Saturday, October 13, 2007

A reading from the Book of Shea ...

Like some of the others here, I am not opposed to Mark's idea that he write a book about torture for a lot of the same reasons that Victor and Blackadder laid out in the comments of the previous thread. I would actually be fairly interested to read a book that would involve a serious study of the Catholic approach to interrogation, how the US military has approached the problem, and end with a discussion of which forms of coercion that he believes it is licit to support. Mark's general rhetorical sleight-of-hand under which he claims on one hand not to be an expert in the subject yet is more than happy to determine when someone is right or wrong on the issue something that I think it will be very difficult to sustain once he starts writing beyond a few hundred words. If nothing else, perhaps he'll gain sufficient historical perspective to recognize (as anyone who has ever read Republic of Fear would) that torture would exist in Iraq, like it does in most Third World nations, regardless of whether or not we invaded. He will also may even learn enough about real history to drop his zero-sum mentality in this area and refrain from making comments like this:
The fact is, we *have* done just that in the past with Nazis, Commies and Imperial Japanese and we can do it now--without torture.

Given that American police continued to regularly use to what most people today would likely consider torture ("the third degree") well into the 1930s as a regular tool of ordinary law enforcement, this is simply counter-factual. This is not intended to justify such techniques, but if Mark wants to invoke history and tradition to suit his point then he needs to take off the rose-colored glasses and ditch his zero-sum mentality when discussing these matters.

Similarly, he going to have seriously engage those Catholics who differ with him on his view of Gaudium et Spes. This includes Father Harrison, Jimmy Akin, and Dave Armstrong among others. I am well aware that there are readers here who hold at least two of the three of these individuals in some level of contempt. Because my interest is in points of truth rather than individuals, I care far more about their actual positions than whether or not they prefer me and Victor to Mark. The reasons for these opinions aside, it is my hope that in writing a book Mark is going to feel under an obligation to actually acknowledge a difference of opinion here or explain why he doesn't believe there to be one.

One other thing that should be kept in mind about Mark writing up a book is that the standards of libel are a lot firmer when it goes to print as opposed to what he writes on his blog. If he intends to start claiming that Michael Ledeen and other prominent neocons support torture, the murder of prisoners, has called for our soldiers to commit war crimes, et al. he may well find himself sued. Victor and I have discussed this before after Victor noted that any decent libel lawyer looking at Mark's various comments on Ledeen over the years could probably find ample grist for a lawsuit. Now that probably isn't a priority right now because a lot of people write crazy things about Ledeen online, but if Mark publishes said claims in a book to that effect I could easily see that situation changing. I would note now as I have before that if Mark's claims against Ledeen are as clear-cut and persuasive as he believes them to be, it is an odd thing indeed that the man's manifold political enemies have refrained from employing them to their advantage. It wasn't like the American Conservative had any such compunctions when it came to labeling the man a fascist in his political beliefs several years back.

Of a similar vein, I have noted repeatedly that Mark's lack of willingness to understand his opponents' positions has contributed to one the reasons why so many people find him difficult to stand. This has led him to make some very bizarre arguments, including a conflation of neoconservatism with realism, Machiavellianism with utopian Wilsonianism, and generally a very confused discussion of political ideology in general that leaves one with the same impression that Inigo had of Vizzini in The Princess Bride regarding his frequent use of the word "inconceiveable:"
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

My primary fear regarding Mark writing a book on this issue is that it will very quickly move beyond the issue of torture into a more general anathema sit against the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, neocons, American conservatism, and the like written in his typically emotional style and lack of understanding about the issues he discusses. In other words, a less eloquent version of the standard Pat Buchanan screed that is lacking only an indictment of illegal immigration. If he does this, he will have quickly moved beyond the realm of a Catholic apologist who comments on politics into the area of a political writer. And if he is going to make those kind of claims in print (something he has generally avoided doing until now), then he can be called to account for them the same way any other political writer might without being able to claim ignorance on matters of politics because he is primarily an apologist.


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Joseph D'Hippolito said...

As far as McCain's criticism of Romney goes, here's an article that ran in the Arizona Daily Star of Tuscon in January 2007 stating that McCain considered supporting "benchmarks" that the Iraqi government must fulfill for the U.S. to remain militarily committed:

McCain considers setting benchmarks for Iraqis
By Margaret Talev
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 01.26.2007
WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the most stalwart supporters of the war in Iraq, said Thursday that he might propose that the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks for the United States to continue its engagement.
Fellow senators and independent political scientists said McCain's thinking reflected growing concerns within the Republican Party about the course of the war, and also might mark a turning point for the likely 2008 presidential contender, whose previous unconditional backing of the war may have hurt his prospects.
McCain said Thursday that he hadn't yet decided on precise benchmarks. "They'd have to be specific, and they (Iraqi government officials) would have to meet them," he said.
Asked what penalty would be imposed if Iraq failed to meet his benchmarks, he said: "I think everybody knows the consequences. Haven't met the benchmarks? Obviously, then, we're not able to complete the mission. Then you have to examine your options."

