Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shorter Mark ...

"I'm allowed to misrepresent Michael Ledeen whenever I like because he really is an evil person!"

I'm continuing to follow this with unvarnished amusement:
"Creative destruction" is an economic term. It refers to the fact that revolutions in technology or innovations in the economy often lead to the destruction of older businesses. The company that manufactures buggies goes out of business with the advent of cars, etc.

Creative Destruction

Ledeen has used the term a couple of times in his columns and in his book The War Against the Terror Masters. In each case that I've seen, it's clear from the context that he is using the term in its ordinary economic sense. However, a number of people, apparently not being familiar with the term or its economic meaning, have taken it to refer to dropping bombs on people. This is a mistake, though perhaps an understandable one.
Blackadder | 07.31.07 - 10:48 am | #

Blackadder,

Kindly take your explanations back to the Coalition for Fog where they belong. The truth is that Michael Ledeen is a modern Nazi with Muslims instead of Jews as his target and nothing you can say can change that. Your defense of him is like putting a doily on a dung-pile.
Anonymous | 07.31.07 - 11:52 am | #

Blackadder:

K says you, the Coalition for Fog and the defenses of Michael Ledeen at the Ratzinger Fan Club don't exist. So apparently you don't. Michael Ledeen is just the crazy uncle in the closet who, admittedly, cheerleads for war crimes now and then. But hey! It's all in good fun and nobody takes his little eccentricities seriously because of all the other good work he does. Only a fool would see some connection between dangerous nonsense like "creative destruction" (enunciated, blackadder, in a column aimed at tub-thumping for war, not at a lecture on economics) and dangerous nonsense like "let us do evil that good may come of it."
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.31.07 - 12:03 pm | #

I think Blackadder has reasonably demonstrated that however much Mark or any of us believe we adequately understood what Ledeen was saying in his "Creative Destruction" column, we did not understand nearly enough to come to any conclusion one way or another.

The fact that hardly anyone had apparently heard of "Creative Destruction" as an economic term, but chalked the term up as something being coined by Ledeen to promote the War in Iraq or whatever, is objective proof that the column and his use of the term were completely misunderstood. (Understandably misunderstood even...)
Chris-2-4 | 07.31.07 - 12:28 pm | #

K says you, the Coalition for Fog and the defenses of Michael Ledeen at the Ratzinger Fan Club don't exist.

Mark, remember what I said about combox idiots? Besides, I don't know if Blackadder is actually defending Ledeen, as much as he's saying that "Creative Destruction" doesn't mean what you (and I) think it means.

It's particularly telling that you make vague references to the Coalition for Fog and the Ratzinger Fan Club without, you know, actually linking anything.

And you still have yet to explain how glorifying continuous revolution is in any way conservative.

Again, all you have to support your assertion that conservatives agree with Ledeen that frequent revolution and war benefits civilization is that National Review hasn't run Ledeen out of town on a rail.

The fact that hardly anyone had apparently heard of "Creative Destruction" as an economic term, but chalked the term up as something being coined by Ledeen to promote the War in Iraq or whatever, is objective proof that the column and his use of the term were completely misunderstood.

I think that's fair. I never actually read Ledeen's column. Has anybody? I mean, seriously, I can't find any reputable bloggers who have even mentioned this "Creative Destruction" business and endorsed it. I relied solely on Mark's representation about the contents of the column and what Ledeen meant by the phrase.

I now see that I'm probably ignorant as to what the phrase meant. But at least I'm not as self-assured as Mark, who's convinced that "Creative Destruction" means "the ends justify the means in Iraq."
K the C | 07.31.07 - 1:22 pm | #

But at least I'm not as self-assured as Mark, who's convinced that "Creative Destruction" means "the ends justify the means in Iraq."

Okay, that part probably wasn't fair. Mark wouldn't intentionally misrepresent anyone's statements, and if he says that Ledeen used "Creative Destruction" in the context of advocating the waging of savage war, I'll assume that he's reporting the gist of Ledeen's column correctly until I hear otherwise.

Nevertheless, Mark still has yet to show that a single prominent conservative columnist or blogger agrees with Ledeen's fundamentally anticonservative view of history.

Oh, I'm sure Mark can come up with conservatives who advocate torture or total war, as Ledeen does. But he can't come up with any conservatives who share Ledeen's leftist view of history.
K the C | 07.31.07 - 1:30 pm | #

Here is a passage from Ledeen's The War Against the Terror Masters:

"Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence—our existence, not our politics—threatens their legitimacy."

