What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

One Should Understand Talking Points Before Parroting Them

Simply astonishing:

Were it not for the manner in which such facile sloganeering has been employed to stifle the deliberative business of a republican people, to identify support for specific (dubious) policies and the men who formulate them with a patriotic love of country, to obfuscate the distinctions between appeasement and ordinary diplomacy, to mutilate history for ideological purposes, and to imply that geopolitical realities are always malleable by the omnipotence of the Indispensable Nation, I'd almost feel some pity for the man. As matters stand, however, he has rendered an ironic public service, disclosing to the nation and the world (were it to require a further superabundance of proofs) the intellectual corruption and penury of our public discourse. James' performance should serve as a symbol of our era in American political culture. Laugh, to conceal the pain.

Comments (27)

Maximos, good point. It is a shame and indicative of our current climate when a TV pundit and host, former staffer of leading Democrats, seeks to nail someone on a point of history and fails to get the year straight himself. And this with the advantage of being the questioner with time to prepare. You were including Chris Matthews in your criticism weren't you ?

I think Matthews said "1938-39."

Oh yeah, Matthew's did say "1939" first, and then added the '38 later, as if he wasn't quite sure which it was. Then he seems to commit to '38 pretty solidly by about the 230 marker.

It might be interesting to discover a cogent account of what good could possibly result from negotiations with the likes of Hamas & Hezbollah & Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

That would be something new.

But it is not interesting to discover that there are loud & ignorant folk like poor Mr. James who get invited on MSNBC as representatives of conservatism.

That is nothing new.

Ever look at the big-selling "conservative" book titles out there. Kevin James has been raised on coloring books and his name is legion.

I wonder though, what he and his fellows really thought about W's hat in hand performance in Riyadh.

There are coloring books aplenty on all sides. You neglected to mention those from the left, written by such intellectual lights as Al Franken, Al Gore, and Jimmy Carter. The left also puts some of its coloring books online. The Huffington and Kos sites come quickly to mind.

Oops, I keep forgetting: On a thread started by Max, it's "colouring."

I think it a much more grievous offense to defend a foreign policy characterized by equal parts truculence and petulence, which has led to epochal failure, than to waver on the year of Chamberlain's meeting with Hitler.

No, there is nothing new in liberal-leaning media selecting the most buffoonish representatives of the 'conservative' position; neither is there something new, at least where the past seven years have been concerned, in those buffoons insinuating that those who dissent from the Bush administration's failed policies are unpatriotic. Both sides of our national discourse are manned by bullying and hectoring poseurs, who compensate with bluster for the insubstantiality of the policies they tout.

I'm dubious that anything could come of negotiations with Hamas; then again, I don't believe that Israeli policy towards Gaza has been successful, either. Which is not to draw an equivalence, merely to state that, even though Hamas is what it is, it does not follow that every aspect of Israeli policy has been justified, or conceived in brilliance. As regards Hezbollah, while I am dubious that anything can achieved by negotiations, two observations are apposite: first, Israel must believe that some settlement can be attained, inasmuch as Israel has been involved in intensive and secretive negotiations with Syria, and relations with Hezbollah have to figure in those discussions; second, Hezbollah, for mostly ill, is now an integral part of Lebanese society and political culture, meaning that the demand for its ostracism is really a demand that the ruinous civil war be reignited. Finally, as regards Ahmadinejad, nothing can come of negotiations with him per se, since he is a mere figurehead for the Mullahs; nevertheless, as I don't believe that the Iranian regime is undeterrable, bent upon consuming the world in a sea of flame, the U.S. and the Islamic Republic can come to (uneasy) terms. This will require, among other things, an acknowledgment on our part that we lack the power to compel regime change, to preclude Iran from achieving dominance in the heart of the Near East (that ship sailed when we embarked upon Iraq, part II), and, perhaps, to prevent that now-dominant regional power from obtaining nuclear weapons. It will require, in other words, the recognition of our own finitude; we are not omnipotent, and can no more re-engineer international relations than communists could re-engineer humanity. However, before anything can be accomplished, we must recognize that talking to unsavoury people is not equivalent to appeasement.

