Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Serious Question

A reader noted the following in response to my query of why Mark has such a vendetta against NRO:
Mark's been sore at NR for a few years. I recall him once explaining that he felt they stiffed him for a column.

I honestly don't remember this. Does anyone else? Mark's behavior towards the publication appears to me to be an incredibly childish display of loathing and resentment. I've just never understood why NRO given that he doesn't hold the same degree of animus towards other conservative publications. Does anyone know the full story here?

Shorter Mark ...

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

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

Creative Destruction

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Ledeen in his September 20, 2001 column:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Creative Destruction" =

Free speech versus pc speech codes or blasphemy laws

Freedom to practice any religion — or none

Romantic marriages versus arranged marriages

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

Market economies instead of command economies

Talent and merit favored over heritage

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

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

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

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

Here's Ron Paul:

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

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

Here's Ledeen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'd buy a monthly bus pass for that.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is too funny to pass up ...

Inspired by an e-mail from a good and dear friend, this simply must be archived for posterity:
I'm going to have to brush up on my understanding of the phrase "Creative Destruction for the Greater Good." I thought it was when the good guys lost sight of what was important, even though their end was a justifiable end, and therefore ended up doing or advocating nasty things as a result. It appears just to be anytime anyone does what is wrong on their way to their particular goal, be that goal a good or evil goal.
Dave G. | 07.30.07 - 2:56 pm | #

So... you are now subscribing to the notion (advanced in the NOR) that US soldiers in Iraq are guilty of murder?

Or are you now going to do your patented shuffle off stage to the tune of "Hey, I'm not sayin' that--how could you possibly insinuate that I think that? I mean, c'mon, folks!"

Using a saint to advance an agenda... nice. Easier than rational argument, I guess.
John | 07.30.07 - 3:33 pm | #

So... you are now subscribing to the notion (advanced in the NOR) that US soldiers in Iraq are guilty of murder?

No. I'm now subscribing to the notion that when a sophist like Michael Ledeen urges us to "enter into evil" and "do things we know to be wrong" in order to achieve some good end, we should run from him just as Jagerstatter ran from the people who said, "Hey! The Nazis are fighting Bolshevism, so their rough and tumble methods are A-OK!" He's the Minister of Propaganda for Creative Destruction Thought.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 4:26 pm | #

I'm not about to go to bat for Ledeen or anything that he's said, but I'm really baffled by why Mark has seized on this whole "Creative Destruction" business. As far as I can tell, this is what happened:

Step One: An entirely forgettable conservative columnist wrote an entirely forgettable unconservative column in which he explained that war and revolution were what made western civilization, and particularly American civilization, great, and employed the phrase "creative destruction" in the process.

Step Two: Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of "creative destruction," as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column.

It's very weird. I don't get it. I'd really like to see a Venn diagram showing the overlap between "Creative Destruction" and "Salvation by Leviathan by Any Means Necessary," but I'm afraid I would have a stroke in the cliche-processing area of my brain.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 5:02 pm | #

Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of "creative destruction," as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column.

Could you document for me where I have ever said this?
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 5:15 pm | #

Here comes the shuffle!
John | 07.30.07 - 5:32 pm | #

he explained that war and revolution were what made western civilization, and particularly American civilization, great, and employed the phrase "creative destruction" in the process

And now I know. Thanks.
Dave G. | 07.30.07 - 5:37 pm | #


Since you apparently aren't interested in what I think, but only in accusing me of something you prefer to believe I think, then I don't see any particular reason why you need to read what I say at all. Your mind is already made up. Why confuse you with my actual views when you are so certain about what they are?
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 5:57 pm | #

Could you document for me where I have ever said this?

Hmmm. Perhaps because you quote Ledeen more often than someone who actually admires him, and link his words to each and every new incident of horror that comes out of Iraq? And now, even out of Nazi Germany/Austria?

That might give some people the impression that "Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of 'creative destruction,' as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column."

I don't support the war myself, but the reasoning and from-the-hip rhetoric that you display so often (and retract almost as often) doesn't seem to be helping the debate on the war at all. And it's really wearisome when you dig into the same old bag of tricks when discussing a beatification. Wasn't it, um, you who just a short time ago castigated people for lumping every war into either the category of WWII or Vietnam? Or was that an imposter?

As far as your actual views... I confess I don't really know them. I read your blog often enough, but one day you're on one side, the next day on the other. You want to denigrate those who support the war while still fostering an impression that you respect the opinion of those who disagree with you. You go off on a rant against traditionalists, then attempt to show your even mindedness by posting links to Latin Mass sites.

I think the main problem may just be that:

1. you don't think before you post
2. you are so thin skinned that you feel you have to somehow be perceived as fair to all Catholic views, hence the compulsive "hey--look, I'm a good guy" stuff

It seems to just lend to a schizophrenic sort of blogging that looks, at times, like one of those guys on the bus talking to himself.

Anyhow. That's my 2 cents. Maybe if you installed a program that forced a two-hour window between writing and posting, you wouldn't end up posting so many apologies for stupid reasoning.

I had a friend once offer to give me one of your books, and I jokingly asked if each chapter was a retraction of the previous one. He cringed, but said, "Yeah, he is like that sometimes, huh?"

Here's hoping you start pondering more and writing less.
John | 07.30.07 - 6:37 pm | #

Perhaps because you quote Ledeen more often than someone who actually admires him, and link his words to each and every new incident of horror that comes out of Iraq? And now, even out of Nazi Germany/Austria?

That might give some people the impression that "Mark labels those who support the Iraq war as being in favor of 'creative destruction,' as if everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column."

Or it could be that Ledeen is (incredibly) a respected conservative writer whose work is highly regarded by people who ought to know better, and whose thought typifies the consequentialist thinking that dominates American discourse on subjects as diverse as abortion and torture. It could be that Jagestatter was confronted with exactly the same sort of consequentialism from the "Nazis oppose Bolshevism, so it's okay" types of his own time. In short, it could have to do with the fact that I am criticizing "ends justifies the means" chatter and am not at all saying that "everyone who supports the war (a) supports it for the reasons that Ledeen does, and (b) agrees with Ledeen's column".
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 6:56 pm | #

Perhaps because you quote Ledeen more often than someone who actually admires him, and link his words to each and every new incident of horror that comes out of Iraq?

John gets it exactly right here, Mark. Search your own blog for the phrase, and find it continuously in reports about Iraq and the war on terror.

Now, that would be fine if "creative destruction" was a phrase that actual conservatives or war supporters actually use. But if you google ("creative destruction" ledeen), all you get are anti-war links from left, right, and center. I've never encountered the phrase on any pro-war blog. More importantly, I've never heard a conservative other than Ledeen say anything positive about continual revolution. This is the exact thing that conservatism stands against! We're not in favor of revolution, from French to Russian to sexual.

And yet you employ the phrase "creative destruction" reflexively in your Bad News From Iraq posts, as if anyone other than Ledeen has actually adopted that garbage.

I'll repeat: "creative destruction" is crap, and virtually every conservative except Ledeen recognizes that.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 7:55 pm | #

Or it could be that Ledeen is (incredibly) a respected conservative writer whose work is highly regarded by people who ought to know better.

