Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I imagine he thinks he's being terribly clever ...

Before I begin, my condolences to Mark on his current troubles. As I have repeatedly said, my intention is that he mind his manners rather than lose his livelihood and as such have no intention of gloating at his expense.

That said, as Mark's Bush Derangement Syndrome continues apace, he now appears to have settled on a villain and at least a partial explanation as to how the administration can be both Wilsonian idealists and realpolitik Machiavellians. He still gets it wrong (what the hell is "idealistic certitude with realpolitik brutality [that] tends to result in huge promises, big blunders and hopes betrayed for a great many people?" Is this supposed to be anything more than sloganeering?) and of course thinks that he is ever-so-clever by arguing that Dick Cheney has too much power and/or really runs the White House. That particular caricature might be more appealing were it not, you know, repeated ad nauseam since Bush assumed office. If one is going to seriously criticize the administration to the degree that Mark has, he might as well grow a pair and note that Bush is ultimately the one responsible, not some shadowy puppeteer.

Oh, and Mark also regards Bush as an idiot because the Methodist doesn't know the exact nature of the relationship between the Patriotic Church and the Underground in China. I would be extremely interested in asking him or those who yuk-yuk at these types of comments to explain their own understanding of the relationship on the basis of memory.

Also, he once again appears to regard the idea of spreading political freedom as "a classic American secular messianic vision of our national mission." If only we had known during the Cold War that all of our opposition to communism was nothing more than a secular messianist dream! For someone who is quite intellectually aware of the death toll caused by communism and its adherents (among whom he apparently ranks Michael Ledeen), this is once again an example of Mark not understanding the implications of his positions. That he has the gall to call Bush an idiot while doing so is yet a further demonstration of his own hubris.

But when it comes to Ron Paul's support of libertarianism to the extent of wanting to legalize prostitution, Mark is quite happy to shill for the man because "he's said some honest things and he seems to me to keep the rest of the GOP field relatively honest." How this is even remotely true given that no one is following the man outside of the political fringe is beyond me, but this isn't the first time that Mark has had such delusions. So while he continues to condemn legalizing prostitution, he can't quite bring himself to condemn Ron Paul for holding that position. One strongly suspects that had another GOP candidate said anything even remotely similar, Mark would have trumpeted it from the rafters as yet another sign of the Torture Millionnaire Monolith at work. Yet Paul gets a pass because his heart is in the right place.

I also found this quote quite interesting:
Likewise, in the first essay here, he says everything I have tried and failed to say about the stupid charge that if you don't back the Administration then you must hate the troops. He articulates exactly the reverence I have for the people in our military, who are motivated, as a general rule, by an incredible degree of selflessness. It is just because I hold them in such high regard that I am so angered by a ruling class that has used its power to put them in danger both physically (by sending them into a dubious war) and spiritually (by laboring with might and main to make them tools of a new torture regime, courtesy of the newly created Cheney Branch of Government).

Because the "ruling class" has not done either, the duly-elected government of the United States has. The individuals that Mark would refer to as the elites, near as I can determine, would be quite opposed to both the Iraq war and torture due to their reflexive dislike (which he now largely shares) of the Bush administration. I would also note that his statement is worded in such a way that it is unclear to me whether it is putting our troops in harm's way (what is the purpose of having a military, for instance if not to fight our enemies?), a dubious war, or some combination of the two that is the cause of his ire.

In an unrelated, in his latest denunciation of Joshua Muravchik is a classic demonstration not of Baby Boomer narcissism but rather of the two greatest threats in the last hundred years (which I suspect was the time frame he had in mind when he wrote "modern"): World War 2 . In both cases, the tyrants who led both the Axis and the USSR whose expansionist agendas were predicated around the notion that democracies were weak and unable to withstand a real fight. Bin Laden has offered a fairly similar rationale. Mark and Larison can major in minors by offering counter-examples, but Mark fails to completely address his point. As I said, no doubt he thinks that he is being terribly clever.

And while there are some much-needed chastening that comes from this New Republic article, among it a continuing need to correct the degree to which Rumsfeld is still held in all manner of high esteem by the National Review crowd despite his handling of the Iraq war, at the end of the day it is basically little more than a hit piece by an Independent columnist who seems to have gone out seeking to confirm his biases about the nature of American conservatism and done exactly that. While I have no doubt about the quotes, one will forgive me from distrusting the writer to have given a dispassionate account of what was said there. I think that there is much about the current nature and make-up National Review that is quite worthy of criticism, but I suspect that Mark's acceptance of criticism this biased has more to do with the fact that Norman Podhoretz has advocated an attack on Iran than anything else.

18 comments:

Bubba said...

Regarding the phrase, "a classic American secular messianic vision of our national mission," the word "classic" sticks out, as it belies the idea that the Bush Administration has deviated wildly from American history.

