War Hawks Aren’t Honest About What They Want

Daniel DreznerI read an interesting article by Daniel Drezner at The Washington Post, The One Question That Hawks Need to Answer About Syria. The point he made was that war hawks always talk about all the great things they are going to accomplish. But they can never explain how it is that more arms shipments, more bomb dropping, more invasions are going to accomplish those goals. Drezner went through the list: Iraq, Libya, Yemen. In each case, we just made things worse. Why would this time be any different? That’s an important question that we never get an answer to.

The more fundamental question is why these kinds of people are constantly pushing for yet another invasion. I don’t buy what Drezner says, “There is a strong and bipartisan 21st-century record of US administrations applying military force in the Middle East with the most noble of intentions and then making the extant situation much, much worse.” I italicized the significant part. We go to war for the most noble of intentions?! This is the crap I was taught growing up — it wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. This is what a “professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University” thinks?! No wonder we are so screwed up.

What we do is to claim the “most noble of intentions.” This is just like American presidents always claim that war is the last thing they want. This is discussed in good depth in, War Made Easy (pdf). You could not pick a more premeditated war than the Iraq War. Yet George W Bush said, “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly.” He also said, “We seek peace. We strive for peace.” And most telling of all, “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.” Yeah, that was just what the Iraq War was about!

But what do people like Dick Cheney get out of calling for war as the solution to every international conflict? I think it is tribalism. People like that see the world as a struggle between good and evil. In this case, the Iraq War wasn’t a disaster at all. They went in to deal with Saddam Hussein and now he’s dead. Everything else was just a necessary sacrifice. And if a despot rises from the ashes of that damage, well, there’s always another war to fix that.

So the problem is not that going to war to solve these problems is a bad idea — although of course it is. The problem is that those who drag us into war are doing it for different reasons than they say. And it is a real problem that an academic buys the official line and doesn’t dig any deeper. I doubt very seriously that Daniel Drezner thinks that we went into Iraq for the “most noble of intentions.” Indeed, we know that the Bush administration came into the White House looking for any way it could to go to war with Iraq.

Increasingly, I see our country’s political problems not as the result of a Republican Party gone mad, but of a media infrastructure that just accepts the myths of the country and never calls out nonsense for what it is. I’m glad that Drezner is against intervention because it doesn’t work. But that just provides the intellectual groundwork for support of the next conflict that a president says is really, really important — the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a blah blah blah.

Pundits Killing Time Before Next Liberal Threat

Jonathan ChaitJonathan Chait brought my attention to something interesting, Why Are Republicans Suddenly Fixated With Urban Failure? His take on it is that Republicans are fleeing from the “Obama is destroying America!” meme, and have gone back to their tried and true meme, “Democrats have created scary urban areas!” I think this is actually not true. What’s happening is that Republicans know that Obama is at the end of his term. In the past their argument was, “Just you wait!” It’s like the Paul Bibeau satire, What If They NEVER Come For Our Guns? So the Republicans are just marking time until they can explain that it is really Hillary Clinton who is destroying America.

But Chait does note the most important issue: where “big government” is a problem is not at the federal level; it is at the state and local level. That’s where we have problems with onerous business regulations and zoning that causes rent to be exceptionally high. It is also, it seems reasonable to note, where county clerks refuse to marry people because of their hatred of gays and where minority groups have had the most problems with the law. So it is ironic that Republicans would claim that cities are dysfunctional as a justification for stopping the federal government from repairing bridges.

What Chait completely leaves out is the Ultimate Republican Idea™ — that everything is better at the local level. So we need no national education standards, for example. But most of all, there is Block Grant mania! By this logic, the federal government doesn’t need to tell states what to do; it just needs to give them block grants and the states will innovate in ways that we just can’t imagine! So there’s no need for Medicaid: just give money to the states and figure they will sort it out.

But if that’s the case, how does highlighting dysfunction at the local level help? Well, that’s the great Republican trick. They don’t actually believe that local control is better. Block grants are all about destroying these programs that they don’t like. Making Medicaid a block grant is a way to defund it. They know that they can’t just eliminate it. They’ve tried and there is too much support for it. But making it a block grant, allows them to slowly kill it, since Congress won’t be keen on properly fund it when it isn’t really their program. So year by year, Medicaid would have less and less purchasing power to the point where it was effectively repealed.

But as for the likes of George Will, this is just a period where they relax and complain about little things. They will be back. They just don’t yet know who will be the next Liberal Destroyer of All That Is Good™. Once that person arrives, it will be back to usual. In fact, George Will can just go back and use his columns from the 1990s. It will be especially great if Hillary Clinton is the next president — he will be able to recycle some articles without even a search and replace. “President Clinton is destroying America…”

Morning Music: Come to the Ball

Tiny Tim's Second AlbumIt isn’t my intent to go through Tiny Tim’s recorded career. The truth is that he started strong and he ended strong. And I really want to get to his last studio album, Girl, which he did with Brave Combo, the band he always deserved. But let us linger in his early days a bit longer.

We are going to listen to two songs off Tiny’s Tim’s second album, cleverly titled, Tiny Tim’s Second Album. The first song on the album is, “Come to the Ball.” It is from the a 1910 musical, The Quaker Girl. Songs from this period really were the focus of Tiny Tim’s career. He always mixed it up, but songs of the first half of the 20th century were what he seemed to most love.

In this performance, he also does the 1945 Doris Day hit, “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time.” The music for the song was written by Vic Mizzy — known for writing the themes for Green Acres and The Addams Family. The lyrics were written by Manny Curtis, who is known for writing the lyrics to Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” and the English lyrics to “Je t’Appartiens” as “Let It Be Me.”

Anniversary Post: Thirteen Years’ War

Thirteen Years' WarOn this day in 1466, the Thirteen Years’ War ended. It was fought between the Prussian Confederation and the State of the Teutonic Order. In other words: the Germans. The Prussians were trying to get out from under the thumb of the Teutonics. And in this regard, they got the help of the Kingdom of Poland, and they won the war. But here’s the funny thing: it set up the War of the Priests, which I don’t entirely understand, but pitted Poland against the Prussians. There were many other parties. It was a mess. It lasted almost as long the Thirteen Years’ War.

The only reason I bring this up is because the Thirteen Years’ War didn’t actually last 13 years. It was close — certainly close enough to call it that. But there are two other conflicts that are at least as deserving of the name. First, there was the Long Turkish War, which took place from 1593 to 1606. It is often called the Thirteen Years’ War, but also the Fifteen Years’ War because of skirmishes for the two years prior to that. It was a much more impressive war regarding the number of people involved.

The second was the Russo-Polish War from 1654 to 1667. Russia defeated Poland decisively. This war marks the beginning of the rise of Russia as a major military and political force in the world. But we don’t care. The Germans had their war first, so I suppose they deserve the name of the war. But the other two wars are super important. And I’ll bet there are other wars that ran this long. If only we had withdrawn from Afghanistan last year, that could have been another Thirteen Years’ War.