Please find for me a single conservative who has had anything positive to say about Ledeen's "creative destruction." Combox idiots don't count.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 7:59 pm | #

I wasn't aware the the editors and readers of National Review were combox idiots.

Here's the thing, you don't get published over and over if the editor thinks you are a waste of column inches. I sort of think its an indication of being a highly regarded conservative writer if the flagship publication of American Conservatism keeps publishing you and even affording a repeated forum for your crank ideas on creative destruction. And when that journal is famous for excommunicating *some* conservatives as "unpatriotic Americans" while making *sure* to keep publishing your thoughts on creative destruction, that's an even bigger indication this was not an oversight or a function of the Big Tent.

Am I missing something? I'm not aware of some sudden groundswell of revulsion on the Right for Ledeen's rhetoric. I'm just aware of the fact that a man who could advocate bayoneting the wounded and whose jabber about creative destruction is a matter of unrecanted public record is still afforded a regular--and apparently popular--pulpit at NR. Your sudden announcement of his unpopularity on the Right is the first I've heard of it.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 8:46 pm | #

John gets it exactly right here, Mark. Search your own blog for the phrase, and find it continuously in reports about Iraq and the war on terror.

Well, yes. That would be true, wouldn't it, since the phrase has been articulated by Ledeen primarily to drum up enthusiasm for our nation-building efforts in Iraq.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.30.07 - 8:48 pm | #

I wasn't aware the the editors and readers of National Review were combox idiots. Here's the thing, you don't get published over and over if the editor thinks you are a waste of column inches.

I wasn't aware that advocating a single unconservative idea was a mortal sin, thereby earning you eternal banishment from the pages of National Review. Apparently there can be no disagreement within the magazine, because if two people disagree, someone is wrong, and needs to be excommunicated. Ledeen may be a "highly regarded conservative," but his status doesn't prevent him from advocating goofy ideas.

Are you seriously trying to tell me that the only evidence of conservative support for Creative Destruction that you can come up with is that Ledeen hasn't been banished from the pages of NR? You mean you can't find a single conservative who says "yeah, a view of history as perpetual revolution is what conservatism is all about! If conservatism is about anything, it's about continuously overthrowing the established order. Yeah!" You can't find another conservative columnist who shares this view? You can't find a single major conservative weblog that endorses his continual revolution thesis?

You think he's got a "popular pulpit" at NR. And your evidence is... what?

You've got nothing, Mark. All you've got is Ledeen, standing alone, spinning this unconservative, fundamentally leftist view of the development of western civilization. And he gets published in National Review. Why, that must mean that Ledeen articulates the reasons that conservatives support this war!

Ledeen speaks for himself on this one. Again, I challenge you to come up with any prominent conservative who endorses this Jeffersonian view of history. Go to any conservative and ask him if he agrees with the thesis that continual revolution and upheaval has been what brought about the advancement of the west.

If you want to use every bit of bad news that comes out of Iraq as an opportunity to illustrate why Ledeen is wrong, fine. But you're really wasting your time. We all know he's wrong. We all know that Creative Destruction is garbage. What's the point of bringing it up continuously?
K the C | 07.30.07 - 9:19 pm | #

Compare and contrast:

"Democracy. Whisky. Sexy."


"Creative Destruction"

They're both erroneous conceptions about the war. But you'll find wide support for the former, especially on blogs with archives stretching back a few years. Plenty of war supporters still stand behind the idea, even though Victory Through Majority Rule, Booze, and Porn has been largely discredited.

But "Creative Destruction"? It's just you and a whole bunch of crickets chirping, Mark.
K the C | 07.30.07 - 9:47 pm | #

Come on guys! We all know that for todays conservative, war is just foreign policy by other means. Or just call it creative destruction for political-economic interests. Those who oppose the trigger-happy vigilantyism of neo-cons are treated with contempt by them for being anti-war. I doubt F. Jaggerstatter, if he were around today, would have seen the Iraq war much differently than the one he was confronted with.
Dave K | 07.30.07 - 10:06 pm | #

I doubt F. Jaggerstatter, if he were around today, would have seen the Iraq war much differently than the one he was confronted with.

That might be true. But I would like to think he would see the government that is waging the conflict in Iraq differently than he saw the government with which he was confronted.
Dave G. | 07.31.07 - 1:28 am | #

Three points should probably be made here, among them being that Ledeen's use of Creative Destruction far predates the Iraq war. He uses it in Freedom Betrayed, for instance, which I believe was written during the 1990s. Secondly, I don't think that Ledeen has ever advocated "bayoneting the wounded" and would challenge Mark to produce a citation on that front. I know the article that he would likely link to and it doesn't say what he thinks it says.

The third thing that I would say to Mark concerning his fixation with what is published in NRO while simultaneously railing against the magazine is that it resembles nothing so much as the kid in high school whose still sulking over the fact that he isn't allowed to sit at the cool kids' table. Given NRO's frequent lapses into Rudymania of late at a time when I think consistent conservatives should be doing everything in their power to challenge the man, I'm not terribly inclined to defend the publication, but Mark's frequent whining on this one is just pathetic.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Secular Messianists all, no doubt ...

Here are some fun quotes for Mark to read the next time he declares Bush a heretic and a secular messianist for asserting that political freedom is a gift from God:
"Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift [James 1:17] we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land." - James Madison

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." - Thomas Jefferson

"God grant, that not only the Love of Liberty, but a thorough Knowledge of the Rights of Man, may pervade all the Nations of the Earth, so that a Philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its Surface, and say, "This is my Country." - Benjamin Franklin

"Nevertheless, amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could not see any other resort, I would place my whole reliance on God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right."
--From the October 24, 1863 Remarks to the Baltimore Presbyterian Synod

"Enough is known of Army operations within the last five days to claim our especial gratitude to God; while what remains undone demands our most sincere prayers to, and reliance upon, Him, without whom, all human effort is vain."
--From the May 10, 1864 Telegram Press Release

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Letter To Henry L. Pierce and Others" (April 6, 1859), p. 376.

Further examples abound, of course. The point that I have long endeavored to make is that while one might disagree with these sentiments, it's not as though this is a new trend in American political thought or rhetoric and we don't appear to have created the system of the Antichrist just yet.

So, are you in favor of impeachment yet?

Mark writes:
I can no longer see any good reason why Bush, Cheney, Gonzales and the other schemers and enablers behind this policy could not be convicted of war crimes in the (impossible) event that they were ever tried.

So then Mark, are you now in favor of impeachment? If not, why? One wonders if such trials should be conducted in the United States or some other venue. I would also love to see him provide his own list of the administration's "other schemers and enablers" to be subject to war crimes. Given that Mark has in the past alleged that the remarks of his commenters have contributed to death squad activity in Iraq, I have no doubt that Michael Ledeen would figure close to the top of any such list.

If to know history is to cease to be Protestant ...

Then to know history is also to know the idiocy of those who would argue that American democracy is increasingly a sham. One wonders what Mark would have thought in the days when to qualify for participation in the electoral franchise one had to own property or (if memory serves) when only the rich could afford to be members of the British parliament because the office drew no salary. Were those not legitimate democracies either?

