Blood in Iran

Thursday, June 25, AD 2009

On June 24, the Iranian regime learned a, to them ominous, lesson.  The protests continued in the face of savage brutality from the ruling mullahs.  Atlas Shrugs has first rate coverage here. Gateway Pundit here has been on top of this story from day one.  Ed Morrissey has coverage here of what happened when protesters march on the Parliament building in Tehran today:

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54 Responses to Blood in Iran

  • President Obama has failed in condemning the vote. He even offered invitations to Iranian officials to attend the 4th of July festivities in DC. Ironically none of the Iranians accepted and President Obama has withdrawn the invitations.

    It seems that Obama may have missed a golden opportunity to offer moral support to the protesters that are demanding change in Iran. The very same mantra that Obama campaigned on.

  • “The White House announced yesterday that it had withdrawn invitations to Iranian diplomats to attend Fourth of July festivities at U.S. embassies around the world. The move is the first tangible penalty the United States has imposed against the Iranian government in the wake of the brutal crackdown of demonstrations over the disputed presidential elections.”

    No Ballpark Franks! Tough penalty.

  • That’ll learn ’em from killing their own citizens. I bet they’re sorry now!

  • A proposal to de-friend Iranian diplomatic personnel on Facebook is presumably also under consideration.

  • If things get much more tense on the diplomatic front, expect Obama to pull out all stops and fart in Ahmadinejad’s general direction.

  • No Rick, that’s what the French do. Obama will blow smoke at them. Though it might be out of the same orifice.

  • The Iranian government is doing everything it can to suppress the image and symbol of Nedan Soltan – this from The Guardian:

    The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of their Tehran home after shocking images of her death were circulated around the world.

    Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said. …

  • What do you people think Obama should do that he hasn’t done already? Give a blustering speech about the “axis of evil”? Threaten the regime? Give the green light for Netanyahu to bomb them? Talk about the need for western-style democracy and freedom? Tell the people to rise up, just to be massacred, just as Bush the Elder did with the Iraqi Shia?

    Anything else? More generally, should he follow the advice of the same descredited neocons who promised a bed or roses in Iraq or the people who actually know something about Iranian history and politics? Just curious…

  • He should immediately announce Tony that there will never be negotiations on any questions with the regime in power in Iran, and lead a call for economic sanctions against the regime in Iran. He should also call for the freezing of Iranian assets in Western banks. He should make clear that business as usual with Ahmadinejad and his mullah puppet masters is over forever. In short, he should act like a President of the US rather than a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.

  • A proposal to de-friend Iranian diplomatic personnel on Facebook is presumably also under consideration.

    I think it would be rather cowboyish to take such an extreme action without consulting the UN first.

  • More generally, should he follow the advice of the same descredited neocons who promised a bed or roses in Iraq or the people who actually know something about Iranian history and politics? Just curious…

    Here you go with these false dichotomies again…

    That said: I think it was a good example of the Obama administration’s blind spots that it took them so long to catch on to what was really going on in Iran. However, I don’t have any serious quibbles with what they’re doing now, and there’s not at this moment in time more that I think they should be doing.

    The fact of the matter is, the US has had sanctions against Iran for so long anyway that we don’t really have a hole lot of stick to threaten them with at this point even if it was the appropriate action. At this point, the appropriate action would be continuing to put a spotlight (which the regime is clearly very eager to avoid) on the violent oppression that’s going on there.

  • Another “expert” speaks out:

    Question: Obama aides told reporters there is little to nothing the U.S. can do. Is it demonstrating a weakness?

    SCOWCROFT: No I don’t think so. I don’t think so. How can we be more influential? We don’t control Iran. We don’t control the government obviously. There is little we can do to change the situation domestically in Iran right now and I think an attempt to change it is more likely to be turned against us and against the people who are demonstrating for more freedom and therefore I think we need to look at what we can do best, which is to try to influence Iranian behavior in the region, and with nuclear weapons.

  • Congratulations, Donald, you have just delivered a huge propaganda coup to the Iranian regime and undermined the very legitimacy of the protestors who seek to support. For now, Khamenei can rally the nation against the US aggressor, given the explicit threats against the regime.

    And anyway, haven’t we had 8 years of this approach? Did it even remotely work? No, it did not.

  • Actually the approach to Iran has been mostly a European/UN led model. Obama is just more of the same.

  • And yes it has not worked.

  • A huge propaganda coup…by reporting the information that their folks risk death to get out.

    Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

    It *doesn’t matter* to the liars if we do nothing– in case you didn’t notice, they already claimed we’re interfering. Obama could put on a cheerleader outfit, fly in and do a 30 minute “Yay, Iranian Dictator!” routine, and they’d *still* claim we were interfering to help the revolutionaries.

    God forbid we let it be known what the murderous thugs are doing, and say “this is wrong, you are wrong”.

    Me, I’m disgusted that the shooting on video of a lady wasn’t enough to get the Independence Day invites revoked, it took axe-attacks and a dead nine year old.

  • I wish more people got this outraged when US cops execute unarmed black men.

  • I think Obama’s handling of the situation has been decent, though not great. He could have been more forceful earlier in condemning regime abuses, but the last thing we want is to make the protests about us rather than the fraud and repression in Iran.

  • I wish more people got this outraged when US cops execute unarmed black men.

    Last I checked, incidents in which police accidentally shoot an unarmed man (of any skin color — though it gets talked about more if he’s a minority) get pretty wide attention.

    Though the distinction is, that’s almost invariably a case of the police mistaking (perhaps wrongly) someone for being a threat — while the Iranian militias and police are intentionally killing or beating large numbers of protesters.

  • Joe, I wished people got more outraged about this:

    http://www.nleomf.com/TheMemorial/stories.htm

  • I wish more people got this outraged when US cops execute unarmed black men.

    How often does it happen in this country that an unarmed man is dispatched by police after the fashion of Nguyen Ngoc Loan?

  • I don’t know that anyone here is particularly outraged anyway. I mean, I’m interested in the story and pulling for the common man in Iran just as I would any other place, and I think what the government in Iran is doing is awful (even if not surprising). Maybe I’m alone it that, but I just can’t see others around here having the whole Iranian thing effect them at a deeply emotional level.

    However, I would suspect there would be a number of people who would rightly outraged if the story was about a cop executing a person, black, white or otherwise. Thing is, not that it couldn’t happen or hasn’t happened at some time here, but US cops executing someone is a very rare occurrence, and odds are it wouldn’t be something he was doing on behest of the government but through his own initiative.

  • Hey Dandy Don:

    What you want BO to do the US is already doing.

    http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/iran/iran.pdf

    It has worked wonders. Similar to the wonderful effects such sanctions have had against Sadam’s Iraq, Cuba, North Korea and the Sudan.

  • A great interview with Hooman Majd:http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/06/25/hooman_majd/index.html

    Highlights:

    On the role of America:

    “People in the West, especially in America, tend to think we have more influence than we do. Iranians are more concerned with their own issues than whether the U.S. is with them or against them.”

    On American interference:

    “For the U.S. to get involved in any way is a huge mistake in my opinion. It makes Iranians very suspicious. One reason they were able to get 3 million people out on the streets from a broad socioeconomic spectrum across all political lines — you don’t get 3 million people on the streets of Tehran if they’re all students like in 2003 — is because the lower class, the middle class, the upper class, students, old people, families, religious families, women in chadors, men in beards, they all came out. These people also voted against Ahmadinejad or felt the vote wasn’t fair.

    At first, none of them would have believed that the U.S. had a hand in this. But the government is now trying to say that’s what’s happening. The story could start to stick if Obama or Western governments start coming out strongly on one side. Nationalism starts to come into play. The government’s own propaganda machine, which is pretty strong, will be able to label a lot of people in the opposition as being stooges of the CIA.”

    “I don’t know what the U.S. could even do, short of invading the country, which would be a disaster because you turn everybody against the United States and for the government. Other than to say it’s unacceptable for a government to kill its own people who are peacefully protesting, and to make that point strongly, I don’t know what else the U.S. should do.”

    On media stereotypes:

    “That the people who want change in Iran all want liberal democracy and reject the Islamic Republic. Many do reject it, but when the New York Times puts a big photo on Page One of tens of thousands of protesters and in the center of the photo is a woman with her scarf pushed to the back of her head with Chanel sunglasses and blond streaked hair I think it gives the wrong impression of who these protesters are. Yes, there are people like that but they would not have gotten 3 million people in the streets if that’s all who came. Those people are still a minority.”

    On the idiotic neocons (the best bit):

    “The neocons know nothing about Iran, nothing about the culture of Iran. They have no interest in understanding Iran, in speaking to any Iranian other than Iranian exiles who support the idea of invasions — I’ll call them Iranian Chalabis. It’s offensive, even to an Iranian American like me. These are people who would have actually preferred to have Ahmadinejad as president so they could continue to demonize him and were worried, as some wrote in Op-Eds, that Mousavi would be a distraction and would make it easier for Iranians to build a nuclear weapon and now all of a sudden they want to be on his side? Go away.

    I’m not saying Obama is the most knowledgeable person on Iran, but he’s obviously getting good advice right now. He understands way more about the culture of the Middle East than any of the neocons. For them to be lecturing President Obama is a joke. I have criticized Obama; for instance, I criticized him for having a patronizing tone in his Persian New Year message. But right now I think he’s doing a good job. The John McCains of the world, they’re Ahmadinejad’s useful idiots. They’re doing a great job for him.”

    Bottom line” McCain and the neocons are “Ahmadinejad’s useful idiots”. Indeed.

  • Economic sanctions are just a fancy way of saying don’t trade with oppressive regimes. I have no strong view on this one way or another, but is doing business with repressive regimes obviously morally preferable? Is it cooperation with evil? Can we just evaluate by consequences? Which consequences should guide us? North Korea? South Africa?

  • Christopher,

    The invitations were extended on June 2nd, before, and not in response to, Iran’s crackdown on protesters.

    I never said it was in response.

    It shows how naivette the Obama administration is.

  • MM,

    I’m with you on this one. I don’t think the Iranian people have forgotten that the CIA trained SAVAK.

  • Economic sanctions are just a fancy way of saying don’t trade with oppressive regimes.

    Economic sanctions are a fancy way of saying don’t trade with the Iranian people, i.e. the people protesting the regime, among others. It’s not clear to me why this should be seen as a good thing.

  • If you can think of a way to trade with the Iranian people without supporting their gov’t, I’m sure folks would be delighted to hear it.

  • MM,

    You seem rather unclear on the basic fact: Most “neo-cons” are supportive of what Obama is doing and saying now, they just think he should have caught on to it a few days sooner.

    The fact that you found an Iranian journalist who shares your view that neo-cons are all stupid doesn’t really mean anything. Plural of anecdote and all that. If it was simply a matter of posting, “An Iranian said this” anecdotes, I could provide you with several interviews with people inside Iran suggesting that the US take actions such as sanctions (a suggestion I don’t happen to agree with), but I wouldn’t insult your intelligence by going that route, and I’d thank you not to insult ours.

