SELECTED INTERNET POSTS
Part 6: 16 May 2004 - August 2004
Part 1 (13 December 2001 - 16 May 2003); Part 2 (18 May 2003 - 30 June 2003); Part 3 (1 July 2003 - 2 December 2003); Part 4 (3 December 2003 - 29 January 2004); Part 5 (3 February 2004 - 17 April 2004); Part 6 (16 May 2004 - August 2004); Part 7 (12 December 2004 - June 2005)
By Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Chris Matthew Sciabarra participates on occasion in several Internet discussion forums, including several Objectivist lists (including The Atlantis Discussion List [ATL], Atlantis II, Mudita Forum, Objectivist Outcasts, Philosophy of Objectivism List [OWL], Secular Individualism List, SOLO HQ, SOLO Yahoo Forum [SOLO], Starship Forum, among others), and lists devoted to Nathaniel Branden, F. A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Karl Marx, psychology, Randian feminism, ifeminism, and so forth. Below are a few posts from the various lists.
Table of Contents
Pietists, Liturgicals, and "Red Pawn" (14-16 August 2004)
Iran and the War on Islamic Terrorism (1 August 2004)
M.A.D., Foreign Policy, and the U.S. Election (29-30 July 2004)
Reflections on Academic Discourse (20 July 2004)
Democrats, Republicans, and The Failure of U.S. Intelligence (16 July 2004)
Tactical Nuclear Weapons ... and More (16 May 2004)
PIETISTS, LITURGICALS, AND "RED PAWN"
(Atlantis II, Posted between Sat, 14 Aug and Mon, 16 Aug, under the thread "Re: 'pietism' versus 'liturgicalism' ('liturgism'?) (1 million points offerred)")
(Sat, 14 Aug 2004 23:33:00 -0400)
MH wrote: "Some day if I get around to it I'm going to go see what a Russian Orthodox liturgy is like. Essay question for the day (between 0 and 1 million points will be awarded, depending on what mood I'm in) (and Chris Sciabarra is hereby ordered to respond at length): To what extent was the Soviet style of solemn ceremonies (state funerals, ceremonies awarding the Order of Lenin, etc.) influenced by the RO Church?"
I don't know if I'll earn a million points, but I have no doubt at all that the Soviet stylists took much from the Russian Orthodox Church; they were very good at co-opting religious imagery for state purposes. (Remember that Russian society was always intensely religious.) And there are very real, so-called "God-builder" tendencies in Leninist and Trotskyite writings, very much an outgrowth of Nietzsche's impact on the pre-revolutionary Silver Age culture.
BTW, my paternal grandparents were born in Sicily, and my maternal grandparents were born in Greece, and Mom raised us Greek Orthodox. In fact, my maternal grandfather was the founding pastor of the first Greek Orthodox Church---the Three Hierarchs Church---in Brooklyn (which has a beautiful monument to him outside the building). I can tell you that there are few, if any, churches that have the symbolism and aesthetic beauty of the Eastern Orthodox. From Holy Week to Baptisms to Weddings, their pomp and circumstance is unparalleled.
Oh, and on the liturgical-pietist distinction; I did use this as a springboard for my discussion---and I do believe, of course, that the distinction compresses many complexities. I also think GS is right about the fact that there were countervailing tendencies on both sides of that equation---many pietists, for example, fought against slavery and for women to get the right to vote. Still, there are ethnic-cultural considerations here as well that complicate the ways in which we categorize various sects. I remain convinced, however, that there is an important pietist ideological dimension to the origins of expanding state intervention.
(Sun, 15 Aug 2004 17:16:00 -0400, thread: Re: ... Liturgism, etc. ... )
MH writes: "... and I've heard the Russians are the ones who do that best. And maybe only the Russian Orthodox have that one winter ritual where parishioners one-by-one climb down a ladder through a cross-shaped hole cut in the ice on a frozen river while a priest wearing ornate vestments stands by somehow presiding. OK, Chris, 500 points for now; I'm reserving the remaining 999,500 points for further efforts from you and others (George, Ellen?). -- Mike Hardy"
Oh, they got nothin' on the Greeks, especially in the Metropolitan NY area. It's not Siberia, but you try jumping into the frigid January waters of the Hudson River to retrieve a cross tossed in by the priest, symbolizing Christ's baptism. hehehe (An old pal of mine from high school, Michael Pavlokis, once did that... and even made it into the NY DAILY NEWS, shriveled, blue, shaking, and wet with cross in hand!)
