Friday, June 22, 2007

Not surprising ...

Mark appears to buy into the worst forms of liberal caricature here:
I think it plain that the reason we were so easily stampeded into this misbegotten war in Iraq is precisely because we just wanted to punch somebody and we were happy to buy whatever the Administration was pushing about supposed "connections" between Saddam and 9/11 and the Administration was happy to oblige us by constantly connecting the two rhetorically. I think, in a culture as emotionally incontinent and TV-driven as our, future 9/11 (or say, multiple mall bombings, or some other acts of terror) will likewise stampede us in all sorts of unpredictable directions. A mass media culture is not a culture that appreciates the deliberative process much. So calls to do something beside shut our eyes and lunge somewhere in anger or terror are always needed.

If he truly believes that American culture is no longer deliberative, I think that it makes his increasingly dim view of representative democracy a lot easier to understand. Though he doesn't appear to appreciate the irony of his position:
You say that it is our "TV-driven culture" that allowed us to be tricked into the war in Iraq, but I suggest the possibility that it is the very same TV-driven culture that is seeing a so-called "misbegotten" and failed war in Iraq. We've come to expect wars to be won in two hours with the hero and the girl happy together at the end. Since Iraq hasn't quite panned out like a summer action flick, we're now bored and want to pull out. Folks in centuries past would laugh at us for being annoyed that a war wasn't over in four years.

Just pointing out that the "TV-culture" analysis can go both ways.

While I don't think that either analysis is in of itself sufficient (that there were clearly major mistakes in the post-war management of Iraq appears to be the one thing that everyone involved in the debate now agrees on), I would note that Mark is unlikely to accept this interpretation of events. I would also note that asking him for specific instances of the administration actually highlighting connections between Iraq and 9/11 are few and far between. A lot of people on the right did believe and push this (just as they pushed the notion that bin Laden was killed at Tora Bora in 2001, a view that Mark himself bought hook, line, and sinker until his 2004 videotape just prior to the US election) but the administration did not. They didn't particularly go out of their way to refute it either, but given their inability to do so on just about anything it seems to me that this is more a matter of their general ineptitude on matters of communication than anything else.

Moving on, Mark is predictably mad that Ron Paul (whom he still denies supporting, despite describing him in terms that, for Mark, are ascriptive to his ideal candidate) was not invited to a GOP debate. As readers know, I myself don't favor banning Paul from the debates, though I do wish that someone would organize a separate series of debates that would remove the various fringe candidates from either party so that we could learn what the presumed frontrunners are actually trying to say without all the background chatter. I say this particularly with regard to the much-speeded up primary process that I think is a complete disaster waiting to happen.

Then we get Mark's summation of conservatism. This begins with a far more respectable criticism of libertarianism than his earlier denunciations of it as "an ideology for selfish people without children" when he writes:
The libertarian tends to remember that government is a menace due to the fall. He does not tend to remember that he is a menace due to the fall. He wants freedom from government so that he can do whatever the hell he wants. And frequently, he wants hell. The Traditionalist (and by this, I have in view the Christian tradition since it is, like, the basis of Western civilization) wants freedom in order to attempt, with God's help, virtue.

I actually agree with a lot of this, except the idea that there is some kind of explicitly Catholic view of politics that Mark terms "Traditionalist," even though I agree with his discussion of freedom. As a result of a lot failed experiments over the centuries, the Church has (wisely, IMO) come to a fairly minimalist view of government that you see reflected in the Catechism. As long as justice and the common good are upheld, the particular forms of government are viewed as irrelevant. I think that this is a very wise move because it removes the Church from the mechanisms of government (thus literally placing it quite literally "beyond" the political) while retaining the most fundamental criteria for a just society. I can see ways in which a libertarian society might fit that criteria, just as I can see ways in which an absolute monarchy or a representative democracy could. This is not an unimportant point to be considered, at least in my opinion.

Nevertheless, it doesn't take Mark long to embrace his usual caricatures of the GOP:
With the advent of the Bush Administration and triumph of conservatism after Clinton, conservatives seem to have proved their own doctrines in a paradoxical way. Once they had all the power, they began to abuse it, just as they said they would. Somehow they morphed from critics of Big Government to drunken sailors spending wildly to support nation-building wars while laboring to grant the executive branch freedom from all that check and balance stuff as they suspend habeus corpus and torture people. A fine illustration of exactly what conservatism always said would happen when you give fallen man too much power.

... At present, the Morphed Conservatives are running the show. And their spectacular failures mean that the will soon *not* be running the show as our emotionally incontinent culture throws the rascals out and votes in an even more catastrophic liberal regime that will promptly build on the disastrous legacy of Leviathan the Bush administration has done so much to build. Sin makes you stupid and our increasing post-Christian culture appears to be ready to explore new regions of folly.