  • Just to piggyback a bit off of Darwin’s last comment, just yesterday I heard a phone interview with an Iranian woman who was begging for us “to do something.” She was obviously distraught, and I’m sure she’s not the only one to feel that way.

    To be sure that doesn’t mean that I think the US, specifically the President, ought to do more than what he has already done. But it’s just silly to cherrypick soundbites in at attempt to convey the general sentiments of all Iranian people towards the US and what they think we should be doing.

  • That said, the interview with Mr. Majd is interesting. He makes a good point about how the Iranian desire for a free and fairly functioning democracy is not necessarily at all in contradiction with their desire for a specifically Islamic state.

    Of course, that sort of situation is hardly news to the neo-cons you scorn, since they were involved in helping to set up two Islamic democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan — neither one of which is a secular country, and yet both of which have more freedoms and democratic process than most countries in the region.

  • If you can think of a way to trade with the Iranian people without supporting their gov’t, I’m sure folks would be delighted to hear it.

    It’s not clear to me that allowing trade with the Iranian people would involve supporting the regime. Sanctions allow the government to escape accountability for their economic blunders by blaming it on a foreign power. Castro has become a master of this tactic, and while I don’t know how much the mullahs rely on it in Iran, 30 years of sanctions hasn’t had much of an appreciable effect in hurting the regime. Trade tends to promote increased understanding between nations, and I imagine that the more trade there was between Iran and the U.S., the less likely people there would be to buy into the “Death to America” propaganda (certainly the use of western services like Twitter seems to have had a positive effect on events there).

  • “Trade tends to promote increased understanding between nations”

    England and Germany were trading quite a bit Blackadder before WWI, as were France and Germany actually. I see little historical evidence that trade does much to deter war. In regard to trade and oppressive regimes, the regime, Cuba is a notable example, uses the trade to prop itself up. One would have thought that China in 1989 would have put paid to the pleasant myth that increasing trade would lead to increasing civil liberties and political liberalization.

  • I see little historical evidence that trade does much to deter war.

    Evidence available here.

  • Darwin,

    Majd’s point is that the necons are as clueless about Iran as they were about Iraq, and are thus playing right into Ahmadi’s hands. For the same reason, I’ve always thought that George Bush and Osama Bin Laden helped each other in so many ways.

    As regards Iraq and Afghanistan, are you somehow hinting that the neocons were right?? And go tell the Iraqi Christians that they have more “freedom” now than under Saddam Hussein and see what they say.

    Another interesting comparison made by Majd relates to the 2000 US election — how would Americans have reacted if the Iranian leadership had taken sides during the Florida recount, or threatened not to recognize Bush if he was chosen? I think most Americans, on all sides, would have told them to butt out.

  • http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2008/12/iraqi-christian-mp-we-will-go-to-church.html

    Shiite tribal leaders and Iraqi officials attend Christmas Day mass at Mary’s Daughters Monastery in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. This year, Christmas Day for the first time, declared an official holiday in Iraq.

  • how would Americans have reacted if the Iranian leadership had taken sides during the Florida recount, or threatened not to recognize Bush if he was chosen?

    With laughter, presumably. But it takes a rather tin ear to think that this is an apt comparison.

  • As regards Iraq and Afghanistan, are you somehow hinting that the neocons were right??

    Right in what regard?

    They removed a pair of pretty despicable governments in those two countries, and eventually (after some mismanagement and failure to plan for the post-war period that in both cases were irresponsible and inexcusable) established moderately stable democracies given the difficulties of the region.

    And go tell the Iraqi Christians that they have more “freedom” now than under Saddam Hussein and see what they say.

    Of course they have more freedom. The problem is, that political freedom when a certain percentage of your neighbors think you should convert of die is a mixed blessing.

    That said, you need to keep in mind that it was primarily the insurgents who were giving the Christians trouble. As that’s died down (due to the counter-insurgency tactics that your idol was so sure would not work, and McCain stuck his neck out to help get in place) the problem’s for Iraq’s Christians have reduced, though not vanished.

    In the end, you can place about as much blame on the neo-cons for the plight of the Christians in Iraq as you can on Mr. Majd, who says he supports the ideals of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, for the depressingly frequent human rights abuses (stonings, hangings, cutting off of hands, torture, etc.) in Iran.

  • Darwin, you seem to believe in the transformative power of bombs and guns, which is both dangerous and unChristian. You are hailing “moderately stable democracies”. What does that even mean? And was it worth the cost — the million or so deaths, the uprooting of a quarter of the population? of course, it’s easy to talk about “democracy” when the war is reduced to one great “support our troop” video game for the 24 hour news cycle. No, Iraqi Christians were better protected, and enjoy greater security, under Saddam Hussein. Bishop Warduni of Baghdad said as much. I have no idea whether its future will be more or less secure, and neither do you, but I can say with certainly that the cost was too great.

  • Really, the thing that strikes me more than anything else about your reaction to this, MM, is that it’s kind of sad that for so many progressives, opposition to the Iraq War has metastasized into an instinctive reaction against any kind of movements towards political reform or freedom in any Muslim country. Because neo-cons talked (at times with foolish idealism) about a “universal urge towards freedom” and talked about spreading “freedom and democracy” in the Islamic world, a great many progressives now seem to be instinctively against any move towards democracy and freedom in the Islamic world, since that would cut against the “freedom and democracy aren’t in their culture and they don’t want us” argument which so many accepted in their efforts to oppose the war.

    You’re very much right that the protests in Iran are not “about the US”. But the thing that you don’t quite seem able to get is that conservatives don’t see them as “about the US” either. However, a lot of Americans instinctively root for democracy and freedom for other people even when it has nothing to do with us. That’s really what you’re seeing here, and forgive me for saying so, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. It’s a virtuous instinct to wish the good for others — and since many Americans see democracy and freedom from oppression as good things, they wish that for other people.

  • how would Americans have reacted if the Iranian leadership had taken sides during the Florida recount, or threatened not to recognize Bush if he was chosen?

    Probably the same way we reacted to all American loones who claimed Bush stole the election or said they would leave the country, yet never did. That was a sad state of of affairs and quite an embarrassment for our country, but I doubt the Iranians joining in with the likes of Alec Baldwin would have added much more to our shame.

  • You are hailing “moderately stable democracies”. What does that even mean? And was it worth the cost — the million or so deaths, the uprooting of a quarter of the population? of course, it’s easy to talk about “democracy” when the war is reduced to one great “support our troop” video game for the 24 hour news cycle.

    I’ve never talked in a fashion that suggests I think war is a video game, and in your honest moments I’m sure you know that. War is a horrible tragedy — but it is at times necessary as our pope has observed in the past. You and I disagree on whether ridding Iraq of the Baathist dictatorship was worth a war, but that doesn’t mean that I take war itself lightly.

    We both know the stats you cite are almost certainly bogus, but that’s beside the point.

    No, Iraqi Christians were better protected, and enjoy greater security, under Saddam Hussein. Bishop Warduni of Baghdad said as much. I have no idea whether its future will be more or less secure, and neither do you, but I can say with certainly that the cost was too great.

    We both also know that just because a murderous regime happens to favor (or at least ignore) Catholics and inflict suffering on other groups instead does not necessarily mean that it’s a good thing. There were, sadly, Catholic clergy who thought the Ustashi was just swell. I assume you don’t agree…?

  • Another interesting comparison made by Majd relates to the 2000 US election — how would Americans have reacted if the Iranian leadership had taken sides during the Florida recount, or threatened not to recognize Bush if he was chosen? I think most Americans, on all sides, would have told them to butt out.

    I think most Americans would have neither noticed nor cared.

  • how would Americans have reacted if the Iranian leadership had taken sides during the Florida recount, or threatened not to recognize Bush if he was chosen? I think most Americans, on all sides, would have told them to butt out.

    How can anybody draw such a false and even risible comparison as this one?

    You hardly see (at least, these days) the cruel slaughtering of innocent Americans as the result of some sham election.

    It is that very detail that most in the world are wont to pay attention to (indeed, even quite understandably given the heinous circumstances) as regarding the whole bloody Iran murder spree currently taking place in that horrible country.

  • I don’t think anyone questions the brutality and horror of what is going on in Iran, and only the most obtuse person would think for a moment that Obama or the administration or the American people are wholly indifferent to it.

    However, the question of whether or not official, explicit statements denouncing the Iranian government and supporting the demonstrators are the right thing to do, or whether they would simply make us feel good about “speaking out” while worsening the situation for the actual people putting their lives on the line over there, is a legitimate question of prudence, about which reasonable and moral people can disagree.

    If I understand correctly, in some ways, the dilemma facing the Obama administration now somewhat resembles the dilemma Pope Pius XII faced during World War II — he believed (with good reason) that loudly denouncing the Nazis for persecuting Jews would do nothing to stop them from persecuting Jews, and would only make them start attacking Catholics as well. That is where the false and distorted notion of him being “Hitler’s Pope” got started.

  • “If I understand correctly, in some ways, the dilemma facing the Obama administration now somewhat resembles the dilemma Pope Pius XII faced during World War II — he believed (with good reason) that loudly denouncing the Nazis for persecuting Jews would do nothing to stop them from persecuting Jews, and would only make them start attacking Catholics as well. That is where the false and distorted notion of him being “Hitler’s Pope” got started.”

    With the crucial difference Elaine that there was no chance that a popular revolt would topple Hitler. There is a chance that the mullahs may be toppled. Additionally, considering the fact that the Iranian regime is killing the protesters anyway in order to hold on to power, I think their level of ferocity will not be increased by condemnation from the West.

  • Well, there is also another key distinction in that by engaging in such ostensibly diplomatic efforts, Pius XII sought (and did quite successfully on that occasion) to help persecuted Jews on the sidelines.

    Unfortunately, I see none of that (as far as I can tell) from the Obaman administration.

  • e., I am certain that Elaine’s comment had absolutely nothing to do with you.

    As to Tony’s pet expert on Iran, Hooman Madj, this is the same fellow who in January 2008 accused the Pentagon of manufacturing an incident between the US Navy and the Revolutionary Guards in the Gulf.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2008/01/a_new_disgrace_at_huffpo.asp

    His background also seems to be in the entertainment industry:

    “Hooman Majd has had a long career as an executive in the music and film businesses. He was Executive VP of Island Records, where he worked with a diverse group of artists including U2, The Cranberries, Tricky and Melissa Etheridge; and Head of Film and Music at Palm Pictures, where he executive-produced James Toback’s “Black and White” and Khyentse Norbu’s “The Cup” (Cannes 1999).”

    His family fled from Iran in 1979, unwilling to live under the rule of the mullahs. He has had a fairly benign view of Ahmadinejad, serving as his interpreter during Ahmadinejad’s rant at the UN last year. Take anything this guy says about the current situation in Iran with a boulder of salt.