Mark then proceeds to decend into class warfare:
If you wish to pretend that, say, the daily lives of Hillary, Bloomberg, Edwards, Romney and Rudy are somehow "representative" of your lived day-to-day existence in any sense that normal people usually mean that word, good luck with that. For the rest us, more and more people have less and less in common with the "men of the people" who are allegedly the instruments of our self-government. I don't see what's conspiratorial about that. I think it's a natural result of the particular system we've created. We have a choice of oligarchs. We have largely abandoned *whether* we will be ruled by oligarchs. A quick survey of the net worth of the occupants of our high offices makes this a non-controversial fact. That's why it matters when McCain runs out of funding. No huge $$$, no high office. We don't live in a Capra film.

... I honestly don't get the surprise here. Does anybody seriously believe that you could be President without enormous financial backing from enormously wealthy people? Does anybody here seriously believe that the people who populate our political class in DC (either party) actually have a lot in common, on a daily basis, with the lives of the people they "represent"?

Come on! Reeeeeally? Do you seriously believe your average DC politico is thinking about how he's going to afford the plumbing job his house needs, or wondering how to get the kids to soccer practice when the exterminator is coming, or fretting about how to make the dental bill?

Probably not. However, for anyone to believe that a Washington polity that contains everyone from Tom Coburn to Ted Kennedy to Ron Paul to Mike Pence is some kind of homogenous bloc is an exercise in self-delusion. Moreover, as the last congressional election or the immigration bill painfully demonstrated for anyone who was paying attention, it isn't like the power-brokers in Washington can just do as they please without regard to the popular will. Even if one accepts Mark's formulation that we must choose between oligarchs, there is a marked difference between those that occupied Congress in 2006 and those that do so in 2007. To believe otherwise, once again, is an exercise in self-delusion.

And speaking of which, in response to this comment by Blackadder:
You passed over the most astounding part of the Buchanan piece, which was the suggestion that the Democrats in Congress aren't asking questions about the conspiracy to start a war with Iran because they are secretly in on it. That's just... strange. One might as well argue that 9/11 was planned and executed by Michael Moore.

It's completely bizarre, but it is consistent with what Buchanan has written in the past. He has long held that because (if I recall correctly) the Democrats removed a provision in a bill stating that Bush could not mount any kind of action against Iran without congressional approval. From the view of Buchanan (and apparently Mark), the Democrats are indeed complicit in Bush's plan to attack Iran.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And this ...

Is yet another exercise in counter-factuals:
I'm interested in that notion of a "trustworthy government" among conservatives. I *think* it boils down to the reality that conservatives (or at least neocons) trust the government in the form of the military, but not in the form of the post office.

I'm not sure why. Part of it seems to be the endless WWII nostalgia which view all wars through that lens. Part of it is that the crazed secular messianic ideologues of "creative destruction" who have grafted some of their old leftist believes in the power of raw force to heal and redeem on to their new schemes for a Greater America. Part of it is terror of the alternative: the thought that Bush and Co just have no clue how to fight the War on Radical Islam and don't know what they are doing.

I don't think that leftists have accepted anything resembling "the power of raw force to heal and redeem" in at least 40 years unless we are talking about communists. Secondly, the last time I checked most leftists have never had any "schemes for a Greater America," new or otherwise. Leftism, at least as a modern political ideology, tends to presuppose an internationalist lens that puts it "above" issues of nationalism and the like.

Secondly, the broad assertion that Bush has no clue about how to fight the war on terrorism is just a caricature. Bush does have an idea how to fight it and it is one that Mark is obviously aware of since he has now decided that Bush's Wilsonian rhetoric and strategy makes him a heretic. You may disagree with him, but please acknowledge his views on the matter. To note that he possesses these views on one day and then ignore them on another is at least as Orwellian as anything that Giuliani has said about torture.

I find it somewhat amusing ...

That Mark is apparently familiar with Ross Douthat linking to this article in which Ron Paul embraces the John Birch Society:
What is interesting is Paul’s idea that the identity of the person who did write those lines is “of no importance.” Paul never deals in disavowals or renunciations or distancings, as other politicians do. In his office one afternoon in June, I asked about his connections to the John Birch Society. “Oh, my goodness, the John Birch Society!” he said in mock horror. “Is that bad? I have a lot of friends in the John Birch Society. They’re generally well educated, and they understand the Constitution. I don’t know how many positions they would have that I don’t agree with. Because they’re real strict constitutionalists, they don’t like the war, they’re hard-money people. . . . ”

I think it is perhaps worth remembering that one of William F. Buckley's best achievements in the history of modern conservatism was the expulsion of the John Birch Society from the ranks of acceptable conservatism. I'm not surprised at Ron Paul's embrace of it given that he exists in the political fringe, but I also find it nothing short of amazing that Mark, who repeatedly bemoans the current GOP's abandonment of traditional conservatism, is willing to throw away more than 50+ years of work in a warped effort to reintegrate the fringe into the mainstream. This is one of the things that happened to the Democrats in 1972 and they've been paying for it ever since.

Mark writes:
Possibly the most depressing thing I've read this week are these words:

(interrupted by applause)

Why? Because they say everything there is to say about the the way in which alleged "conservatism" has bankrupted itself.

Here is a man who will completely sell the farm on every matter from Abortion
to Embryonic Stem Cell Research to Euthanasia to Same-Sex Marriage.

Yet because--not "in spite of"--*because* he declares his enthusiasm for torture (when invited by the FOX Torture Cheerleader to do so), alleged conservatives cheer wildly.

I think calling Brit Hume a "torture cheerleader" is one of the cheapest shots that I've seen Mark take yet. If Hume has made his position on torture available to the general public, I am completely unaware of it and I strongly suspect that Mark is as well. It's a cheap shot that adds nothing to the discussion but lets him sink into yet more hyperbole and feel self-righteous while doing so. In the end, I think, that's all that matters.

As for Giuliani, while he certainly supports everything that is anathema to social conservatives, he generally doesn't do so loudly and public opinion polls show that a majority of would-be voters are simply unaware of these positions. I think that at least some of the blame here rests upon elements of the conservative commentariat, who have in large part succumbed to what is essentially a cult of personality concerning the man. I think that a lot of that is also Bush's fault, as he is such a political eunuch at present that many conservatives are now looking for someone, anyone to deliver them from their current plight.

The claim that Giuliani is currently doing well in the polls because of his views on torture is a complete counter-factual. To begin with, support for what Mark regards as torture is widespread across the GOP candidates (a fact that he has noted on occasion when he wishes to castigate the party), so if it just torture that is pushing Giuliani where he is today I would love to see him demonstrate why Giuliani is benefiting and not the other candidates. Especially since, if torture really is all that Giuliani has then one would assume that he would be in a pretty tight spot when all the other candidates started stealing his issue. But that's a factual matter and facts are frequently in short supply at Mark's these days.
The only person to call all this tergiversation and bullshit "Orwellian" is also the main person, in the new Bizarro GOP, to be marginalized as the crazy uncle in the attic. Happily, he appears to be unphased, and is becoming an increasing threat to the Power Brokers.