I take it to be obvious that in this passage Ledeen is using "creative destruction" in its ordinary sense, and is not talking about military force or violence.

Here is Ledeen in his September 20, 2001 column:

"we should have no misgivings about our ability to destroy tyrannies. It is what we do best. It comes naturally to us, for we are the one truly revolutionary country in the world, as we have been for more than 200 years. Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically, and that is precisely why the tyrants hate us, and are driven to attack us."

Given the similar phrasing ("creative destruction is our middle name," etc.) it is utterly implausible to suppose that Ledeen used "creative destruction" in different sense in the two different passages. And, since the term will not bear a military sense in the first passage, it cannot bear that sense in the second passage either.

Once one realizes what Ledeen means by "creative destruction," the whole column takes on a somewhat different tone. Ledeen says, for example, that " it is time once again to export the democratic revolution." His model for how to do this, however, is "the 1980s, when we led a global democratic revolution that toppled tyrants from Moscow to Johannesburg." That democratic revolution was accomplished not through war, but through the promotion of democratic resistance movements both morally and financially. And, in fact, Ledeen's main recommendation in the column is that President Bush "should direct Secretary Powell to fully support democratic resistance movements in the terrorist countries, and, failing that, to support more moderate, more pro-Western forces." Ledeen's vision is one in which "[f]reedom is our most lethal weapon, and the oppressed peoples of the fanatic regimes are our greatest assets. They need to hear and see that we are with them, and that the Western mission is to set them free, under leaders who will respect them and preserve their freedom." And so forth.

http://www.nationalreview.com/ co...een092001.shtml
Blackadder | 07.31.07 - 1:39 pm | #

K:

Against the Grain and the Coalition for Fog do not exist in comboxes. They are blogs. It's up to you decide whether their defences of Ledeen are idiotic or not. I don't link them because I presume you have Google and can take care of that yourself. There you will find several strenuous defences of Ledeen's crazy ideas. And, of course, there's always Blackadder who is ready willing and able to both spin "creative destruction" into something Just Swell as well as conveniently overlook Ledeen's suggestions that we commit war crimes in the Service of the Greater Good.

"Creative Destruction" is a rather apt expression for *all* consequentialist thinking. That's why I make use of it.

I'll leave you and blackadder to argue about whether Everybody Agrees it's All Crap or Everybody Agrees it Makes Great Sense But Doesn't Mean Anything Bad Or Anything. The important thing is, I'm Mean for mocking consequentialism.

There really are days when I wonder why I bother with comboxes at all.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.31.07 - 3:04 pm | #

"Creative Destruction" =

Free speech versus pc speech codes or blasphemy laws

Freedom to practice any religion — or none

Romantic marriages versus arranged marriages

Freedom to chose one's own profession or vocation, regardless of family background

Market economies instead of command economies

Talent and merit favored over heritage

Encouraging scientific inquiry even when its results seem in opposition to religious dogma or tradition

Being willing to put up with the dislocation such a dynamic system creates vis a vis more traditional systems, for the sake of progress.

Count me in.
Rick | 07.31.07 - 3:09 pm | #

I wonder if it's only a coincidence that Michael Ledeen in 2003 responded to Ron Paul's attacks on him -- involving in part the meaning of the term "creative destruction"?

Here's Ron Paul:



In Ledeen's most recent publication, The War Against the Terror Masters, he reiterates his beliefs outlined in this 1999 Machaivelli book. He specifically praises: "Creative destruction…both within our own society and abroad…(foreigners) seeing America undo traditional societies may fear us, for they do not wish to be undone." Amazingly, Ledeen concludes: "They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission."

If those words don't scare you, nothing will?

Here's Ledeen:

He conveniently leaves out the context, which is a discussion of the basic conflict between us and the terror masters: a conflict between freedom and tyranny. I argue, as I argued during the Cold War with regard to Communism, and as I argued in my books on fascism earlier, that the conflict between America and tyrants is inevitable. It stems from the very nature of America, from our unique freedom and creativity, which has often been described as "creative destruction." Every serious writer about America has noticed the amazing speed with which we scrap old ideas, technologies, art forms and even the use of the English language. And it's obvious that more rigid societies, particularly those governed by tyrants, are frightened by the effects and the appeal of freedom on their own subjects. Our existence threatens them, undermines their legitimacy, and subverts their power. Therefore "they must attack us in order to survive," and, sooner or later, we must confront them and, I hope and trust, defeat them in order to advance our mission of spreading freedom.