  • If you are participating in the Iranian Riots or know someone who is and wish to remain safe? Let me help by showing you how to distinguish between those who are angry and those who are lethal. http://www.aggressionmanagement.com/Riots-in-Iran.htm

  • No, e., that comment had nothing to do with you. I should have emphasized, in case anyone misunderstood, that I was NOT in any way attempting to compare Obama to Pope Pius XII in character or wisdom, but simply pointing out a possible parallel between political situations they were up against.

    As for potential behind-the-scenes diplomatic or other efforts to aid the Iranian dissidents, it might simply be too soon to tell what, if anything, the administration or other countries might be doing or planning in that regard. We may not find out about such efforts until months or even years from now.

  • Actually, I was referring to this remark: “…only the most obtuse person would think for a moment that Obama or the administration or the American people are wholly indifferent to it.”

    No biggee though; there are greater concerns in the world (such as the blatant injustices occurring in Iran and the atrocious murderering of innocent people) than a mere overly sensitive ego.

    God bless all. The Weekend is finally upon us!

19 Responses to Channeling His Inner Reagan?

  • There is a chasm between these remarks and the speech you “wrote” for him this week. Look at Obama’s tone — the condemnation of official violence, the point about not interfering in Iran’s politics, it’s about Iran not the US, the emphasis on the justice, the reference to the amazing Cairo speech.

    You, on the other hand, wanted to take sides immediately, to threaten “serious consequences” beginning with sanctions, and couch it all in condescending language about the “free world”. The arrogant and un-nuanced Bush approach, in other words. And this was before the regime cracked down on the protestors — a distinction you fail to make.

    I find it truly amazing that we are seeing neocon history repeat itself. Just as the Iraqis were supposed to welcome the Ameicans with flowers, people like Fred Barnes think the young generation in Iran is pro-American and has forgotten all about 1953. Sbefore you start making comparions with Solidarnosc 1981, you should consider the ramifications of your advice.

    Let me jog your memory: US overthrows popular elected leader for despised shah to stop nationlization of oil companies. Fear that the US will yet again re-impose the shah in 1979 led to hostage crisis. US funds and arms Saddam Hussein in a brutal war in the 1980s, leading to a million deaths, and the use of chemical weapons by American’s then friend. US calls Iran part of “axis of evil” with two countries it despises. And this will now be all forgotten?

    We see now that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are desperately trying to pin this on foreign interference, whereas it is home-grown. Had Obama listened to you and your neocon frieds a week ago, he would have played right into their hands. The resistance movement might be beaten into submission right now, but it has not lost its legitimacy.

    Interestingly, I think the Cairo speech may have actually emboldened the Iranian opposition in the first place. After all, who could have predicted such excitement about a boring 68-year old former prime minister who is a firm believer in he revolution and the Islamic republic? Reaching out with the arm of friendship is always better than hypocritical hectoring. And the Church would say the same thing — the Vatican praised the Cairo speech.

  • I went on record as saying I thought a hands off approach by Obama was probably the most prudent action. However, let’s not just throw a bunch of excrement on the wall and call it an argument.

    And this was before the regime cracked down on the protestors — a distinction you fail to make…

    You say Donald’s speech came before the Iranian government cracked down and Obama’s came after. Not so, referencing my own comment in that thread I know there were at least 8 dead protesters at the time of Donald’s writing, and that Obama had characterized the whole thing as dialogue.

    …We see now that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are desperately trying to pin this on foreign interference, whereas it is home-grown. Had Obama listened to you and your neocon frieds a week ago, he would have played right into their hands. The resistance movement might be beaten into submission right now, but it has not lost its legitimacy….

    Actually, most of could see they were trying to pin it on foreign interference from the beginning, it was the sort of thing that could be expected, plus, well, the regime proclaimed it pretty loudly. And we understood, as I’m sure the regime does, that it is indeed home-grown. I’m not sure how this supports your argument though. And I’m not sure how you think the resistance movement has its legitimacy – are you saying it is because Obama finally spoke up or because it was legitimate before he spoke up?

    Also, you might find some a more support or persuade a number of people to your view if you refrained from being so patronizing and quick to assign the worst motives, beliefs, or ignorance to those you disagree with. We get that it’s important for your own thought process to categorize everyone into evil or good, American or good, Calvinist or good, neocon or good, etc., but it doesn’t make for convincing argument. Really, I’m sympathetic to some of your arguments until you start to act as if nobody but you are capable of understanding these things, because they’re just so evil or American.

  • Rick: “And I’m not sure how you think the resistance movement has its legitimacy – are you saying it is because Obama finally spoke up or because it was legitimate before he spoke up?”

    Legitimacy has absolutely nothing to do with Obama, or any other American for that matter. I’ve been saying since the outset that this is a domestic Iranian struggle, and has nothing to do with us. It’s precisely the neocon approach that sees this though US-tinted lenses — that these people desire western-style democracy and the American notion of “freedom”. Not so. I’m sure some are very western in their outlook (that doesn’t mean they would look too kindly on American “freedom”, including rampant pornography, liberal sexual ethics, mass availability of guns, just to same a few). Others, and I would say the majority outside the rather closeted society of North Tehran, are committed to the Islamic revolution but are sick and tired of Ahmadinejad, an embarrassment on the world stage.

    I think their reaction would be akin to America rigging the election in favor of McCain last October — could you imagine the public outrage? It would not be an indictment of the system itself, just legitimate anger over a great injustice. And imagine if such a scenario took place, would Americans like it if the Iranian leadership publicly sided with the protestors? I think not — imagine the Fox News headlines!

    I’m trying to figure out your last paragraph. The dualism you accuse me of is exactly the what I am opposed to, especially in the way neocons view the world. So, to go back to Donald’s Reagan reference, the Soviet Union was not an “evil empire”. There was and is no “axis of evil”. There are merely people who do evil things because of sin.

    John Allen had a nice analysis during the Iraq war when he talked to certain Vatican officials, who saw a whiff of Calvinism in what the US was doing. To quote “Calvinist concepts of the total depravity of the damned, the unconditional election of God’s favored, and the manifestation of election through earthly success, all seem to them to play a powerful role in shaping American cultural psychology” Well, Catholics do not divorce sin and evil from grace and redemption.

    So please — I have never called anybody “evil” (some possibly facetiously!), but I certainly think a lot of people around here are very influenced by this Calvinist outlook. As for me, I prefer the approach of Obama in Cairo to Reagan during the Cold War.

  • Tony, you shift your position as swiftly as your weather-vane president. As he continues to get tougher on Iran, and he will, you will find justifications for his change of policy, as I predicted you would last week. Of course, the simple truth is that Obama clearly misread initially not only the situation in Iran but the reaction of this nation to the brutality of the Iranian regime. Obama’s policy of sucking up to Ahmadinejad and the mullahs is in tatters, and so he runs to get in front of where most Americans currently are in regard to Iran. Obama has his gifts, but leadership is not one of them.

  • [1] Calvinist concepts of the total depravity of the damned, [2] the unconditional election of God’s favored, [3] and the manifestation of election through earthly success, all seem to them to play a powerful role in shaping American cultural psychology

    [1] and [2] don’t have much to do with the Iraq War. [3] is a fabrication; Calvinists don’t think that God’s election is shown by earthly success.

    * Needless to say, I’m talking about actual Calvinists here, which is a term that you seem to be unfamiliar with. John Calvin was a 16th century French theologian, and the term “Calvinist” refers to followers of John Calvin — currently found mostly in Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

  • Thanks for a thoughtful reply, MM.

    Legitimacy has absolutely nothing to do with Obama, or any other American for that matter. I’ve been saying since the outset that this is a domestic Iranian struggle, and has nothing to do with us.

    I agree as to the legitimacy of the movement, and frankly I haven’t heard anyone proclaim it otherwise, save the Iranian government – and I’m quite sure they know the reality. So when you brought up the legitimacy I reasoned that it was part of the argument you were making – an argument that still isn’t making sense to me.

    Anyway, my last paragraph was a rather lame attempt at mocking you while trying to point out that you might have a beam in your eye. I’m quite aware of you calling out dualism and such, however I think you do so often based on your presumption of what others are saying or thinking rather than the reality – and often enough, it’s easy enough to predict where you stand on any given issue simply based on where partisan lines are drawn. Your initial comment here is an example. Who said what’s happening in Iran is really about the US? Who thinks Iran should be USA Lite? Who believes for a moment that our system could or should be transplanted there? I doubt you could find one example. However, I bet you could cite a number that you attribute those thoughts to.

    If someone says they hope the Iranian people effect some change and gain for themselves more liberty and institute a just government – and even a government that’s not so hostile to the US – or that they think the US leadership should speak in support of the protesters or condemn the regime’s behavior, it doesn’t mean they think it’s all about the US, that Iran should be just like the US, etc. And if you were to find someone so wrong-headed, it certainly doesn’t mean that because others advocate the same or similar actions are necessarily wrong.

    One last thing. I think history has proven that Reagan’s “Evil Empire” thing was not the bad thing his critics on the left thought it was, but actually turned out to be a very powerful thing that led to a better world. I know you see dualism and hatred in it, but that’s what you’re looking for. If you’re concerned about the souls that have suffered under a system, a system that lacks much good and perpetuates the misery, you would have no problem calling it an evil empire. Most people can make the distinction between the system and governance of a state and its people.

  • Well, Donald, I would hope to change my opinion when facts and circumstances change. And it certainly makes sense to condemn a brutal repression today, when it made sense not to side with the mass protests 7-10 days ago. And even then, it makes sense to be cautious, to speak in terms of justice, and Obama has done that.

    Do you honestly think Obama’s policy is worse than the “tatters” of teh last 8 years? Do you really think the “codpiece diplomacy” worked. It might play well at home and help people feel good about themselves, but as policy, it’s been an unmitigated disaster.

    And do you think Obama’s Cairo speech helped rally people toward Moussavi (who let’s face it, is not exactly an inspiring figure)?

  • MM,

    I don’t think that the protests in Iran have much of anything to do with Obama’s Cairo speech. Sheesh, talk about it not all being about the US.

    And as for codpiece diplomacy — it was mostly in your head in the first place. Obama’s reaction now (as he gradually catches on to what’s going on in Iran — which admittedly wasn’t part of his “I will tame the regime through kind words” script, so he had to do a little expectatin resetting) is really not that different from the sort of thing we would have heard from Bush or McCain.

    The idea that they were running around hurling grenades and grunting, “Me good and free, you bad and oppressor” never really had much correllation to reality in the first place.

  • that doesn’t mean they would look too kindly on American “freedom”, including rampant pornography, liberal sexual ethics, mass availability of guns

    You are almost certainly correct on the first two, but given that Islam effectively proscribes pacifism, I’m not so sure they’d react with your reflexive horror to firearms ownership.

  • One of the reasons people find it hard to take your crusade against dualism seriously, MM, is that you are so dualistic in your approach to your opponents. You think they’re “know nothings”, that they don’t know the most basic things about local history, that they want to make war on everyone, that they want everyone to be completely Americanized, etc. Given that you’re so dualistic (and far from reality) in your approach to people you disagree with, it’s hard to take your claims that other people are dualists seriously.