I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow comparison of Russian and Greek Orthodox, but what I do think the Greeks have over the Russians is an interesting integration of Hellenic cultural traditions into the liturgy and other church ceremonies. Oh, that and Pastichio, Moussaka, Baklava...
(Mon, 16 Aug 2004 08:00:01 -0400)
I don't want to make more of my use of the pietist-liturgical distinction than was suggested in my article. I do think GS is completely correct that it is an historically specific, rather than "intrinsic," analysis, applicable to the 19th century American context. (I certainly would not apply it---and don't believe Rothbard applied it---to the English or European context.) My discussion of the distinction, however, was in the historical section of the paper. My point was to show how religion and ethnicity shaped American politics in the 19th century, and how many of ~today's~ fundamentalists have returned to their historic role in shaping, specifically, the Republican party.
Yes, the Party of Lincoln was a very mixed bag in the 19th century; let's not forget that blacks, for example, voted consistently Republican until the New Deal. But so much has changed since then, and the reasons for this change are not entirely religious, but a mixture of religious, ethnic, racial, and ideological politics. Today's "evangelical" black religionists, who would not vote Republican, are also wary of voting Democratic, precisely because of that party's more "liberal" social agenda; see Zev Chafets' article, "Kerry has fundamental problems."
In any event, my use of the distinction is tempered with a number of caveats. I state quite explicitly that the "discussion is not meant to indict any particular religion or sect. That some pietists have endorsed government intervention does not mean that all pietists are 'evil,' " I write. Moreover, I examine how the old 19th century distinctions have been greatly modified in the 20th century; specifically, long-opposed Protestant and Catholic groups are now forging an alliance of sorts, that was unheard of before. It is an alliance that revolves around an opposition to various elements of the liberal-Democratic social agenda.
Either way, I find the ethno-religious aspects of politics quite fascinating.
On a related subject, I am not sure if these are the passages that ES had in mind, but I write about the conjunction of religious and communist images, each feeding off an aspect of the other, in AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, and draw attention to one specific passage in "Red Pawn."
>>... [Rand] achieved tantalizing imagery in "Red Pawn" to dramatize the organic conjunction of religion and communism. Much of the movie action is situated on Strastnoy Island, a "bit of land in the Arctic waters off the Siberian coast." In the czarist days, a monastery occupied the island. But since the revolution, the monastery had been converted into a Soviet prison. Rand writes that the island's library occupied the former chapel of the old monastery. In the library, a sacred mural remained, depicting Christ's walk to Golgotha. But above the mural, the communists had scrawled, in red letters, "Proletarians of the World Unite!" Red flags were sketched into the raised hand of St. Vladimir. A hammer and sickle were superimposed on Moses' Tablets. The fresh paint dripped down the chapel walls.
"Tall candles in silver stands at the altar had to be lighted in the daytime. Their little red flames stood immobile, each candle transformed into a chandelier by the myriads of tiny reflections in the gilded halos of carved saints; they burned without motion, without noise, a silent, resigned service in memory of the past - around a picture of Lenin."
Others would have seen the superimposed communist symbols as a defilement of a Christian sanctuary; Rand saw an organic conjunction of corresponding worldviews. Her mixture of religious and communist images suggests that the two cultural forces had interpenetrated one another, serving similar goals, if not the same master. <<
IRAN AND THE WAR ON ISLAMIC TERRORISM
(SOLO Yahoo Forum, Posted: Sun, 01 Aug 2004 10:17:00 -0400, under the thread "Hemlock and Lotsa Links")
Barbara [Branden] posted an interesting article by Charles Krauthammer.
