Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wut we need *moar* stupid?

A mysterious result of Googling "neoliberal kittens". From Radioactive Mongoose.
Teaser from Peter Beinart's new foreign policy piece in the Atlantic:
A new critique of the president's "don't do stupid shit" doctrine is emerging—and it's coming from within his own party.
Honest. Like that cowardly Obama, refusing to deploy the stupid-shit weapon, which has served us so well in the past.

Beinart sets up a left-right-'n'-center trichotomy of Obama criticism with a right represented by Senator McCain demanding that the administration do more bombing, and a left represented by Prosecutor Greenwald denouncing the Obama administration as a prolongation of the war-mad dictatorial Bush administration, just with different faces, with which thoughtful citizens can't negotiate at all, only groan "O tempora! O mores!" and go their weary ways. The center, in this picture, is what you might call the hipster faction, as in "you probably haven't heard of them yet":
The third, and least discussed, comes from foreign-policy professionals, including those within Obama’s administration. Ideologically, it’s harder to classify. These professionals argue that in his zeal to focus on domestic policy, and to avoid risky foreign-policy fights, the president simply hasn’t invested the time and political will to effectively wield American power.
The characterization of the right as the first leg of the trilemma seems awfully tidy; their views on administration foreign policy might be better described as Oppositional Defiance Disorder, as we've seen a lot this week in particular with regard to negotiations with the Taliban, and especially in the person of Senator McCain.

I can hardly even begin to tell you how much I object to referring to the Dudebro Party as in some sense of the "left" when these people have shown no interest in improving the conditions of the oppressed or of the working class or in broadening the public discourse to include people who aren't well represented or anything at all other than the privacy of their own digital selves. To me these are the hedge fund left, concerned mainly with hiding their less than kosher financial transactions from government eyes, as I've said, and, just by being such attention whores, distracting everybody from the real abuses of the FBI and immigration control agencies. I just got an email from Edward Snowden on behalf of the ACLU, asking me to increase my monthly contribution to that august organization:
Only then will we get the secure technologies we need to communicate without fear that silently in the background, our very own government is collecting, collating, and crunching the data that allows unelected bureaucrats to intrude into our most private spaces, analyzing our hopes and fears.
Oh, really? I'm supposed to give them more money so Snowden doesn't have to put his phone in the refrigerator any more? And I recently noticed that ACLU doesn't mention labor rights anywhere on its website. I really may have to break up with them, which would be sad (a brilliant ACLU pro bono lawyer helped me out as a draft dodger in Vietnam days and I'll never forget).

But I think it's clear that this schema of left vs. right strawmen leaves out a huge range of views critical and not (including this arguably leftist nooge from Billmon), representing little more than a dialectic in Beinart's own sort of neo-neoliberal mind.

As to Beinart's indie critique, it turns out to be ex-ambassador Robert Ford complaining that the US didn't fund those Syrian moderates more and earlier, and former State Department person Vali Nasr saying that we should have gone in earlier and more to negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, as if the Republican party with its 40% majority in the Senate and the Cokie party on Sunday morning would have put up with either option ever—as if they weren't constantly accusing Obama of destroying our country by doing precisely these things already (my rightwing Twitter acquaintances never stop screaming about how Obama is arming jihadi terrorists in Syria). But then it gets down to being quite a bit more military than it looks:
Solving Syria’s civil war, argues Ford, would have required the military risk of arming rebels even though American arms might have found their way to jihadists and the political risk of cutting a deal with Assad’s key patron, Iran. Solving Afghanistan’s civil war, argues Nasr, required the military risk of a more open-ended surge and the political risk of sitting down earlier with the Taliban and with Iran. 
Oops! So it's the doctrine of "Do a little stupid shit, and do something smart to counterbalance it before it mushrooms out of control. Hopefully." And I'm with them on the Iran part, in theory, but I think in order to get more done with Iran than he has done (which has in my view been huge, and which would not have been helped by arming anti-Assad forces more robustly), Obama would have had to threaten to drone-bomb the Senate. Which would probably get some bad press.
This is left. From the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, NYU, via Stickerkitty.

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