Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Boris Yeltsin, 1931-2007

You can make jokes about his buffoonishness or drunkenness, or how he didn't turn out to be a great president. But ultimately, this is the only thing that matters:

Boris Yeltsin seized history by the throat in 1991. The rest is trivia.

He climbed on top of a tank, commanded the attention of the Russian people and the world, and stared down the Communist coup plotters, whom he denounced as "a bunch of adventurists" who'd restore the "concentration camps" of the Stalin era. In doing so, he kicked in the rotten Soviet door and sealed the victories over Communism won two years earlier by Reagan, Thatcher, John Paul et al.

I was in my last semester of college and preparing to go off to grad school when the attempted coup (by people the ignorant MSM inevitably calls "conservatives") unfolded live via satellite and cell-phone on CNN, one of the first world-historical news events to do so. (Even the Berlin Wall coverage was led by the over-the-air networks.) I flipped on the TV around 2am upon coming home and stayed up until almost noon, never turning the channel away from the coverage of the Moscow announcement that Gorbachev had been deposed by Communist apparatchiki, on the eve of signing a new union treaty that would devolve the USSR. Within the next two days, Yeltsin as president of Russia, a previously fictionally-powerful position, called on the people and the army to resist the coup. Renegade army units and thousands of ordinary Russians decided that this time would be different -- they wouldn't just roll over to tyrants. They arrived at the ironically-named White House to protect Yeltsin and the Russian government from the counterattack that never came.

When I taught political philosophy in the subsequent couple of years, I made sure my students understood one thing about what Yeltsin did during those few days.

That it was, in the usual sense, illegitimate. Illegal.

As president of Russia, one of the constituent parts of the USSR, he had no power to call on the Red Army to disobey the Kremlin, any more than the governor of Massachusetts could tell the US Army not to go to Saudi Arabia and fight the (also then-recent) First Gulf War. That his denunciations of the Kremlin coup were functionally equivalent to South Carolina deciding that the federal election that produced Abraham Lincoln was illegitimate. I always used that (admittedly imperfect) analogy, knowing that my students' sympathies regarding Communism and slavery would be on the opposite sides of the two historical events.

What I wanted them to see was how the Yeltsin case spoke to the central matter in politics -- legitimacy. The right to rule. What the Yeltsin case showed concretely and in contemporary terms was that in a crisis situation (a coup being one, but a founding or a war also fits the bill), legitimacy and right aren't legal matters at all. Yeltsin's resistance to the coup won him legitimacy because the people responded to him; it was NOT the case that the people responded to his resistance because it was legitimate (because it was not, by the understanding of legitimacy that rightly reigns in ordinary times). So it is simply false to think that all political questions can be reduced to law. Though I never taught Locke explicitly as I did Hobbes, the former-named and historically-latter Englishman called the contrary situation the "appeal to heaven":
The people have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to heaven: for the rulers, in such attempts, exercising a power the people never put into their hands, (who can never be supposed to consent that any body should rule over them for their harm) do that which they have not a right to do. And where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment. And therefore, though the people cannot be judge, so as to have, by the constitution of that society, any superior power, to determine and give effective sentence in the case; yet they have, by a law antecedent and paramount to all positive laws of men, reserved that ultimate determination to themselves which belongs to all mankind, where there lies no appeal on earth, viz. to judge, whether they have just cause to make their appeal to heaven. And this judgment they cannot part with, it being out of a man's power so to submit himself to another, as to give him a liberty to destroy him; God and nature never allowing a man so to abandon himself, as to neglect his own preservation: and since he cannot take away his own life, neither can he give another power to take it.
And Locke finishes the chapter with the rebuttal to the obvious question. The "appeal to heaven," beyond law though it is, is a sufficiently drastic event that it will not be done casually. Or as Locke's pupil Jefferson put it in some piece of paper:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes. And accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Or in Locke's words (I love how Locke uses, and not for the only time in the Second Treatise, the phrase "wise prince"):
Nor let any one think, this lays a perpetual foundation for disorder; for this operates not, till the inconveniency is so great, that the majority feel it, and are weary of it, and find a necessity to have it amended. But this the executive power, or wise princes, never need come in the danger of: and it is the thing, of all others, they have most need to avoid, as of all others the most perilous.
Yeltsin's great week came because he knew that the Russian people had a remedy in the "appeal to heaven," that Communism had ruined the country, that the coup meant the "sufficient moment" had arrived, and that he was the man to make that appeal to heaven.

Where, God willing, he is now. RIP, Boris.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Other Beach Boys hits

Actually, they are having a lot of fun with the McCain-"Barbara Ann" nonstory at The Spoof.

John McCain is joining the Beach Boys (though they'll have to get the copyright-infringement suit cleared up).

Mike Love will run for president (wouldn't that be nice).

John McCain singing other classic boomer hits (I think Giuliani's theme will be "In the Year 2525," for the date he might win the GOP nomination).

"Barbara Ann"

If this isn't the stupidest political story in my politically-aware lifetime (since 1973-74, let's say), it's only because the standards for public political stupidity have been set so high in that period.

In South Carolina, John McCain was taking questions and was asked about Iran. He answered (video is here):

That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran ...

It's not at Imus/nappy-headed-hos-levels yet, but this "story" has actually been widely reported. A Google News search for the terms McCain, Iran and "Beach Boys" produces almost 300 hits as I type this in. Some are humorous (though look at the puritanical quote from the schoolmarmish spokeswoman of some Iranian-American complaint group in the item itself). But many are quite po-faced or hysterical.

And now the nadir (it's not the guy at "or" who calls this "McCain's Imus moment") ... MoveOn.org has put together an anti-McCain ad that is even funnier unintentionally than McCain's (very funny) joke was intentionally and is soliciting money for it. AP reports that they are gonna spend $100,000. Here's the money quote not from the ad itself:

"At a tense moment, when cooler heads in his own party and many retired military leaders are calling on the president to negotiate with Iran, Senator McCain's outburst isn't merely inappropriate, it's dangerous," Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, said Friday.

Far be it for me to tell MoveOn.org how to spend its money wisely. In fact, I'm generally all for their spending their money foolishly. But isn't there anything better they could do than try to make a public issue out of an impromptu joke? Burn the money to light up a dark room filled with Che Guevara icons, so the faithful can do their devotional exercises before His real presence? Or give it to Planned Parenthood to kill a few hundred more partially-born babies while there's still time?

Of all the asinine, stupid things the MSM has ever picked up and the Loony Left (and Paleocon Right) have tried to make an issue ... I mean, wasn't a willingness to speak off the cuff one of the reasons the MSM so loved McCain in 2000? Did Ronald Reagan actually "outlaw the Soviet Union and commence bombing within five minutes"? Can people even joke against their own public image any more? Remember when McCain appeared on "Saturday Night Live" and did one of its funniest skits ever -- the McCain sings Streisand ad? Didn't everyone think that was great at the time (according to that account the SNL live-audience gave him "roaring laughter" and I remember seeing clips of it on heavy rotation on the political shows for the next week.¹ Is there a person with two brain cells to rub together who thinks McCain singing a famous song's "hook" makes him more likely to do something bad or proves he takes that something bad lightly? Here was McCain's response:

"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters in Las Vegas. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."
Asked if his joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

Now, McCain may be willing to do "something bad" if "using force against Iran" be "something bad," but that basic fact already was well known. Who the colorful was asking whether the joke was "insensitive"? Are we now back to Jean-Francois Le Querrie saying that sensitivity is a relevant criterion for judging foreign policy. As for "taking lightly," it is a fact about war veterans or others who often deal with blood and gore as part of their jobs that one very common practice of handling their experience is to use gallows or sick humor in an "in-group" situation. (Remember THE ILIAD? That was awesome. Remember the scene in THE MAIN EVENT when all the fighters at camp start talking about broken noses and cuts at the dinner table while solitary-little-girl Barbra gets progressively sickened? That would have been awesome if the movie was better.) It doesn't refer at all to ...

But wait.

I am already letting this "controversy" draw me into its cave. Taking this way too seriously. Reactions like MoveOn's do not deserve to be argued with. Or as McCain himself put it:

"Get a life."
¹ Reading that WorldNetDaily article now ... there's even "homophobia" (quotes intentional) in McCain's script for that sketch and ... gasp ... joking in another sketch about setting up the police state that Chimpy McBushitleretardespotheocrat obviously planned. But McCain got away with that, and in 2002. Consider this the leatest evidence the MSM has turned on him.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

And to answer your other question, Dave ...

First of all, prayers would be appreciated for Caitlin Hammaren, one of the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre. I didn't know her personally, but she was the friend of a friend and as such I would ask that you pray for her soul.

Secondly, Dave Armstrong asks in reference of my comparison to Sungenis:
I am objecting to two-three years of ongoing rebuke, with whole blogs and (from the looks of it) virtually entire lives and tremendous energy being devoted to the "anti-Sungenis" cause.