Request to Mark: -- instead of casting aspersions on the "Ratzinger Fan Club" (the 300+ forum members hold varying opinions on the matter of the Iraq war), kindly note that the opinions expressed on my blog do not necessarily reflect those held by other members of the 'Ratzinger Fan Club' website, only myself.

And to the extent that I've "defended" Ledeen, it is only to the extent that I believe he was misinterpreted and/or deliberately misrepresented. (Please note the link and judge for yourself whether they are "strenuous defenses of Ledeen's crazy ideas.")

Curiusly, on the matter of torture, Ledeen's own views are hardly distinguishable from other critics of the Bush Administration that Mark supports. Curiously, despite the influential weight Mark has given to Ledeen's other columns, this one is often dismissed:

[Ledeen circa 2004]: First, the matter of the "abuses" of the prisoners. Maybe the temperature of the rhetoric has cooled enough for us to address the most important aspect of the debacle: Torture and abuse are not only wrong and disgusting. They are stupid and counterproductive. A person under torture will provide whatever statements he believes will end the pain. Therefore, the "information" he provides is fundamentally unreliable. He is not responding to questions; 99 percent of the time, he's just trying to figure out what he has to say in order to end his suffering. All those who approved these methods should be fired, above all because they are incompetent to collect intelligence.

Torture, and the belief in its efficacy, are the way our enemies think. And remember that our enemies, the tyrants of the 20th century, and the jihadis we are fighting now, are the representatives of failed cultures. Our greatness derives from the superiority of our culture, and we should, as the sports metaphor goes, stick with what got us here.
Christopher | Homepage | 07.31.07 - 3:14 pm | #

"like one of those guys on the bus talking to himself"

That needs to be CAEI's new motto!!!

Having met Mark, let me say I am certain it would be entertaining to ride that bus as he delivers a rant straight from the script of that Mel Gibson movie about conspiracy theories.

I'd buy a monthly bus pass for that.

On the train out of my neighborhood, we only have an elderly man who recites MLK speeches at the top of his lungs, with all the appropriate flourish. It was great in the evening, but it was unbearable before my first espresso.
Franklin Jennings | 07.31.07 - 3:27 pm | #

"Creative Destruction" is a rather apt expression for *all* consequentialist thinking. That's why I make use of it.

So, basically, you don't care what the term has meant historically to those who've used it or what Ledeen was thinking of when he used it. It just SOUNDS ominous and so it must be.

Typical.
Chris-2-4 | 07.31.07 - 3:52 pm | #

Chris:

It was K who called you a combox idiot, not me.

Yes, I'm familiar with Ledeen's skill in the Straussian art of doubletalk and the weird theories about saying one thing for public consumption while saying the opposite in subtext. He's really good at it. That's why I broke down his plea for shooting the wounded in my analysis of his doubletalk in "Toying with Evil". He's also insisted that he "opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place". This, despite his article in National Review in August 2002 where he urged "the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein". So no, I'm not much impressed with the efforts of Against the Grain and the Coalition for Fog to show that this untrustworthy man is a moral compass for our time and a fine advocate of conservative values. However, I do thank you for laboring so hard to demonstrate the K doesn't know what he's talking about here and that Ledeen has, indeed, numerous staunch defenders.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.31.07 - 3:55 pm | #

Chris-2-4:

No. I'm saying that Ledeen's documentable consequentialist claptrap in urging us to "enter into evil" and "do things we know to be wrong" is nicely summarized by a phrase Ledeen like to utter. This is called "using language". When people use language, they sometimes turn the meaning of a phrase that means something in one context to mean something else in another context. Sometimes this is fitting and sometimes not. If Ledeen had never advocated consequentialist arguments, it would be unjust to turn his phrase into a claim that he did. But since he *does* advocate consequentialist ideas, it is perfectly appropriate to use his phrase to mock those ideas.

You could, of course, figure that out on your own, if you were actually interested in doing something besides making excuses for consequentialists like Ledeen. But as your long history here makes clear, that's not the case, is it?
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.31.07 - 4:02 pm | #

I'm not much impressed with the efforts of Against the Grain and the Coalition for Fog to show that this untrustworthy man is a moral compass for our time and a fine advocate of conservative values.