Bush's performance in the courts of Saud was a public-relations ploy; it is desired that we believe that the reason for oil price inflation is the refusal of Those People Over There to pump it. In reality, the reasons for that inflation are the globalization-driven increases in demand in Asia, and the cratering of the dollar, the world's reserve currency, and the international currency of the oil markets. Bush's trip was one of those "pay no attention to what the right hand is doing; watch only the left hand" tricks: our own economic and monetary policies (inclusive of the deficit-financing of the Freedom Agenda) have facilitated economic development abroad, which was bound to increase demand for petroleum, and devalued the dollar, by flooding the markets with our excess liquidity.

Michael, yes, I like my British affectations, as I've employed them since high school. No sense in changing now.

Hear, hear, Steve. I say, no negotiation with terrorists. (Don't even get me started on Gaza. Policy not completely successful? No indeed, but in an entirely different sense from the one I think Maximos means.)

Maximos, the ability to foster grievous offenses must first be located in the position or opportunity one has to offend.
So either an active foreign policy or a defense of that policy is founded in the actual, however wise or ignorant. A comparison of ongoing foreign affairs to the ignorance and opportunism, the evasions of it's critics is valid to the extent it presents an alternative. Mr Matthews gives us but one small insight into that alternative, both ugly and stupid. Nothing new there for Chris.

The response to Bush's speech however, and at large, is another story and better indication, equally depressing.

The call to my social life forbids any additional comment for today, but the future is open. I would like to soon pursue the pass given to Matthews on his typical ignorance, vulgarians not being known for wisdom or insight. As Bush only mentioned Poland and 1939 is it possible that Chris confused Poland with Czechoslovakia, 1939 with 1938, Borah with Chambelain, appeasement with retreat, Mother Goose with Gravel Gertie?

One can fault the the present administration to one's content, but still should look to the future and temper their outlook at what waits in the wings.

For my entire life, it was always a given; the only meaningful, original thought occurred on the Right. The Left has always been the repository for bores, poseurs and conformist wimps.

Maybe mass society with it's insidious forms of communication, makes a dumbed-down population inevitable. Whatever it is, we all should fear the implications.

"I say, no negotiation with terrorists."

What about states like Iran and Syria and anyone else that wonders into a David Frum speech. Do we talk to them? Or, do we continue to issue ultimatums and repeat the Iraqi debacle? Your answer will determine my view on reinstating the draft.

The Quote from Bush's speech;

"As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

To his credit, Bush does not mention Munich or Chamberlain. Apparently, though the 2 talking heads, trained in shallow discourse, picked up the cue and entered the Neo-con's favorite fantasy. Where it is always the late 30's, replete with nascent Hitler's plotting our destruction, while unpatriotic appeasers hasten the day of our demise and a brave, Churchillian hero rises against great odds to save us all.

They need a new, more plausible mythology,

I also don't have much sympathy for negotiating with terrorists -- not out of dudgeon, but simply because I don't believe in pushing on a rope.

Of course I also don't vote, since I think the function of voting is not to change the politics of the modern state - our individual votes have no measurable effect on actual outcomes - but rather to conform ourselves to it. I have little sympathy in general for therapeutic acts intended to soften us up and conform us to modernity, all the while legitimizing that to which I am resolutely opposed.

For my entire life, it was always a given; the only meaningful, original thought occurred on the Right. The Left has always been the repository for bores, poseurs and conformist wimps.
For mine too. What has happened, I think, is that - this being about equality and all - the b,p,w has been shared around equally. And what else should we expect in our 'vote for the lesser of two evils' system founded on the politics of low expectations?