Some of the same people doing this have already squandered (in my opinion, having known them personally) tons of opportunities to do some very helpful apologetics and use of their considerable gifts in other areas, by becoming embroiled in the stupidity and separationism of so-called "traditionalism". Instead, they alternate between bashing popes and Bob Sungenis. It's a sad, very troubling waste of God's gifts.

But on my original point: it's not a disagreement over principle (anti-Semitism and goofy cosmology should be opposed) but prudence (how long and how much energy do we devote to rebuking manifest error, and what better use of our time is conceivable?).

The same analysis applies to this blog. As long as I have given you some food for thought and basis for at least pondering my observation, that's good.

I think that the difference, at least for me, is that outside of his core followers Sungenis has been pretty thoroughly reduced to obscurity. He isn't a major blogger and he certainly isn't seen as a respectable authority on Catholic teaching outside the kook fringe. All of the material seems to me to be available online for those who are interested in following the ins and outs of the Sungenis dispute. Mark, as Dave noted, has been consistently recognized and approved of by ordinary Catholics for his increasingly erratic and loopy views on social and political commentary. Moreover, he isn't an obscure figure by any means and as such I think that it is appropriate to challenge his theological views before they lead other Catholics into what I believe to be an erroneous reading of Magisterial documents as well as an extremely ultramontane view of foreign policy. I would also argue that a lot of his ideas should be challenged on prudential grounds, such as his increasingly warped view of American democracy.

I offer an example to substantiate this, that being Mark's reaction to the Supreme Court upholding the ban on partial-birth abortion. Mark was initially celebratory until it was pointed out that maybe, just maybe he might want to give credit to the GOP whose leadership he accused of wanting to do away with the entire pro-life cause. That led to today's post in which it was noted quite diligently in the combox that the GOP is far from worthless when it comes to the pro-life cause and had Mark's readers followed his earlier advice and supported a third party, this ban would never have occurred. They also noted that his current strong dislike (if not hatred) of the GOP appears to be far more complex than that they aren't pro-life enough for his tastes.

As a bonus, we actually get a real definition for the concept of a unitary executive that Mark has turned into his latest white whale against the Bush administration:
The term "unitary executive," properly understood, refers to the president's authority to supervise and control the executive branch. Supporters of the unitary executive argue that, because the constitution says that "[t]he executive Power [of the United States] shall be vested in a President of the United States of America," and requires him to ""take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," he has power to control all subordinates in the executive branch. This power, as asserted by the advocates of the unitary executive, has taken such forms as Executive Order Nos. 12,291 (Feb. 17, 1981) and 12,498 (Jan. 4, 1985), providing for presidential management and oversight of rulemaking by all federal agencies. Opponents of the unitary executive argue that the agencies got their rulemaking authority from Acts of Congress that implicitly authorized the agencies to exercise independent judgment in making rules with force of law, and that executive orders such as those cited infringe on this congressionally-granted agency authority. Supporters of the unitary executive reply that all authority granted to any agency is implicitly subject to presidential control.

(Really aggressive advocates of the unitary executive argue that there is no constitutional basis for "independent" agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, if by "independent" is meant that the means that the agencies are independent of presidential control.)

Opponents of the unitary executive argue that their view is the more traditional one. As one old authority stated: "It was quite clear that it was intended [by the Framers] that [the president] should not, except as to [those political duties which are not subject to judicial control], be the administrative head of the government, with general power of directing and controlling the acts of subordinate federal administrative agents." 3 W. Willoughby, Constitutional Law 1479-80 (2d ed. 1929). This view was challenged by the Roosevelt Administration, which took steps to centralize the administration of the executive branch, and that trend was continued, and given theoretical underpinnings by, the Reagan and Bush II Administrations.

Note that all this is really administrative law inside baseball, about who has ultimate authority over the executive branch, not about how far the authority of the executive branch extends. Thus, for example, it has nothing to do with whether the president has the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely or without judicial oversight.

My point in highlighting all of this is to demonstrate the same point that a lot of people made in the combox - had people followed Mark's advice (let alone his retrospective advice), this victory for the pro-life movement in all likelihood would not have occurred. At the very least, I think it's safe to say that one would not have occurred under a Gore or Kerry presidency. And as long as this is the message that he is going to keep putting out as his award winning social and political commentary under the auspices of his true adherence to Catholic teaching in contrast to the wickedness of those still supporting the GOP, I hope that Dave and others understand why I feel compelled to challenge it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I definitely understand your point, Dave ...

Particularly where you write:
So it'll continue to go on indefinitely? Isn't there a point when it becomes overkill or unedifying or scandalous (Catholic against Catholic for months on end) or counterproductive, or some combination of the above?

That's what I truly wonder about. Okay; so you guys disagree on the torture thing, and related issues, and you think Mark is a big-mouth blowhard loose cannon. We get that. Is there nothing else that can be productively written about or have a blog devoted to?

I think that Victor and I have periodically written about other topics and that we are likely to continue to do so as the situation develops. However, I hope that you understand that our disagreements with Mark have now progressed far beyond the original issue of torture, which I don't think that I have explicitly brought up for some time now. He has made a number of claims over the course of the Lenten period alone that are, for lack of a better term, nothing short of crackpot and black helicopter. I don't think that these are theological errors (though they could easily lead to that), but I think you'll understand if I find it rather alarming to see someone expounding upon these views from the platform of a prominent Catholic dialogue.

To me, this is a secondary point even to Mark's hyperbolic rhetorical style - I would be equally alarmed by a Catholic apologist who argued that American democracy is basically a sham or that we are ruled by a conspiracy of millionaires who want to kill off the lower classes no matter what his rhetorical style. That Mark packages his socio-political views as being those of the Truly Faithful Catholic rather than his own peculiar synthesis of libertarianism, paleoconservatism, and more recently to a far lesser extent Marxism makes it all the more presumptuous and inflammatory, at least to me.
What good is accomplished? That is what I am wondering. It's fine to discuss legitimate issues but this thing has gone far beyond that. It involves far too much personal sniping back and forth, which is what is scandalous among Christians and fellow Catholics. Is there not a time when any good that could come from a discussion that has been beaten to death (any discussion), has been exhausted, and when it is time to move on?

In terms of the torture debate, I agree that we have probably reached that point with the exception of allowing ourselves to correct his repeated misrepresentation of our positions whenever he feels in the need of a straw man. As I said, if I were in Shawn's position and lived in Seattle, I would have been more than happy to meet with him in a respectful fashion and explain where he and I part ways and why I believe myself to be correct on these issues. On a secular political level, I have repeatedly offered to purchase multiple books for him in order to help him better understand the political views of his opponents in the hopes that he will refrain from his reckless style of argumentation against "neoconservativism." That was intended as a serious offer rather than sarcasm and those books are his any time he wants to ask for him. It was my hope that by adopting the Biblical standard of testing all and retaining that which was good that he would be able to recognize that neoconservatism in particular that he has all but explicitly linked with the section of the Catechism that refer to the rise of the antichrist (and conflated with libertarianism, but that is neither here nor there) is a lot more than the secular messianist project that he alleges it to be if you just read their own words.
I feel the same about the Sungenis issue, and have stated so (mostly at Against the Grain. I fully agree with his critics. He is dead-wrong. But what's the point of now three years or so, worth of public criticisms? Entire websites devoted to Sungenis' difficulties; several people seemingly devoting all or the lions' share of their energy and labor spent writing online, to Bob Sungenis . . . isn't there anything better they could do? I certainly think so.

Imagine if one of these folks died tonight and God asked them, "what have you been doing with the time that I have given you, with regard to ways to get out the message of Christianity?" And they say, "well, Lord, I've been writing against Bob Sungenis for three years." Does anyone seriously think that this would be very high on God's list of priorities of what a Christian could spend time doing, for years on end? I highly doubt it.

To be fair Dave, had Sungenis been allowed to carry on without reproach it would have done far worse to the Church. I think that both the apologetics movement and the Church in general are better off with Sungenis marginalized, though I continue to pray for him. The reason that I draw the parallel to St. Paul confronting St. Peter is that Mark is not a marginalized kook like Sungenis but is instead an extremely influential Catholic blogger who in my opinion is sinking further and further into some extremely bizarre views about how the world works. Moreover, he is increasingly adopting a pseudo-ultramontane view that holds that those who disagree with him are less than fully faithful to at least the ordinary Magisterium of the Church. At that point, I think we enter into the area of theological error and like St. Paul in Galatians I think that we have an obligation to try and correct it for the edification of his readers if not Mark himself.

As far as what we hope to accomplish, while I can't speak for Victor I myself want to prevent other Catholics from falling into the same theological errors that I believe Mark has because, particularly within the current domestic political context within which these errors are held, the likelihood of producing even greater scandal and division within the Body of Christ become even more likely. I would also argue that as part of our loyalty to the actual ordinary teaching Magisterium and how Pope Benedict has applied it to Europe that we have an obligation not to just write off Western civilization the way Mark did with that sickening prayer that the West and Dar al-Islam destroy one another. Long-term, I would also like to convince Mark himself of the errors on this score or at least reach the point where we can agree to disagree without having being subject to his periodic issuing of anathema sits. I don't see the latter occurring as long as this conversation occurs only online, however, because I do not think that the medium is helpful to that level of discourse.