I do ~not~ believe that an invasion and occupation of Iran is the way to go, at ~this~ time. The US military is depleted; a "back-door draft" is already in the works as reservists and National Guard units are being ordered to stay longer than their contracted tour of duty. If the US engages in a full-scale invasion and occupation of Iran, the US will have no choice but to begin military conscription immediately. ~That~ is where every Objectivist and every libertarian, regardless of one's position on the ~Iraq~ war, ~must~ draw the line. The war against Islamic terrorists is an ~unconventional~ war requiring unconventional means, not a mass conscripted army invading and occupying every conceivable source of Islamic terrorism. It's going to require the occasional surgical strikes, highly sophisticated special forces, the hunting down and destruction of Al Qaeda operatives (~no~ negotiations), the disruption of financial and other networks of support, and a long-term redefinition of the role of the US in that region of the world.
With regard to Iran: I also believe that an outright invasion is likely to cause great damage to the revolution from below that Krauthammer---justifiably---acknowledges . Revolutions take time; but the power changeover that is likely to occur when that revolution destroys the mullahs will be of far greater consequence for the long-term stability of the Middle East than ~anything~ the US would do militarily.
I have a series of posts at Liberty & Power on the enormously important changes occurring in Iran. Check these out:
"Inside Iran: Twenty-Five Years After the Islamic Revolution"
"Laissez-Faire in Iran"
"Iran: The Anti-Beard Revolution"
"More Kristof, More Iran"
"Kristof's 'Nuts with Nukes'"
and for a distillation of my current views on foreign policy, see "Weighing in on the Foreign Policy Debate."
M.A.D., FOREIGN POLICY AND THE U. S. ELECTION
[This is a series of posts on the SOLO Yahoo Forum that appeared on 29-30 July 2004.]
(Posted: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 16:51:24 -0400, under the thread "Re: Michael Moore v Bill O'Reilly"]
I don't see Arafat strapping any bombs around his body. I didn't see Saddam Hussein strapping any bombs around his body. I don't see Bin Laden strapping any bombs around his body. Bin Laden is hiding out because he doesn't want to die... only to kill. As for the mullahs in Iran: their biggest threat is not the US (which, quite frankly, has handed the Iranians greater geopolitical power by taking out their enemies in Iraq). Their biggest threat is the rising young generation within Iran that is challenging their rule. As for Hussein, who was found, hiding in a rat hole: he ~was~ contained and had no (or few, if any) WMDs---even if the intelligence said otherwise, even if he actually wanted them. He was also contained by Israel's possession of WMDs; see here... an interview with Khidir Hamza, a high-ranking Iraqi scientist who defected. Here's the relevant portion of the interview:
MEQ: Why did Saddam not use weapons of mass destruction during the Kuwait war?
Hamza: He was afraid of what the United States would do. He was also scared of the possibility of an Israeli retaliation. In brief, deterrence worked. Note that what he used against Israel was very low-tech—warheads sometimes filled not even with explosives but with concrete. It was just a warning, just a show.
MEQ: Any lessons here for the future?
Hamza: Certainly, there are. We are dealing here with a ruler who is hugely self-centered, who cares only about himself and what happens to him. Therefore, if you threaten him personally and directly, you can intimidate him. Notice how he hides from dangers.
MEQ: He is personally fearful?
Hamza: He is haunted by fears. He has his cooks prepare three meals a day for him in all his residences, as if he is living in every one of them. He has dozens of identical sets of personal items that are placed in his palaces and hideaways so that everywhere he goes, he is at home, without carrying things around with him. This is done so that no one—no one!—is quite sure where he is staying at any moment. This pattern reflects his fear. During the Gulf war bombing, he went even further and turned up unexpectedly at people's homes. This is someone who's exceedingly scared for his life and his well-being.
In other words: Hussein, the murderous thug, was nothing more than a posturing, boastful coward. We can argue all we want (and I don't intend to) about whether this war with Iraq was justified; but to say that he wasn't being deterred flies in the face of evidence. Nuclear proliferation, I'm sorry to say, is now on a fast-track; the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has made this an even greater priority for other MidEast regimes---who cannot possibly oppose the overwhelming forces of the US, except by developing weapons that might "deter" yet another US invasion. Overall... not a very optimistic picture of the future...