  • Oh, the codpiece diplomacy was not a figment of my imagination — it was on full display during the GOP pirmary reason. Remember the juvenile machismo of Giulinia, Romney, Tancredo? OK, McCain was an adult in that group but he still was too attached to an emotive trigger-happy context free response.

    I will never ever forget the collective insanity that overtook this country in the aftermath of 9/11. I cannot comprehend how the authors and cheerleaders of the Iraq war are now being granted a soapbox to make the same idiotic statements about Iran, with the same ignorance of history, and the same demonization of the regime. So when I rail against know-nothings, I’m talking very recent history, with very concrete examples.

    You know well that I don’t like Obama’s continued occupation of Iraq and his ratcheting up the war mode in Afghanistan. But look how far we have come – the Cairo speech actually treats the Islamic world with respect, and calls for equal Palestinian and Israeli rights. And he’s actually backing up the talk on Israeli — much to Netanyahu’s disgust. Again, not perfect (my views here are aligned with the Vatican), and still too pro-Israel, but certainly infinintely better than what could have been.

    I do see a link between Cairo and Iran. Obama appealed to their better angels, and they responded. I would not overdo this, though — this is certainly a domestic Iranian issue. But nobody can fail to notice the sea-change in official US rhetoric, and nobody cannot be uplifted by it (except those who thrive on conflict and demonization, of course, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad included).

    But I’ve seen people go too far, pointing to the loss of Hezbollah’s coalition in Lebanon. No, sorry, Hezbollah won every seat it was expected to win, it’s just that its Christian ally, Michel Aoun, got trounced.

  • Obama helped spark the Iranian uprising? Tony, only an Obamabot could even suggest that with a straight face. Obama clearly thought he could work a deal with the mullahs, cue the horselaugh, and from the beginning he has completely misread what is going on in Iran.

    As to your comments about the aftermath of 9-11, it must truly pain you that you have to live in America currently to earn your bread and cheese. You seem to be constantly out of sorts with America, with the sole exception of the election of your candidate last year for President. This is going to be a long four years for you Tony as Obama dismally fails in his plans to transform the US into a large Sweden. After it is all over with, you can simply chalk it up to our innate stubborn American, “Calvinist” in your lexicon, natures!

  • Thug Ahmadinejad thinks Obama is channeling his inner Bush!

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090625/ts_nm/us_iran_election

  • I’m with Donald, MM. *Why* do you live here? You’re like the anti-de Tocqueville, an endless series of carping complaints and observations about the people, civics, culture and mindset of the nation you currently reside in.

    Any unique features of this place that you *do* like, or is every day here rather like continuing exposure to low-grade debilitating radiation?

  • MM,

    When I have a guest in my home who constantly complains about my food, hospitality and funishings, I politely ask him to leave.

    Perhaps having assisted this country in electing Obama, you can now find other, fruitful pursuits in another land.

  • MM:

    1. No apology for the complete fabrication about what Calvinists believe?

    2. So you’re back to the “codpiece” talk. Can you think of any insults that aren’t so crass and gutter-minded?

  • I live happily in the US because (i) I live in very international circles and (ii) the Americans I know do not believe in the American empire. No, the problem lies with the economically-backward regions, with their “culture” facing a demographic time bomb. Good riddance to it. I look forward to the day when this Protestant culture wanes as Hispanics become the dominant group. For that is what I love about the US — its openness to all peoples and cultures, its liberal immigration policies, its nature as a melting pot. Remember, Catholic culture has always been a vibrant urban culture…

    If you want to talk about Obama, it’s clear to me that the Ahmadi-Mousavi struggle is a little similar to Mccain-Obama — a jaded old regime, an embarrassment on the world stage, challenged by an upstart with huge popularity among the younger generation. Mousavi’s spokesman says as much, and there’s a ring of truth to it.

    And I notice that nobody criticizes the collective madness we lived through after 9/11….

  • Once upon a time the insult was to be called an ugly American. MM sets the new standard as the ugly European. Of course, for those of us who have lived there, there’s always been such.

  • No criticism was mentioned Tony of your statement in regard to 9-11 because it was too absurd to waste electrons on. Your belief that Hispanics will transform America into something more pleasing to you is ludicrous. Catholic ethnic groups in this country tend to hold views no more acceptable to you than their Protestant counter-parts. I might add that Hispanics are over-represented, by choice, in our military. I welcome them. Over time they will, as a group, be no more reliably Democrat votes in most states in this country than say Italian-Americans are now. Your beliefs are actually carbon-copies of those held by rich wasp liberal elites in this country, and so your sham pose of being in rebellion against some sort of Protestant ascendancy in this country is nothing but a pose. Your comparison of McCain to Ahmadinejad is of course nothing but the substition of vitriol for analysis.

Pity and Fear

Tuesday, June 23, AD 2009

Aristotle taught that the purpose of tragedy is to inspire pity and fear in the audience, thence causing catharsis, a purging of emotion. I’ve always found his explanation of tragedy compelling, but as I get older (queue laughter at the thirty-year-old getting “older”) I find that I want to achieve catharsis much less than I used to. Not that my life is layered in tragedy or anything, indeed, far from it. But somehow, one just doesn’t feel as much like seeking out pity and fear at thirty as at twenty.

This has been running through my head as I’ve been reading about The Stoning of Soraya M.

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One Response to Pity and Fear

Neda Agha-Soltan: "The Voice of Iran"

Tuesday, June 23, AD 2009

  • In a Death Seen Around the World, a Symbol of Iranian Protests, by Nazila Fathi (New York Times):

    Only scraps of information are known about Ms. Agha-Soltan. Her friends and relatives were mostly afraid to speak, and the government broke up public attempts to mourn her. She studied philosophy and took underground singing lessons — women are barred from singing publicly in Iran. Her name means voice in Persian, and many are now calling her the voice of Iran.Her fiancé, Caspian Makan, contributed to a Persian Wikipedia entry. He said she never supported any particular presidential candidate. “She wanted freedom, freedom for everybody,” the entry read.

  • Family, friends mourn Neda Agha-Soltan, Iranian woman whose death was caught on video, by Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times). Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, ‘was a beam of light’ and not an activist, friends say. The video footage of her bleeding to death on the street has turned her into an international symbol of the protest movement.
  • In Iran, One Woman’s Death May Have Many Consequences, by Robin Wright. (Time) – Neda is already being hailed as a martyr, a second important concept in Shi’ism. With the reported deaths of 19 people on June 20, martyrdom provides a potent force that could further deepen public anger at Iran’s regime.

On the protests in Iran, see also From Tehran’s Streets: Hope and Rage – A Photo essay from LIFE Magazine. (NOTE: The Tehran-based photojournalist who made these pictures is now missing).

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10 Responses to Neda Agha-Soltan: "The Voice of Iran"

Iran: Protest Becomes Insurrection

Sunday, June 21, AD 2009

Rioting in Tehran Saturday is shown in the above video.  Protests are quickly developing into an insurrection.  The Iranian government is using brutal force to suppress the dissidents, but reports from Iran clearly indicate that the situation is moving well beyond the ability of the government to suppress it without massive bloodshed.  The Guardian has an hour by hour account of the events yesterday here.  Nico Pitney here has been doing yeoman work in covering the crackdown at the Huffington Post.  Ed Morrissey here has been doing his usual fine work covering breaking events at Hot Air.

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3 Responses to Iran: Protest Becomes Insurrection

  • Good words from Obama. A little late, but I’m very glad to see him doing the right thing.

  • I agree with Darwin, Obama is arriving late to the scene. I guess he figured out that being “present” doesn’t help your poll numbers.

    Donald,

    In #4, that is crucial that the army hasn’t been deployed. Only the Revolutionary Guard and their militia are loyal to the regime.

    I pray this doesn’t turn into a shooting war but into a Soviet meltdown when that coup against Gorbachev failed.

  • Obama’s comments just go to show his clear ignorance of the islamic faith. It has always ruled through coercion going all the way back to it’s “prophet.” Obama’s words mean nothing to any of these people. He has no spine to either give real help to the resistance or to out-right condemn the lunatics who rule the country.

105 Responses to Where Is My Vote?

  • You are aware that the US is responsible for snuffing out democracy in Iran in the first place, that this event led to the 1979 revolution, and that Iranians still hold a grudge about this today, right? You are aware how hollow this rhetoric sounds, given the US’s history of propping up a string of oppressive regimes in the region, right? You are aware that the Iranian opposition groups are urging the US to stay quiet about this, right? You are aware that a strong US condemnation along your lines would be a great gift to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, right?

  • You are aware Tony that your one trick pony Obama-Uber-Alles act is tiresome beyond belief, right?

  • It would be nice, Donald, to actually engage the arguments I made instead of turning to the same tired old personal attack that you make on practically every topic.

  • You are aware that a strong US condemnation along your lines would be a great gift to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, right?

    Yes, this talking point in defense of Obama has been repeated ad nauseum, but like the charge of Calvinism, it doesn’t become any truer based on repetition.

    The funny thing is the Iranian state run media has already tried to pin the protest movement on the American government, but the Iranian people are not the useful dupes that so many of the “just stay quiet” brigade believe them to be.

  • Morning’s Minion:

    Why not compose a list of foreign countries which meet the following criteria:

    1. Located in the Near East, North Africa, or Central Asia;

    2. Whether sovereign or not, constitutionalist in their political practice with scant interruption during the years running from 1953 to 1979;

    3. Not yet accused of ‘war crimes’ by ‘Morning’s Minion’.

    When you are done, why not construct a list of foreign countries whose political practice has been, during the post-war period, consistently constitutionalist while having a literacy rate which averaged under 20%.

  • I don’t engage you Tony because your comments are non-serious. You are a political partisan who will say literally anything to defend or advance the policies of Obama.

  • Now if I were to ignore the fact that all of your comments might as well have “copyright of the DNC” stamped on them, I would respond as follows:

    “You are aware that the US is responsible for snuffing out democracy in Iran in the first place, that this event led to the 1979 revolution, and that Iranians still hold a grudge about this today, right?”

    My guess is that the Iranians in the street today care quite a bit more about Ahmadinajed and the mullahs than they do about the dumping of Mossadeq in 1953. Also, only someone very unfamiliar with Iranian history could contend that Mossadeq was a democrat with a straight face.

    “You are aware how hollow this rhetoric sounds, given the US’s history of propping up a string of oppressive regimes in the region, right?”

    Tony, the US just fought a war to topple the most oppressive regime in that area and to install a functioning democracy. You opposed that effort tooth and nail. Please make up your mind.

    “You are aware that the Iranian opposition groups are urging the US to stay quiet about this, right?”

    Actually Tony quite a few Iranian opposition groups here and abroad are calling for the US to speak out.

    “You are aware that a strong US condemnation along your lines would be a great gift to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, right?”