As one who has always disagreed with Mark's "sin makes you stupid" caricature as it relates to the macro-level (else how would either repentence or revival be possible?), let me note a couple of things here. The United States has not, even by the most extreme caricatures available, suspended habeas corpus as a matter of set policy. The Guantanamo Bay detainees are non-citizens and if Mark is referring to Jose Padilla, he has been charged so the accusation would seem not to hold water. There have, however, been times when habeas corpus was suspended, most notably during the Civil War and Reconstruction. One might note that they did not remain suspended indefinitely, which might lead one to doubt the framework of Mark's initial argument. If memory serves, Mark does not subscribe to the paleocon/Confederate view of Lincoln as a dictator, so I would love to see him and his new buddy Larison sit down and chat about the differences between the policies pursued under the Lincoln administration and those of the Bush administration.

In any case, Mark seems quite content to sit back and strum Nero's violin while America burns. If he truly believes that a Democratic victory in 2008 would be even worse than the policies of the current administration he so despises, one might suspect that he would want to do so something about it. Somehow, I doubt that in all his moral outrage and political worries will lead him to do anything other than continue to blog in ever increasingly self-righteous tones about the evils of America, all the while refraining from actually doing anything about it.

And he wonders why we call him a Pharisee.

6 comments:

Donald R. McClarey said...

The idea that between 2001 and 2003, nineteen months, the American people were "stampeded" into war in Iraq is too funny for words. We had a prolonged debate in this country on whether to go to war against Iraq. The reasons for going to war were numerous as set forth in the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force. The opponents of going to war had ample opportunity, and resources, to make their case. No other war in our history has had the same level of pre-war debate and time for reflection as in the case of Iraq. By the end of the debate a solid majority of the American public was in favor of the war. An even higher level of support was registered at the end of conventional military operations. To now attempt to claim that the American people were tricked into supporting the war is bizarre. People have bailed on the war because fighting the insurgency has proven tough and bloody and because the administration gravely over-estimated the ability and will of the Iraqi government to shoulder the burden. If it makes Mark and other erst-while supporters of the war feel better to now claim they were tricked, fine, but actually it is merely the all too human attempt to try to exonerate themselves from any responsibility for their own choices.

paul zummo said...

The libertarian tends to remember that government is a menace due to the fall. He does not tend to remember that he is a menace due to the fall. He wants freedom from government so that he can do whatever the hell he wants. And frequently, he wants hell. The Traditionalist (and by this, I have in view the Christian tradition since it is, like, the basis of Western civilization) wants freedom in order to attempt, with God's help, virtue.

This is perhaps the most insightful thing Mark has ever written, at least regarding politics.

I'm being incredibly charitable today, so I will leave my comment at that.

Steve Golay said...

Does this mean that Mark S. will "tolerate" a certain number of Shopping Mall Deaths per year to avoid a strong and certain response.

I see a pacifist wave drowning the church.

Please check blog "Gates of Vienna". They posted an interesting piece on the question if Christianity makes things worse with its penchant for "suffering" and "cheek turning". Written by one who is in no sense a Christian. That, in my view, makes his way of stating the problem more interesting.

Susan B. said...

Does this mean that Mark S. will "tolerate" a certain number of Shopping Mall Deaths per year to avoid a strong and certain response.

But those shoppers were participating in an uncrunchy, consumerist culture. You have to break a few eggs to make a pacifist, truly Christian omelet, after all.

[/admittedly bitter sarcasm]

Gates of Vienna is an excellent blog, by the way. The Europeans stuck their heads in the sand and now they have a tremendous problem on their hands with no clue as to how to deal with it. And I can't help but think America is going to be in the same situation eventually.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Does this mean that Mark S. will "tolerate" a certain number of Shopping Mall Deaths per year to avoid a strong and certain response.

I see a pacifist wave drowning the church.


It's not just drowning the Church, Steve (just look at the Church's revisionist response to capital punishment for murder). It's drowning academia, the media and most "civilized" aspects of Western society.

Pacifism is nothing more than a pseudo-moralistic facade to mask complacency and moral ignorance, just as it was in the bad old days before WWII.

The Traditionalist (and by this, I have in view the Christian tradition since it is, like, the basis of Western civilization) wants freedom in order to attempt, with God's help, virtue.

Mark, as well as most conservative Christians, don't realize that most Christian "Traditionalists," when they actually got their hands on power, tried to enforce their own views of virtue on the populace (think Spain under the Inquisition, England under Cromwell, Geneva under Calvin and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which a devout Christian named Roger Williams found so intolerable that he left to found Providence Plantations).

Freedom was only for those who thought like those in power -- just as it is on Mark's blog, actually.

Unlike such "Traditionalists," the Founding Fathers (a mix of the profoundly secular and the profoundly religious) had the right idea. They were determined to have no "established" church that would corrupt government or be corrupted by it. That's a fundamental reason why the U.S. takes Christianity far more seriously than that hallowed base of "Christendom," Europe: American Christianity has not been nearly as contaminated by excessive access to political power.

If Mark wants a truly virtuous political society, perhaps he should bone up on The Federalist Papers, as well as on his Locke.

Then again, it would help if Mark knew how to read something besides graphic novels....

torquemada05 said...

I will warn you but once, Joe, not to disrespect those of us who read graphic novels :p