisions of WWII, of course, and what might have transpired. The world wasn't ready for what it faced in so many ways, most obviously militarily. We can't put ourselves back in history, as everyone here has admonished. But it is worth considering what kinds of similar issues might merit our early attention. That's why I don't believe in the Godwin rule.

I agree with you as to our relationship with Europe, but believe that the balance is changing, with Europe (see France in Libya and now Mali) taking on a larger role.

Dec 06, 2012, 22:09:11 Slartibartfast wrote:

"They're thugs, kind of like Hitler in 1923."

Sure, they're _just_ like Hitler, and in practically every way! Case closed!

Get a fucking grip, sapient. I'd say you've got more of a clue than this, but lately I am not so sure.

Seriously: it may be a good time to take a break from being an Internet Warrior and just closely examine exactly what it is that you've been saying. Obama will survive another four years without your intervention on his behalf.

OTOH if you are attempting to become an equal/opposite caricature of e.g. Brett, mission accomplished.

Dec 07, 2012, 03:29:04 nous wrote:

Sapient -- nothing ground breaking about my work where the study of WWII is concerned. I was comparing contemporary film and television portrayals of WWII to the way that it is portrayed in video games in order to see how medium affects rhetoric and meaning. Since 'how realistic' the portrayal is looms so large in the conversation, I had to get a solid baseline understanding of the history and the media history before I could start an analysis. A good chunk of the reading I did looked at propaganda and common misconceptions that arise out of them. It gave me a better sense of how imbricated economics, military preparedness, and public opinion were.

I think a lot of the paths we see to earlier intervention can, like many regrets, only be truly seen in hindsight because they rely on the knowledge gained from a mistake that would not have been learned without that mistake.

Dec 07, 2012, 04:14:23 sapient wrote:

"I think a lot of the paths we see to earlier intervention can, like many regrets, only be truly seen in hindsight because they rely on the knowledge gained from a mistake that would not have been learned without that mistake."

I agree with this, but I do think that there's something to be learned from our history. I'm not sure that putting certain crucial periods of our history into an unreachable box, like some here would prefer to do, is the way to learn from what we've experienced.

Sure, nobody is "just like Hitler." Maybe not even close to "just like Hitler." The early 20th Century was a unique time (just as all time is) and brought a confluence of novel ideological movements led by charismatic demagogues, along with newly industrialized military might. But we don't have to follow the exact same recipe of world events to replicate some of the mistakes that we made.

Sure, Slartibartfast. I'll consider it.

Dec 07, 2012, 05:57:17 nous wrote:

I read Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise a couple weeks ago and his discussion of terrorism there really does resonate with what I'm thinking about WWII. The very fact that we look for charismatic demagogues capable of leading a country into madness shows that we are in danger of overfitting our data when looking for patterns in the past and may prevent us from seeing where the real dangers lie. It's not that the period is an unreachable box, it's that the event changed our way of seeing the data and prevent us from *not* seeing the charismatic madman in the noise and makes us more likely to see one in future noise whether or not that is what's happening.

The myths we tell ourselves in the name of 'lessons learned' are often ones that would not have been possible at the time they happened.

I'd argue that the real paradigm shifter was not 'charismatic madman' at all, but rather 'concentration camp'. We keep looking for Hitler and ignoring entrenched bigotry.

Dec 07, 2012, 09:17:52 DonaldJ wrote:

" Or maybe you just blame Obama. That's why I think it's b.s."

That's your obsession. There are some bad aspects to US policy that continue unchanged no matter which party is in power and there are human rights groups and others that focus on those issues no matter who is President. One classic example would be the US support for Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor, which was followed by every President from Ford through Clinton (until 1999). The worst years, when it amounted to support for genocide, were under a President I really admire (as an ex-Pres), Jimmy Carter.

To the extent that I've zinged Obama it's because there are people like you who seem to worship him, but I'll try to pull back on that, because I think it just causes you to go into Obama defense mode.