    As Paul has already noted Tony, they are blaming us for meddling anyway. Better to let the Iranian people know that we stand with them and not with the tyrants who currently have the guns, especially when there is a chance that they may not have the guns much longer.

  • As much as I often disagree with MM on a host of domestic and economic issues he is 100% right on this issue and he is just not spouting Obama/DNC propaganda. Patrick Buchanan has supported the Obama strategy of dealing with Iran – is he a wild eyed leftist.

    http://www.takimag.com/article/outlasting_the_ayatollahs/

    However, you neo-cons aren’t happy unless you are helping people of other nations by bombing them back into the stoneage.

  • The problem, Donald (and Paul) too, is that you arrograntly view the world through the lens of the United States and its politics. Everything must be fitted into your neat little partisan baskets.

    Well, let me break it to you — this is not about the US. This is not about Iranians wanting to live like Americans, or to have the same political system of Americans. It is about Iranians — most of whom remain committed to the principles of the Shia revolution — standing up to injustice in their own country and on their own terms. When you arrograntly make references to the “free world”, this is exactly the kind of blinkered rhetoric that will backfire.

    And as for your pathetic attempts to turn this into a partisan squabble, nobody serious thinks the US administration should be taking intemperate statements at this point. I said nobody serious — the neocons have been. And they were proven so right about Iraq, were they not? Of couse, many neocons like Marty Peretz actually want Ahmadinejad to win, as it gives then an excuse to blow the bugles of war. They need their Iranian devil. That’s all they can understand.

    The reality of course, is far more nuanced. It quite possibly represents a power struggle between Khamenei and Rafsanjani– the latter being obscenely rich and lilke probably obscenely corrupt. Remember, Mousavi is a firm believer in the islamic state, and was quite likely behind the founding of hezbollah. So, please, let the Iranians fight their own injustices on their own turf in their own way.

    Of course Ahmadi and Khamenei are blaming the US — that’s their trump card. It would be foolish to give legitimacy to that charge.

    And who cares whether Moassadeq was considered a “Democrat” by US standards? He was the elected leader of Iran and was overthrown to protect western oil interests. In turn, Pahlavi oversaw one of the most brutal regimes in the area, using torture techniques that would shock even Dick Cheney. The result was the revolution.

    Finally, as Daniel Larison notes, if Obama gave the kind of speech you spell out above, you and your neocon friends would be mocking him for being incredibly naive. It’s always politics with you, it’s always US-centric. Well, I’m sorry, but this isn’t about you. Butt out.

  • The problem, Donald (and Paul) too, is that you arrograntly view the world through the lens of the United States and its politics.

    Umm, the basis for my rebuttal is an understanding of the Iranian people, based in part by several Iranian commenters who have pressed for Obama to be more vocal. Not sure how that is viewing things through an American lens.

    The rest of your comment is just – and there’s no polite way to put it – dumb. Seriously, it’s the kind of stuff I might read from an angry teenager on the walls of a DC area pub.

    However, you neo-cons aren’t happy unless you are helping people of other nations by bombing them back into the stoneage.

    Aside from the fact that few if any of us would identify as neo-cons, it’s a rather strange allegation. We’re rooting for the revolutionaries precisely because we don’t want to engage in a shooting war. I’m not exactly seeing the connection behind hoping that a people successfully overthrows a tyrannical oligarchy and wanting to “bomb them back into the stoneage.” But if Pat Buchanan said it it must be true.

  • You understand the Iranian people, Paul, because you have heard “several Iranian commenters”? That’s the best yet. I suppose you believed that the Iraqis would welcome the US occupying army with flowers because Ahmad Chalabi told you so? Unbelievable. You need to get out more.

  • “Everything must be fitted into your neat little partisan baskets.”

    Interesting case of projection there Tony. I defy anyone to find a more partisan hack than you on Saint Blogs.

    “It is about Iranians — most of whom remain committed to the principles of the Shia revolution — standing up to injustice in their own country and on their own terms.”

    Pardon me while I stifle a deep laugh. The principles of the Shia Revolution that have saddled them with a government far more corrupt and barbaric than anything they knew under the Shah. My guess is that most Iranians would prefer to consign the rule of the mullahs to the ashheap of history as fast as they can. However, there are always plenty of useful idiots in the West eager to laud any third world tyranny, no matter how squalid, if it mouths anti-American platitudes.

    “And as for your pathetic attempts to turn this into a partisan squabble, nobody serious thinks the US administration should be taking intemperate statements at this point.”

    Standing with the Iranian people is not intemperate Tony, and if your Messiah in the White House were doing so you would be lauding him to the hilt. Assuming that he does a 180 on Iran in the next few days, and I think he will probably be forced to by events, it should be humorous to have you explain why Obama was right to reverse his policy.

    “They need their Iranian devil. That’s all they can understand.”

    Yep, Tony, it’s those evil JOOOOISH Neo-Cons who are the enemy and not Ahmadinejed and the mullahs. Got it.

    “Remember, Mousavi is a firm believer in the islamic state, and was quite likely behind the founding of hezbollah.”

    By Iranian standards Mousavi is a reformer now. In any case I defer to what the Iranian people in the streets demand. It was their election that was stolen. I also suspect that Mousavi is merely a vehicle by which most Iranians can attack a widely-despised regime.

    “And who cares whether Moassadeq was considered a “Democrat” by US standards?”

    Obviously not you Tony. He is merely a stick that you can wield in order to defend the dithering of Obama.

    “Finally, as Daniel Larison notes, if Obama gave the kind of speech you spell out above, you and your neocon friends would be mocking him for being incredibly naive. It’s always politics with you, it’s always US-centric. Well, I’m sorry, but this isn’t about you. Butt out.”

    Actually Tony, I have stated on this blog that I support Obama’s current policy both in Iraq and Afghanistan. If he changed his policy on Iran I would cheer the change. After he changes his policy, no doubt you will join me in the cheers.

  • who cares whether Moassadeq was considered a “Democrat” by US standards? He was the elected leader of Iran and was overthrown to protect western oil interests.

    At the time of his overthrow Moassadeq had suspended parliament and was ruling via “emergency powers.” Any claim he had as a democratically elected leader had already evaporated.

  • Tony, my point was simply that the I’m not basing my objection to your point to some silly “Americanist” reading, but from what I have read directly from Iranians. That they might not represent all Iranian thought on the matter goes without saying. However, I think mere common sense dictates that the bulk of the Iranian people are not fooled – or are far less fooled by the propaganda being pushed by their leaders and the puppet press.

  • BA:

    So what if Moassadeq was a ‘true democratic leader” or not. The U.S. has no business medling in the elections or governance of other nations. There has not been one time that we have done it that it has not resulted in worse blow back or evils then those we were trying to prevent.

    By the way, are you saying that it is alright for a country to be governed by a tyrant so long as it is our tyrant (e.g., the Shah, Samosa, Pinochet, Sadam (at one time our guy), etc.?

    Don:

    Thanks for proving your strongest forte is engaging in straw man attacks. I would have been disappointed if you had not resorted to calling those who oppose the disasterous neo-con foreign policy of the past 8 years as anti-semites. It sure beats arguing the facts. Why don’t you drag out your old issue of the National Review so you can list all those anti-semite isolationist conservative Republicans who argued that the U.S. should not invade Iraq and that doing so would be disasterous to the U.S. and the Republican party – their prediction sure turned out to be wrong – right.

    Finally, who gives a rat’s *** what Iranian groups here or abroad are calling for the U.S. government to do. The U.S. government should not base its foreign policy upon what the Israel Lobby, the Persian Lobby, the Albanian Lobby, the Polish Lobby, the Irish Lobby etc. wants – that has been the root of our foreign policy problems and disasters of the past century. America foreign policy has not been defined by what is best for America but by what is best for other groups or peoples throughout the world. I’m tired of us sticking our noses into hornet’s nests at other peoples request and then complaining when we get stung.

  • he U.S. has no business medling in the elections or governance of other nations. There has not been one time that we have done it that it has not resulted in worse blow back or evils then those we were trying to prevent.

    The Japanese, South Koreans and Germans, to name a few, might have some quibbles with that sentiment.

  • Awakaman, no thank you for attempting to deny the undeniable, that “neo-cons” is often thrown about, especially in paleocon fever-swamps, as a short-hand for Jews.

    As for the facts, that is precisely what I have been arguing. Time to have your eyes checked.

    Awakaman, we won in Iraq. Even Obama admits that, much to his chagrin.

    Isolationism didn’t work back in the Thirties Awakaman and it will not work now. Our oceans offer us scant protection from either nuclear weapons or terrorist attacks, and it is idiotic to pretend otherwise.

  • BTW, I don’t think anyone here has advocated for a forceful American interference in this matter. What is being suggested is that President Obama say something meaningful to show support for the Iranian dissidents, something which European leaders like Sarkzoy have already done. This is not exactly a neocon desire for needless meddling, unless the Europeans are all neocons now.

  • “Standing with the Iranian people is not intemperate Tony…”

    I stand with the Iranian people. As a believer in the gospel of non-violence, my heart stirs when I see waves of peaceful protestors walking in total silence. I admire the great Persian culture and I am intrigued by Shia mysticism. But I would not arrogantly claim that the Iranians must adopt a western-style democracy. I would not arrogantly claim that the Iranians, who are risking their lives on the streets, will appreciate the kind of condescension you would wish to convey to them, about the “free world” standing behind them, when they look at the “free world” and see hypocrisy.

    What should Obama do? I’ll tell you. Pope John Paul understood the virtues of confession and apology. He expressed his regret over and over again for the sins of the Church in the past. Obama should do the same. He should say that he regrets the US overthrow of an Iranian leader to secure the flow of oil, he regrets US support for the shah, he regrets the military support given to Iraq during the 1980s, he regrets the one-sided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he regrets the invasion of Iraq, torture, and the camp at Guantanamo. He should the extend an olive branch to Iran and seek peace. That’s what he should do, but it’s not going to happen (oh, sorry, I wasn’t supposed to criticize Obama, was I? :))

  • Blame America first, last and always eh, Tony? Your Leftist European provincialism is stunning. That is also why Obama is ultimately going to break your heart. The US is not going to be transformed into Sweden or even the UK. The US will remain true to its history, and the Obama debacle will be a cautionary tale for Americans for generations to come.

  • By the way, are you saying that it is alright for a country to be governed by a tyrant so long as it is our tyrant

    No. I just don’t think a choice between tyrants should be portrayed as a choice between a tyrant and a democrat.

  • I suppose I’m deeply naive, MM, but I find it hard to credit the idea that the Iranian protestors holding up signs with slogans written in English for photographers to see are standing there thinking, “Boy, I sure hope that Obama apologizes for the US supporting the Shah and for toppling the dictatorship in Iraq — but restrains himself from saying it would be unacceptable for the Revolutionary Guard to slaughter us.”

  • …the Iranian protestors holding up signs with slogans written in English for photographers to see are standing there thinking..