If someone's going to criticize Bush, not on merely issues of competence in intelligence gathering and executing the war after Saddam's fal, but in the acknowledgement of freedom as a universal value and in having as a goal its promotion worldwide, consistency requires him to be critical of the American role in both world wars and the Cold War, too. I don't see what principle would keep him from criticizing the content of the Declaration of Independence or the idea that we were aided by Providence to be a shining beacon of liberty for all the world. With his use of the word "classic," Shea indicates that he has no problem going down that path.

Buchanan wrote that we should have sat out of World War II, at least longer than we did, and Daniel Larison has written that his brand of conservatism has more in common with British loyalists and Southern confederates than with, well, the American side in either the Revolutionary War or the Civil War.

It seems to me Shea's particular criticism would lead to criticism of everyone from Jefferson and Lincoln to FDR and Reagan, and even to non-Americans like William Wilberforce. (Wanting to end the global slave trade? What secular messianic tendencies!)

He's more than welcome to go down that path, and if he is reluctant to follow his ranting to its inevitable conclusion, perhaps we should remind him vocally that ideas have consequences.

paul zummo said...

I noticed as I scrolled through the rest of the page that he's still on this kick about the GOP "hoisting" a Rockefeller Republican as the nominee. Evidently he's still oblivious to the fact that there are these things called primaries, and in these primaries voters - often registered party members, but not in all cases - select the candidate of their choosing. The individual who wins the states with the most delegates becomes the party's nominee. Therefore, voters - not some party committee meeting in secret - select the nominee.

Oy. And does he just basically regurgitate everything Larison writes without critical examination? Eh, no need to answer that.

As for Bubba's comment, you hit the nail on the head. This is actually an element of our national character that I'm not totally comfortable with, and I actually share some of Mark's sentiments on this subject. But as Bubba points out, this attitude is hardly unique to George W. Bush. America is, for good or ill, a highly idealistic nation. We have a Jeffersonian soul in that we're romantics at heart, believing we can fix just about every problem either domestically or internationally. I think it causes us to overreach, but it's also driven us to do great things.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Gentlemen, let's not forget that the position Mark would prefer this nation to take regarding Iraq was the position that JPII took: Don't intervene because such intervention wouldn't be "just" (however that's defined, and nobody has really bothered to defined it). This was the same JPII who opposed the 1990-91 Gulf War to free Kuwait from Iraq (another example of our "secular messianic vision"). Had the world taken the late pope's view, Kuwait would be an Iraqi province and its residents the focus of Saddam's tender mercies.

Let's not forget that JPII had a vision when it came to Islam: cooperation and dialogue at all costs, even at the expense of Middle Eastern Christians and the dignity of his own office. That is the classic definintion of appeasement.

Shea's views on the Middle East have their roots far less in Buchanan, Larison or any other such commentators than in JPII. Shea merely uses Buchanan, Larison, et al to reinforce what he already believes.

Phillip said...

"Likewise, in the first essay here, he says everything I have tried and failed to say about the stupid charge that if you don't back the Administration then you must hate the troops. He articulates exactly the reverence I have for the people in our military, who are motivated, as a general rule, by an incredible degree of selflessness."

This repeated stance of Mark I find to be schizo. If the war is unjust then the troops are cooperating in injustice. They are not to be praised but, at a minimum, converted.

And no I don't by the line that they are just following orders. That one went out with the Germans. But more to the point, the American soldier, sailor, airman and marine is highly qualified, motivated and intelligent. Anyone worth his salt and serious in his faith would have to question his involvement in the Iraq War if it was such a slam dunk case of injustice that Mark makes it out to be. It is an insult to the intelligence and sincerity of those who serve in the military to claim they are "just doing as told." Mark, the military is not made up of mere robots.

An appeal to selflessness is not sufficient either. Plenty of people act selflessly for ends that they consider good but objectively are clearly evil. This does not absolve them of their cooperation in evil.

But accepting that military personnel are acting intelligently and with faith in the justice of the Iraq War would at the same time require that Mark accept that perhaps Bush and Co. are also acting equally in good faith.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder says:

Ron Paul thinks prostitution should be legal. So did St. Thomas Aquinas. Prostitution was legal throughout most of our nation's history. It only became illegal in the early twentith century thanks to the efforts of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (the same folks that brought us prohibition). One may disagree with Paul's position on legalizing prostitution (a position that, as President, he would have no ability to enforce), but the position isn't contrary to Church teaching in the way that, say, favoring legalized abortion is, and I don't think Mark should be dinged for not rejecting Paul for that reason.

Annalucia said...

``Ron Paul thinks prostitution should be legal. So did St. Thomas Aquinas.''

Er...could we have a source for that latter statement, please?

Bubba said...

Paul, I can certainly understand how a conservative could be less than wholly comfortable with American idealism. Myself, I believe that the Declaration of Independence is right that all men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights -- not because the document says so, but because my Christian beliefs lead to the same conclusion. The Decalogue's prohibition of murder and theft seem to me to be, for all practical purposes, functionally equivalent to affirming the right of others to their own lives and their own property. And the New Testament command and example to evangelize without coercion implies religious freedom and a right to worship. None of these divine commands seem to be qualified by where a person is born, and the answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29) implies that, indeed, Christian ethics apply universally.