Ron Paul had marginalized himself as a fringe figure long before he declared his current presidential candidacy. Call it conviction if you like, but it is far from his opposition to torture and the Iraq war that has made him the GOP's crazy uncle in the attic. Mark is either extremely ignorant of the positions of a man he now seems determined to stand by come hell or high water or just ignores it to make a factually untrue rhetorical point. As the New York Times piece makes clear, he was marginalized years ago.

And speaking of conspiracies, I see Mark is now back to his view that American democracy is just a sham controlled by nameless but powerful oligarchs. Perhaps one day he'll even go as far as this Paul supporter:
Victor Carey, a 45-year-old, muscular, mustachioed self-described “patriot” who wears a black baseball cap with a skull and crossbones on it, drove up from Sykesville, Md., to show his support for Paul. He laid out some of his concerns. “The people who own the Federal Reserve own the oil companies, they own the mass media, they own the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, they’re part of the Bilderbergers, and unfortunately their spiritual practices are very wicked and diabolical as well,” Carey said. “They go to a place out in California known as the Bohemian Grove, and there’s been footage obtained by infiltration of what their practices are. And they do mock human sacrifices to an owl-god called Moloch. This is true. Go research it yourself.”

Just remember that those black helicopters are on "whisper" mode so you won't hear them coming until they're already gone ...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It is this type of mentality that we are indebted to the Church for not subscribing to ...

Is basically my take on Mark's meditation on a very good book review of The Army of Davids by Glenn Reynolds. Mark basically holds that Western civilization is essentially unsalvageable:
It would be nice if the human race were all Jeffersonian Yeoman Farmers who simply wanted to brew beer, play rock and roll, and talk about liberty through technology. However, if even a small percentage of us are, say, inclined to use technology to destroy the World Trade Center, technology makes it easier and easier and easier for small numbers of us to do just that. What Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini could not have done with all the marshalled power of three mighty nation-states, a small handful of men were able to do six years ago because a vast technological endowment had empowered these soi-disant "Davids" to slay "Goliath".

Indeed, it is probably not a very hard thing to imagine that virtually every terrorist and nutjob will, in his own self-description, regard himself as a brave David standing up to the Goliath of [insert pet radical cause here: animal rights/American imperialism/the Zionist Menace/Rain Forest Destruction, English Cooking etc.] In every case, technology will allow a smaller and smaller group that perceives itself as outnumbered and outgunned to inflict greater and greater violence on more and more vast numbers of innocent people--and pat itself on the back for its courage and cunning in outwitting the Giant.

So far as I can see, the principal option the Giant has is to stop being Goliath and start being Leviathan: a process we have already begun. That process will also involve heavy investment in technology, as well as the sacrifice of rights for safety. We seem to be very ready to make those sacrifices, given our eagerness comfort with allowing the Executive the power to detain anybody he likes, for as long as he likes, and subject them to whatever torture he likes. And if we do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?

There is much that is true here despite Mark's clear eagerness to connect his critique of libertarianism with his hatred of the administration, but the choice is not one between anarcho-libertarianism and the police state of the Stasi. If he were not so blinded by his hatred of the Bush administration and actually read what Reilly has written on other topics, he might better understand that one of Reilly's problems with American conservatism is that the "small l" libertarian assumptions among conservatives go too far and actually inhibit us:
Steyn has given us a fiery polemical introduction to the crisis of the first quarter of the 21st century. However, we recognize the limitations of his analysis when we come to statements like, “The free world’s citizenry could use more non-state actors.” Consider his view of the moral of September 11, 2001:

“What worked that day was municipal government, small government, core government -- fireman the NYPD cops, rescue workers. What flopped -- big-time, as the vice president would say -- was the federal government, the FBI, CIA, INS, FAA, and all the other hotshot, money-no-object, fancypants acronyms.”

Stirring words, but counterfactual. In reality, on 911 the World Trade Center’s security service killed many of the people in the buildings by urging them to return to their offices after the attack was underway. The radios of the various emergency services were not able to communicate with each other. The fireman died needlessly by charging into burning buildings that local fire experts had declared indestructible. The epitome of effective local government, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, was almost killed because the city’s emergency command center was located in the World Trade Center complex, despite the fact everyone knew the complex was the most likely target for a terrorist attack. The federal government did not cover itself with glory on that day, either, but at least the feds managed to close down and then restart the airline system within the space of a few hours.

Toward the end of the book, Steyn remarks, “You can’t win a war of civilizational confidence with a population of nanny-state junkies.” But the fact is that is how the world wars were fought and won, either by states that had extensive social-welfare systems, or that promised such systems to their citizens as part of the reward of victory.

It is certainly the case that the nanny state of the postwar developed world, with its therapeutic model of governance and its subsidy of victimhood, is a degenerate and unsustainable type of polity. But consider what it degenerated from: the war-and-welfare state of the era of the Great Wars that lasted from 1861 to 1945. The same powers of economic and political mobilization that allowed those wars to be fought permitted, indeed required, the domestic mobilization of education and public health and industry that allowed the governments of that explosive era to function effectively as military actors. Those governments commanded the most effective states that ever existed, and the mark of the societies they governed was precisely that, during the long lifetime from Lincoln to Churchill, the fortunes of the state and of the citizen increasingly merged. For a while, for just a few years, the mechanisms were in place to drive society in the service of urgent public policy.

The nanny state is a declension from that height of state fitness, and so is the libertarian state. In the face of an existential crisis, Churchill promised his people that their lives would be drenched in blood, sweat, and tears until victory was won. In the face of a comparable threat to civilization, George Bush made some fine public restatements of America’s now traditional Wilsonianism, but otherwise told the American people to support the tourist industry by visiting America’s beauty spots; while cutting taxes in the middle of two major wars, he reminded the taxpayers, “It’s your money.” Even if you accept the president’s economic model, surely it is obvious that such policies have no power to mobilize. The philosophy behind them diverts attention from the core functions of government, as the embrace of an open-borders policy by the Republican establishment illustrates. The small government that Steyn urges might be able to win conventional wars, but it would be unable otherwise to affect events. Increasingly, its irrelevance to the real problems, many of which Steyn has identified, would lose it the loyalty of its citizens. Thus we see that the libertarian state undermines patriotism quite as effectively as the European Union. They are parallel manifestations of the same phenomenon.

He makes this point again in his review of An Army of Davids:
The merits of the books thesis are another matter, however. There are, no doubt, ways in which the author’s technological optimism is justified, and free-marketeers are quite right when they insist that an economic system is essentially a system of information exchange. Nonetheless, I could not help but reflect by the time I finished the book that, in some ways, this is a remarkably crippling ideology. To put it briefly: an army of Davids is not an army, but the ideal of an army of Davids makes it difficult to recruit a real army and could make it impossible to finance its supply.

