Over on Twitter a few days ago, Kelsey Atherton suggested that we replace -gate with -ghazi when we talk about scandals from now on … so I’m jumping on that train right now.
Here’s what I have to say about the conservative firestorm surrounding Joe Biden’s European Vacation (which incidentally is a movie that Hollywood should immediately put into production, starring Chevy Chase as Joe Biden; I’ll take an EP credit):
Conservatives went absolutely ballistic that the administration didn’t spend nearly enough money on security for our consulate in Benghazi. Now the exact same people are losing their minds over the astronomical cost of providing security for the vice president while he travels.
Which is it, guys? Should we be willing to spend what it actually costs or shouldn’t we?
"But when will she testify about Benghazi?!," scream several million tinfoil hat wearing wingnuts, who continue to allege that she’s been faking illness because the utter lack of evidence of a conspiracy fits perfectly into their endless conspiracy mongering.
Clinton had not been seen in public since Dec. 7 and has undergone treatment for a blood clot that stemmed from a concussion she suffered in mid-December.
Photo credit: Joshua Lott / Reuters
FLASH: Secretary Clinton suffered blood clot between brain and skull, behind right ear, doctors say. Clinton did not suffer stroke or neurological damage according to doctors.
From a million idiots all over the country:
So, then, when is she going to testify about Benghazi? #tcot #faker #conspiracy #foxnews
Diving back into Real Twitter this evening, we find that Hillary Clinton’s hospitalization for a blood clot is merely convenient cover for a liberal conspiracy around the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.
I published this piece back at the beginning of February. I think the questions still stand:
In vetoing a Security Council resolution calling for Bashar al-Assad to step down in Syria, Russia and China have provided cover for the regime’s on-going brutal crackdown and, as such, criticism from the U.S., France, and a host of other countries and organizations was immediate and forceful.
So now what?
If the Security Council can’t even call for Assad to step down, it’s pretty clear that some more meaningful action isn’t forthcoming. Unless it comes from, for example, NATO. And some of the language we’re hearing today from Obama, Clinton, and Rice makes the possibility seem pretty realistic.
But the point of this post isn’t really to ask whether or not the U.S. — with NATO and the Arab Leagues as allies — will intervene militarily in Syria. Nor is the point to ask whether or not it ought to do so. If you want to know what I think, you can read some of my posts on Libya from last year (here and here, for example). Clinton has said, “military intervention has been absolutely ruled out and we have made that clear from the very beginning.”
But as I watched the social networking reactions to the Security Council proceedings, I started wondering about the reactions of progressives and (some) libertarians. From what I’ve seen from these groups, there’s condemnation of the Syrian crackdown and of the Russian and Chinese vetoes. But that condemnation doesn’t extend to a call for anyone to actually do anything. And that’s to be expected because these are groups who worry about what happens when people start thinking about acting rather than simply condemning. Indeed, I’m fairly confident that these strange bedfellows will resume their complaints about intervention as soon as planes are in the air; they’ll point out that the U.S. keeps targeting Muslims, they’ll insist that the U.S. has ulterior motives for its involvement, and they’ll point to all of the other places in the world in which the U.S. doesn’t intervene as proof for the first two arguments even as they demand that the U.S. stop dropping bombs on people entirely.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with those arguments, though it’s easy enough to disagree with them. The trouble is that it’s tough to want things you can’t have. In this case, it’s tough to want people to be able to choose their leaders and not to be murdered by their government while at the same not wanting to get too deeply involved when they can’t choose and when they’re being killed.
But let me be clear about this last point. I am well aware that, in the process of using force to help people in Syria, some of the people we intend to help will be harmed. This is the point on which my critics will hang their hats, as they did the last time we had this conversation. And so I’ll say again what I think is a pretty important point when it comes time to consider the costs and benefits of military intervention on behalf of people who are suffering under a murderous regime:
The choice we face is between people being killed and people being killed. I don’t want to sugar-coat that at all. In both instances, people die and it’s violent and bloody and awful. But in one instance — when we eschew intervention — the people who generally die violently are those who are attempting (and failing, due to inferior military capabilities) to throw off a tyrant. In those instances, it’s my position that to fall back on pacifism or isolationism because all warfare is awful or imperalistic or costly amounts to something of a moral failing insofar as it amounts to siding with the tyrant.
Choosing not to involve ourselves in what happens overseas doesn’t mean that people in Syria will suddenly be safe and happy and alive; it means that we can fool ourselves into thinking that we don’t have any blood on our hands because we didn’t directly harm anyone.
We can all be outraged with the choice that the Russians and the Chinese made today. And we surely ought to be outraged about what the Assad regime has been doing for months and months now. But if that outrage just means that we wag our fingers at Assad, the Russians, and the Chinese, rather than actually doing something about the terrible crimes being committed in Syria, then how outraged are we, really?
Most of the people who didn’t want the U.S. to get involved in Syria have gotten pretty quiet in the past six months because the U.S. hasn’t really gotten involved … at least not in the way that the U.S. got involved in Libya, to the endless breast-beating of these same people. In fact, there’s very little discussion of Syria from the non-interventionists these days, though the violence there continues apace.
Honestly, I’m curious: Do people think the Libyans are better off now than they were? And how do people think the Syrians would answer that question?
Fox News once again provides the most insightful picture of the political and intellectual climate in America today.
On the one hand, we don’t know what we’re talking about. But, on the other hand, we’re also happy to lie about the things we don’t know in order to score political points.