(Posted: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 20:31:19 -0400, under the thread "Re: Michael Moore v Bill O'Reilly")
Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand's Radical Legacy
A Question of Loyalty: A "Saddamite" Responds to Perigo
... and ~countless~ posts (especially on the Liberty & Power Group blog) archived here.
Finally, just one postscript in response to S, and I'll leave it at that---promise! I don't believe that other countries are developing nukes in response to the US invasion of Iraq. What I said was that "Nuclear proliferation, I'm sorry to say, is now on a fast-track..." They were developing the weapons... but there is now more ~urgency~ and more ~defiance~ in evidence with ~some~ of these states (like, e.g., Iran). Nobody on "this side" of the divide, to my knowledge, has been advocating appeasement; from the beginning, I advocated the complete devastation of Al Qaeda and its entire terrorist apparatus and network. I advocated that when Al Qaeda and its cohorts were attacking US interests throughout the 1990s, while also pointing out that it was US foreign policy which emboldened the very Afghani mujihadeen from which Al Qaeda drew strength.
The ~issue~ that emerged in late 2002 was whether Saddam Hussein and Iraq should have been made a part of ~that~ war. The issue was ~never~ (for me) about Hussein's legitimacy or even the ~morality~ of taking him down. His regime was illegitimate, and destroying it was moral. The issue was: Was Hussein a threat to the security of the United States? Period. That Hussein had neither WMDs nor a "collaborative operational relationship" with Al Qaeda is enough for me to conclude that his regime was not an imminent threat (or even a "grave and gathering threat" as President Bush characterized it) to the security of the United States. Certainly not the kind of threat that would have required invasion and occupation; it was the kind of threat that could have been contained and deterred.
Taking down that Iraqi regime and trying to engage in the absolute and utter Wilsonian folly of democratic "nation-building" in a foreign cesspool of internal tribal, ethnic, and religious conflict, at the cost of billions of US taxpayer dollars and thousands of casualties was ~counterproductive~ in terms of the war against Al Qaeda---the group that actually attacked the US on 9/11.
That's my view, folks. I have learned a lot from those who have criticized it, but in its fundamentals... my view remains the same.
(Posted: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 12:27:31 -0400, under the thread "Re: Michael Moore v Bill O'Reilly")
MH writes: "I actually agree with some of what Lindsay [Perigo] said in his last post, and *disagree* slightly with Chris. Saddam *wasn't* entitled to the benefit of any doubt." Just a clarification: I never said that Saddam was entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and if you remember, in my original essay, "Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand's Radical Legacy," you'll find this paragraph where I, like everybody else, assumed that he ~had~ WMDs:
Such practical alternatives cannot be considered, however, without addressing briefly the issue of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD). It is said that the existence of WMD changes the whole equation significantly. Looking at what terrorists can accomplish with box cutters and commercial passenger jets, the destructive possibilities are infinite should they ever come to possess WMD. Much of the practical argument for intervention in Iraq, for example, revolved around the belief that any illegitimate chemical, biological, or radiological weapons that it possessed could be dispersed to terrorist organizations, like Al Qaeda. In my view, however, the pro-war advocates did not present any conclusive evidence of a link between the lethally opposed Ba'ath and Al Qaeda gangs. That it was "pragmatic" U.S. foreign policy that first gave Hussein's regime the wherewithal for the production of some of these weapons, that the U.S. could have used its own overwhelming WMD stockpile effectively to contain Iraq by threat of "mutually assured destruction," that a growth in direct U.S. intervention could make WMD proliferation among potential terrorists ~more~ likely, since it becomes their prime manner of counteracting an overwhelming U.S. military force-have all been dismissed by pro-war advocates.
The whole point of my containment and deterrence view is that I assumed Hussein's ~possession~ of WMDs... otherwise, quite frankly, what would we be ~containing~ or ~deterring~? An Iraqi army that was only one-third the size of its Gulf War I incarnation? Hardly threatening to the security of the United States.