Harsh sanctions (the harshest ever, supposedly, in the case of Iran) are naturally going to hurt civilians. That's kind of the point, you know. It's one of those situations where people practice doublethink, where they support the policy to "exert pressure" and then deny responsibility for the pressure. I used to have a lot of arguments with people about the Iraqi sanctions back in the 90's. Those were bipartisan. The Bush 1 administration deliberately bombed Iraqi civilian infrastructure in the Gulf War. Part of the reason was legitimate military considerations, perhaps (hitting the power would cripple their air defenses, I guess), but there was also the plan to pressure the civilian population. The sanctions were meant to hinder or prevent repairs. It was all laid out in a story by Barton Gellman in the June 23 1991 Washington Post (also cited in a Human Rights Watch report on the consequences of the air war) and then, in the decade that followed, almost entirely ignored, with the storyline being that civilian suffering in Iraq was entirely due to Saddam's corruption. Of course much of it was (and also he had this rather nasty totalitarian police state going on). But not all. People have this tendency to argue in binary terms--either it was all our fault or all his, when it was both. And Westerners like to pretend we never intend to hurt civilians, that we don't do that as a matter of policy, because it is only our evil enemies that do that. But of course that's BS.

Dec 09, 2012, 09:20:25 sapient wrote:

<I>Harsh sanctions (the harshest ever, supposedly, in the case of Iran) are naturally going to hurt civilians. That's kind of the point, you know.</I>

Actually, I do know that it is the point. The rationale being this: in many countries (including Iran) the citizenry isn't at the mercy of the government; it is able to elect or depose the government. For the people who live there, it's either go along to get along, or do something about it. There was an Iranian revolution in 1979. They got rid of the Shah, the guy who was an oppressive dictator. They can influence their government. They need to put the pressure on to stop the nuclear program.

Dec 10, 2012, 04:59:36 DonaldJ wrote:

Well, I'm glad you concede that, but then there's the hypocrisy problem, isn't there? You want Iranians to risk torture and death to deal with their oppressive government, but it's too much to ask our liberal politicians to investigate Bush's war crimes and prosecute them because of the political constraints. Nothing else would get done, we'd have full scale political war, mean things would be said on Fox, etc... Which is a walk in the park compared to what Iranian rebels would face.

Pressuring people who live under a brutal regime so that they will rise up against that regime is also not that different from the mentality of terrorists. I've come full circle here.

Dec 10, 2012, 12:12:16 sapient wrote:

Not sure what you're talking about, Donald. We just had an election, and we didn't elect the Bush torturers, and we didn't elect Fox News. Sure, we also didn't elect the inquisition (which I would have been happy with, but whatev ... that's apparently very difficult for this county to do).

The fact is, the Iranians have to rise up against the functional equivalent of the U.S. teaparty Christian right. Time that they did it.

Dec 11, 2012, 01:26:10 DonaldJ wrote:

So a few percentage points the other way, Romney wins, and it would be okay to treat the US as brutally as you support doing to Iran. So if Romney had won, then in your view we should have risen up in violent rebellion or else called for the most crippling sanctions possible on our country until enough of us had decided it was time to revolt. We also should have done that right after Bush won in 2004, when he was in the middle of a brutal unjust war.

Not that I think there's such a night and day difference between the parties, but if you think so then why all the questions about the Spanish Civil War and Hitler and so forth? Shouldn't you be arming yourself now? There's no guarantee a Democrat will win in 2016. And why weren't you up in the hills with a band of guerillas back in 2005?

Anyway, I'm done. You think it's okay to target civilians in order to get them to do what you think is right. That was my point.

Dec 11, 2012, 09:21:51 sapient wrote:

Donald, you're done, but I'm not.

"Targeting" civilians? Pleeez. We, as a nation, can have a conversation with another nation that says this: stand by your promises - your treaty to forego the production of nuclear weapons. If you don't, we will join with the international community to stop doing business with your country. If you persist even then, there will be a war.

