Friday, September 28, 2007

Morning Links: Petraeus, Iran, and Belief

  • I wonder whether the new issue of The American Conservative will ignite the same kind of controversy with its "Sycophant Savior" article as the MoveOn.org ad did:
    David Petraeus is a political general. Yet in presenting his recent assessment of the Iraq War and in describing the “way forward,” Petraeus demonstrated that he is a political general of the worst kind—one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington’s bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes...

    Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly.

    Yowtch. I'm kidding, of course. There's no chance the media or the Senate responds to The American Conservative as they did to MoveOn.org. Because of liberal bias, you see.

  • Glenn Greenwald points to some "extraordinary reports about what appears to be the virtual refusal of senior military officials to permit a war with Iran."

  • Eliezer Yudowsky writes about belief and evidence and what it would take to convince him that 2 + 2 = 3.

9 comments:

CyberKitten said...

JA said: Glenn Greenwald points to some "extraordinary reports about what appears to be the virtual refusal of senior military officials to permit a war with Iran."

Good. Maybe this means that yet another stupid pointless war won't happen.

Gemultischkeit said...

Let the CIA etc establish whether a war with Iran is needed.

Anonymous said...

I shouted to you as I ran.
Power to the People. Power
to the boat and the bower.
Fuck the scholars, nuke Iran.
All this I shouted as I ran.

Anonymous said...

"There's no chance the media or the Senate responds to The American Conservative as they did to MoveOn.org. Because of liberal bias, you see."

Well, that could be because the MoveOn ad was published in the New York Times which is last I checked a much more high-profile publication than "American conservative" (oh, and BTW if you want evidence of liberal bias, consider the fact that the NYT apparently gave MoveOn a big discount on their normal rates for that ad) - if it had been published in the National Enquirer I doubt' anybody would have bothered to get outraged.

The American Conservative BTW is basically a Pat Buchanan vanity publication with a tiny circulation, and this sort of article is no surprise - if anything Pat has been opposed to the Iraq war even longer than Barack Obama, and if this article is proof of anything it's proof of the tendency for the extreme right and extreme left to merge with each other on the fringes.

Oh, and on the original row - would it really have been so difficult for Obama and his supporters (yes, I'm looking at you, JA) to say "I disagree with the general's analysis, but there is no question that he is a distinguished professional soldier with a long record of service to his country. This sort of attack is disgraceful and contributes nothing to the debate."

The fact they couldn't bring themselves to do this (instead of whining about mountains and molehills or media bias) says rather more about them than than is pleasant.

Random

Jewish Atheist said...

Well, that could be because the MoveOn ad was published in the New York Times

It's an advertisement. Since my post, there have been two new instances of people on the right making similar comments without a similar response: Limbaugh called soldiers who want us to end the war "phony soldiers" and FOX News put up an article saying that the generals are "betraying" the soldiers. Surely Limbaugh reaches more people than an advertisement in the Times that nobody would have even heard of if the right didn't seize on it as a way to change the subject?

Oh, and on the original row - would it really have been so difficult for Obama and his supporters (yes, I'm looking at you, JA) to say "I disagree with the general's analysis, but there is no question that he is a distinguished professional soldier with a long record of service to his country. This sort of attack is disgraceful and contributes nothing to the debate."

You know, my first instinct was to do exactly that. Upon further reflection though, I think that MoveOn.org's characterization of Petreaus, while harsh, is essentially correct. He's carrying water for the Bush administration, as he did when he wrote the op-ed in 2004.

Where did this idea come from that insulting generals is out of line? He's a political figure, and I wouldn't think a four-star general is made of glass and couldn't take a little name-calling.

The fact they couldn't bring themselves to do this (instead of whining about mountains and molehills or media bias) says rather more about them than than is pleasant.

Yeah, we're a bunch of meanies. How awful. So much worse than those who have killed hundreds of thousands of people for no good reason and those who distort and lie to let them continue.

Anonymous said...

"It's an advertisement."

Published at discounted rates apparently, which makes the NYT even more complicit. Not that I buy this argument (that it was only in the Times out of commercial considerations) anyway - do you seriously believe that the NYT would for example run an ad from the KKK attacking the idea of a black president? It's simply not credible that a paper like the NYT would not exercise a degree of editorial judgement over what sort of political ad to run.

"Since my post, there have been two new instances of people on the right making similar comments without a similar response: Limbaugh called soldiers who want us to end the war "phony soldiers" and FOX News put up an article saying that the generals are "betraying" the soldiers. Surely Limbaugh reaches more people than an advertisement in the Times that nobody would have even heard of if the right didn't seize on it as a way to change the subject?"