I hope that this helps to answer Dave's question.

One other thing that I have said repeatedly (and will say again) is that I understand that there are people who comment here who have a lot bigger beef with Mark than Victor or myself. I hope that these same people also recognize that a lot of different people have a lot of different perspectives on how to tackle this issue. So while there are legitimate discussions to be had, I want those discussions to occur within the context of civil (if sometimes heated) conversation. I think Victor said pretty much the same thing in the combox the other day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shifting the goalposts ...

I plan to get to Dave Armstrong's comments in the combox in a post later today (it deserves a post on its own right), but first I want to follow up on the point that I mentioned the other day and retract the part of it where I said that Mark was adopting a reductio ad Maher Arar mentality. In retrospect, this clearly isn't true.

The original substance of the discussion was about why Bilal Hussein had been detained. I think that Chris Blosser and Blackadder provided answers that, even if one continues to disagree with Hussein's detention, can at least understand why how someone might feel differently.

Mark, however, sees this as the perfect opportunity to conflate the detention of Bilal Hussein with Jose Padilla, Maher Arar, the Unitary Executive theory of the presidency (which I would be very interested to hear Mark actually try and define in his own words) and apparently Shawn McElhinney's defense of the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Blackadder again notes that there are a lot of differences between these various cases and makes what I think is an apt comparison between Bush and Lincoln.

I myself used FDR as an analogy, but whether it's Lincoln or FDR I think that it is important to note that, contrary to Hollywood, every time a leader invokes emergency wartime powers (which Bush has not done anywhere near the level of degree that Lincoln or FDR did) does not automatically lead to a Weimar-style end of democracy and the imposition of a dictatorship. Of course, there were a lot of people who thought that Lincoln and FDR were dictators at one point or another, and there some who still do (including, not surprisingly, one of Mark's most vehement allies on this stuff), which is one of the reasons why such people have a tendency to remain politically irrelevant.

This comparison prompted Mark to argue that we are in a state of emergency powers in perpetuum, embracing some of the worst libertarian, paleocon, and ACLU hand-wringing while doing so:
Finally, I'm informed that it's all perfectly fine because the executive has power to suspend habeas in time of war. The difficulty is that we are in a "time of war", not with a nation state but with a tactic: terror. Since "terror" has been a tactic ever since the dawn of time and will continue to be a tactic till the parousia, that would apparently mean it is okay for the executive to suspect habeas forever. It is a small consolation that, with the exception of Jose Padilla, the executive has chosen to wield his power to imprison anybody he likes for as long as he likes without charge only against foreigners. But given the precedent of Padilla, I don't see any particular reason this executive, or some future one, cannot extend the suspension to whatever citizens he chooses--all under the claim that he or she is keeping us "safe". Indeed, I don't see why Lincoln will not be invoked to do precisely this. If we are in an eternal emergency (and that's what a war on "terror" means) then we are granting the Unitary Executive eternal emergency wartime powers.

Here again, I would ask him to take a deep breath and ask himself if he actually believes this or is just throwing out the rhetoric for good measure. The war on terrorism is a politically correct short-hand for the war against what Mark himself refers to as "the Bronze Age Thugs," which is apparent to the overwhelming majority of people who actually use the term. Mark himself has stated in the past that he supports the war on terrorism, though I think that it's fair to say that he is more in the neutral position right now than anything else with his recent sickening prayer that the Islamic world and the West destroy one another.

One thing I want to make clear is that it is this frequent tendency to lapse into the realm of tin foil and black helicopters that keeps bringing Mark back to my attention. I don't think that I have directly mentioned my view on torture with regard to him in some time - certainly I don't think that this has been the thrust of my recent opposition to his views. That debate is over and I think it's chronciled for anyone who wants to read it. I certainly think that this tendency for him to shift goalposts in a debate makes such a venture pointless. But for better or worse, Mark is seen as a public spokesman for the Catholic faith by a number of people, so if he is going to start using Marxist-style dialectic of class warfare (his "conspiracy of millionnaires"), arguing that American democracy is basically a sham and a puppet theater, and launching into increasingly conspiratorial rants against the Bush administration all from the quasi-Donatist position that his views represent true fidelity to the Church in contrast to those unworthies who differ with his take on the situation, I think that a case can be made that he needs to be reproached using the Biblical precedent of St. Paul to St. Peter in Galatians.

If I had received Shawn's offer and lived in the Seattle area, I would be more than happy to make this clear to him in person in a respectful manner. Failing that, I do pray for him because I think that regardless of his positions to be consumed by this type of anger is bad for the soul, which is pretty much the same thing that others in the combox were attempting to do to begin with.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I figured something like this was coming ...

First of all, my prayers and support to anyone involved in what happened at Virginia Tech today. I'm going to refrain from commenting any further on this until more is known, but it was a horrific act nonetheless.

That said, I recognize that this quote is in dispute (UPDATE: Or Not), though the sentiments behind the statement aren't. Either way, like I said previously, it seems to me that Giuliani has a set of positions that he is going to adhere to. There is something to be admired on that in that he is standing by his convictions, but that admiration doesn't extend to the point where I am going to alter my own. I think that Giuliani may well believe at this point that he can win the GOP nomination without the support of social conservatives. Unfortunately, this is the line that a lot of his pundit supporters have been pushing on the grounds that he can win both the nomination and the general election without them. If he has seriously bought into this, then he is going to have a problem when people start actually voting.

One other thing that I want to make clear is that while I support McCain, I don't have any particular problem with Romney or (Fred) Thompson or any of the other major GOP candidates for that matter. I actually think that we have a pretty strong field this time around and while I support McCain, I can certainly understand how others might feel differently.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I spoke too soon ...

He's really gone off his meds here, particularly in the combox, and his responses to those who dare to question his increasingly self-righteous claims are underwhelming to say the least. I suspect that at some point in the future when Bush is no longer in office a lot of his new paleocon friends are going to point out that his ever-increasing use of self-righteous and hyperbolic rhetoric is a huge blow to anyone attempting to argue these positions substantively. This is the same problem that the Christian right in the US has had with people like Falwell and Coulter: their over the top statements tend to make far more enemies than they do allies.

One thing that is becoming clear to me as I read through Mark's comments on the subject of the detention of Bilal Hussein is that he now intends to adopt a reductio ad Maher Arar debating tactic whenever he tries to make a point about detainee policy. Of course, one of Mark's problems with talking about this issue is that he has no real intellectual understanding of it. For him, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, rendition, rendition by or through liaison services (which is, near as I can tell, what happened with Arar) are all part of his white whale issue that he refers to as "torture." That may be true from a moral perspective (though I think that this itself should be subject to a case-by-case debate, abeit one that he is unwilling to have) but from a political standpoint there are a number of serious differences that need to be factored in. At this point however, I suspect his Bush Derangement Syndrome has reached the point (as indicated by his rhetoric) that it is a kind of end into itself for him, a means through which he demonstrates that his continued loyalty to the Magisterium in the face of all his contemporaries who (in his eyes) have sold their souls and loyalties to Leviathan.

Mark writes:
Of course, in the world of the True Bush Believer, where Canadian civilians can be kidnapped, renditioned, tortured and their files squirreled away by the AG as "classified", there will certainly be no problem with just tossing a few wog photogs in prison for no particular reason and for as long as we bloody well feel like. After all, there is (refreshingly) no hint that he's been tortured. He's merely been jailed for no discernible reason because the King of the United States would have it so and nobody can stop him. That's what "fighting for freedom" means, doncha know.

First of all, there is a vast gulf between Maher Arar and Bilal Hussein, not the least of which being that the latter was captured on the battlefield in the company of insurgents in Ramadi. Moreover, according to the US military:
Hussein was arrested in Ramadi on April 12. The military has said he was in the company of two alleged insurgents, in an apartment where there were bomb-making materials, and that his detention was for "imperative reasons of security" under U.N. resolutions. His "strong ties" to insurgents go beyond the role of a journalist, the military has said.

So it appears that Mark's initial claim about Hussein's detention being for no reason (bolded above) are simply untrue. Now Mark can dispute the reason for his detention if he prefers to do so, but his claim that we are holding Hussein for no reason is simply factually untrue. But when this is pointed out to him, rather than retract his claim he responds with this:
It would be sort of nice if, after a year, they could get around to establishing that he's done something and, like, make a charge that sticks instead of just going through a kaleidoscope of trial balloons until they find something. But he is swarthy and Muslim so such details are unimportant. What matters is that he's probably guilty of something and it's safest to keep him locked up until terror everywhere has been eliminated.