... Well, because in some ways the post-urban world that Instapundit describes lives at the end of a supply and manufacturing system that is quite as huge and infrastructure-intensive as the one that supports the International Space Station he so rightly despises. For instance, the Internet is not a free-standing device. It is one use of systems of cables and power plants and, still, really big computers. It takes a lot of manpower and crudely physical stuff to keep that the components of that system in repair and unstolen. For that matter, it takes a lot of lawyers to keep it legal. Instapundit sometimes makes disparaging comparisons of the train to the automobile: the train is a high-cost early industrial relic that limits choice, while the automobile is a relatively cheap network component that facilitates choice. In reality, though there are arguments to be made about the kind of transportation best suited to each locality, the automobile system is not the light-infrastructure option. It is a good bet that no previous civilization has invested as high a percentage of its capital in its ground transportation: petroleum, refineries, factories, armies, and not least the roads themselves, which have to dominate every city and which have to go everywhere else to make the system useful. That last is, actually, an important point about networks in general: they tend toward self-similarity. In this context, it means that cars tend to eat their destinations.

These are far more articulate thoughts on the costs and benefits of libertarian ideology than Mark has ever written. One need not agree with all of it to acknowledge that Reilly makes a number of interesting points, I think. Mark's dualistic view of politics (as I said, he projects much of what he purports to despise) forces him to believe that there is no choice between libertarian anarchy and Leviathan. He basically regards the whole of political life, at least in the United States, as a doomed affair and hence is not only unable to make sensible arguments or commentary about public policy but frequently appears on the verge of declaring those who are involved in such things (sans his paleocon bretheren) to be complicit in intrinsic evil. Given that Pope Benedict valiantly refuses to give up on public life in Europe, I see no reason why we should not follow his example when it comes to America.

Too true ...

Reader Phillip writes in the comments:
Though I think all one has to consider is the content of Mark's blog. It is mostly political at this point with little apologetics. He would disagree perhaps, but polemics is not apologetics.

I think that this is best manifested in Mark's angry response to a former reader. The comments in the combox were, as is rapidly becoming standard fare, much better than the blog entry itself:
In general, despite the quibbles described in Mark's post, I think "Former Fan" is generally right. I certainly don't read this blog as often as I used to. There are better places on the internet to learn about Catholic doctrine in the news, without all the name-calling and labeling people as Faithful Conservative Catholics.

It's less about Mark's politics than his attitude and name calling. He displays a beligerance against people he knows nothing about that is shocking. Yes, his personal hatrid of Cheney is certainly Kos-like, despite denials. But that's not what has kept people away, I suspect. I think it has more to do with Mark being much more effective in making enemies of people than he is in bringing them around to his side through persuasion and tolerant conversation.

I saw the comments that Mark linked to, when he claimed that I was one of two people who thought he hated Bush. I thought about responding, but I figured it wasn't worth it. I've asked him to quit using names and to try to be more polite, but that's just too difficult for him I suppose.

Even now, in this post, he's calling "Former Fan" a "follower of the Bush Cult of Personality." It's just shocking that Mark would continue to say things like that, even to a Bush supporter. It is an incredibly demeaning insult, depersonalizing the individual, telling him he's stupid sheep blindly following the party line. The guy is a freaking Bush supporter, and thinks you go a little over the top in your criticism. And for that, you basically say he's drinking the Kool Aid??

Mark, do these insults come to you out of force of habit? Or are you angerly pounding the keyboard as you write these thing? I can't determine what's worse: that you say these things without giving one thought to how insulting it is to the other person, or that you may be doing it intending to hurt them. Either way, you're not coming out good. What's more, I can't imagine how many people have pointed out to you that your attitude is a serious problem, yet you continue to attack those people.

I've seen enough to know that it's not going to change. And I don't think you're providing a good example for a person struggling to be Catholic. Every time you do this, you're sinning. And I don't think it's a good idea for me to read a Catholic blog littered with sin day in and day out.
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 6:34 pm | #


It's demeaning and depersonalizing to be lied about.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 6:44 pm | #

You're right Mark. You get to sin because other people do also. How silly of me.
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 6:47 pm | #

Writing a rebuttal of a bunch of lies is "sin"?
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 6:52 pm | #

No, but deliberately insulting someone is. Isn't it?
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 6:55 pm | #


In your first note, you said nothing whatever about Former Fan's lies about me. You did, however, say you agreed with him, except for the little "quibbles" (which happened to be the very core of everything he was saying). And now you are mad at me for doing what you have still do acknowledge he did?

And you expect me to take you seriously?

For the record, most of what you just accused me of is words you put in my mouth (yet again). I never said, "he's stupid sheep blindly following the party line". I never said he's "basically say he's drinking the Kool Aid". You did. I criticized his telling lies about me and his tendency to see personal loyalty to Bush as being of greater importance than the documented blunders, crimes (if you include torture, which I do) and follies of the Administration. I'm sorry you insist on hearing things I don't say. But that's how it goes.

Now you strangely accuse me of sin, but not the person with whom you agree. I don't get it.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 7:45 pm | #


I agree with Former Fan that you're succeeding in driving people away from your blog because of your attitude. That's why he was "generally right." I did note, though, that you corrected him on some points. I'm not ready to call him a liar when all he may have done is misinterpreted you to some degree. But his basic thrust is accurate: you're driving away your readers. And it doesn't matter if he was lying, because you decided to insult him. Hence, your sin.

I don't know how to interpret calling some a "follower of the Bush Cult of Personality" except as calling them a stupid sheep blindly following the party line. Yes, the "stupid sheep" words were mine. But is "follower of the Bush Cult of Personality" NOT the same kind of insult? How are your words any better? I don't see your phrase as a criticism of a tendency to put loyalty of the administration above its bad policies. It is a personal attack. It was directed towards him, personally. And I don't care if he's the most vicious liar on the planet and is devoted to destroying you: it is supremely difficult to read a religious blog about trying to life a Catholic life when the host is throwing insults at people. Don't you see the terrible irony in that?

Once, I would've believed that you were not personally attacking people you disagree with. But of course, you invented the phrase "Faithful Conservative Catholic" as an insult. How often have you had to apologize for your colorful remarks, that to the targets aren't so colorful and can actually be quite hurtful?

How is it possible that you can be so oblivious on the effect your words have on people? And even more, how is it possible you can be so oblivious that you continue to do it after people have been telling you for years that your words have this kind of effect?
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 8:10 pm | #

Briefly: I've already shown that you put words in my mouth, Syd, I will not rehash my point about the "cult of personality" gibe.

I did not invent the term "Faithful Conservative Catholic". What I did was juxtapose it with various egregious acts of dissent from the clear teaching of the Church. I'm sorry if you dislike that, but what you should really dislike is the hypocrisy I was pointing out, Syd.

Finally, I see little evidence that I've "driven away" many people. Factoring in the normal summer slump, my readership is pretty much what it always was in terms of numbers.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 8:26 pm | #

Mark, "Pre-emptive war is not in the Catechism" is hardly a declaration that the war in Iraq is not a just war. In fact, and not in your opinion, neither Pope has made a statement relating to that topic. There are a lot of things that are not in the Catechism and that neither makes them morally wrong or write, merely not addressed by that document.