I'm not familiar with Ledeen's work beyond the the context of CAEI and the 'Coalition for Fog's critiques of the man.

I do not regard him as 'the moral compass of our time'. However, I agree with self-styled "Coalition for Fog" that he was unjustly misrepresented -- and it wasn't only the 'Coalition for Fog' that protested your treatment, but a few soundly orthodox members of St. Blog's parish as well, as I recall.

Once more, I will simply refer readers to the post on Against The Grain and let them judge for themselves the intent of my defense.
Christopher | Homepage | 07.31.07 - 4:16 pm | #

As I said before, I'm against the war in Iraq. But the argument, both pro and con, seems to be dominated by the straw-man assembly line crew. You take your opponent's words, skew the context and substance of what he says, and voila! you just won the argument.

Mark, it's interesting that you say "If Ledeen had never advocated consequentialist arguments, it would be unjust to turn his phrase into a claim that he did. But since he *does* advocate consequentialist ideas, it is perfectly appropriate to use his phrase to mock those ideas."

So... the ends (that Ledeen is wrong) justifies the means (taking him out of context) when it comes to rhetoric.

Okay, man. I mean, the only casualty is truth, not a human life. But it still bugs me, especially when it comes from a Catholic apologist.
John | 07.31.07 - 4:17 pm | #

Mark,

"Creative destruction" isn't Ledeen's phrase. He didn't come up with it. It is an economic term dating from the 1940s that has nothing to do with consequentialism or doing evil that good may result. My pointing this out isn't "spinning" any more than it would be spinning to correct someone who claimed Catholics worship Mary because they pray to her or that because they think the Pope is infallible they must believe that he is never wrong.
Blackadder | 07.31.07 - 4:59 pm | #

Oh, come on, John (and the rest of you). A phrase (say, "Where's the beef") is used in a particular context (say, a Wendy's commercial). Somebody then pick up the phrase and plays with it (say, to ridicule the empty rhetoric of Gary Hart in the 1988 campaign). Does anybody take it seriously to claim "That is a complete distortion of the original meaning of "Where's the Beef?"!

Hillary tells us "It takes a village to raise a child" (based on some African proverb). Countless right wing pundits seize on "It takes a village" to mean "This is code for Nanny State conniving." Do you get your undies in a bunch that the proverb is not originally intended to justify Hillary's schemes for vastly expanding the power of the State?

Now (work with me here) Ledeen, in a column carefully and deliberately written to suggest that shooting the wounded, entering into evil, and doing things we know are wrong should be entertained by serious adult thinkers makes it clear that he is a consequentialist. He also is famous for his use of the phrase "creative destruction". But it is a crime against humanity to couple those words with his eager advocacy of consequentialism.

There's so much tenderness for consequentialists in my comboxes. So much hypersensitivity toward treating them like all the rest of American political discourse treats other political types. It's really touching. I had no idea that these people who are so eager to enter into evil were so fragile when their rhetoric was discussed without euphemism and doubletalk.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.31.07 - 5:07 pm | #

You could, of course, figure that out on your own, if you were actually interested in doing something besides making excuses for consequentialists like Ledeen. But as your long history here makes clear, that's not the case, is it?

Mark:

Since you apparently aren't interested in what I think, but only in accusing me of something you prefer to believe I think, then I don't see any particular reason why you need to read what I say at all. Your mind is already made up. Why confuse you with my actual views when you are so certain about what they are?
Chris-2-4 | 07.31.07 - 5:19 pm | #

Mark:

If you had been interested in learning what I thought instead of just thinking you already know, you would be interested to discover that I was as horrified as you when I read the Creative Destruction piece by Ledeen originally. Now that I am confronted with information which sheds possible new light on the article, I realize that there may be well more to it than I thought and so I am not so sure I understand what he was saying. Your response on the other hand reminds me amazingly of this hypothetical by the brilliant C.S. Lewis.

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad ass it was made out. Is one's first feeling, `Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything - God and our friends and ourselves included - as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

Seeing grey and white as black is what you SEEM to be on the way to. I’m not saying you’re there, but there is the danger.
Chris-2-4 | 07.31.07 - 5:28 pm | #

Deliberate misrepresentation of an opponent isn't discussion "without euphemism and doubletalk." It's the very definition of euphemism and doubletalk.

What you're saying is that if you think someone is wrong, you shouldn't hesitate to exaggerate their position or put words into their mouth if it serves the purpose of making them look evil or ridiculous.