Thereby resurrecting the claim that US troops in Ramadi (one of the centers of the Sunni insurgency, mind you) have nothing better to do than detain innocent Muslims. The charge of racism (repeated here, and in answer to the rhetorical question I would detain him if he were black, white, or any other skin color) on the part of the US military that he appears to be trying to insinuate here is nothing short of absurd on its face: everybody in Ramadi is going to be swarthy and Muslim.

Also, had Mark bothered to read the article he might have learned:
Whitman, in his response, said Hussein has been notified and given an opportunity to provide information for consideration in at least two of three military reviews of his detention.

So it appears that Hussein gets periodic reviews of his detention, all which the AP considers meaningless. That is their perogative (just as it is Mark's perogative to agree with them), but to complain that they are not occurring is to deny reality. One of the other little tidbits that Mark might want to consider is this:
AP executives went public with news about Hussein's detention Sept. 10 after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations. They said the news cooperative's review of Hussein's work did not find inappropriate contact with insurgents and that U.N. resolutions do not allow for indefinite detention.

So it seems that the AP is not contesting that Hussein was in contact with the insurgents, they just didn't feel that this contact was inappropriate. The US military, which busted Hussein in the company of two insurgents with bombmaking materials, feels differently. I am inclined to believe the military over a news organization, but Mark is free to disagree. After all, he is so much of a functional pacifist when it comes to Iranian support for insurgents killing US troops in Iraq that he doesn't appear to consider "contact" with the Iraqi insurgency that big a deal. A cheap shot and an unfair one, but no worse than what he hurled at Victor the other day.

Mark then declares:
There was a time when "Michelle Malkin thinks there's something fishy" was not sufficient legal grounds to imprison a man indefinitely without charges. I feel safer knowing that the State need no longer feel constrained by such petty things as "showing just cause" before it locks up whoever it feels like for as long as it feels like. If a royal, arbitrary executive without accountability is not what our fathers and brothers have died for, then what is?

Which, not surprisingly, is a complete distortion of what the commenter actually said:
I've been following his story via Michelle Malkin, for a few years and I am not sure I can give him the benifit of the doubt. As someone with both Northern Irish and Israeli connections, I have seen enough "photojournalists" creating news.

Thankfully, Mark's reaction was visceral enough that someone took note of it this time:
JanJan is arguing rationally and politely for what she views as a balanced assessment of the situation, and Mark and Dale react like she's defending Hitler. Any similarities to DU here? Please examine your reactions and check to see if you're not really enjoying that luscious, visceral, oh-so-righteous hate. I'll happily consider a rational, non-name-calling statement of your positions, but I see you doing your DU impression and I can't read any more. Not that you care, but I keep hoping you'll see that you've slid over to the dark side and try to come back.

Mark, not surprisingly, doesn't see the problem in his own behavior.

The rest of the exchange is interesting enough that it is worth excerpting in full: (removing some posts to improve the flow)
True Bush Believer
(refreshingly) no hint that he's been tortured.
King of the United States
"so-called Catholics".
Legal Torture regime
Bronze Age thugs

My idea of name calling is probably technically incorrect, and I apologize for confusing you. I mean the use of degrading terms for people you disagree with. Of course, there is really a need for a shorthand, or you'd be pretty long-winded when describing the situation.

However, in my opinion that's just nitpicking. Anything else?
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 3:02 pm | #

This is nothing new. Mark has repeatedly referred to Bill Clinton as the former Rapist-in-Chief.
Publius | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 3:16 pm | #

True Bush Believer: If you want to offer a defense for locking somebody up indefinitely and without charge, feel free.

(refreshingly) no hint that he's been tortured: If you would like to offer a defense of our very well-documented pattern of torture and prisoner abuse, feel free.

King of the United States. If you would like to offer a defense of an executive that can lock people away indefinitely and without accountability, feel free.

"so-called Catholics": I offered my mea culpa for that lapse here:

http:// www.markshea.blogspot.com...856422653889396

Perhaps you missed it. Or perhaps you simply don't care and would like to say anything to derail the conversation. I dunno. If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, feel free.

Bushies: I am mystified at why this colloquialism is "name-calling". If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, feel free.

Legal Torture regime: If you would like to offer an explanation of how a government where torture is, in fact, llegal upon the insistence of the Executive is not a Legal Torture regime, feel free. If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, that would help too.

Bronze Age thugs
vice-torturer-in-chief: If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, feel free.

One very specific point is at issue here, Kathy. Are we fighting a war so that the American Executive will have the right to lock anybody he likes for as long as he likes with no accountability? So far the defenses given have been: "The Pentagon (which isn't bringing charges) assures us it's okay" and "Michelle Malkin thinks there something fishy about the guy". I have this notion that the state should not go around imprisoning anyone it likes indefinitely without giving just cause. I share this weird attitude toward the power of Leviathan with the American Founders. I don't see what's unreasonable about that. It would be good if you could supply an argument here rather than a laundry list of non-sequiturs and irrelevancies.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 3:23 pm | #

Mark you're reacting angrily, and only to one point. My objection to you terming Cheney as "Vice-Torturer-in-Chief" is not to the fact that you see him as an aider and abetter of torture. "Bushies" is contemptuous. The titles you award to those you hate obscures their humanity. People who fail to accept your terms and arguments without further consideration are attacked scornfully. And you wouldn't do it so much if you didn't really like to do it.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 3:51 pm | #

I'm not angry. And you only made one point. You said JanJan was making a rational argument and I was just name-calling. I made a rational response to this charge and asked you a question. I'm still awaiting your reply. I will reword it slightly here: Does the American Executive have the right to arrest anybody he likes for as long as he likes without having to show just cause? That is, in fact, what has been done to Hussein. Some reply besides "'Bushies' is contemptuous" would be appreciated.

And, by the way, "Bushies" is not contemptuous. Unless you think Ross Douthat hold the Bushies in contempt.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 4:28 pm | #

In my second comment I responded to the "name-calling." I said I was wrong about terming it "name-calling."

My subject is not, and never has been, whether or not the American Executive has the right to do anything at all. Why the question? Look at what I said and see if I was referring to the merits of the argument. I'm referring to your attitude. If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror, and you use your love of language to tear them to pieces without mercy.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 6:13 pm | #

Do you know why I'm a conservative? I used to go to meetings of a group called the New American Movement. They were radicals who thought the American Communist Party members were wimps. I could understand their point perfectly, being a twenty-something college student at the time. I wanted to save the world, and was very willing to consider their points. Two things happened. A young man came to a meeting. A picture perfect poster boy for the movement. A factory worker, young, strong, handsome, angry, ready to work and make a difference. He was smugly told to shut up, sit down, and listen to the people who knew. The second incident was when I asked a question. I asked it because I was interested in what they had to say, and I wanted detail to help me assess their point. I wasn't condescended to like the young man, I was shut up in exactly the same way you shut people up. How dare I question them. It never occurred to them that I supported their point, they just weren't going to tolerate being questioned.

And why did this lead me to being a conservative? Because I had just finished a course in Russian civilization, and what I saw in this group was precisely what was described in the groups that were involved in the 1917 revolution. The love and mercy for the common people, so well demonstrated by their total contempt for the common people's ability to decide for themselves what was good for them. They're why I still despise the left. Your attitude is perilously close to this.

I also read recently in another blog, a statement by an Indian man. He said that he would rather be a conservative because on racial issues, liberals will love you as an inferior, and conservatives will dislike you as an equal. He'd rather have that. I understand that.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 6:25 pm | #

If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror.

This is false. And this thread demonstrates it. I did not say JanJan was evil, nor did I say she "supported terror". Nor did I say that about you. Indeed, I didn't even liken anybody to DU. I did, however, make several substantive points about the dangers of an executive who can imprison anyone he likes indefinitely and without accountability, which is the subject of the thread. So far, in reply, you've given me a number of non sequitursa and irrelevancies, at least one outright falsehood and some autobiography in which you manage to suggest I'm like a communist. I'm glad to see you aren't calling names or anything, but I'd really like to stick with the point of the thread, which is the indefinite imprisonment of a human being without any just cause that we can see. I would think that, as a conservative, you would care about that.

I was shut up in exactly the same way you shut people up.

I have the distinct memory of asking to hear from you a good argument for jailing a man indefinitely without charge--at least twice. I'm not sure how that constitutes "shutting you up."
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 6:41 pm | #


I think Kathy has nailed you. I don't think you have any credibility to say: "I'm not angry." Of course you're angry. If you were merely complaining about the powers of the American Executive, you wouldn't use words that obviously express pleasure in giving insult. I mean, read what you wrote earlier this week:

"Clearly Sheehan is not nearly the patriot that our Vice President is. All he's done is serve his country, not contribute to our economy by becoming a zillionaire, or stampede us into a stupid war, and lie to us about torture. When even the Marines hate America by casting doubt on the Administration, how can a great and good man like Dick Cheney counter the treachery?"