    Important observation, Darwin. Not that the world doesn’t utilize English to a fair degree, but I can think of no other motivation in this case than for the protesters to be communicating to the West as well. I originally thought it best for the President remain tight lipped for a while too, and I still lean that way. However, I heard one criticism of Obama’s handling that did give me pause. Iowahawk picked up on it too. It’s not that Obama has been tight lipped that’s so much a problem, it’s that he hasn’t been tight lipped and characterized the whole affair as dialogue. Well sorry, people don’t die in dialogue – and characterizing it as such is basically saying that we stand behind you Ahmadinejad.

  • Yeah, I don’t think it would be wise or appropriate for Obama to come out in support of Mousavi or to call for the abolution of the current regime — but I think that a more general recognition of the yearning being expressed in these protests for the democratic process to work, and an emphasis on how the international community would respond to violent repression, would be appropriate. Without endorsing the protesters goals explicitly, their right to protest without being slaughtered would be loudly supported.

    It’s a fine line, but one that needs to be walked.

  • In turn, Pahlavi oversaw one of the most brutal regimes in the area, using torture techniques that would shock even Dick Cheney. The result was the revolution.

    I think if you examine the reports issued by Freedom House during the period running from 1973 through 1978, you will note that their assessment of the quantum of civil liberties and political participation in Iran put it proximate to the median of the Near East and North Africa, and not at all out of the ordinary for a non-occidental country. Pakistan, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Cyprus, and Israel qualified as more liberal. The government in the region given to exceptional cruelty was not that of Iran but rather Iraq.

    Authoritarian government was and is the default mode in the Near East. Attributing same to the acts of the United States government (‘propping up’, &c.) may be a pleasing evasion for the chatterati of the region but is false and should not be given credence by the current President or anyone else.

    The Government of Iran had passable relations with Israel for 31 years; they ceased to maintain such relations for no reason more compelling than their own ideological frenzies. There is no need for the President to apologize for that; it is their problem, not ours.

    Nor is their any reason to apologize for whatever limited co-operation the United States government had with Iraq during the period running from 1985 to 1988. The Iranian cause was not so self-evidently just that it should have trumped reasons of state.

  • You can’t have it both ways. You cannot have the United States crusading for “democracy” around the world, and cozying up to dictatorial regimes at the same time. I accept the point well that one must often deal with unjust rulers, as that’s the nature of the world, and it has always been Catholic practice. One can even do this and still stress the virtues of human dignity, but to elevate the promotion of “freedom” to some kind of divinely-mandated principle (hello Wilson, Dulles, Reagan, Bush) is another matter entirely. It is arrogant, it is tone-deaf, it lacks nuance, and it is dualistic in a derivately Calvinist way (shout out to Paul here!).

    Though I do find it a little ironic that supporting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s (possibly the worst of the worst) was seen as OK, but supporting Obama today is verboten.

    I do draw the line with war – it might have been OK to deal with Saddam on the level of statecraft, but it was serious cooperation with evil to support his military endeavors (just as it was evil to overthrow him in later years).

    But consequentialism looms large in American culture. It will not be overcome until people recognize the great evil perpetuated by the war criminal Harry Truman against the people of Japan. And yet, most Americans, across the partisan spectrum, argue that this was fine, appealing to consequences (future lives saved). But that is beside the point — an intrinsically evil act is an intrinsically evil act, period, and the direct targeting of non-combatants is as evil as it gets.

  • I tried to search out the word “Carter” here. Forgive me if I miss it, it was Jimmy Carter who seems to be why Iran is a problem. We abandoned the Shah. It seems with Carter and unwittingly his bookend Obama, there are some glaring foreign policy errors.

  • MM,

    Yet even without taking the modern Western understanding of political freedom as a divinely-mandated principle, I can see little wrong with hoping to see less bad forces win out. Is it really so very bad to want to see the mullahcracy in Iran be mitigated or swept away? Can you bring yourself to want to see something better for the Iranians, who clearly want such a thing, even if it puts you in company with the dreaded neo-cons?

    Also, at the risk of going off on a tangent, I’m struck by your comment:

    I do draw the line with war – it might have been OK to deal with Saddam on the level of statecraft, but it was serious cooperation with evil to support his military endeavors (just as it was evil to overthrow him in later years).

    Do you seriously think that overthrowing the Baathist dictatorship in Iraq via war (which was pretty clearly the only way it was going away — whether war with an outside power or some sort of civil or revolutionary war) was something that was clearly evil? I can see holding that because the Bush administration was foolish enough to base the Iraq War on preemption of supposed WMDs that it was therefore an unjust war, but I honestly can’t see the claim that removing Hussein’s dictatorship (which as you state was one of the worst in a bad region, when it comes to human rights and oppression) via war would be necessarily and objectively evil.

    Do you really hold that the objective of removing Hussein’s dictatorship was necessarily an insufficient causus belli for anyone, anytime? Or just an insufficient one for Bush at that time, for the stated reasons?

  • Darwin,

    Read what I said above. I think the stirring of the Iranian people is wonderful, and the passive resistance appeals top me, but (i) the US sticking its nose where it is not wanted will make things worse (just as Peretz needs Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad needs somebody like Bush); (ii) it would be arrogant to tell the Iranians that they deserve western-style “freedom” — the Iranians want to stamp out the abuses of the Shia state, but they are by no means secularists in the western sense. And that’s fine.

    On your second question — you know well that the just war criteria set exacting standards, and if the criteria are not met, the war is evil. And just because a regime is odious does not mean it should be overthrown by force, especially given the destructive power of modern weaponry. Think of the implications — what would you say if Ahmadinejad threatened to invade the US to prevent a million abortions a year?

  • The United States needs to stay out of this one, pure and simple. They shouldn’t be meddling in affairs they don’t understand, in a culture they don’t understand under conditions they don’t understand.

    Let the Iranians sort this one out. Its their show. We will only make it worse, like we have in so many other conflicts.

  • you know well that the just war criteria set exacting standards, and if the criteria are not met, the war is evil. And just because a regime is odious does not mean it should be overthrown by force, especially given the destructive power of modern weaponry.

    Actually, the standards as laid out in the catechism do not strike me as necessarily that exacting, unless one weights them with a certain set of assumptions. The Baathist regime was clearly one that could only be removed by war, it’s violence was continuous and immediate, other means of removing it had long ago been exhausted. The only possible hold would be the claim that the evils of war would be worse than the evils of the regime itself — which is probably where we part ways. The Church does not require functional pacifism, and indeed through must of its history it has been quite open to war for rather less cause than getting rid of a regime as odious as that of Hussein.

    Still, it’s instructive to know where we stand on the topic. I suppose one of the interesting side points is that since you believe the removal of Hussein to be an unjust and evil act, you necessarily would have to see it as legitimate to defend Hussein’s regime by force. In another place, this would put us exchanging shots rather than words. Though it would hardly be the first time that serious Catholics found themselves across a battlefield from each other.

    Think of the implications — what would you say if Ahmadinejad threatened to invade the US to prevent a million abortions a year?

    This is a point which is silly, bordering on the juvenile. You yourself have frequently made the argument that the US government is not directly responsible for abortions in the way that Iraq’s government was responsible for its atrocities (or the way Bush was responsible for the Iraq War, though I consider that a just act rather than an atrocity). Quite obviously, invading the US would thus not be able to directly thwart abortions in the sense that invading Iraq was able to directly remove the Baathist regime and its barbarities. Indeed, Ahmadinejad would only be able to stop abortions instantly by implementing the sort of public executions and reign of terror which is far to common in Iran already.

    Also, I think its quite arguable that there’s a higher threshold of justification when it comes to overthrowing an openly democratic republic (which can thus, obviously, be changed through peaceful means) than there is to a military dictatorship which can by definition only be overthrown by some sort of military action, if only a bloodless coup.

  • Rumors going around that there could be a massive crackdown by the government of Iran tomorrow.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/06/18/tomorrow-tiananmen-in-tehran/

    May God watch over those brave protesters.

  • If only enough of the Revolutionary Guard will refuse to fire on their own people…

  • Darwin:

    Ratzinger once mused that the very existence of a just war can be questioned in the modern age, given the destructive power of the weaponry. I think that is probably right — at the very least, it sets the bar extremely high. Too often, people today view war like a giant thrilling video game, courtesy of cable TV and “embedded” journalists, oblivious to the human misery. See Guadium Et Spes 80 on this point. Also recall also John Paul’s heartfelt plea in Centesimus Annus:

    “Never again war! No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war.”

    As for Iraq, I could challege: (i) disproportionate evils, as you note, but also (ii) last resort – we all know the war was preemptive; (iii) Saddam’s genocidal actions had ended in the early 1990s, meaning there was no immediate threat to the world community (and the WMD excuse was fabricated); (iv) competent authority– I follow the Vatican in that, in the modern world, the UN is the only entity that can make these kinds of decisions. No, at the time of invadion, Saddam was just another tinpot dictator, one of many.

  • Mother Jones may say WMDs in Iran was fabricated. This is easy to say now. Many Democrats were talking about what a threat Saddam was as well.

  • I would also add to MM’s list (v) Iraq’s military never recovered from the first Gulf War, it toppled over in a matter of weeks, and Iraq’s entire economic and social infrastructure – without which a country cannot wage war – had been disintegrating under the pressure of sanctions for over a decade.

    Iraq was a sitting duck. It was weaker than the Ukraine in that game of Risk that Newman and Kramer played on Seinfeld.

  • I’d also add that the media is obviously hospitable to Liberals. It has been widely reported in some media that WMDs were spirited out of Iraq.

    http://www.nysun.com/foreign/iraqs-wmd-secreted-in-syria-sada-says/26514/

    “The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein’s air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

    The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, “Saddam’s Secrets,” released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.”

    Democrat citations on Saddam and WMDs: http://www.snopes.com/politics/war/wmdquotes.asp

    http://sweetness-light.com/archive/who-is-lying-about-iraq

    Al Qaeda has been a main foe in Iraq. So, those connections are apparent as well.

  • Ed Morrissey is right on target with this post at Hot Air:

    “However, the people of Iran also clearly understand this. The crisis has moved beyond Mousavi, and Khamenei knows that. The people in the street may shout Mousavi’s name, but their protests have evolved into a protest against being ruled and not governed. Mousavi could choose to join that fight, or he could choose to remain within the ruling system, but the people on the street now may choose to fight absolute rule without him. Khamenei can’t back down without losing his conceit of infallibility in temporal matters, and if the Iranians refuse to return to the yoke of tyranny, then this will get ugly very, very quickly.”