I dunno, but I think that if you are going to seriously discuss Catholic teaching with people, you can't stoop to playing the part of a Catholic Ted Rall or Ann Coulter. Are you an apologist or a pundit?

Anyhow. It's just something that's been galling me about your site for some time now, and I just felt that this particular post was the straw the broke the camel's back, so to speak.

I know, I know. I can stop reading and not come back. But do we really need another generation of Catholics who don't know how to argue, but only how to quarrel?

I have no tender feelings for Ledeen or any others who voice opinions such as his. I do, however, feel that the death-knell of rationality is being sounded when you engage in hysterics such as most of your recent political commentary. It's just so... amateur sounding, like a column in a college newspaper. I guess I should stay off the site and stick to the more mature argument to be found elsewhere.

See you.
John | 07.31.07 - 5:30 pm | #

The difference between "it takes a village" and "creative destruction" is that when Hillary said the bit about it taking a village, that really was code for Nanny Statism, whereas when Michael Ledeen used the phrase "creative destruction" he wasn't using it as code for gleefully killing people. If it had been code, or if Ledeen had used the term as a euphemism for war and violence, then Mark's complaint would be justified. But the context of those quotes makes clear that they will not bear the interpretation Mark has given them.
Blackadder | 07.31.07 - 5:30 pm | #

Some of these are no longer present in the combox, though I would be very interested to hear why that is from the horse's mouth. Their primary failing, near as I can determine, is that they made Mark look bad. There are also a number of odd claims that Mark brings up, but one of the things that I think is most interesting is that he frequently cites his argument that Ledeen favors killing the wounded in order to support his other behavior against the man. If that isn't the same kind of consequentialism he condemns, I'm honestly not certain what is.

26 comments:

Joe Marier said...

Just so you know, the full quote was "the desperately-needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters," which was a reference to Ledeen's book, "The War Against The Terror Masters," which recommended a strategy that was not all-out war with Iraq, but was rather support for exiles like Chalabi, and democratic revolution without mass invasion.

So, there you go. Then again, I still honestly think that he was explicating Machiavellian thought, not advocating shooting wounded unarmed POWs, when he told that story about Hitler...

Phillip said...

Part of Mark's problem (besides his boorishness which becomes more apparent every day)is his lack of the virtue of patriotism. Yes, in fact this is a virture. This is not to explain away every vice of one's country, but to put such vices in perspective with it respective virtues. But even in the midst of such vices, to act with love and charity towards one's homeland.

Mark's attitude may be more appropriately summarized by Plato:

"Now bad men, when their parents or country have any defects,
look on them with malignant joy, and find fault with them and expose
and denounce them to others, under the idea that the rest of mankind
will be less likely to take themselves to task and accuse them of
neglect; and they blame their defects far more than they deserve, in
order that the odium which is necessarily incurred by them may be
increased: but the good man dissembles his feelings, and constrains
himself to praise them; and if they have wronged him and he is
angry, he pacifies his anger and is reconciled, and compels himself to
love and praise his own flesh and blood.

Christopher Fotos said...

Mark Shea:

Michael Ledeen is just the crazy uncle in the closet who, admittedly, cheerleads for war crimes now and then. But hey! It's all in good fun and nobody takes his little eccentricities seriously because of all the other good work he does.

Change Ledeen's name and what's being cheerleaded, and that's a fairly common defense of Mark.

Not one that I buy, however. War crimes... When I was younger those words actually meant something grave. Its careless misuse, like racism or homophobe, makes it difficult to think clearly.

That Ledeen sure is some kind of white whale.

Mark Adams said...

Oh dear, now he's making Strauss references. If you thought he was out of his depth before, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, now he's making Strauss references.

It's like a car wreck. I just can't take my eyes off it . . .

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

Mark sent me an email telling me to stop visiting his blog. Whether I have done anything to justify this request I will leave for each reader to judge.

paul zummo said...

Mark sent me an email telling me to stop visiting his blog. Whether I have done anything to justify this request I will leave for each reader to judge.

You disagreed with him and exposed holes in his logic. You're lucky the man didn't press charges.

Christopher said...

You disagreed with him and exposed holes in his logic.

The nerve!

Phillip said...

Blackadder,

I'm surprised he didn't delete your comments, including the one about the email, and then ban you quietly.

So see, you're not so bad.

Christopher said...