Kevin, do I understand correctly that you think one needs to negotiate with some state or else go to war with that state? An odd view. And here I thought you were a more consistent isolationist than that. Frankly, I'd _prefer_ a more consistent isolationist. Few things annoy me more than isolationist rhetoric when it comes to taking a tough stand and rhetoric worthy of Nixon on the subject of China or...well, I'll resist the urge to make more comparisons...shall we say "engagement rhetoric" when it comes to negotiating with, making concessions to, and even sending money and arms to, nasty states and terrorist organizations.

Do I make a distinction between nasty states and terrorist organizations? I do. I'm not sure how much turns on it. But I can think of several groups that definitely fall in the second group and should be shunned entirely. For some reason, all the ones coming to mind at the moment are Muslim. Some we would have nothing to do with ourselves if they were sending suicide bombers against us but for some reason pressure our allies to make concessions to them, while we send them money. This is not just beyond comprehension but disgusting. And I have little love for negotiating with the former (the nasty states), either.

If you reinstate the draft when you become president, please kick all the women out of the military first.

Well, there is a tertium quid, namely, doing nothing with regard to some loathsome state. But no one is eager to afford us that option, either. Instead, we must prattle on endlessly about how awful Iran, or Syria, or whatever other state is, such that permitting them their independent courses, and formulating deterrent policies as required, is conflated with 'appeasement'; hence, we're left with the options of 'giving the nasty people what they desire' and an untenable interventionism. The virtues, of course, of non-intervention, and, where legitimate, objective conflicts of interest obtain, negotiation, are that our own limitations are acknowledged, and that third parties are not expected to die for our foreign policy preferences.

Isolationism does not, I hope, imply withdrawal from the world, or forsaking the pursuit of our own legitimate interests. Negotiating and diplomatic engagement are the essences of statecraft. Any graduate from the Harvard School of Government can alienate allies, conjure up enemies and blunder into a losing war.

Iran, Syria, N.Korea et al, are worth talking to, as you apparently concede, but I also think getting to know the various gangs of the Middle East, is pure common-sense. With a little imagination, we could play them off each other. Just ask Don Corleone.

As for evicting women from the military; that will occur within my first 100 days. So too, the conscription of all middle-age pundits playing Risk with other people's lives.

"Iran, Syria, N.Korea et al, are worth talking to, as you apparently concede, but I also think getting to know the various gangs of the Middle East, is pure common-sense."

I have problems with the would-be-neutral phrases "talking to" and "getting to know." I'm not sure I do concede...well...anything on the subject of Iran, Syria, and N. Korea. I think we should play it by ear, but I doubt you and I, Kevin, or I and Maximos would draw the same conclusions from ear-playing.

Glad we agree on women in the military, Kevin. We have to keep count of the agreements to provide some sort of minimal counterbalance to the disagreements. :-)

Lydia, the fact that military policy allows for the
depraved practice of women in combat, should make you more suspicious of the whole military-industrial complex. It has been very hostile to the institution we both cherish, that of the family.

I think it's worth remembering, Maximos, that for our leaders to cease to "prattle on" about the evils of evil states means, de facto, that we start throwing wads of unconditional foreign aid cash at them, that we give them what used to be called "most favored nation" status in trade, and sometimes even that we give them our military secrets outright. It is not as though the only practical consequence of officially recognizing the evil of evils regimes is warfare. And even if it were, and even ruling out warfare, there is such a thing as speaking truth for its own sake. It's one thing to say we shouldn't drop bombs on X country. It's another thing to say we should all shut up about X country.

Kevin, the women in the military usage began expanding wildly under Carter, with the redefinition of "support roles" in a deliberate attempt to subvert the intention of Congress. The U.S. military had had a long history before. You should hear my neighbor, a vet of WWII, speak humorously about women in WWII: "I mean, we had WACs and WAVES, but they just did whatever they did--wacked and waved. We didn't really have women in the military."