It's the Pope's job to oppose war, all wars. It is to be expected that a Pope will make comments about war being a bad thing. I was not surprised by any of the statements from the Vatican. Given our current level of theological understanding, I would doubt that any modern Pope will ever make a statment advocating violence, no matter what the reason.

Based upon just war reasoning, our fight against Germany in WWII was not just. We declared war on them. Our first battles were against Vichy France, a country that had never attacked us. Our war in Europe was pre-emptive.

If you must invent a moral reason for not going into Iraq, fine. WMD's were found. Saddam did violate the ceasefire. Saddam did conceal forbidden programs and weapons programs. Saddam was a danger to his neighbors, having invaded two of them in the recent past. Saddam was an evil person, surrounded by other evil people, doing evil things.

But the morally correct thing to do was leave him be?
Chuck Simmins | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 8:29 pm | #

Of course you won't re-hash the point about the "cult of personality" gibe. Because it was an insult, and a sin, and a perfect example of why I think your readers are leaving you (and even if they aren't, it wouldn't matter, because God doesn't care how many readers you get if you're still sinning).

You weren't thinking "love thy enemy" when you wrote that, and you know it. And that's what really bothers me about reading this blog. Honestly, if the title of your blog didn't have the word "Catholic" in it, I'd think that you wouldn't know what the heck "love thy enemy" means.
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 9:08 pm | #

Please understand: I think our troops are valiant and heroic. However, they don't control policy. And from all I can see, it appears that Iraq is dissolving inexorably into a civil war they are being forced to babysit by an incompetent administration. It's because of my high regard for our troops and their valor that I am so vexed by the disastrous job Bush has done.

I do understand that Mark but it seems from your posts that you believe that we will fail and that there is nothing we can do to make anything better over there. The Yon blog and others tell a different story.

You are a man of good faith Mark, I don't doubt that but if we can't succeed in this war which is much more difficult and bigger than most people give it credit for, than absent serious Divine intervention, Christians are doomed outside of the US, in my opinion, and we are in isolating ourselves, letting the rest of the world go to hell.

I often find that blogs (not yours specifically but all that I read) from the US believe that if we just get out we'll be safe one way or another. I think that's foolish when examining the terrorist's attack history. So how do we fight them? We can criticize the Bush admin. all day long but we are still left with that question and how do we as Catholics and Chrisians respond to he plight of Christians in these nations.

The Vatican believes that preemptive war is wrong? So are we to leave the Christians in Iraq, Africa and everywhere else to the ravages of AQ or other terrorists? I just don't get that. And for people who say we can't be the policemen of the world, I agree. It's a shame that other than minor support from Britain and other eastern European countries we are in this alone, but should we just leave those mentioned Christians to be crucified by radical muslims? What does the Vatican have to say about that? It seems opposite of what Christ asked us to do in defending those who can't defend themselves. I just don't get that. A priest from Europe recently challenged me on this position and I replied, "We can't change the world but shouldn't we try to do what we can?" It really boggles my mind that those that criticize the current administration have no plan how to help the sufferring in these countries.

When NATO troops go into a county to stop a coup is that not a type of preemptive war? How does the Vatican feel when NATO troops pulls out of a peace keeping operation and chaos errupts as a result?

Sometimes I think we could point the finger back at the Vatican in the same way it has been pointed at the Bush administration. And I'm not talking about the abuse crisis, I'm talking about the results of what they advise on the ground, to Christians and any other person in those countries.

Send me the U.S. troops to do what they can to help them because the Vatican cannot. The Pope should always pray for peace but the last 40 years have shown that diplomacy has not worked in this regard and the problem is not going to get any better if we go that route.

I don't know what more to say but the problem is hugely complicated, and to judge the BA in unprecedented circumstances by Catholic standards, and, yep I'm going to say it, by Geneva Convention standards in an unprecedented situation, is not giving the BA any credit for the situation they were and are faced with. That doesn't make them innocent, but when I try to put myself in their shoes given my charge would have been to protect the American people and prevent another 9/11, I would have probably also used any stretch of power to protect those in my charge. That's human reality. And I don't believe many people give Bush and Cheney credit for being just that, human, in a very unprecedented situation.

History will tell.

Read Yon, Simmins and all their links. You might be surprised about what is REALLY happening on the ground there.

It may be that we can't fight terrorism and we have to isolate ourselves. I hope not, because then the ME is doomed and the ones who will suffer the most are the Christians there. Not only in Iraq, Iran and other muslim nations but also in the Holy Land. America abandoning them, as the Christian nation, does nothing to help muslims see the Beauty of Christ, at all.

That's my .02 today.
Anon this time | 07.18.07 - 9:31 pm | #


You should listen to Syd. As I drop by this blog less and less frequently, he’s one of the very few guests who stands up to you with respect, intelligence, and the charity of the brother in Christ.

Don’t dismiss what he said. Please.

Perhaps you’re not losing numbers. But you are losing guys like him.

If I come back and visit your site in two years, will you be pushing your new book about a geo-centric universe or a conspiracy of Neo-cons? Are you sure you’re not on that road? It doesn’t start with outrageous and foolish ideas, it starts with anger and self-righteousness.

Or maybe you're not in danger of sin?
Gordon | 07.19.07 - 2:28 am | #

I have to agree with Former Fan's basic point.

I used to come here often to read about religious matters. Then the level of invective started ratcheting up as numerous political topics became more frequently discussed, and it got to the point where whether or not I agreed with Mark, it was no longer enjoyable to read what he was saying to people. Now my visits are generally only when referred to a potentially interesting story from another blog.

I offer two things for you to consider, Mark. The first is that although you did address some factual issues on portions of Former Fan's message, you DIDN'T address his actual topic - that of people feeling uncomfortable to disagree. (I disagreed on a couple of occassions in the past under several names, and was thoroughly stamped on.)

Second, the way you address/judge people is worthy of your consideration. Look at these words of yours: "my reader apparently believes that no matter how contemptuously Bush treats the law, the gravest sin an American can commit is supposing that Bush could be corrupted by power." Former Fan didn't say anything remotely like that. You put your own assumptions in his mouth - with a rather abrasive tone.

Please, think about it.
Joey W | 07.19.07 - 12:21 pm | #

It's less about Mark's politics than his attitude and name calling.

Amen! Amen! Amen!
anon in self-defense | 07.19.07 - 1:40 pm | #


I've been reading your blog for a long time, since before most people even knew what a blog was, back when the sexual abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese was breaking news. But I have also become increasingly uncomfortable with your tone. And it's not because you've skewered my sacred cow, as Zippy suggests...I am gravely disappointed in the administration, and am horrified by the torture apologetics and a number of apparent abuses of power. But I honestly have trouble stomaching the bitterness here. Your attack on Former Fan...saying his opinion is "sleaze," and putting words into his mouth ("my reader apparently believes that no matter how contemptuously Bush treats the law, the gravest sin an American can commit is supposing that Bush could be corrupted by power")...is bad enough, in that it displayed a distinct lack of Christian charity. But your treatment of Sydney is just shameful. He's obviously concerned about you and your spiritual welfare, and makes valid points in a respectful manner (which Former Fan was admittedly short on), and instead of trying to understand where he's coming from, or seriously consider what he has to say, you just cut him down.