It should also be pointed out since it's not obvious from this thread that my post which consisted entirely of this:

You could, of course, figure that out on your own, if you were actually interested in doing something besides making excuses for consequentialists like Ledeen. But as your long history here makes clear, that's not the case, is it?

Mark:

Since you apparently aren't interested in what I think, but only in accusing me of something you prefer to believe I think, then I don't see any particular reason why you need to read what I say at all. Your mind is already made up. Why confuse you with my actual views when you are so certain about what they are?


is ALL Mark's words. The first is Mark directed at me, and the latter Mark directed at someone else who dared to presume what Mark's intentions were.

He apparently failed to notice the irony of his approach.

Phillip said...

Christopher,

Such irony is the norm with Mark. And he does this with great feelings of hurt.

This irony should be quickly apparent to an honest seeker of truth. The question is, is Mark so consumed by his arrogance that he cannot discern the irony or is he not concerned with the truth? The only other alternative is that he is not intelligent enough to notice the irony.

Christopher said...

In the event that my comment meets a similar fate, here it is:

[Mark Shea]: FWIW, I don't think I've ever spoken of Ledeen advocating torture because I can't recall him ever doing so. What he advocates is consequentialism.

I addressed Ledeen's views on torture because K the C had said "I never said that nobody on the right endorses or otherwise agrees with Ledeen's view of torture" -- implying that Ledeen had advocated it when he doesn't.

In the past, you've specifically employed "creative destruction" to describe everything from incidents of child abuse to the persecution of Iraqi Christians to the death-toll from Communism -- given as how this particular phrase is usually associated with Ledeen, it may be helpful and easier on readers to simply use the word "consequentialism".

I know you're wedded to your particular interpretation of Ledeen ("shooting unarmed wounded surrendering soldiers"), but your take is questionable. I recall Peters was dealing with the problem of terrorists who don't abide by the rules of war -- when "surrendering" is not the individual's genuine intent but to gain proximity for a suicide mission.

On the other hand, you have dealt rather more charitably and rationally with other advocates of consequentalism who do make a case for torture -- National Review's Jonah Goldberg, for example:

Jonah's coming at this from a conservative, Jewish, respectful toward religion but not particularly serious about it, perspective. As such, he doesn't much care that he is basically voicing the typical, utilitarian, end-justifies-the-means argument with which most Americans are at home. In short, it's no skin off his nose that consequentialism is condemned by the Church. He's pretty much at home with the "You've gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette sometimes" approach to life.

The thing is, he raises an interesting question: if you can kill people sometimes, and killing is worse than torture, then why can't you torture them sometimes.

Reasonable question. . . .

A couple of readers wonder why I note that Goldberg is approaching the question from, among other things, a Jewish perspective. My point is that it's unfair to expect him to care what St. Paul thinks about consequentialism in Romans 3:8. Goldberg is not bound by the Christian condemnation of "ends justify the means" thinking. I don't know enough about Jewish moral teaching to know if consequentialism is categorically condemned as it is in the Catholic tradition. Nor do I know how seriously Goldberg takes Jewish moral teaching, though his general respect for the basic outlines of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition suggests there is bound to be some sort of influence on his thinking. So my point is that Goldberg's question should be met where he is at, rather than demanding that he agree with the totality of Catholic teaching on consequentialism at the outset of the discussion. For what I hope are obvious reasons, I do not cut the same slack to people who claim to take seriously the magisterial teaching of the Church.


Mark Shea Sept. 29, 2006 -- in response to Jonah's questioning whether waterboarding, blasting Duran Duran 24/7, or beating somebody for hours with a rubber hose is comparable to murder.

Christopher said...

[This may be an exercise in futility, but I proceed to reason with Mark . . . ]

*sigh* Drawn back into the fray . . .

You know, Chris, there's something just kind of weird and creepy about your encyclopedic knowledge of everything I've ever said on the subject of torture. Do you go around creating databases on everybody's off the cuff blog remarks or just mine?

No, I just happened to make use of Google, and your post to Jonah wasn't "off the cuff", it was a direct response.

Mark, just cut the sarcasm for once and let's talk, ok? -- I pointed out that if you stop using the phrase "creative destruction" with such wild abandon, readers may be less confused.

As for Ledeen's remark about "entering into evil" -- no, I do not condone it. (I hope that's enough to satisfy Zippy?)