It is obvious you think Cheney is evil. You hate the man. And Kathy nailed you: "The titles you award to those you hate obscures their humanity. People who fail to accept your terms and arguments without further consideration are attacked scornfully. And you wouldn't do it so much if you didn't really like to do it."

You like to insult Cheney. If you don't see why that's a problem, then God help you. I don't like Hillary, Bill, Schumer, or any of the left-wing pro-abortionist politicians out there. But I don't go around writing posts saying sarcastically how "good and great" they are and how "patriotic" they are because they support abortion. This is really beneath you. If you have a point about the Executive Branch, you'd refer to the Executive Branch, and wouldn't make quips about the "torturer in chief" and the "brutal incompetents." Insults are not arguments. All they do is show how much you take pleasure in attacking someone.

You. Have. A. Problem.
Sydney Carton | 04.14.07 - 6:55 pm | #

It appears nobody is actually going to address the issue of man who has been in jail for a year without any charges being brought against him and who stands entirely at the mercies of Leviathan. A sudden outburst of exquisite empathy for the tender feelings of an immensely powerful multimillionaire who laughs off waterboarding as "dunking" and who will, in any event, never read my blog has much greater priority for the strangely selective sensitivities of my readers.

Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 7:06 pm | #

who will, in any event, never read my blog has much greater priority for the strangely selective sensitivities of my readers.

Yeah, and neither will anyone else who can do anything to spring Hussein from the trial-less pokey. However, you do read your blog, and so it is far more useful for your readers to tell you when they think you've crossed the line or indulged in hatred than it is for them to bemoan the treatment of Mr. Hussein.
Publius | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 7:32 pm | #

Mark, it's not Cheney I'm empathizing with. It's you. Don't you think it's a problem that several of your readers think you take vicious pleasure insulting the V.P.?

As for the subject of this post - what can be said? It's terrible that the guy wasn't given a hearing. He should get one. More people should pay attention to it. Maybe there's things we don't know, also. Perhaps the officers who found him have more to say about it than the King of the United States.
Sydney Carton | 04.14.07 - 7:46 pm | #

I can't help what readers think. Particularly if they seem to be more or less dead set on not looking squarely at the fact that, in addition to kidnapping and renditioning one completely innocent man to months of torture in Syria, they now have the case of another man who is being held indefinitely without charge--and the most important thing on their moral radar is that I was impolite to one of the most powerful men on the planet because he laughs off waterboarding done on his watch.

I am grateful that you acknowledge, sort of, that its sub-optimal for the the American State to act like Leviathan under Bush/Cheney. But it would sort of be nice if I detected something of the same passion there as you unleash at me when I criticize the second most powerful man on the planet for gross abuse of his power against the weak and innocent.

Yes. "Innocent". Maher Arar was innocent. The Administration has yet to acknowledge that. Instead, they add insult to injury by hiding his files, forbidding his family entry into the country, and pretending like the hidden files contain "classified" info that implicates him in Something Awful instead of implicating the Bushies in the brutal incompetence that has characterized their mishandling of the war and of basic American ideals of freedom and justice. When you get as passionate about that as you are about psychoanalyzing and denouncing me, Syd, I'll be happy to take your free advice more seriously.

Finally, as to Hussein: if there "something we don't know" the way this is handled in the America whose ideals are supposed be shedding the light of freedom and justice in the New Iraq is a little something called "bringing charges" using something called "evidence". In my country, they can't just put you in jail for time out of mind while the sheriff periodically assures the press "there's something you don't know". If the Administration knows something we don't then they should tell us what it is. If they don't have any evidence to back the charges, they should let the guy go. That's, you know, what we are supposed to be fighting for.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 7:58 pm | #

I can't do anything about Arar's situation, and since I'm in no position to know all the facts I don't have anything useful to add to that conversation. But one of the things that keeps me from learning more is the way I am repulsed from further reading by snidely nasty commenters. I respect your opinion on many things, but that issue alone is enough to make me very suspect of your opinions in matters relating to the war.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 8:06 pm | #

I can't do anything about Arar's situation

Sure you can. You can educate yourself on what Leviathan did to him and try to educate others so that Leviathan can't do it again.

and since I'm in no position to know all the facts

What? You can't read?

But one of the things that keeps me from learning more is the way I am repulsed from further reading by snidely nasty commenters.

I'm sorry, but this plea of Ignorance Due to Hurt Feelings wears about as well with me as the pleas that inner city school kids can't be expected to learn how to read because of all the Nasty Racism in America. Exactly nothing is keeping you from learning whether or not Maher Arar was kidnapped, renditioned and tortured. Exactly nothing is keeping you from finding out that he is innocent (not that even guilt excuses kidnapping, rendition and torture). Exactly nothing is stopping you from asking "Why did the Canadian gov't apologize and cough up 10 million bucks?" I think you'r a grown up and not such a slave to your emotions that you let a few words of mine stop you from reading the abundant evidence out there of the wrong our gov't did Arar.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 8:26 pm | #

I don't understand the Harper's article. From the beginning, it says "The U.S. refuses to bring any charges."

But how can the US possibly bring any charges? This man is not a US citizen, nor was he in the US. So what part of US law could he have violated? And what US court could have jurisdiction where the government of Iraq is (supposed to be) sovereign?

I can understand asking the US to set him free. Or asking that he be turned over to the government of Iraq.

But if the US is to hold him, then in a sense it would actually be more improper to present formal charges than to continue to hold him without formal charges. Hussein is an Iraqi citizen in Iraq. The US cannot legitimately put him on trial.
James Nightshade | 04.14.07 - 8:40 pm | #

"Sure you can. You can educate yourself on what Leviathan did to him and try to educate others so that Leviathan can't do it again."

You really buy what you're selling, Mark? I yield the floor to no one in my distrust of American gov't, American media, American justice... You name it, I'm likely wary of it.

But do you really expect me to believe I can just educate myself and others about a handful of the most egregious deeds perpetrated by our government, and it will stop Leviathan?

I'm not advocating something else as the way to stop leviathan, make no mistake. I think all we can do is pray and fast and endure in the meantime.
Franklin Jennings | 04.14.07 - 8:44 pm | #

Sorry Mark, but you can't sidetrack the issue like that. I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE SUBSTANCE OF YOUR POINT, BUT ABOUT THE WAY IN WHICH YOU ARE MAKING YOUR POINTS. Sorry, it's all about you Mark. I can educate myself somewhere that I don't have to read the ugliness you're broadcasting, but that's totally beside the point. Are you unable to see my point, or just unable to concede it? Anger is a sin Mark.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 9:16 pm | #

"When you get as passionate about that as you are about psychoanalyzing and denouncing me, Syd, I'll be happy to take your free advice more seriously."

I don't have any complaint with the substance of your criticism of the Administration, for the most part. I don't even mind the righteous anger at perceived injustices, and I think that's a good thing.

But that's NOT what you're doing. And if you want to publicly embrace your Dark Side, be my guest. Go ahead and flame away at the VP. In fact, do it more often. Embrace your anger. On a Catholic blog.
Sydney Carton | 04.14.07 - 10:31 pm | #


If you want me to concede that I sometimes get angry, then you should have said so. Of course I do. But from what you initially said it sounded like you were claiming I was being irrational in saying that we are wrong to hold a man indefinitely without charge. I could have sworn that you claimed that, in contrast to this Janjan was being rational in arguing that there might be a good reason for this limitless and unaccountable imprisonment. If memory serves you charged me with suggesting she was "defending Hitler".

Also you said that I called anybody who disagrees with me evil. And that I was, variously, like the DU and the Communists. Also, you gave me the distinct impression I was somehow shutting you (or somebody) up in this thread.

Now you tell me you just want me to admit I get angry? Okay. I admit that. But I don't think that's quite what you set out to say initially and that's why I've been arguing with you.

Guilty as charged. I get angry at times. I just don't happen to think that equates to the claim that "If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror." Nor do I think I even remotely suggest JanJan was like somebody "defending Hitler". Nor do I think I act like a Communist or a member of DU. While we are on the subject of apologies, it might be nice if you offered one for these false claims.

All this may explain why I don't think it's "all about me" and why I think it would be good to stay on the actual subject of the thread--the imprisonment of a man indefinitely without charge--and not attempt to avoid that with an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of non sequiturs and false claims. Let's all agree that I get angry at times. Mea culpa. If you would be so kind as to offer the same for the claim that I suggested JanJan was like somebody defending Hitler as well as for the claim that I am like a Communist, and for the claim that "If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror" we'll be all set and can continue the conversation about the atrocious treatment of Hussein.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 11:00 pm | #


If it were impossible to stop Leviathan then Maher Arar would still be rotting in a Syrian prison.