REFLECTIONS ON ACADEMIC DISCOURSE
(Atlantis II: Posted: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 15:20:25 -0400, under the thread "Re: Minding my Ps and Qs")
[In a discussion prompted by whether Rand-oriented periodicals should publish "postmodernist" and "deconstructionist" critiques, I responded to one critic...]
W writes: >>It's very tempting to agree with you, Chris. Yes you have an audience for [THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES]. You're also in the promotion business and must keep your publications and books entertaining to induce the consumer to purchase your works. I'm all in favour of controversy and speaking your mind. I'm a homeless Objectivist because of these character traits. But, this is why I disagree. Who is Slavoj Zizek? I did see his name in the JARS publication back in the spring of 2002. Prior to that, I never heard of him. He's not Richard Rorty or J. Derrida. Why does that matter? Well, you're giving a defender of Nihilism a platform to get noticed. Rorty and Derrida don't have this problem, they have made a name for themselves independent of your help. It doesn't matter if it's one post modernist or ten pomos, it's the principle that I'm talking about. <<
Well, I believe in a principle too: It's a principle that goes back to Socrates and that speaks of the importance of dialogue for the advancement of any idea, even if that dialogue "rocks the boat." It's something that Rand herself understood when she said "that a boat which cannot stand rocking is doomed already and that it had better be rocked hard, if it is to regain its course ..."
With regard to Zizek: Just do a google search for him, and you'll see that he's hotter than Rorty ~or~ Derrida at this point in time. He is probably the hottest Continental philosopher on the contemporary scene today... for better or for worse. He didn't need a tiny article in JARS "to get noticed." He has been hugely successful because he has been hugely provocative, quite apart from a brief essay in our pages. That essay told leftists and postmodernists that they could learn from Ayn Rand and the portrait of human "authenticity" that she presented in such characters as Howard Roark. That was a message that was worth publishing, regardless of Zizek's Lacanian-Marxist perspective.
And this also makes sense from the perspective of the marketplace---of ideas. I think that when an intellectual like Zizek emerges---and has such powers of intellectual suasion in the scholarly community---it is sometimes better to confront him than to ignore him. That doesn't "sanction" him or his viewpoint as much as it compels him to behave according to established scholarly standards concerning the respectful treatment of Ayn Rand, which only increases her currency among readers who might have never given her a second look. But the fact that Zizek ~has~ given Rand a second look potentially opens the door to a new audience of Zizek readers, and if just ~one~ of these ends up checking their premises, the provocation would have been worth it.
As somebody who admires Rand, I am confident that the world changes: one person at a time. I'm hoping therefore to reach that ~one~ person who might not have been reached by a journal publishing all the familiar names.
W continues: >>And even if they're well known, why should you give them a platform in the first place? Having, Susan Brownmiller, appear in "Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand", makes Susan Brownmiller appear respectable to the extent that she made it in the book. There's a tacit acknowledgement that Post Modernists, and insane man-hating feminists (who shouldn't use academia as an escape, and seek professional help) are worthy of debate in YOUR works.<<
On this, you're entirely wrong, W. Susan Brownmiller didn't actually write for FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND---and we explain this in the Introduction to the anthology. We took an excerpt from a famous book of hers and stuck it in a section, along with selections from Barbara G. Harrison and others, to show the ~history~ of previous "feminist" takes on Ayn Rand. (The section is called "Looking Back," after all...) That was ~then~, we were trying to say, and this is ~now~. And the "now" included selections from individualists such as Wendy McElroy, Sharon Presley, Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Karen Michalson, and others. Sometimes, you make a point in presenting current discussion---by contrasting it with what came before.
DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, AND THE FAILURE OF U.S. INTELLIGENCE
(SOLO Yahoo Forum; posted under the heading "Kids and Kerry." Posted on: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 17:35:38 -0400; follow-up on Sat, 17 Jul 2004 22:04:34 -0400)
[A compendium of quotes from Democrats has been circulating on the Internet; some people have claimed that all these Democrats now claim the President lied (false), and that nobody has been bringing these views to light in the media (also false). Here's that compendium, upon which I comment below:
"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." - President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998
"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." - President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998
"Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face." - Madeline Albright, Feb. 18, 1998
"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten time since 1983." - Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb. 18, 1998
"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the US Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." - Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry (D - MA), and others Oct. 9, 1998
"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998
"Hussein has .. chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies." - Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999
"There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." - Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, Dec. 5, 2001
"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandated of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them." - Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002
"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002
"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..." - Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002
"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002
"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years . We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002
"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do" - Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002
"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct. 10, 2002
"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002
"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction .. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real" - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003 ]
On this compendium of quotes from Democrats being circulated here: I don't think Bush "lied" about WMDs (odds are he sincerely believed it... just as he sincerely believes all the elements of his pietistic Christian faith, whether you like it or not). But I do think the intelligence has proven him... and all these Democrats ... wrong on WMDs, and most likely on the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection as well. I don't know where everybody has been, but I've seen virtually all these Democratic quotes in the media for a long time; there is nothing new about partisan politics. But given a choice between a fundamentalist Christian who wants to remake the world and a guy who doesn't know where he stands from one day to the next... I choose "none of the above." (My next article in FREE RADICAL will discuss---at length---the dangers that America faces from that fundamentalist Christian wing of popular culture and politics... it is nothing to be dismissed lightly. In any event, I still stand by my prediction---as of now: Bush is going to win the 2004 election.)
If we are to believe even half of what the 9/11 Commission has said, and half of what the Senate Intelligence Commission has said, then the real story, the real scandal, is not how Democrats attack Republicans or Republicans attack Democrats---or how they are both taking us to hell-in-a-hand-basket. The real story is how Western intelligence agencies over the past decade---from Clinton through Bush---were so wrong about so much: from the Al Qaeda plots leading up to 9/11 to the virtually nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That is the frightening story, in my book: it remains to be seen if it will be a fatally frightening one, especially if another horrific attack ever occurs on American soil.
(Sat, 17 Jul 2004 22:04:34 -0400)
Just as an aside: I doubt I'll be voting for any candidate for President; I've never been a registered Libertarian (though I consider myself a "small-l" libertarian) ... but I can assure those who are nervous about a Kerry Presidency that nothing will be essentially changed in US "Middle East" policy. NOTHING. Kerry voted for the war. Kerry supports the US occupation. Kerry has argued for an increase in troop presence.
As I say in my recent FREE RADICAL article, "Bush Wins!!! (which, I believe, will be posted soon enough at the FREE RAD site): The war in Iraq has now been institutionalized, and nobody is going to fundamentally change course at this point. No President is going to want to be known as the guy who "lost Iraq."
I expect Kerry to get a post-convention boost later this month; I expect Bush to get a post-convention boost at the beginning of September. And then, we'll see what effect the debates will have on the race, and what events might transpire in the days leading up to Election Day, which might alter some voting patterns in the key battleground states. But if the current voting patterns are any indication, the Christian right---probably the single most important and powerful voting bloc in the United States---is going to make a Bush victory inevitable. Their multi-billion dollar merchandising efforts and massive get-out-the-vote efforts (which have gotten a huge boost from Bush's grandstanding over things like abortion, stem-cell research, faith-based initiatives, and gay marriage) are having an important effect on the character of the electorate. More on this in my coming FREE RADICAL essay, "Caught Up in the Rapture"...
TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS ... AND MORE
(Atlantis II List; an edited combination of two posts, under the headings, "Tactical Nuclear Weapons ... and More" and "Re: The Home of Tribalists and Minions." Posted on Sun, 16 May 2004 10:52:38 -0400 and Mon, 17 May 2004 11:13:12 -0400)
I don't think this whole discussion of "weapons of mass destruction" makes much sense, in any event, only because some of the most horrific killing in the modern era has taken place with the use of ~conventional~ weapons (the carpet or fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo killed and injured more people than the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki). One doesn't need a nuclear weapon to engage in "mass destruction."
As W suggests, this "warmonger" :) would disagree with him on many aspects of his argument. I do believe that Iraq was the wrong war---and that it has brought out the absolute ~worst~ aspects of US foreign (and domestic) policy. (I opposed that war in the beginning, see here.) I do think, however, that there is a "right" war to be fought in the "short-run" against the Al Qaeda terror network that attacked on 9/11. I think there is a more important strategic shift that needs to take place with regard to the US role in the Middle East, and an even more important long-run "cultural" shift that needs to take place in the Islamic world. None of these shifts, in my view, merits the use of nuclear or other genocidal, apocalyptic weapons.