I've no objection to discussion of the evils of the Islamic Republic; what I find objectionable is the inference too many conservatives draw from the fact of those evils: that we cannot negotiate with them, or grant that certain of their objectives are reasonable (that they have a sphere of influence in the region, for example), but must instead sententiously thunder ultimatums, as if from the heights of omnipotence. Sure, the Islamic Republic is evil, but realism counsels the acknowledgment that we cannot extirpate every last evil in the world, not even those that lie within our own borders, let alone those that exist abroad. The refusal to engage in ordinary diplomacy amounts to so much foot-stamping, as if temper tantrums about the evils will cause them to vanish, as wax melts before the fire.

I think there's a point to shunning and ostracism among individuals. I also think there's a point to shunning among nations. It's a funny thing, too: The left (and even some paleos) seem to agree that there is such a point, and therefore tacitly to acknowledge that shunning among nations isn't just a temper-tantrumesque exercise in denying reality. They just want us to shun a different set of nations from the ones I have in mind.

There is only a point to such international ostracism if it a) betokens the possibility of attaining some national interest, or b) does not threaten to security of a national interest, by exacerbating tensions between the parties. And what nations, pray tell, do you imagine that I would desire to ostracize?

For what it is worth, the refusal of the Bush administration to entertain serious diplomatic engagements with the Islamic Republic is a temper-tantrumesque exercise in reality-denial; we do not possess the capacity to prevent Iran's development of nuclear weapons, or its exercise of regional political influence, and the refusal to pursue negotiations therefore serves only to exacerbate tensions and the considerable instability of the Near East.

I also think there's a point to shunning among nations.

Did Nixon go to China? Did Reagan negotiate with the Evil Empire? Did we cut a deal with the Iranians to free the hostages? Is there often a steep price to be paid for diplomacy? Of course, but the cost for diplomacy is orders of magnitude less than the alternatives. Only in rare cases is not to our benefit to have some lines of communication open.

Lydia says: Hear, hear, Steve. I say, no negotiation with terrorists.

Reminds me of the time of the SALT II Treaty wherein there were those conservatives who would argue quite seriously that the U.S. ought never purely as a matter of morality to enter into a treaty with a communist power.

So, fellas, are there any limits at all to this "negotiate with everybody whatsoever as a symbol that you accept reality" principle? Any limits at all? Can you name any group, perhaps a state entity, perhaps a terrorist group, with which you would not cut deals? Should America begin releasing terrorists in American jails or perhaps paying cold cash if terrorists kidnap Americans and hold them for ransom? Is that, too, just "acknowledging reality"? And does that even seem wise from a consequential point of view? After all, the people who have said we shouldn't offer money or negotiations for reporters captured by Palestinian terrorists (as happened not long ago, IIRC) were presumably not idealists but hard-headed folks who thought that would be opening a consequential Pandora's Box.

Yes, Step2, Nixon went to China. And the Communists danced in the aisles of the UN when Nationalist China was ousted in favor of Communist China. What a great victory for pragmatism over principle. God forbid we should have resisted it. You never know what horrors might have followed.

Can you name any group, perhaps a state entity, perhaps a terrorist group, with which you would not cut deals?

Blanket statements are exactly the sort of thing that we should be trying to avoid, but as a general principle I would say that negotiations with drug cartels or any affiliates of Al-Qaeda are a recipe for disaster.

What a great victory for pragmatism over principle. God forbid we should have resisted it.

We did resist it, our side lost. To paraphrase a certain somebody, "You play with the cards your dealt, not the cards you wish you had."

"...as a general principle I would say that negotiations with drug cartels or any affiliates of Al-Qaeda are a recipe for disaster."

I certainly agree. And I would go so far as to say, what I'm sure Step2 and many on this thread would disagree with, that very often the principled thing to do and the smart thing to do in such areas are the same thing. Negotiating with terrorist groups isn't just unprincipled, it's dumb. There's a reason why "paying Danegeld" has come to be thought foolish.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.