U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration supported the Libyan insurgency with funds, weapons and training, branded the killing an "outrageous attack" and ordered increased security at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide. Today these insirgency killed a US Ambassador, your President supported them, now Obama is off to Las Vegas to raise money and play golf, you voted for him, blood is on your hands, Muslim Brotherhood Obama. I'm retired Army Cavalry Scout, 3 duties in Iraqemptychair2012-deactivated20121
Here’s an interesting message I received from someone who had the good sense — after sending it — to entirely delete his Tumblr blog from the internet. Of course, since it’s the internet, the blog still exists in archived form. (Spoiler alert: It’s got nothing but some pictures of Obama with racist captions and some nonsensical one-line rants.)
But a fair number of people, I’d wager, actually think some or all of these things so it’s worth spending a minute of my day highlighting why they’re incoherent, dangerous, and just generally awful:
- Barack Obama isn’t my President; he’s the President or our President. You might not like him, you might not agree with him, and you might not want him to continue to be the President, but that doesn’t make him any less the President;
- American opposition to the destruction of Benghazi by Gaddafi’s forces was fairly bipartisan. And, indeed, support for Libyan rebels against Gaddafi was very strongly encouraged by Senator John McCain, President Obama’s challenger in the 2008 election. The notion that the U.S. wouldn’t have assisted the Libyans against Gaddafi with McCain in office instead of Obama is entirely nonsensical;
- The idea that all Muslims or all Egyptians or all Libyans (or even the Libyans whose aspirations the U.S. supported) were behind these attacks or condone them is preposterous;
- The negative connection that certain elements on the Right want to draw between President Obama and Muslims is long-standing and a brazen example of creating or feeding misperceptions based on fear and hatred of the Other for political gain.
It’s incredibly sad to see people spend so much time trying to turn tragedy into a political windfall and continually trying to reap some sort of benefit from demonizing whole groups of people.
Times are hard for the international criminal court. It is nine years since it was established with notions of ending impunity for “unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity”. The arrest in Libya last week of four members of the court’s defence team, who were visiting Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, marked a new low in the court’s history.
But with only one conviction in its history, an exclusively African caseload, and relations with other African states also at breaking point, the court’s reputation leaves much to be desired.
Into the fray steps Fatou Bensouda, the Gambian who on Friday becomes chief prosecutor – the second in the court’s history and the first African woman.
Yesterday, a blogger became so fed up by my posts on the subject of Ron Paul’s newsletters that he posted a libelous ad hominem attack about me on his blog. That it was libel is clear: the blogger has been following my blog for approximately two weeks, offered no citations for his charges that I was “a partisan hack,” and utterly ignored (or perhaps simply never read) all of the evidence that runs counter to his position. I wouldn’t ordinarily have seen the post, especially since I was traveling much of the day, but another blogger read it and wrote a thoughtful defense. The crux of the matter is two-fold: first, he is deeply wounded that I have slandered Ron Paul by discussing his newsletters because, second, Ron Paul is the only candidate who loves peace. Thus, I’m a war-mongering hypocrite.
But here’s the problem: I have nowhere claimed to know whether or not Ron Paul is a racist; in fact, I have explicitly said that I don’t know whether he is or whether he simply associated with racists. My main interest, especially at first, was simply to note that the defense often heard from a young, vocal subset of Paul fanatics — that libertarians can’t be racists so Ron Paul isn’t a racist — is just a bad argument. What’s more, regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve criticized Rick Perry on the death penalty, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain on torture, and Barack Obama for targeted killings. In short, I think I’m a pretty equal opportunity critic when it comes to human rights issues. And second, I’m not much of a fan of war. As someone who writes extensively on the topic of human rights, this shouldn’t be much of a revelation. But perhaps I need to explain, since I didn’t, for example, criticize President Obama for the NATO intervention in Libya.
At bottom, this boils down to the question of pacifism and, as I’ve written before on this blog, I’m not a pacifist. If someone takes my non-absolute position on war as war-mongering, well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Here’s what I wrote back in March, when I was writing about Libya:
I think that most of our problems should be solved diplomatically … but I don’t just throw up my hands and say “Shucks!” when diplomacy fails.
This isn’t because I think that war is good and that, in the end, everyone comes out a winner. It isn’t because I won’t curse or because I somehow view the world through rose-colored glasses. But I also don’t believe for one second that just because people are killed by war that we should somehow prefer to let people be killed by our insistence on not-war.
A lot of people were killed in Syria in 2011, for example, and none of them were killed by agents of the United States. Are pacifists cheered by this fact?
Again, here’s what I wrote back in March:
The choice is between people being killed and people being killed. I don’t want to sugar-coat that at all. In both instances, people die and it’s violent and bloody and awful. But in one instance — when we eschew intervention — the people who generally die violently are those who are attempting (and failing, due to inferior military capabilities) to throw off a tyrant. In those instances, it’s my position that to fall back on pacifism because war is awful amounts to something of a moral failing insofar as it amounts to siding with the tyrant.
At the end of the day, I think an anti-war position is a terrific one. But, insofar as I also live in the real world where people have to make difficult decisions that aren’t black and white, I recognize that the sort of head-in-the-sand isolationism preached by Ron Paul and his acolytes doesn’t automatically mean that they have a monopoly on the moral high ground. When it comes to military intervention on humanitarian grounds, which is what I’ve been talking about on my blog all year and which the blogger mysteriously equates with war-mongering, the choice is between people dying and people dying. Choosing not to involve ourselves in what happens elsewhere doesn’t mean that people in Libya or Syria will suddenly be safe and happy and alive; it means that we can fool ourselves into thinking that we won’t have any blood on our hands. Maybe that makes the pacifist blogger and Ron Paul feel better when they go to sleep, safe and secure in the United States, but it doesn’t help people who are being tortured and massacred by security forces overseas. Pretending that this is somehow the most (or only) moral position to hold is farcical. It represents a shallow understanding of morality, and a narrow and unrealistic understanding of global affairs.