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., a McCain ally, said many Republicans might back a resolution of the sort McCain is suggesting. He noted that earlier this week, Republicans in the House of Representatives proposed establishing a set of benchmarks and asking the Bush administration to report monthly on progress.
"Everybody wants the situation to change," Lott said. "Everybody wants to lay down some markers. We need to see some results here. A lot of people would like to be on record on something or for something."
Andrew E. Smith, a political science professor and the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said: "I think it certainly could be politically significant." New Hampshire will hold the first presidential primary of 2008.
"This seems to me like he's trimming his sails a little on the issue," Smith said, adding: "He has a lot of company with this. He's not out on a limb. I think there is probably a deep sense of frustration among Republicans."
McCain in no way is withdrawing his backing for the war or President Bush's plan to add 21,500 troops. It was unclear what consequences or timetables McCain would spell out, or whether he believes that Congress has the authority to enforce them.
Still, several Senate Demo-crats who oppose the troop buildup and also may seek the presidency said they were struck by McCain's comments.
"We Catholics call that an epiphany," said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., who is sponsoring the main Democratic resolution opposing the troop buildup.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said: "I called for that . . . several weeks ago. I'm glad that John McCain agrees with me.
"He's somebody who has enormous influence with the White House. He's been one of the key champions of this escalation of troops."

Anonymous said...

Gosh! Thanks, Joe, for a very full, very persuasive analysis of McCain. I completely agree re the energy thing. I cannot fathom why we are not building more refineries and doing more drilling...we have obviously reached the point where the need for more domestic sources of oil has outweighed the concerns of the environmentalist wackos. We cannot afford to be impeded by those guys anymore.

Alas, I fear that McCain will be the nominee. But, as Christopher said, *anything's* better than the Dem alternative.

202 posts--woo-hoo! ;-)


kathleen said...

FWIW santorum just unequivocally endorsed romney over mccain on the laura ingraham show, says mccain fought him in the senate "every step of the way"

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Regarding the elections, I think that too many people have been drinking the media's Kool-Aid about "Super Tuesday." Let's remember a few things:

1. A lot depends on how many open and closed Republican primaries there are.

2. If there are more closed primaries and Romney wins those, then McCain's nomination certainly isn't "automatic."

3. We could have brokered conventions in both parties this summer for the first time since the primary system was instituted nationwide. If that becomes true, then nobody is a "shoo-in," certainly not at this date.

kathleen said...

Joe, if you are so inclined, can you give a rough outline what happens in a "brokered convention", for example who are the "brokers"? and does something specific have to happen for it to be triggered?

Christopher Fotos said...

Kathleen: Typically the only thing that has to happen for a brokered convention is for no single candidate to win a majority of the party delegates. In the case of McCain, I think it's entirely possible he'll end up with a mere plurality--having the most delegates but less than 51%.

It gets a little complicated and messy in reality--you keep calling for votes in an attempt to find a majority winner, and a figure like Huckabee who could end up with the third largest bloc could be a kingmaker by pledging his delegates to McCain. If that was enough, game over. But this also drills down into the rules set up for a particular convention. E.g. I doubt Huckabee would have the unilateral power to shift his delegates to McCain; he'd have to persuade his delegates to change their votes in that direction.

If that didn't work, I suppose it's still the case that the super duper far out possibility is for yet another candidate to be drafted to solve the impasse by becoming the nominee. But he or she would still have to win the majority of delegate votes (Go Lynne Cheney!)

The brokers in all of this are simply the party/convention leaders and their respective crews.

In days of yore there were plenty of conventions with a mind-numbing number of votes. Top of my head I seem to recall at least one 19th century convention where it took more than 100 votes before the delegates present could agree on a nominee. I'll bet someone in this neighborhood like Donald McClarey can verify (or disprove) that for us.

If it comes to all this, I imagine that some obscure parliamentary rules governing the respective conventions could help determine the outcome. For example, I don't know for a fact if the nominee really does have to win a majority of votes--it would be political suicide if this were not the case, but there's no law that requires it. For all I know there's a provision that after a hundred attempts to find a majority winner, there's a "45% is close enough" rule.

All of the above is based on my recollection of Poli Sci 101 no more than 33 years ago plus occasional stories in The New Republic and National Review. I'm sure it is a perfectly accurate account fit for a PhD monograph.

kathleen said...

thanks Chris fotos. now i remember why i shunned poli sci in college : )

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