Please tell me how "smart sanctions" would work. Or just say plainly that you're in favor of nuclear proliferation -that's so safe for the civilians of the world.

Dec 12, 2012, 09:31:59 DonaldJ wrote:

Okay, not quite done.

Sapient, you want to put sanctions on innocent people in another country so that they will be so miserable they will finally revolt. That's targeting civilians. You don't want to use the term. But just before you agreed the idea was to hurt civilians. So "pleez", you've already conceded that point. Setting aside morality, as apparently I should, I don't think it works that way--if or when Iranians revolt it will be out of a sense of moral outrage and not because you want to treat them like inferiors who need to be impoverished until they do their duty as you see it. Try broadcasting to Iranians your plan and you may find some of that moral outrage directed at the arrogant jerks who think that people in less powerful countries have to take whatever is done to them. You might find they revolt and then a democratic nation hates us. Perhaps you'd take credit for their revolt-why not? The Bushies take credit for Arabs rising against their rulers. Tell them that heroes like yourself dealt with the Tea Party death squads, so they should get off their Persian butts and take a few risks.

We should be listening to Iranian dissidents, people who've actually earned their Nobel Peace Prize. They know their country. You don't and I don't. But you think like a neocon.

Stand by your promises? Isn't there something in international law about enforcing laws about war crimes? So you only invoke that against other countries--it simply means nothing to you if it would be turned against the US. You know no one is going to sanction the US, so you don't give a damn.

If I were dealing with someone who favored some sort of moral consistency in our foreign policy, I'd actually just shut my mouth and listen to what they had to say about nuclear proliferation. I'd probably learn a lot. With you, I just learn the interesting fact that other countries need to obey the law, but we don't.

Dec 13, 2012, 04:45:48 sapient wrote:

"if or when Iranians revolt it will be out of a sense of moral outrage and not because you want to treat them like inferiors who need to be impoverished until they do their duty as you see it."

That's ridiculous! Who's treating people as inferiors? The Iranian people are not inferior, but neither I nor my country have to do business with people whose policies we object to. I don't do business with declared homophobes in my town. I don't do business with people who put Republican signs in front of their businesses. It's a choice I make, knowing that they make their choices as well.

Obviously, there are people in Iran who object to their government's policies. Fine. I object to some of my government's policies too. And no, I don't have a double standard - I would totally accept the possibility that other countries might impose sanctions against the United States for some of its excesses during the Bush administration. But guess what? They won't. And it's not only because we're more powerful - after all, the European community could definitely do some things, as could China. It's because they don't have the courage of their convictions.

It's not "treating people like inferiors" to hold them somewhat responsible to take charge of their own country. And, speaking of taking charge, how is it that the Iranians have the technology to build nukes, but not to make medicine to help cancer victims? Is that Obama's fault too?

Dec 13, 2012, 07:41:17 sapient wrote:

Oh, and let me correct something that I said: "They don't have the courage of their convictions." Actually, they don't have convictions. They have rhetoric. There are few people who have convictions, but many who have rhetoric. I would count Glenn Greenwald among the rhetoriticians. You'd probably be willing to listen to Glenn about nonproliferation, but - guess what - he wouldn't talk about it, because it doesn't involve blaming "Teh Executive".

Dec 14, 2012, 12:01:18 DonaldJ wrote:

Sapient, I actually wasn't referring to Glenn on the non-proliferation thing. He's good on human rights issues, not an expert on all things involving foreign policy.

The rest of what you said didn't seem relevant to me. That Americans aren't the only hypocrites in the world is not news.

Dec 15, 2012, 07:40:23 sapient wrote:

As to civilians targeted, interesting that the mothership has closed down. Nobody wants to talk about what people do to other people here in the U.S., with guns.

russell wants a waiting period. But by the time a respectable amount of time is over (what, three days?) there will be another shooting. Just as there was three days ago. Let's definitely censor the discussion until cooler heads prevail. Those heads that all agree: guns don't kill people! people do!

Just to say, I don't agree with that. So censor this site too.

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