I find little point or worth in Ledeen's speculation as to 'what might have happened' if the British soldier had only killed a wounded Hitler in the trench (it was "lazily" written" post by Ledeen's own admittance. If he was "was trying to get people to think more deeply about the Marine in Fallujah," he obviously failed.

However, I also think in the context of Fallujah, where our troops are dealing with an enemy who has been known to hide in civilian clothes or use civilians (women and children) as human shields; who deliberately feign injury and surrender so as to gain proximity and further attack. The Powerline blog linked to a letter from one of our troops expressing what happens:

A young Marine and his cover man cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with Ak-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, "Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!" He is badly wounded, lying in a pool of his own blood. The Marine and his cover man slowly walk toward the injured man, scanning to make sure no enemies come from behind. In a split second, the pressure in the room greatly exceeds that of the outside, and the concussion seems to be felt before the blast is heard. Marines outside rush to the room, and look in horror as the dust gradually settles. The result is a room filled with the barely recognizable remains of the deceased, caused by an insurgent setting off several pounds of explosives.

Obviously in such a context, discerning precisely when the enemy is properly subdued and when he still constitutes a threat is not as clear.

Ledeen maintained "that the Marine did not shoot a PRISONER. He shot an enemy combatant." You disagreed with him and charged him with deliberately advocating the murder of unarmed prisoners.

In the aftermath, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service, headed by Major General Richard Natonski, ruled that the soldier acted in self-defense).

Incidentally, this is the same Michael Ledeen who praised the United States (and Israel) for the painful decision to accept higher casualties on our side, in order to prevent killing women, children, nurses, priests, and other noncombatants:

We're not going to start the mass murder of Iraqi civilians, and we're not going to shoot at a jihadi who's holding a child in front of him, and that's going to cost American lives and limbs. We must explain all this to a world, and above all to an American public, that is inevitably swayed by the torrent of lies.

So, again -- when faced with words that might conflict with your prior characterization of the man, do you reason with him as you did with Jonah Goldberg?

greg mockeridge said...

[This may be an exercise in futility, but I proceed to reason with Mark . . . ]

Only a crazy man would try to reason with another crazy man I say.

Joe Marier said...

The cagey thing about Ledeen is he tends to "enter into" the people he's speaking for -- Machiavelli, James Jesus Angleton, etc., and he doesn't pass obvious judgement on their views, so he often either believes or explicates some crazy ideas... and it's hard to tell which...

torquemada05 said...

No doubt. He also purports to use a Ouija Board to communicate with the spirit of Angleton. Does anyone actually believe that this occurs outside of a literary device?

There are a lot of areas in which Ledeen is open to a lot of valid criticism. No one, to the best of my knowledge, disagrees with this. Mark, however, has turned him into perennial white whale for reasons that I honestly think have little do with the man himself and more with what Mark thinks Ledeen represents.

Just my $0.02.

Christopher said...

Do you have a similar criticism of "Gay Brownshirts"? Should Mark stop using that term specifically because it confuses people who aren't familiar with its origins? If so, aren't you just being a ninny?

Did you stop beating your wife? (Gotta love Zippy's manner of questioning).

I gave it one more shot (sorry Greg, call me crazy). At this point however, . . .

I never was enthused with the "Gay Brownshirts" approach. When it comes to arguing with the gay rights or abortion lobby, I think one has a far better chance of making an impression by direct engagement, using clear arguments (along the lines of, say, First Things Robert P. George) than hurling -- and hiding behind -- verbal abuse.

Mark, however, has turned him into perennial white whale

Bingo.

Christopher Fotos said...

Mark:

You know, Chris [Blosser?], there's something just kind of weird and creepy about your encyclopedic knowledge of everything I've ever said on the subject of torture. Do you go around creating databases on everybody's off the cuff blog remarks or just mine?

It is to marvel.

Mark's blog consists of invective and abuse and misrepresentation, punctuated by deleted comments, bans on commenters, and invitations to non-banned commenters to ban themselves.

But when somebody calls him on it in a forum he can't control--oh, dear no. That's creepy.

Phillip said...

Christopher,

Don't worry about Zippy. He is Mark's court sophist. He will spin words to say what he wants them to say with the occasional juvenile Sheaesque insult.

Not a deep thinker that man. He lives on fallacies.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

I thought that Mark had, in fact, stopped using the term "gay brownshirts" after people complained it was unfair.

In any event, the analogy doesn't work as "gay brownshirts" is a term original to Mark and has only ever had one meaning. If someone were to take the term, change its meaning to something radically different, and then say that when Mark uses the term he means it in this radically different sense, then that would be analogous.