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/06/19/khamenei-rigging-what-rigging/

  • Larison, the “true conservative” (unlike the phonies, you know who you are:

    “All of this comes back to the problem of Republican denial about why they lost power. They are supremely confident about their views on national security and foreign policy, and they cannot conceive that a majority of the country would reject them because of the policies they advocated and enacted. Worse still, they remain wedded to the hectoring, moralistic and aggressive approach of the last administration, in which sanctions and condemnation are the only “soft” tools they understand. They are so wedded to this approach that that they think this is not only the best kind of foreign policy, but that anything other than this is fecklessness and surrender. To a disturbingly great extent, replacing the current leadership may not have much of an effect on shoddy foreign policy thinking on the right, because the rot is so deep and widespread, but it is particularly important that Republicans in positions of responsibility at least attempt to play the role of credible, informed opposition, which may sometimes mean acknowledging that the President has handled an issue correctly. It will also mean building up the credibility and knowledge to challenge and resist the President if he embarks on misguided or irresponsible courses in the years to come.”

  • Tony, contrary to Mr. Larison, conservatism is not synonymous with head in the sand isolationism. Larison and his fellow paleocons are chiefs with very few followers among American conservatives.

  • Donald, how do you define an American conservative? I see little emphasis on morality and the social order. I see little evidence of prudence and evolution over utopianism and destruction. These are the traditional markers of conservatism. Instead, I see a weird mix of Enlightenment-era liberalism that calls for “small government” and a radically individualist notion of freedom, combined with an America-centric nationalism that calls for “big government” and an attempt to remodel the world in its own image. What is remotely conservative about that?

    Oh, and by the way, the man on the right who actually knows something about the world (as opposed to the current crop of Republican Know-Nothings), Henry Kissinger, thinks Obama is doing the right thing: http://thinkprogress.org/2009/06/18/kissinger-obama-iran/

    Joe Klein who is just back from Iran sends the same message — all shades of Iranian opinion see the US as great medddlers who should stay on the sidelines.

  • Paleo conservatives are neither paleo, nor conservative. Discuss.

  • Tony, your analysis, as usual, is littered with strawmen and infantile caricatures. Even neocons at this point place significant emphasis on morality and the social order, though they tend to be slightly more utopian than I am comfortable with (and thus why I am not a neocon).

    Also, as a member of the progressive left, you have a lot of nerve calling anyone else a utopian. The entire Obama program is a repackaging of the same old Wilson-era attempts at building a perfect (not more perfect) society, something which the Democrats have been building upon ever since.

    Oh, and by the way, the man on the right who actually knows something about the world

    Haven’t you been complaining this entire thread about the US cozying up to dictators? Isn’t that a hallmark of realist foreign policy? Isn’t Henry Kissinger the paradigmatic figure when it comes to realism? So now Henry Kissinger, who the left universally despised about 30 years ago, is the man who knows something about the world. Talk about convenient flip flops.

  • I see little emphasis on morality and the social order.

    Really? Are you kidding? American conservatives never talk about morality and social order?

    That’s an interesting perspective…

    But then, who would have thought that we’d see the day when you’d be singing the praises of Henry Kissinger, a man who is probably responsible for more foreign policy decisions you deplore than any other single person.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at, though, with the “US must stay on the sidelines” line of argument. The most that anyone is suggesting is that Obama should speak strongly to the right of the protesters to make themselves heard without being arrested or slaughtered, and perhaps at the outside threaten that consequences would follow if they are arrested and slaughtered.

    That sounds pretty far on the sidelines to me.

    Though perhaps the greatest tragedy of the last eight years is that many on the left, and MM seems to share in this instinct, now reflexively want to see the nascent democracy in Iraq fail, and to see more oppressive regimes win out or continue in other countries in the Middle East, simply to prove out their conviction that Muslims are incapable of having democratic freedoms, and thus prove Bush wrong. That, and perhaps a desire to keep as many high profile enemies of Israel on the playing board as possible.

    It’s unfortunate to see people supporting oppressive regimes simply out of desire to see their political vendettas carried forward.

  • Tony, I’ll see your Joe Klein and raise you a David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

    “President Obama was right to speak carefully about the events in Iran during the first week of protest. But it’s time for him to express his solidarity with the Iranians who are so bravely taking to the streets each day. He can do that without seeming to meddle if he chooses his words wisely.

    Obama should invoke the Iranian yearning for justice — which was a powerful theme of the revolution. He should cite Iran’s own rich history of political reform, going back to Cyrus the Great, whose declaration on good governance was chiseled in the Cyrus Cylinder in 539 B.C. He should cite the Iranian constitution of 1906, which established elections and basic freedoms. Democracy is not an American imposition but an Iranian tradition.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/18/AR2009061803369.html

    As for Dr. Kissinger, as his opening to Red China might indicate, human rights have never loomed large for him as a diplomatic issue. You quoting the master of RealPolitik is one of the more amusing portions of this thread.

    In regard to American Conservatism, you obviously have no understanding of it.
    As Reagan eloquently indicated in 1964, a concern for the liberty of those who are not Americans is not some sort of neo-Con deviation from true conservatism, but rather goes to the heart of what it is to be an American conservative.

  • MM,

    You never fail to demonstrate your uncanny ability to employ such perverse application of Ratzinger’s work (indeed, any number of catholic teaching for that matter) in order to advance your own deplorable ends.

    Indeed, though it meant rending the very fabric of moral integrity & one’s own Catholic Faith; in the past, you have went so far as to justify the atrocrious tenets of the Culture of Death in order to advocate the ascendency of your abortionist political demagouge (or, rather, demigod), Obama, even at the cost of compromising Catholic teaching.

    As for your “enlightened” opinions, I scant recall a conservative who lauded the Leviathan State and the general perniciousness of ‘BIG GOVERNMENT’.

    As for isolationist controversies alluded to earlier, most such folks I recall weren’t really conservatives per se; rather (and even more precisely), these were largely of the ‘America First’, ‘Socialist Party, USA’ brand as well as any number of those eminating from the hotbeds of student leftism.

    I can only venture the guess that you hail from the same homeland as these.

  • * I believe Henry Kissinger is a notorious war criminal (the bombing of Cambodia alone merits that deisgnation) – then again, so was Harry Truman. But I am also well aware that Kissinger knows his foreign policy very very well. We’ve come a long way from Kissinger to know-nothing agenda of the Bush years, still peddled by the shameless neocons (see Krauthammer and Wolfesitz in today’s Washington Post– for shame).

    * Yes, morality and the social order are certainly priorities of the American right — though far more so around these Catholic circles that the wider Fox News cicles. But it is attached onto everything I listed above: Enlightenment-era “small government” liberalism plus nationalist “big government” interventionism, a liberal understanding of “freedom”… I do not see these ideas rejected too often around here. Whatever they are, they are not conservative.

    * The discussion of “democratic freedoms” in Iraq is exactly an example of what I am talking about. I desire peace and justice in Iraq– I’m not particularly concerned if the form of government is is democratic, dictatorial, monarchist, federal, secular, religious, or breaks up into multiple regimes. Right now, the cost of your precious democracy has been a million deaths and 4.5 million orphans, and five million displaced. Ethnic tension is rampant, and our Chistian brothers and sisters are suffering most. To march into a country — with no knowledge of its history, its culture, its religious traditions, the post-Ottoman colonial legacy, the suspicion of the United States — to deliver “freedom and democracy” through the barrel of a gun is outrageous, arrogant, and dangerous.

    * This is also how I view Iran – I am 100 percent behind the Iranian opposition, because they are seeking justice on their own terms, and they are doing with without violence. They are rallying behind a veteran of the theocratic state, and man who wants to return to the good old days of Ruhollah Khomenei, and who campaigned on that very premise. We saw today that Khamenei is lashing out out foreign meddlers. That’s what he wants. Do not play into his hands. This is not about the US. It is about Iran. Time to butt out, people.

    * Am I a member of the progressive left? In some sense, yes. I follow the teachings of the Church in that a follower of Christ cannot be merely conservative, seeking a static society, but must also be dynamic, anticipating the eschaton. The very title of Christ — Salvator– was deliberately chosen to convey this dynamic sense, when the obvious Roman world “conservator” was rejected. And Catholic social teaching is rich and powerful, and goes far beyond wither statism of free market liberalism. I am actually more in line with European Christian democracy, which I understand veers sharply left on the American scale– I certainly adhere to the social market of Catholics like Konrad Adenauer. Part of the reason is that I don’t accept the false barrier between “church” and “state” but that’s a whole new topic.

  • The Iraq Body Count puts the civilian death toll at about 96,000 as we speak, some portion of which are not attributabile to the U.S. Military.

    Can you define the term ‘war criminal’? Can you specify how it might include Henry Kissinger, who was, prior to August of 1973, a functionary of the Executive Office of the President with a staff of perhaps 30 and with no authority to command any American soldier bar Alexander Haig and a few others who had been seconded to his offices?

    The entire juvenile population of Iraq is perhaps 11 million. Do I take it your contention is that 40% of the youth of Iraq have lost both their mother and their father attributable to American military action?

  • I am actually more in line with European Christian democracy, which I understand veers sharply left on the American scale– I certainly adhere to the social market of Catholics like Konrad Adenauer.

    I suppose that, as Americans, we should feel somewhat flattered that while you’re “not particularly concerned if the form of government is is democratic, dictatorial, monarchist, federal, secular, religious, or breaks up into multiple regimes” in Iraq, you _do_ apparently consider Americans to be sufficiently similar to your continent of origin that you support implementing Adenauer-style Christian-democracy in the US — despite the fact that Adenauer’s political views were very much formed by a particular time and place in European history which is foreign to American history and experience.

    What is the distinction that makes oppressive government acceptable in the Middle East, because it’s their culture you know, but demands that US conservatives abandon the 250 years of American political and intellectual heritage which they might rightly claim to “conserve” and instead embrace a post-war (briefly after WWI and briefly again after WWII) intellectual movement which is European in nature?

  • Obama is now “very concerned” about the Iranian regimes’ “tone”. Get prepared Tony! The Presidential Weather-Vane is preparing to turn!

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/06/19/video-obama-now-very-concerned-about-iranian-regimes-tone/

  • Apparently Andrew Sullivan is claiming that those neo-con JOOOS want to keep Ahmadinejad in power.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/06/sullivan_and_khamenei_agree_je.asp

    That is crazy even by Andrew Sullivan crazy standards.

  • First of all, Darwin, if the Christian Democracy that I espouse comes from anty culture, it is Catholic culture. I thought that Catholics would seek to embrace a Catholic culture. The dominant culture in the US right now is Protestant — we should accept that, but it doesn’t mean we have to embrace it, does it? (And by the way, that does not not you need to want to turn the US into Sweden).

  • MM,

    In spite of our disagreements in other places, on other topics, I agree with your assessment of conservatism in America, as well as what conservatism ought to be.

    It’s interesting to discover that by the standards of other countries, I am probably a conservative – even a reactionary. I’m so conservative I want to bring back the guild system and the commons!

    Social cohesion requires a rough degree of social equality, a sensible, proportionate hierarchy in which every member of society is recognized and rewarded for the role they play, even if it is small, even if the almighty forces of supply and demand would otherwise leave them out.

    The way some people around here defend a CEO’s divine right to billions of dollars, you’d think Japan, the second wealthiest country in the world whose CEO’s make far, far less, would have sunk into the ocean now, having angered the free market Gods.