I believe that human rights are divine in origin and universal in their application; a nation that recognizes these truths should not sit back and watch as others are being oppressed. Even prudence reminds us that democracies tend not to threaten one another and that history is never static: if tyranny is on the march, it may threaten our own freedoms, sooner rather than later in this era of globalization.

That's not to say that any nation or even all of humanity can bring about a lasting freedom and a permanent peace: we can't, and the consequences of overreach can be just as bad as doing nothing because either can lead to the decline and fall of the free world. We should limit ourselves to doing only what we can, but we should do what we can.

What that means is that the struggle between freedom and tyranny will never end until Christ's return: each generation can only hope to advance the cause of freedom, however slightly, and to oppose the enemies of freedom particular to their time.

What gets me about people like Mark Shea is this: those who think the goal of freedom can be fully achieved are rightly criticized as utopians, but for those who think that work will always need to be done, the spectre of Trotsky and "permanent revolution" is invoked, leaving as the only option moral equivalence and fatalism.


But going back to the question of overreach, I'm willing to concede that Bush has tried to do too much too soon: political freedom in the form of a representative government ought to be the consequence of a culture that is mature in valuing freedom, not the cause. We should have ensured physical security, economic stability, and religious freedom before transitioning to a democratic Iraq: the rule of law, property rights, and pluralism. That the Bible entails the right to life, property rights, and religious freedom, but not a specifically democratic form of government might not be trivial.

But, since Bush did acknowledge in his speeches that the road before us is long and hard, I sometimes wonder if the immaturity of his political opponents made him move up the timelines for Iraq reconstruction. If they hadn't made comparisons to Vietnam before the war even started, and instead were realistic in their appraisal of the cost of war, could we have readied ourselves for a longer stay in Iraqi without this hysteria? And would the terrorists in Iraq and their supporters have been so confident that their barbarism would make us flinch?

I do wonder.

Phillip said...

Hey,

I just got banned for the third time in my career at CAEI. The crime was posting an invite to "Quod" to come and visit CfF. This on this comments section under the doctored photo showing Mark in company with Hitler, etc.

Strange Mark should claim that CfF is paranoid, then ban someone for inviting people over to examine it and see if it is.

Now Mark, who is it that is truly paranoid?

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder says:

Annalucia, see here:

http://www.illinoismedieval.org/ems/VOL13/13ch4.html

paul zummo said...

Bubba -

I agree with most of what you said, and especially your last paragraph. The impatience of the public has been one of the greatest problems that we have faced.

Unfortunately I can't get into a much more detailed discussion, but I did want to relate an article from Charles Kesler in the Claremont Review of Books, which is a fair - and seemingly accurate - account of neoconservativism, the Bush Doctrine, and Iraq. It addresses some of the issues that we're discussing here. I'll have a lot more to say later about this, probably in my own blog post.

Here's the link:
http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1383/article_detail.asp

paul zummo said...

I think it got cut off, so here's another try:
http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1383/article_detail.asp

If it cuts off after the art again, the last part of the tag after 1383 is /article_detail.asp

Christopher said...

The crime was posting an invite to "Quod" to come and visit CfF.

I suspect Mark might have been afraid of losing another reader.

I'm in the daily habit of quickly browsing Mark's rants and then moving on to the CoF where I find rather more substantial analysis of whatever it is Mark's ranting about. (One of the better examples would be Mark's likening neoconservativism to "Machivellian Wilsoniamism" -- and Torq's response.

Victor said...

I also don't understand why Shea thinks that photo would be our nightmare. I would only pity the others in the photo being subjected to him.

Victor said...

I sometimes wonder if the immaturity of his political opponents made him move up the timelines for Iraq reconstruction. If they hadn't made comparisons to Vietnam before the war even started, and instead were realistic in their appraisal of the cost of war, could we have readied ourselves for a longer stay in Iraqi without this hysteria?

That would be a perfect analysis except for the word "sometimes." I am convinced that the TV-attention-span American populace and one of its principal political parties have shown (to enemy and friend alike) that they simply have no stomach for long or difficult tasks (not just wars) that last longer than an election cycle.

Phillip said...

"I also don't understand why Shea thinks that photo would be our nightmare. I would only pity the others in the photo being subjected to him."

Victor,

I never thought of that. I will pray for those others.

Anonymous said...

So now Mark is worse than Hitler, Stalin, Marx, and Big Bird? I guess there really is such a thing as Shea Derangement Syndrome.

Anonymous said...

So now Mark is worse than Hitler, Stalin, Marx, and Big Bird?

Well, maybe not as bad as Hitler, Stalin and Marx.

But definitely Big Bird.

Phillip said...

First anon.,

Actually Mark posted the picture. We are merely making fun of it. As such, our Shea Derangement Syndrome is the standard human response of humor in the face of nonsense.

Mark's Bush Derangement Syndrome on the other hand, is the result of poor intellectual understanding, selective skimming, rash judgement and brute "orthodoxy."

Quite a difference between humor true derangement you must agree.