I sincerely hope that your readership numbers are not your only gauge on whether or not the work you do here is to the greater glory of God.
Eileen | 07.19.07 - 8:04 pm | #

I think that this a pretty thorough commentary of what I would have already written about Mark's continuing deterioration. Oh, and contra Zippy in a comment I did not transcribe, there is a big difference between being disenthused with George Bush and believing that a cult of personality is the only explanation as to why anyone would possibly support the man. Combine that with Mark's ever-increasing forays into black helicopter land and there you go.

As to the substantive points Mark attempts to raise in his defense:
Remarks like this remind me of stuff I read ten years ago from die-hard Clinton Defenders. The more you pointed out the obvious about Clinton, the more hysterical his defenders became in shouting "Clinton Hater". "Bush Derangement Syndrome" has really passed the sell-by date as the all-purpose conversation stopper for any substantive criticism of his disastrous performance. So has the mischaracterization of those who make the criticism.

Except the thing about Clinton haters, like Bush Derangement Syndrome afflictees, is that both actually existed. There were (are?) people who seriously believe that Clinton had any number of people murdered while in office. Similarly, there are people who believe all manner of equally nutty things about the Bush administration, a category that Mark has been part of for quite some time now ever since he decided that Bush had turned the United States into a torture state and subscribed to an ideology that is the forerunner to that of the Antichrist. The frequent use of totalitarian rhetoric to refer to both Bush and Cheney is sort of a dead give away in this regard.
What should trouble defenders of the GOP's patented "pretend we care and keep the prolifers on the reservation" strategy is that Bush *is* "the most effective pro-life president" we've ever had and yet the fact remains that we *are* only at Carthaginian levels of respect or protection for human life. The battle for the unborn was so vitally important for Bush that he nominated Harriet Miers and consistently phoned it in on Roe v. Wade Day. I'm happy we finally got the Justices we got and I'm happy for the PBA ban. But come on: this is not a big priority for the GOP or the Administration.

No doubt Mark imagines this situation will be rectified significantly in a Paul administration. This is a criticism that I am more sensitive too, though I honestly fail to see what difference it makes in terms of practical policy distinctions as to whether or not a president phones in on Roe v. Wade Day. The idea that the entire GOP leadership contains no one who is seriously committed to the pro-life cause is pure slander, albeit one that he continues to repeat. And if memory serves, while there remain questions about Harriet Miers's pro-life credentials, wasn't one of her primarily selling points that she was an Evangelical and hence would likely be pro-life? The issue there was primarily one of qualifications, cronyism and philosophy, at least for the people who actually followed the controversy until the very end.
My discussions of "grave sin" have not been directed to the war (which I recognize is ultimately a prudential judgement and honest people can disagree about) but against the Bush Admininstration's damnable policies of legal torture and against those in the (usually) Right Wing punditocracy and (most inexcusable of all) the Church who have labored to excuse, nuance, foggify, finesse, and promote said torture (often while screaming "BDS" at those who protest it. That, not the justice of the war, has been the focus of my discussions of grave evil.

If he's referring to anyone higher than Father Harrison, I'd be interested to hear about it. And if he is talking about us, I'm more than happy to be lumped in with Dave Armstrong, Father Neuhaus, Jimmy Akin and Chris Blosser.
I did, briefly, get snookered by an article by Jerome Corsi which suggested that Bush's (documented) contempt for the law could have dire consequences. However, upon being shown clear evidence that Corsi was all wet, I retracted what I wrote. So, as I have repeatedly said I think Bush will be retiring on January 20, 2009. As an American, I have a high level of distrust for Executives who believe, as Bush/Cheney have clearly demonstrated, that the law doesn't apply to them. As a follower of the Bush Cult of Personality, my reader apparently believes that no matter how contemptuously Bush treats the law, the gravest sin an American can commit is supposing that Bush could be corrupted by power.

Actually, that wasn't what Corsi wrote. The whole thrust of his alarmist piece on WorldNutDaily was that the administration was setting into motion some kind of mechanism for dictatorship, one that Mark is all too eager to buy into because (his denials aside) it fit with his view that Bush and Cheney are simply speaking individuals who engage in evil for its own sake. I'm still interested to know why he doesn't favor impeachment if he believes all of this, by the way.

For somebody who moans and wails about American political tribalism ...

Mark has this funny way of shifting back to it when it suits his rhetorical purposes.

More on that in a moment, but first let us turn to his latest wisdom from Pat Buchanan. Having failed to date at his multiple predictions for when exactly the US is going to get around to mounting that all-out attack on Iran, Mark is now pondering August. It works about as well as any date, I suppose.

But here's the real meat of the Buchanan piece that Mark is so eager to endorse:
One recalls that it was in August 1964, after the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, that the Tonkin Gulf incident occurred.

Twice it was said, on Aug. 2 and Aug. 4, North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked the U.S. destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy in international waters. The U.S. Senate responded by voting 88 to 2 to authorize President Johnson to assist any Southeast Asian nation whose government was threatened by communist aggression.

The bombing of the North began, followed by the arrival of U.S. Marines. America's war was on.

As Congress prepares for its August recess, the probability of U.S. air strikes on Iran rises with each week. A third carrier, the USS Enterprise, and its battle group is joining the Nimitz and Stennis in the largest concentration of U.S. naval power ever off the coast of Iran.

And Tonkin Gulf II may have already occurred.

In Baghdad, on July 1, Gen. Kevin J. Bergner charged that Iranians planned the January raid in Karbala, using commandos in American-style uniforms, that resulted in the death of five U.S. soldiers.

... Another explanation comes to mind. Iran is not initiating, but is responding to U.S.-inspired attacks inside Iran, in the Kurdish north, the Arab southwest and the Baluchi southeast of its country. Was Karbala an attempted kidnapping to exchange U.S. soldiers for the five Iranian "diplomats" we are holding?

Has Bush secretly authorized covert attacks inside Iran? Are U.S. and Israeli agents in Kurdistan behind the attacks across the border to provoke Iran? On July 11, Iranian troops clashed with Kurd rebels inside Iran, and the Iranians fired artillery back into Iraq.

Why is Congress going on vacation? Why are a Democratic-controlled House and Senate not asking these questions in public hearings? Why is Congress letting Bush and Vice President Cheney decide whether we launch a third war in the Middle East?

Or is Congress in on it?

I'm assuming that Mark either believes this himself or at least deems it (like Russian conspiracy theories) to be "plausible" in his increasingly fevered mind. Explanations like this for Soviet aggression were a regular staple of Cold War propaganda by the Russians and their useful idiots. Every Soviet act, no matter how vile, was always just a necessary and justified reaction against the evil imperialism of America. If memory serves, there used to be a name for such people: blame America firsters. Glad to see that Buchanan is so eager to embrace such "alternate explanations" in his desire to preserve the regime in Tehran at all costs.