So the answer is, "Yes. I think we can and must stand up to Leviathan." That's where America came from. It is noble patriotism and deep love of country to resist the State when it does evil.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 11:14 pm | #

So upon reading this, it seems to me that Mark regards Maher Arar pretty much the same way he did the failure to find WMDs. It was that point that began his long shift towards Bush Derangement Syndrome and diving head-first into the worst fever swamps of the paleocon wing of the anti-war movement. After Maher Arar, he now regards the entire terrorist detention system as fundamentally illegitimate and as such is rapidly descending into the same area that many liberal intellectuals with legitimate concerns about racism unfortunately found themselves in when it came to the police cracking down on black radicals like the Black Panthers. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that while there might be some vague threat for black radicals, it was the actions of the police that were the real danger to the community. That was unfortunate at the municipal level in the United States and it would be even more so were anyone to attempt to take the same mentality internationally.

One thing that I would challenge a reader to ask Mark is if he still stands by his claim back in February that he doesn't hate Bush and just exercises the minimum of necessary criticism against the man.

Incidentally, for those who are interested in learning why Mark's view of the Founding Fathers is inspired more by twentieth century libertarianism than by what the individuals in question actually thought, I would recommend reading Federalist Papers:
THERE is an idea, which is not without its advocates, that a vigorous Executive is inconsistent with the genius of republican government. The enlightened well-wishers to this species of government must at least hope that the supposition is destitute of foundation; since they can never admit its truth, without at the same time admitting the condemnation of their own principles. Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy. Every man the least conversant in Roman story, knows how often that republic was obliged to take refuge in the absolute power of a single man, under the formidable title of Dictator, as well against the intrigues of ambitious individuals who aspired to the tyranny, and the seditions of whole classes of the community whose conduct threatened the existence of all government, as against the invasions of external enemies who menaced the conquest and destruction of Rome.

There can be no need, however, to multiply arguments or examples on this head. A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.

Taking it for granted, therefore, that all men of sense will agree in the necessity of an energetic Executive, it will only remain to inquire, what are the ingredients which constitute this energy? How far can they be combined with those other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? And how far does this combination characterize the plan which has been reported by the convention?

The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.

The ingredients which constitute safety in the repub lican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility.

Those politicians and statesmen who have been the most celebrated for the soundness of their principles and for the justice of their views, have declared in favor of a single Executive and a numerous legislature. They have with great propriety, considered energy as the most necessary qualification of the former, and have regarded this as most applicable to power in a single hand, while they have, with equal propriety, considered the latter as best adapted to deliberation and wisdom, and best calculated to conciliate the confidence of the people and to secure their privileges and interests.

That unity is conducive to energy will not be disputed. Decision, activity, secrecy, and despatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number; and in proportion as the number is increased, these qualities will be diminished.

... Wherever two or more persons are engaged in any common enterprise or pursuit, there is always danger of difference of opinion. If it be a public trust or office, in which they are clothed with equal dignity and authority, there is peculiar danger of personal emulation and even animosity. From either, and especially from all these causes, the most bitter dissensions are apt to spring. Whenever these happen, they lessen the respectability, weaken the authority, and distract the plans and operation of those whom they divide. If they should unfortunately assail the supreme executive magistracy of a country, consisting of a plurality of persons, they might impede or frustrate the most important measures of the government, in the most critical emergencies of the state. And what is still worse, they might split the community into the most violent and irreconcilable factions, adhering differently to the different individuals who composed the magistracy.

Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.

Upon the principles of a free government, inconveniences from the source just mentioned must necessarily be submitted to in the formation of the legislature; but it is unnecessary, and therefore unwise, to introduce them into the constitution of the Executive. It is here too that they may be most pernicious. In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. When a resolution too is once taken, the opposition must be at an end. That resolution is a law, and resistance to it punishable. But no favorable circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in the executive department. Here, they are pure and unmixed. There is no point at which they cease to operate. They serve to embarrass and weaken the execution of the plan or measure to which they relate, from the first step to the final conclusion of it. They constantly counteract those qualities in the Executive which are the most necessary ingredients in its composition, vigor and expedition, and this without anycounterbalancing good. In the conduct of war, in which the energy of the Executive is the bulwark of the national security, every thing would be to be apprehended from its plurality.

It must be confessed that these observations apply with principal weight to the first case supposed that is, to a plurality of magistrates of equal dignity and authority a scheme, the advocates for which are not likely to form a numerous sect; but they apply, though not with equal, yet with considerable weight to the project of a council, whose concurrence is made constitutionally necessary to the operations of the ostensible Executive. An artful cabal in that council would be able to distract and to enervate the whole system of administration. If no such cabal should exist, the mere diversity of views and opinions would alone be sufficient to tincture the exercise of the executive authority with a spirit of habitual feebleness and dilatoriness.

But one of the weightiest objections to a plurality in the Executive, and which lies as much against the last as the first plan, is, that it tends to conceal faults and destroy responsibility. Responsibility is of two kinds to censure and to punishment. The first is the more important of the two, especially in an elective office. Man, in public trust, will much oftener act in such a manner as to render him unworthy of being any longer trusted, than in such a manner as to make him obnoxious to legal punishment. But the multiplication of the Executive adds to the difficulty of detection in either case. It often becomes impossible, amidst mutual accusations, to determine on whom the blame or the punishment of a pernicious measure, or series of pernicious measures, ought really to fall. It is shifted from one to another with so much dexterity, and under such plausible appearances, that the public opinion is left in suspense about the real author. The circumstances which may have led to any national miscarriage or misfortune are sometimes so complicated that, where there are a number of actors who may have had different degrees and kinds of agency, though we may clearly see upon the whole that there has been mismanagement, yet it may be impracticable to pronounce to whose account the evil which may have been incurred is truly chargeable. "I was overruled by my council. The council were so divided in their opinions that it was impossible to obtain any better resolution on the point.'' These and similar pretexts are constantly at hand, whether true or false. And who is there that will either take the trouble or incur the odium, of a strict scrunity into the secret springs of the transaction? Should there be found a citizen zealous enough to undertake the unpromising task, if there happen to be collusion between the parties concerned, how easy it is to clothe the circumstances with so much ambiguity, as to render it uncertain what was the precise conduct of any of those parties?

... It is evident from these considerations, that the plurality of the Executive tends to deprive the people of the two greatest securities they can have for the faithful exercise of any delegated power, first, the restraints of public opinion, which lose their efficacy, as well on account of the division of the censure attendant on bad measures among a number, as on account of the uncertainty on whom it ought to fall; and, secondly, the opportunity of discovering with facility and clearness the misconduct of the persons they trust, in order either to their removal from office or to their actual punishment in cases which admit of it.

In England, the king is a perpetual magistrate; and it is a maxim which has obtained for the sake of the pub lic peace, that he is unaccountable for his administration, and his person sacred. Nothing, therefore, can be wiser in that kingdom, than to annex to the king a constitutional council, who may be responsible to the nation for the advice they give. Without this, there would be no responsibility whatever in the executive department an idea inadmissible in a free government. But even there the king is not bound by the resolutions of his council, though they are answerable for the advice they give. He is the absolute master of his own conduct in the exercise of his office, and may observe or disregard the counsel given to him at his sole discretion.

But in a republic, where every magistrate ought to be personally responsible for his behavior in office the reason which in the British Constitution dictates the propriety of a council, not only ceases to apply, but turns against the institution. In the monarchy of Great Britain, it furnishes a substitute for the prohibited responsibility of the chief magistrate, which serves in some degree as a hostage to the national justice for his good behavior. In the American republic, it would serve to destroy, or would greatly diminish, the intended and necessary responsibility of the Chief Magistrate himself.

The idea of a council to the Executive, which has so generally obtained in the State constitutions, has been derived from that maxim of republican jealousy which considers power as safer in the hands of a number of men than of a single man. If the maxim should be admitted to be applicable to the case, I should contend that the advantage on that side would not counterbalance the numerous disadvantages on the opposite side. But I do not think the rule at all applicable to the executive power. I clearly concur in opinion, in this particular, with a writer whom the celebrated Junius pronounces to be "deep, solid, and ingenious,'' that "the executive power is more easily confined when it is ONE'';2 that it is far more safe there should be a single object for the jealousy and watchfulness of the people; and, in a word, that all multiplication of the Executive is rather dangerous than friendly to liberty.

A little consideration will satisfy us, that the species of security sought for in the multiplication of the Executive, is nattainable. Numbers must be so great as to render combination difficult, or they are rather a source of danger than of security. The united credit and influence of several individuals must be more formidable to liberty, than the credit and influence of either of them separately. When power, therefore, is placed in the hands of so small a number of men, as to admit of their interests and views being easily combined in a common enterprise, by an artful leader, it becomes more liable to abuse, and more dangerous when abused, than if it be lodged in the hands of one man; who, from the very circumstance of his being alone, will be more narrowly watched and more readily suspected, and who cannot unite so great a mass of influence as when he is associated with others. The Decemvirs of Rome, whose name denotes their number,3 were more to be dreaded in their usurpation than any ONE of them would have been. No person would think of proposing an Executive much more numerous than that body; from six to a dozen have been suggested for the number of the council. The extreme of these numbers, is not too great for an easy combination; and from such a combination America would have more to fear, than from the ambition of any single individual. A council to a magistrate, who is himself responsible for what he does, are generally nothing better than a clog upon his good intentions, are often the instruments and accomplices of his bad and are almost always a cloak to his faults.