Except that Limbaugh denies ever saying such things. The "phony" part referred to the credentials claimed by the soldier in question (he falsely claimed to be an Army ranger and to have won a Purple Heart, whereas in fact he was court-martialled in disgrace), not to his anti-war activism.

In any case, you're wrong that the Senate hasn't responded to this non-story http://democrats.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=284592. I trust you will also condemn this waste of resources...

"You know, my first instinct was to do exactly that. Upon further reflection though, I think that MoveOn.org's characterization of Petreaus, while harsh, is essentially correct."

They accused him of treason ("Betray Us")for saying something they didn't want to hear! How can that conceiveably be "harsh but essentially correct"?

"He's carrying water for the Bush administration"

Yes of course, because it's absolutely impossible that his opinions might be based on the fact that, oh, he's been the man on the ground in Iraq for the last six months or so and has been able to see things for himself unfiltered by any outside commentators or media. The only possible explanation is that he was nobbled by his political masters:-/

"So much worse than those who have killed hundreds of thousands of people for no good reason and those who distort and lie to let them continue."

So attack them instead. Don't slime a serving soldier just because he does his job and ends up saying something you don't want to hear.

Seriously JA, this is one time when you should have gone with your first impression.

Random

Jewish Atheist said...

Published at discounted rates apparently, which makes the NYT even more complicit.

If they honestly gave the rate because they agreed with the ad, then it's unconscionable and probably illegal. No argument here.

Not that I buy this argument (that it was only in the Times out of commercial considerations) anyway - do you seriously believe that the NYT would for example run an ad from the KKK attacking the idea of a black president?

They've addressed this issue. I strongly support giving as much leeway as possible to political speech, and it doesn't get more political than this.

Except that Limbaugh denies ever saying such things. The "phony" part referred to the credentials claimed by the soldier in question (he falsely claimed to be an Army ranger and to have won a Purple Heart, whereas in fact he was court-martialled in disgrace), not to his anti-war activism.

I've heard the clip. And he wasn't talking about one particular soldier. Look it up. That you would accept this explanation while simultaneously being skeptical of your political opponents' rationalizations is quite telling.

In any case, you're wrong that the Senate hasn't responded to this non-story http://democrats.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=284592. I trust you will also condemn this waste of resources...

We'll see if it gets to a vote. Of course it's just as petty as the first one. What are the Dems to do, though? They get killed by these idiotic tricks by the Republicans.

They accused him of treason ("Betray Us")for saying something they didn't want to hear! How can that conceiveably be "harsh but essentially correct"?

No, they accused him of betraying us for lying and/or misleading in order to continue the war. Why are his numbers way more optimistic than everybody else's? Why did he write the op-ed in 2004 right before the election?

Yes of course, because it's absolutely impossible that his opinions might be based on the fact that, oh, he's been the man on the ground in Iraq for the last six months or so and has been able to see things for himself unfiltered by any outside commentators or media. The only possible explanation is that he was nobbled by his political masters:-/

Is it possible that he's being as truthful as possible? Of course. Is it possible he's manipulating the numbers and facts in order to please his political masters? Of course. MoveOn.org has the same right as all of us to be wrong. The point here is that just because someone is a general, he shouldn't be immune to criticism. What about Westmoreland and the very credible (to me) accusations that he had deliberately underestimated VC troop strength in order to maintain support for the war? It's not like Petraeus would be the first one.

They accused him of treason ("Betray Us")for saying something they didn't want to hear! How can that conceiveably be "harsh but essentially correct"?

If he's actually betraying us, it's essentially correct. Obviously, it's not the same kind of betrayal as feeding the enemy our troop positions, but lying to the people in order to garner support for the war is also a betrayal.

Yes of course, because it's absolutely impossible that his opinions might be based on the fact that, oh, he's been the man on the ground in Iraq for the last six months or so and has been able to see things for himself unfiltered by any outside commentators or media. The only possible explanation is that he was nobbled by his political masters:-/

When did I say that was the only possible explanation?

So attack them instead. Don't slime a serving soldier just because he does his job and ends up saying something you don't want to hear.

He is "them," if indeed he's being dishonest. Where did this idea come from that generals ("serving soldier" -- please) should be above criticism? This argument is no more substantive than the righties' claim that criticizing the commander-in-chief in a time of war is unacceptable. This is a freaking democracy, not a divine monarchy.