I wish these weapons had never been invented. But the fact of their existence is undeniable. One important thing to remember about nuclear weapons is that they don't actually have to be used in order to be "effective": The threat of their use was at the foundation of the "Mutually Assured Destruction" doctrine of containment that kept the Communists and the US at bay throughout the whole Cold War. Who could have been more murderous than Stalin, Mao, and their progeny? I do not see how the acquisition of a nuke by Iraq, Iran or any other entity in the Middle East would have changed that containment doctrine---not if the US simply declares that the deployment and use of a single nuke by any entity would be met with similar retaliation.
With regard to Iran, I don't believe the US should do ~anything~ to topple the regime. From the time of the Shah, the US has done ~enough~ to create instability in that country. (Ron Paul has some good things to say about US policy toward Iran here.) Take a look at these posts for why I believe there is an important internally-generated cultural movement afoot in that country---which can only be damaged irreparably by US intervention at the current time:
It is, of course, typical that the countries that harbor the most Al Qaeda terrorists---Pakistan and Saudi Arabia---are US "allies." Pakistan ~has~ WMDs, and Saudi Arabia is probably more responsible for the export of Islamic fanaticism than any other single Muslim-dominated country in the Middle East (the vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers were ~Saudi~... and that isn't a coincidence). As I have argued in previous posts and threads here (and I don't wish to revisit that whole debate on ARAMCO and the Saudis), the US will ~never~ invade these countries, especially Saudi Arabia, because it sleeps with them.
(Mon, 17 May 2004 11:13:12 -0400)
W, I don't know where you've been, but I've had ~lots~ of spirited debates on this list. Think back to my nearly three-week exchange with MJ on the history of ARAMCO and the Saudi-US relationship in December 2003. Or my debate with C, J, you, and others on the Iraq war---which stretched from the end of 2003 into early 2004. (In fact, C actually said "screw you" to me right here on this very list, toward the end of November 2003, while debating the Iraq war.) If you'd really like to see me, my character, and my work attacked in an endless stream of ad hominems and vulgar epithets, you really don't have to look too far. For more than ten years now, I have been dealing with an ever-increasing stream of private hate mail and public postings to forums as varied as Noodlefood, SOLO HQ, the usenet group humanities.philosophy.objectivism, and too many others to mention, where my status as a "scholar" and "historian" is routinely attacked, and where, recently, one ARI-friendly poster called me a "crackpot" with views akin to that of "Madame Cleo," TV clairvoyant. On another list, recently, somebody said that my views were paving the way for a global Islamic theocracy. No argument, no proof, just mere assertions padded with contempt. I won't even mention the stuff that was tossed my way when AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL was published, and I dared to suggest that Rand actually learned something from her teachers; or when I chose to co-edit FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND, which raised questions about Rand's attitudes toward sexuality and gender; or when my recent monograph, AYN RAND, HOMOSEXUALITY, AND HUMAN LIBERATION, was published---with the typical homophobic reactions posted all over the Internet from the typical naysayers; or that good ol' Andrew Bernstein reaction (after he, himself, published in THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES), wherein he called for a boycott against JARS and all of Sciabarra's work---despite the fact that he admitted to not ever having actually ~read~ my work.
Quite frankly, I may have my disagreements with some people on this list, but for the most part, I am ~happy~ to be spared some of these more over-the-top reactions. Please don't get me wrong: I'm not claiming to be a victim here. I'm just saying that I'm so used to being attacked that when I'm ~not~ attacked, I hardly notice it anymore.
Now, if somebody here would like to tell me to "Fuck off" (as was done on SOLO HQ just last week, in fact, where I am also routinely derided by my ~friend~ Lindsay Perigo for being a "Saddamite"), go ahead, knock yourself out! Prove that you're not a bunch of Sciabarra-ian Sycophants! Go for it! :)
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