Phillip said...

People didn't so much complain that the term was unfair as that it was a poor use of terms. This was after Mark got onto his high imperial horse over the term "Islamic Fascism." He was in usual form about ideas having consequences (which is true) and that the Jihadists were nothing like fascists. A number of people called him to task for this. Some pointed out his refusal to address the issue of torture in such a precise fashion as he was the administration's use of "fascism" was contradictory. Others pointed out that homosexual activists and their allies are not like the Brownshirts were and thus he needed to stop using the term if he was to be consistent. He thus changed his tone for a while, using the term "Brownshorts." However, he has for a while now reverted to his original term.

Christopher said...

Philip -- good points (Mark's criticism of 'Islamic facism' with his own blanket allegations of such).

I echo Torq's curiousity about Mark's inordinate fascination (obsession?) with Ledeen and the National Review. Zippy makes the same charge here:

I doubt Mark would care if Ledeen were some obscure nobody. It is precisely because of his status at the putative flagship publication of American conservatism, combined with his naked appeal to enter into evil, and his (correct in my view) linkage of economic creative destruction to ideological military and political creative destruction, and the constant fawning apologies from other commentators in the face of criticism of him, that makes Ledeen into a self-made focal point of this particular criticism.

What is Ledeen's particular status at the NRO? -- Seems to me (apart from Mark's spotlight) he's just one columnist among many and not even widely quoted.

Moreover, Ledeen isn't on the roster of the 'Project for a New American Century' (whose name Mark likes to reference into his denunciations but whose policy proposals devotes considerably less time discussing). And inasmuch as he references the "Money and Power First" neoconservatives I'd wonder why he doesn't pay more attention to Commentary or the 'flagship publication' of the more recent neoconservative movement (The Weekly Standard).

paul zummo said...

I don't even think Ledeen writes for the print version of NR - a scrolldown search of authors doesn't even contain his name - and he is at best background chatter on NRO. He's there, but hardly prominent.

I'm currently reading Jeffrey Hart's book on the history of NR, and it's worth remembering that it has always had a history of including a wide range of right-wing opinion. Sure, Buckley excommunciated the Birchers, and I think they dropped Coulter's column after 9/11, but this has been an operation that lets differing voices be heard, I think moreso than most other ideological publications. I would also submit that mong all the (generally) pro-Iraq War conservative journals of opinon, it's the one least likely to justify our presence there for nation building, spreading democracy, or "consequentialist" purposes, though certainly such arguments can be found there as well.

Seamus said...

Part of Mark's problem (besides his boorishness which becomes more apparent every day)is his lack of the virtue of patriotism.

So I guess this article was written by an imposter, perhaps his evil (or should I say, his good) twin:
http://ncregister.com/site/article/3378/

Phillip said...

Seamus,

Yes I've read this as well as his second article on patriotism. The problem with the first article is Mark doesn't get to the nature of what patriotism is. Sure its correct to say that patriotism is a sacramental that points us to God. So? So does a rock or worm or tree. So does my wife and child. All created reality points to God. Nothing overly deep here. And I think it would be a bit much for me to say to my wife or child that I love them because they are sacramental. I remember one saint saying to an engaged couple "...I bless your human love with both hands. Why both hands? Because I don't have three." The essence of patriotism, as with human love, goes much deeper than mere references as sacramentals.
Mark's second article goes much deeper to the point of capturing this. In fact he could of done away with the first article and just started with the second. Here he correctly identifies patriotism as a related to the love we are called to have of our parents. He goes on to state that such love is called to reflect God's love for us which is completely gratuitous and without condition.
Now here is where I say Mark lacks the virtue of patriotism. If our love for parents, spouse, children, country is to reflect God's unconditioned love for us, one then has a hard time squaring a number of Mark's harsh assessments of its leaders. (The virtue of patriotism calls upon people to show due respect for its leaders.)
Now, perhaps God in His love routinely refers to us as liars, war criminals, cheats, etc as Mark does routinely with civic leaders. Perhaps Mark is even all-knowing as God is so he can accurately judge these leaders consciences. But somehow I don't think God in his unconditioned love has such thoughts. And since Mark identifies this as the fulfillment of the virtue of patriotism, then Mark most certainly is lacking it this virtue.
You see, you don't have to be and evil twin. Many people know what a virtue is without practicing it.

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