Come to think of it, it might be a good idea for the Democrats in Congress to read that as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oh and while I'm at it ...

Might Mark at least acknowledge that his willingness to believe that the United States was looking to use the abduction of the British sailors as a pretext for war with Iran (with the attack all set to begin on Good Friday, no less) had no basis in reality whatsoever apart from his own conspiratorial views? Or if not, perhaps he could at least give Ahmadinejad credit for releasing the British sailors and removing the pretext for war?

We would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling mullahs ...

I'm late to the party ...

Since McCain's speech on Iraq is getting panned pretty nicely, I thought I would include my own link to his speech on Iraq as well as a link to his discussion of the conference call with bloggers afterwards.

In particular, this comment struck me as particularly apt as it dovetails nicely with my own views on the topic:
Speaking as bluntly as I have heard in some time, he acknowledged the credibility deficit of the Pentagon and White House on the war. Saying that “too often, we misled the American people in the past” about deadenders, mission accomplished, and so on, McCain said that the press has become too reluctant to report actual progress in Iraq. He feels that bloggers and radio hosts can help get real information to the American people and help encourage the nation to remain tenacious.

Who does he blame for the credibility gap? McCain pointed out that President Bush has to accept the ultimate responsibility for that as well as for the faulty strategy used up to this year in attempting to pacify the insurgencies. The Senator says that he is pleased with the direction the White House has taken this year and the energy with which they have pursued it. He faulted the White House for not having regular press conferences dedicated to discussing the progress in Iraq in clear and objective terms, which McCain feels would have disarmed much of the criticism, especially this year.

Ultimately, though, he blames Donald Rumsfeld for shrinking the military and using too light of a footprint in post-invasion Iraq -- a position McCain has consistently maintained for over three years. He also blames Generals Casey and Sanchez for their roles in supporting Rumsfeld's strategies. He believes that General Petraeus, a "charismatic" commander, has the right approach and the skills to succeed in Iraq. McCain also praised Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert Gates, and told us that Pentagon morale has increased substantially since Rumsfeld's departure.

I also found this point amusing in the comments:
... bashing McCain on this is kind of like stoning Cassandra when the Greeks landed outside the walls of Troy. No one listened to her either.

... You may have legitimate beefs with McCain, but the GWOT is not one of them - if he doesn't cave like everyone else but continues to back the war, we may look back and say he sacrificed his campaign by backing Gates and Petraeus and the new strategy on Iraq, instead of pandering to the winds of public or party opinion (lots of the GOP, and lots of bloggers/commenters wouldn't entertain any criticism of Rumsfeld or Bush in '04 or '05 - like it's a good idea if I see you about to shoot yourself in the foot but I don't say anything for fear of appearing disloyal).

I think that the absence of any real constructive criticism from anyone but McCain and Lieberman from 2003 to present is one of the things that really hindered the progress of the war effort, though Bush's weaknesses have not helped. The GOP supported Bush and trusted him to manage the war, while most of the opposition was rooting for defeat or practically unhinged. I think that we're on the right track now because the McCain-Lieberman view has basically been adopted by the administration as their own, but since most the American public has yet to understand our shift in strategy apart from the fact that we now have more troops.

On the political front, I would suggest to conservatives favoring Giuliani over McCain on the grounds that the former is stronger on the war on terrorism take a look at Jonah Goldberg's column on the subject. Whatever one thinks of McCain, I don't think that Giuliani's apparent strategy of hedging his bets on Iraq is showing much of his vaunted leadership on the war on terrorism. While Lowry notes that Romney has taken a similar position, Romney's entire campaign is not heavily dependent on his ability to conduct the war on terrorism. Giuliani has defined a lot of his campaign around the view that conservatives should ignore his social views because he will provide leadership when it comes to the war on terrorism. And as practical political matter, any of the major GOP candidates is smoking some serious crack if they believe that failure in Iraq will allow for the election of a Republican candidate in 2008 short of an al-Qaeda and Iranian orchestrated Khmer Rouge-style genocide immediately following our withdrawl. Then again, that happened post-Vietnam and we still got saddled with Jimmy Carter for four years.

Off his meds ... again

Is sort of my reaction to Mark's post-Lenten and increasingly unbalanced ravings. What exactly his point in all of this is supposed to be, I am increasingly uncertain, but I think that if you view the following statements as the product of a single mind it is clear to me that Mark is descending into an ever-increasing amount of irrationality.

For starters, he favorably cites Michael Novak concerning the growth of the Church in China at 10:35 am. Yet when it comes to Mark's white whale of the Iraq war at 5:36 pm, Novak is a an evil secular messianist for whom (apparently like "most Americans"):
simply does not exist for most Americans. If they face death, persecution or deportation on a massive scale, well then they should be glad to undertake this martyrdom since they are suffering for us and we are the Good Guys in the great civilizational struggle to establish ... Peace and Safety Through DemocracyWhiskeySexy on Earth. You gotta break some eggs to get the omelette, you know.

Actually, a cynical person might note that for Mark Shea the Church in Iraq (or Palestine for that matter) does not appear to exist except when it serves his purposes to use as a convenient rhetorical punching bag against the war in Iraq or Israel. I would be extremely interested to know how Mark believes that the Church in Iraq or Israel is likely to be served by US withdrawl in the former and the creation of a Palestinian state in the latter. Indeed, if the protection of Christian communities in the Middle East is to be favored above all else regarding American foreign policy in the Middle East as Mark has sometimes articulated (to the point where Saddam was free to slaughter his own people in the hundreds of thousands so long as he kept a few Chaldeans around as museum props), I fail to see any reason whatsoever as to why he would support any change whatsoever in the Palestinian status quo.

But back to Michael Novak. The idea that he cares nothing for the Church's persecutions is belied by the fact that he places so much emphasis on the Church's growth in places of intense persecution like China. As juan notes in the comments:
Wait, I though Novak was a secular messianist who only sees religion as crowd control?

It might be okay to cite contradictory opinions in a legal brief, but it makes for an increasingly disjointed polemic.

As for the substance of Pope Benedict's remarks on Easter, what I think you have to understand is the context within which they were made:
How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world! Natural calamities and human tragedies that cause innumerable victims and enormous material destruction are not lacking. My thoughts go to recent events in Madagascar, in the Solomon Islands, in Latin America and in other regions of the world. I am thinking of the scourge of hunger, of incurable diseases, of terrorism and kidnapping of people, of the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons. I look with apprehension at the conditions prevailing in several regions of Africa. In Darfur and in the neighbouring countries there is a catastrophic, and sadly to say underestimated, humanitarian situation. In Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the violence and looting of the past weeks raises fears for the future of the Congolese democratic process and the reconstruction of the country. In Somalia the renewed fighting has driven away the prospect of peace and worsened a regional crisis, especially with regard to the displacement of populations and the traffic of arms. Zimbabwe is in the grip of a grievous crisis and for this reason the Bishops of that country in a recent document indicated prayer and a shared commitment for the common good as the only way forward.

Likewise the population of East Timor stands in need of reconciliation and peace as it prepares to hold important elections. Elsewhere too, peace is sorely needed: in Sri Lanka only a negotiated solution can put an end to the conflict that causes so much bloodshed; Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability; In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees. In Lebanon the paralysis of the country's political institutions threatens the role that the country is called to play in the Middle East and puts its future seriously in jeopardy. Finally, I cannot forget the difficulties faced daily by the Christian communities and the exodus of Christians from that blessed Land which is the cradle of our faith. I affectionately renew to these populations the expression of my spiritual closeness.

I see this as more of a general lament for the continuing violence internationally than as a specific set of policy prescriptions. Indeed, the only place where he mentioned the latter was in the case of Zimbabwe. One might also note that of the conflicts whose violence was referenced by Pope Benedict, those occurring in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories are the work of Islamist radicals. And for those like Mark who might be tempted to regard the Holy Father as a kind of fellow traveler for paleocon isolationism, they apparently missed the fact that he endorsed the overthrow of the al-Qaeda puppet regime in Somalia by US and Ethiopian forces as bringing about the prospects for peace and lamented the renewed violence that has resulted in al-Qaeda's resurgence in the country.

Mark also now sees signs telling people to report suspicious activity as being the harbringer of some kind of totalitarian police state (no doubt foreshadowed by the "Take A Bite Out of Crime" campaign in the 1980s) and makes one of the most bigoted remarks about Evangelicals that I've heard in awhile:
... its just another capitalistic entity doing what capitalist entities do: making a buck and being run by rich people who have not the slightest interest in Evangelical confusions of the American Way with the Kingdom of Heaven.