As Mark asserts a bizarre claim that assumes that the press is somehow overly credulous of the administration (and I'm not sure where this sentiment seriously exists outside the fever swamps of Media Matters), he acts as though there is no rational basis for testing the claims that are made by our government when in fact that there are many. There were when it came to Iraqi WMDs as well, though in that case the overwhelming majority of the public evidence from multiple governments, multiple administrations, the relevant field experts, et al was that Iraq had WMDs. According to press reports of what Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri told the CIA as well as the various WMD investigations, this was the opinion of the Iraqi leadership as well. All of this information is easily available to Mark now and his refusal to look for any information, even from safe anti-war sources, speaks more to his willful ignorance than anything else.

One question that Mark has steadfastly refused to answer is what exactly Iran would have to do for him to regard military action against it as justified. If he believes that Iran is justified in its actions against the US in Iraq because of unknown US collusion in Iran's various rebel groups and our detention of their "diplomats" in Irbil, I would be very interested to hear him say it. After all, in Shea's world America is an unjust torture state bent on exporting secular messianism that will likely lead to the rise of the Antichrist. Who can blame the mullahs for calling us the Great Satan? I don't mean to suggest that Mark actually believes this, but I find it quite illustrative of the gap between his rhetoric and his policy preferences. For instance, he wants Bush and Cheney tried for war crimes but apparently doesn't favor their impeachment. If anyone has a possible explanation for this gap between rhetoric and reality, I would love to hear it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Essence of the Debate ...

I've been watching the discussion between Mark Adams and Kathleen in the combox and felt compelled to weigh in.

The short answer is that Mark's entire approach on torture has been fairly incoherent. Depending on who is asking the questions, he has either a mixture of patronizing and willing to admit at least some flaws in his own arguments (his response to Akin) or ready to issue an anathema sit at the drop of a pin. It depends on who is asking the question and what his own knee-jerk emotional state is at the time - rather like how he shifts back and forth between whether Bush is a good man but fatally flawed leader or Nicholas II to Cheney's Rasputin. This shoot from the hip rhetorical style is something that infects his commentary on a number of levels as Victor and I have tried to note and document here on any number of occasions.

As for Mark's telepathy, he has been so good as to provide us with two recent examples.

In reply to question about the Coalition for Fog, he describes us as:
CfF=Coalition for Fog: a blog devoted to making as many excuses as possible for the Bush Administration policies of prisoner abuse and torture.

Oh, and to obsessing over this blog. You can Google them and see what I mean.

It is comments like this that are one of the reasons why I find Mark's outrage when he believes people have put words in his mouth to be so amusing. Neither Victor or I have weighed in much from a secular legal perspective on the topic of Bush administration's interrogation policies. Just because something is legal does not make moral and so on. Our primary problem has to do with Mark's horrid moral theology on this topic and his bombastic reactions whenever someone actually calls him on it. And while both Victor and I are politically conservative, neither of us are exactly what you would describe as die-hard supporters of the Bush administration.

Mark later writes:
Nobody will mistake Fr. O'Leary for an adulator of the current Pope, but I'm still not sure how this gets us closer to a meaning for NeoCath. O'Leary takes Fr. Brian Harrison, the Ratzinger Fan Club and various other fans of the Pope to task (rightly in my view) for somehow suddenly becoming extremely interested in trying to figure out a way to reconcile torture with the bleedin' obvious teaching of the Church, just at the moment when it was most convenient for supporters of President Bush's policies of torture and prisoner abuse. To a non-American, it's not really so mysterious why a bunch of American conservatives suddenly found it so extremely important to pretend that we should drop everything and ponder the need for a more nuanced and liberal interpretation of the Church's clear and unequivocal condemnation of torture as intrinsically immoral. And he's right that, in doing so, "Critics of Cardinal Ratzinger have done him much less damage than his fans."

I really don't regard our interpretation of Gaudium et Spes to be any more "liberal" than Cardinal Newman's take on the Syllabus of Errors. Certainly our view isn't something that the overwhelming majority of liberal theologians (self-described or otherwise) would endorse, so I'm not sure what the word means in this context except (surprise, surprise) as yet another attempt at ad hominem by Mark. I also don't think that it is nearly as apparent as he does that you have to be an American to accept this view of Gaudium et Spes, especially since in order to accept Mark's view you have to ignore the vast body of historical evidence that any number of Catholics and popes saw nothing contradictory between Catholic teaching and acts that would almost certainly be considered torture today. Now it is certainly true that Catholics and popes have done all kinds of nasty things over the centuries, but to accept Mark's view you have to argue that the Church not only stood by but even formalized procedures for an intrinsically immoral practice for centuries. I see to remember Our Lord's promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

Now Mark argues that we wouldn't be having this argument if it weren't for the current debate over interrogation. I suppose that is true in the same sense that we wouldn't be having a debate about Catholic teaching and race if it weren't for the civil rights movement. Like it or not, the purpose of the Christian faith is to be relevant to the society around it. This is one of the reasons that Jesus gave for setting up the faith in the first place. As for the claim that we are deliberately twisting our views for craven political purposes, I think the onus is once again on him to put up or shut up here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Not being a subscriber to First Things ...

I can't comment directly on what Father Neuhaus said about the Evangelical Declaration Against Torture until it is up on the website and you'll forgive me for not taking Mark at face value on this one given his past habits of "skimming" on this stuff. As a practical matter, I think that this debate is soon likely to become an anachronism since either there is going to be al-Qaeda attack of sufficient size and scope that it will vastly alter our domestic politics or the current trend of elite opinion will become consensus and all detainee procedures will be substantially revised yet again.

While I can't speak for Victor on this, I don't have a problem with what Evangelicals think about torture. It's their theology, not mine. However, what Mark completely misses is that Coalition for Fog has never been about promoting torture. If anyone wants to look back at what we wrote to Dave Armstrong's questions in this regard, I don't think our opinions have changed since. I have offered several arguments under which one might credibly argue against it from a Catholic perspective (slavery or the death penalty, just treatment of prisoners necessitates against it, and so on). John J. Reilly has argued against it on the basis that to use it would not be in keeping with American claims about our objectives. Others have held that it would be counter-productive and serve as a recruiting tool for our enemies. There are dozens of possibilities that come to mind.

Mark, however, is not willing to grant this. His entire argument is an a fundamentalist appeal to his exegesis of a particular text (Gaudium et Spes) that I think even the most sympathetic observer would argue tends to fall apart under close scrutiny when the same standard is exercised towards other sections of the document, for instance that which relates to deportation. Rather than answer these serious criticisms of his position, he either ignores them (in the case of Akin and Armstrong) or he tries to argue bad faith on the part of his opponents. It was this tactic, far more than the substantive debate on this issue (which we have yet to have, at least with regard to Mark Shea), that led to the creation of the Coalition for Fog in the first place.

Oh, and on the subject of Machiavelli and Wilsonianism, I should add that I think we are granting Mark far too much credit by attempting to argue that he believes the neocons are using Machiavellian means for Wilsonian ends. It seems to me to be so completely self-refuting: anyone who was truly committed to Machiavellian means wouldn't hesitate to stage the discovery of WMDs in Iraq, particularly in the middle of an election year, for instance.