Anonymous said...

"If they honestly gave the rate because they agreed with the ad, then it's unconscionable and probably illegal. No argument here."

Thank you. And bearing that in mind, do you have a greater appreciation of why this has upset so many people?

"They've addressed this issue. I strongly support giving as much leeway as possible to political speech, and it doesn't get more political than this."

Political speech is fine. Ad hominem attacks, not so much.

"No, they accused him of betraying us for lying and/or misleading in order to continue the war. Why are his numbers way more optimistic than everybody else's?"

Because he's the guy on the ground, perhaps? With much more access to unfiltered and unbiased evidence than, say, MoveOn.org?

"Is it possible that he's being as truthful as possible? Of course. Is it possible he's manipulating the numbers and facts in order to please his political masters? Of course."

with all due respect, but if you genuinely are not certain which way round it is, then you should refrain from making or endorsing calls of treason.

"MoveOn.org has the same right as all of us to be wrong. The point here is that just because someone is a general, he shouldn't be immune to criticism."

Nobody's saying he or anybody else should be immune from criticism. It's the baseless accusation/implication of treason that has fired up so many people (well, me at least). If you genuinely don't understand why that is different (for a soldier treason in time of war is just about the worst possible of crimes) then it would frankly be difficult to continue this discussion.

Look, if you want to accuse him of fudging the data to meet a political agenda or of not performing his duties in a professional and unbiased manner that would be perfectly legitimate comment and we could have a sensible discussion of those issues. But throwing accusations of betrayal around is poisoning the debate before it even gets started. And frankly too it also debases the vocabulary for when something truly awful happens.

"When did I say that was the only possible explanation?"

Language like "harsh, but essentially correct" certainly gives the impression you have settled on it as much the most likely explanation.

One last thought, about the accusations that doing what his political masters want is something shocking - trust me, you really do not want to live in the sort of country where generals get to pick and choose which politicians they obey:-/

Random

Jewish Atheist said...

Thank you. And bearing that in mind, do you have a greater appreciation of why this has upset so many people?

This was an overblown brouhaha before the story about the discounted rate broke, iirc. Where was the outrage from the right when the Republicans went after Max Cleland and made fun of John Kerry's purple hearts? Where was the right-wing outrage when Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity wrote books accusing everybody on the left of treason?

Political speech is fine. Ad hominem attacks, not so much.

Ad hominem attacks are in order when what's at issue is a man's character and truthfulness!

Because he's the guy on the ground, perhaps? With much more access to unfiltered and unbiased evidence than, say, MoveOn.org?

Don't be disingenuous. I wasn't comparing his data to MoveOn.org's, but to, e.g., the GAO report or the NIE.

with all due respect, but if you genuinely are not certain which way round it is, then you should refrain from making or endorsing calls of treason.

I said it's possible he's being truthful; I didn't say I believed he was.

Nobody's saying he or anybody else should be immune from criticism. It's the baseless accusation/implication of treason that has fired up so many people (well, me at least). If you genuinely don't understand why that is different (for a soldier treason in time of war is just about the worst possible of crimes) then it would frankly be difficult to continue this discussion.

MoveOn did not use the word "treason." If Petraeus is indeed fudging the numbers, then it would in fact be a betrayal, but it might not rise to the level of treason. How many people on the left have been explicitly accused of "giving aid and comfort" to the enemy, for comparison?

Look, if you want to accuse him of fudging the data to meet a political agenda or of not performing his duties in a professional and unbiased manner that would be perfectly legitimate comment and we could have a sensible discussion of those issues. But throwing accusations of betrayal around is poisoning the debate before it even gets started.

Is "fudging the data to meet a political agenda" not a betrayal? I think Colin Powell betrayed us by carrying water for the hawks when he knew their case was largely bullshit, but I wouldn't want to see him tried for treason. I don't think the two words are synonymous.

Language like "harsh, but essentially correct" certainly gives the impression you have settled on it as much the most likely explanation.

I did.

One last thought, about the accusations that doing what his political masters want is something shocking - trust me, you really do not want to live in the sort of country where generals get to pick and choose which politicians they obey:-/

Obviously, I'm not saying Petraeus should take his army to Sudan or something. I'm just asking that he not lie to us when he's being held up as the impartial authority.

Assuming Westmoreland was guilty of the charges he fudged the numbers of VC troops in order to maintain public support for the war in Vietnam, would you say that he was doing the right thing? Could you see why somebody would call that a betrayal?