I'm not really sure why Evangelicals aren't allowed to be annoyed when a company that actively promotes itself as family-friendly proceeded to shift towards the exact opposite. I also don't think that being a capitalist, or even a successful capitalist is at all at odds with being family-friendly. Maybe Mark does with his increasingly conspiratorial bent, but as I think the continued success of family-friendly films show, there is a definite market for such things.

But not to outdo himself, Mark then post this bizzare claim:
Howard Dean is, like most politicians and, in particular like most liberal politicians, a biblical illiterate who exploit biblical language only to score political points. In this, he joins virtually every American political figure since before the founding of the Republic. I cringe when he opens his mouth to talk about his "Christian beliefs" just as I cringe when Dubya expostulates on the "power, power, wonder working power" of the American people and Bill Clinton announces his New Covenant with the American people and declares that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard what we can build". Such blasphemies are commonplaces of American secular messianic chatter with a genotype that be traced directly to the Pilgrim's City on a Hill.

... If Dean is to be singled out for his all-too-typical American Civil Religion Blather, then conservative Christians in thrall to the GOP had better look to their glass house before casting the first stone.

Using religious language or rhetoric to support public policies goes a lot further back than the Pilgrims, as anyone who is familiar with the Guelph-Ghibelline dispute should be aware. I'm also not terribly certain why the mere use of such rhetoric or allusions are to be regarded as beyond the pale unless it conveys with it erroneous theological views. In such a context, I really don't see what Bush or Clinton said that was all that objectional. Moreover, the Pilgrims' City on a Hill was about the furthest thing from a secular messianist project as it would be possible to get. Mark's ever-increasing use of the term (which, lest we forget, the Catechism associates with the coming of the Antichrist) brings to mind the line by the character Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride in response to Vinzzini's constant cries of "Inconceivable!" - "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Mark also continues to view NRO as though it is the equivalent of some kind of conservative magisterium and its statements are the final word on what is and is not conservative. The idea that there could ever be a genuine difference of opinion on such issues depending on the contributor appears to simply be beyond his comprehension - to him NRO is apparently as monolithic as the Borg. And incidentally, Mark's revival of the David Frum article seems as good a place as any to use Frum's words to explain why I disagree with Mark on prudential matters.
... These [anti-war] conservatives are relatively few in number, but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world — the commitment that inspired the founding of this magazine — in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies.

... The antiwar conservatives aren't satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?

But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies.

... But even Robert Taft and Charles Lindbergh ceased accommodating Axis aggression after Pearl Harbor. Since 9/11, by contrast, the paleoconservatives have collapsed into a mood of despairing surrender unparalleled since the Vichy republic went out of business. James Burnham famously defined liberalism as "the ideology of Western suicide." What are we to make of self-described conservatives who see it as their role to make excuses for suicide bombers?

... IN August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait. Iraq plus Kuwait and prospectively Saudi Arabia would possess the world's biggest reservoir of oil. With this vast new oil wealth, Saddam could at last acquire the nuclear weapons he coveted — and thus dominate the entire Middle East. President George H. W. Bush quickly decided that the conquest of Kuwait "will not stand" and assembled a global coalition against Saddam. The paleoconservative repudiation of the Gulf War would be their first major independent ideological adventure.

Three weeks after the invasion, Pat Buchanan declared his opposition to war in one of his regular appearances on The McLaughlin Group: "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East — the Israeli defense ministry and its amen corner in the United States."

It would be hard to come up with a more improbable idea than that of George H. W. Bush of Kennebunkport as warmaking servant of the interests of International Jewry. Yet over the next six months, Buchanan and the Chronicles writers would repeatedly argue that America was being dragged to war in the Gulf by a neoconservative coterie indifferent to true American interests: the "neoconservatives," as Buchanan said, "the ex-liberals, socialists, and Trotskyists who signed on in the name of anti-Communism and now control our foundations and set the limits of permissible dissent."

... The accusations culminated in a March 2003 article by Buchanan in The American Conservative that fixed responsibility for the entire Iraq war on a "cabal" of neoconservative office-holders and writers: "We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people's right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity."

Who were these war-mongering "neoconservatives"? At a June 2002 conference sponsored by the Institute for Historical Review, the leading Holocaust-denial group, Joe Sobran defined "neoconservatism" as "kosher conservatism." And in his March cover story, Buchanan seasoned Sobran's definition with his own flavorful malice. "Cui Bono? For whose benefit these endless wars in a region that holds nothing vital to America save oil, which the Arabs must sell us to survive? Who would benefit from a war of civilizations between the West and Islam? Answer: one nation, one leader, one party. Israel, Sharon, Likud."

The echo in that previous paragraph of the Nazi slogan "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer" is unlikely to have been unintentional. Yes, it was indeed time to "be frank about Jews."

Having quickly decided that the War on Terror was a Jewish war, the paleos equally swiftly concluded that they wanted no part of it. It's odd: 9/11 actually vindicated some of the things that the paleos had been arguing, particularly about immigration and national cohesion. But the paleos were in no mood to press their case. Instead, they plunged into apologetics for the enemy and wishful defeatism.

On September 16, 2001, Samuel Francis suggested that America deserved what it got on 9/11: "Some day it might actually dawn on someone in this country that the grown-up but unwelcome answer is that the terrorists attacked us because they were paying us back for what we had started. Let us hear no more about how the 'terrorists' have 'declared war on America.' Any nation that allows a criminal chief executive to use its military power to slaughter civilians in unprovoked and legally unauthorized attacks for his own personal political purposes" — Francis is referring here both to Operation Desert Fox in 1998 and to the Kosovo war — "can expect whatever the 'terrorists' dish out to it."

It seems incredible, but there is actually more. "If, as President Bush told us this week, we should make no distinction between those who harbor terrorists and those who commit terrorist acts, neither can any distinction be made between those who tolerate the murderous policies of a criminal in power and the criminal himself."

... There is, however, a fringe attached to the conservative world that cannot overcome its despair and alienation. The resentments are too intense, the bitterness too unappeasable. Only the boldest of them as yet explicitly acknowledge their wish to see the United States defeated in the War on Terror. But they are thinking about defeat, and wishing for it, and they will take pleasure in it if it should happen.

They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.

War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen — and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.

While I don't think that this is all directly applicable to Mark Shea, an awful lot of it unfortunately is and it is becoming more so every day. Now granted, a lot of the people that David Frum was talking about have said stuff a lot more inflammatory than anything that Mark has to date (they also have a far better thought out ideology, but that is neither here nor there) and I have always found it amusing that people like Mark find it to be the height of outrage that Frum would write his "excommunication" of paleoconservatism (to the extent that it was one) given that at the same time the American Conservative and its fellow travelers were accusing him (and still are) of being a traitor to the United States and an agent of a foreign power. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, you might say.

Now concerning Mark's rather disjointed outrage and condemnation that Bush wants to appoint a war czar ("another completely superfluous expansion of the state"), he might do well to read Reihan's post on the topic over at American Scene where he writes:
... But as Ross and I quickly concluded, this is really all about getting Bush, who is currently "all up in our grill," out of our collective "grill," thus making the surge strategy more palatable. Indeed, I suspect that if an enormous Dr. Moreau-style Manimal were made "Lord of War," support for the surge would sharply increase.

... In all seriousness, I think we can all agree that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most crucially important issues facing the Executive Branch. Given the manifest incompetence of our current leadership, is it really such a bad idea to outsource management to someone, almost anyone, else? Let's not dismiss this idea out of hand. It strikes me as a welcome sign of humility. The war president is embracing a hands-off approach to ... the war. So all we're left with is his sterling wisdom on domestic social policy, I presume.

This cuts directly into Mark's previous condemnation of the administration as being incompetent. If he believes that this is the case, shouldn't he want someone else to handle these issues?

I actually think that General Petraeus would be the most qualified individual for that kind of position, though I think our wonderful elected officials should thank God every day that we live in a nation that has civilian control of the military. Were we living in Rome, Revolutionary France, or Latin America I would strongly suspect that the politicos would be far more accommodating to general with Petraeus's level of popular support among the military. By even the most hostile accounts, he has achieved in weeks what his predecessors have failed to do in years. In less than two months, he has:

- Broken the Mahdi Army and attacked those elements that have refused to surrender
- Forced Muqtada al-Sadr to flee the country
- Substantially reduced the level of death squad violence in Baghdad
- Moved against Sunni insurgent supporters in the Iraqi parliament
- Supported the unification of Sunni tribes in Anbar against al-Qaeda
- Helped to pass a viable oil-sharing law
- Begun capturing and killing Iranian agents in Iraq
- Prevented the outbreak of ethnic violence in Kirkuk and Mosul

Any one of those accomplishments would be impressive on their own merit. To have achieved all of them at the same time is nothing short of unprecedented. Time will tell whether or not Petraeus has the resources to succeed, but someone who can do all that in less than two months is nothing short of extraordinary.