  • Non-conservatives do not get to define conservatism Joe. American conservatism is not reactionary, unlike what passes for conservatism in other countries. Edmund Burke and the Founding Fathers, with a strong admixture of Lincoln, are the guiding stars of most American conservatives from a philosophical stand point. A few of the things most American conservatives believe:

    1. In a strong national defense.

    2. In free enterprise.

    3. In limited government.

    4. In traditional moral values.

    5. A concern as to the Federal government usurping powers that belong to the state.

    6. A deep rooted suspicion of utopian projects that depend upon governmental power.

    7. Self-reliance rather than reliance on the State.

    8. In low taxes.

    9. That government only derives its power from the consent of the governed.

    10. That government is always a danger to human freedom unless carefully watched.

    A statist like Tony has no more right, or ability, to define conservatism for Americans than I do anarchism. He is especially handicapped due to his European background and his antipathy to much of American history, including the American Revolution. Anyone out of sympathy with the American Revolution has precious little chance of ever understanding Americans or America.

  • Agreed, Joe, I think Pius XI-style corporatism still has a lot to offer. And, in the larger scheme of things, I think our disagreements are pretty minor.

  • You prove the points I make above, Donald. Abstracting completely from the virtue of your list, it cannot be described as conservative (except 4 and 6). The rest belong to Enlightenment-era liberalism. Waht do you think Pius IX or Pius X would make of your list?

  • 6. A deep rooted suspicion of utopian projects that depend upon governmental power.

    The problem with this view is that it preserves the separation of government and the people. Anarchism, which has a strong suspicion of gov’t as well, seeks to make the people the government in the most direct way possible. It’s the only way forward. “Conservatives” have it all wrong.

    7. Self-reliance rather than reliance on the State.

    These are are only two options? What a silly binary assumption this is.

    10. That government is always a danger to human freedom unless carefully watched.

    See my point on #6. All you are doing is preserving the separation of the people and gov’t with this view.

    How dare you say that MM’s cultural background is a “handicap”?

    Donald – Can you explain to us ho the American Revolution meets the requirements of a “just war”?

  • Donald,

    I do believe that people ought to be able to define themselves. But I also believe that a political label as broad as conservatism can be home to different branches, to conservatisms, plural.

    The thing about the founding fathers and Burke is that they lived before the Industrial Revolution, and Lincoln, only on the cusp. I am indeed quite sympathetic to the American revolution. I stand by the bill of rights as a document that defines our quintessential political liberties. But I do not believe that civil libertarianism and economic libertarianism are the same, or equally desirable.

    There is a hierarchy of social values. “Free enterprise”, as Pius XI wrote, is good within its proper limits. But when it is placed as a higher priority than social stability, then it becomes dangerous. When it is said that it is better for great inequalities to exist than for a minority to have their vast wealth regulated for the common good, to me that is anti-conservative. I think Pius’ argument that property and wealth must be regulated in order to ultimately preserve them from the sort of class warfare and violent revolution that inevitably results from their imbalance is a far more conservative argument.

    So, I think the true continuation of conservatism is found in Catholic social thought, not in classical liberalism. As for your list, I agree fully with 4, 6, 7 and 9, though I would understand “self-reliance” within the context of community and family, not as an isolated individual. The rest I accept on the condition that they are not prioritized above the common good and social stability. And I believe that is where Catholic social thought ultimately leads us. It is not that these things are bad, or not to be valued, but that they have a specific place on the hierarchy of values.

  • I’ll add that I have an article coming up on Inside Catholic about the direction I think conservatism ought to go… as someone who would like to consider himself a conservative but can’t quite yet.

    There does need to be a new conservatism, and I’m afraid that the conservative values I DO share – the value of the unborn, the right to bear arms, the integrity of the family, home and private schools, and others – will be dragged into irrelevance at best by some of the other values I don’t share or don’t believe should be prioritized the way they are.

    Conservatives have to understand that my generation does not agree with them on the role of government in the economy. If they can’t put forward an alternative to Democratic welfare-state that isn’t just more of the same laissez-faire rhetoric, they will never hold power again. Balk at that if you like, or take it for the reflection of reality that it is.

    Since most conservatives are also Christians it would be ironic, and tragic, if the reason conservatism failed was that it refused to embrace Catholic social thought (and there are schools of Protestant social thought that aren’t that distant).

  • Tony, which Pius IX? The Pio Nono of 1846-1847 would have been much more accepting of various parts of my list than the Pio Nono of 1848 who, badly frightened by Italian Revolutionaries, retreated into political reaction for the rest of his life, which culminated in his Syllabus of Errors, a document which helps establish the case that the charism of infallibility does not extend to purely political matters, although it still has some very interesting and intriguing passages. As to Saint Pius X, my beloved Hammer of the Modernists, I doubt not that he would have detested much of my list. Of course he also would have detested much of your Christian Democrat leanings, and your socialism would have appalled him. Saint Pius X was not in sympathy with much of the political development of the modern world since the Council of Trent. His attitude is summed up in this paragraph:

    “Pius X instituted a reaction against the Christian Democrats, the Catholic party in Italy. He objected to any Catholic in Italy or elsewhere conducting a social or political life independently of the Church hierarchy. He condemned popular Catholic parties in Italy and France, including Charles Maurras’s Action Française. In this matter Pius carried Leo XIII’s political paternalism to an extreme and rejected democratic ideals. In pursuance of this policy a break with the French government was inevitable because of the secularizing philosophy of that government and the law of 1905 separating Church and state in France. Tension between Russia and the Vatican grew over Poland. Pius had uneasy relations with Germany, Austria, and the United States for the same reasons.”

    Popes are to be followed on matters of Faith. As to their political leanings, those vary wildly from pope to pope, and their worth, or worthlessness, have to be judged separately from their office.

    As to my list, it is deeply conservative from an American conservative perspective. The list has its roots in the American Revolution, an event you have absolutely no sympathy for, and therefore I can understand your inability to understand American conservatives.

  • Joe, your comments require more time from me than I have this morning for an adequate response. I would merely note that I think you and I, except in the economic sphere, are much more in agreement than disagreement. I look forward to your post on conservatism. I may do a responding post and the dialogue I hope will be fruitful.

    I think the American Revolution is key for understanding most things about America, with the Civil War coming in a close second, and our political beliefs are no exception to that rule.

    Winston Churchill, who went from Conservative-Liberal-Conservative, was often condemned in his time as being a “Yankee” due to his mother and to his odd, for the British, political style. Unlike most foreigners, I believe he understood and appreciated the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and his writings on America are useful for Americans wishing to understand their country from the eyes of a sympathetic outsider. I woud put him next to de Tocqueville in that regard.

  • “Donald is clearly a liberal.”

    Now you’ve gone too far Catholic Anarchist!!!! (Actually if you mean 19th Century political liberal, you are absolutely correct!)

  • “Anarchism, which has a strong suspicion of gov’t as well, seeks to make the people the government in the most direct way possible.”

    As was demonstrated during the Spanish Civil War Catholic Anarchist, woe betide those portions of the people who are not in sympathy with the government when portions of the people are the government. Government will always be with us, and people will always disagree as to what government should and should not do. Best to shackle government as much as possible and to allow people the maximum possible freedom to work out private voluntary associations between themselves. For example, if people want to be part of an anarchist commune, I have absolutely no problem with that. If an anarchist people-as-government says that I have to belong to such a commune, I have a huge problem. The State should occupy as small a role in our lives as possible.

  • “Self-reliance rather than reliance on the State.

    These are are only two options? What a silly binary assumption this is.”

    People are also free to rely on families and voluntary associations, but for most healthy adults, as they quickly find out, self-reliance is best.

    “That government is always a danger to human freedom unless carefully watched.

    See my point on #6. All you are doing is preserving the separation of the people and gov’t with this view.”

    Catholic Anarchist, in my view Rousseauian governments which purport to embody the popular will require even more suspicion than most governments. It is a fantasy that governments will not act like governments no matter what they are called. History amply proves that point.

    “How dare you say that MM’s cultural background is a “handicap”?

    Because it is true Catholic Anarchist, as every post Tony has made about America demonstrates.

    “Donald – Can you explain to us ho the American Revolution meets the requirements of a “just war”?”

    Yes I can and thank you for giving me an idea for a Fourth of July post, which I am sure you will be eager to read as you mourn the Fourth up in Canada!

  • Donald,

    I think you’re right – we probably do agree more than disagree, but the disagreement is still substantial.

    For instance, I disagree with what you said to someone else:

    “Popes are to be followed on matters of Faith. As to their political leanings, those vary wildly from pope to pope, and their worth, or worthlessness, have to be judged separately from their office.”

    The social teaching of the Church has been consistent for 120 years. It has been developed and modified, but the core themes have remained in place. And I do not believe that the Papal writings on social issues can be neatly separated from ‘matters of Faith’. That said, there is flexibility in the social doctrine that there is not in matters of religious dogma.

  • “How dare you say that MM’s cultural background is a ‘handicap’?”

    It’s a handicap in the sense of not being able to sympathize with Americans, which in turn prevents him from being able to understand Americans, which is what leads him to constantly offer cultural psychoanalysis that consists of nothing but crude and juvenile caricatures. It’s rather comical.

  • Like most things Joe it is a matter of definition: how we define social teaching as distinct from political leanings. For example, a condemnation of greed and a stern admonition to care for the poor I consider to be a timeless social teaching of the Church. The Papal condemnation of Magna Charta in 1215 I would consider to be the ephemeral political leaning of a particular pope. Often times it takes centuries to sort the wheat from the chaff of a particular papacy.

  • “It’s a handicap in the sense of not being able to sympathize with Americans, which in turn prevents him from being able to understand Americans, which is what leads him to constantly offer cultural psychoanalysis that consists of nothing but crude and juvenile caricatures. It’s rather comical.”

    I wish at times that I felt Americans understood this in the reverse when we view others – that we have a natural handicap in seeing events elsewhere.

  • I think the difficulty with discussions such as this is that ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are in their common usage nominal categories which describe a nexus policy preferences. ‘Liberal’ can be used to describe properly a very particular sort of political economy (which in our own time might be more intelligibly rendered by a term like ‘whig’), but ‘conservative’ has ever been amorphous and characteristic of very particular circumstances. Time and again over the last fifty years, there has been a mess of ink spilled in tedious intramural discussions over what is and is not a properly ‘conservative’ position and time and again over the last thirty years, a sort of rhetorical thimblerig has been played by characters august and scruffy (e.g. Henry Fairlie, Andrew Sullivan, Andrew Bacevich) which purports to critique a course of action or the general dispositions of a political faction as spuriously ‘conservative’ rather than undertaking an engagement with the premises or consequences of the policy. May we suggest perhaps that the point of political life is the apprehension of justice. “To be conservative’ is a proper goal and virtue for accountants. To be justly disposed is proper for the rest of us, without regard to the shorthand by which we are referred.

    I will anticipate Mr. McClarey’s post on the Revolutionary War. In apprehending the course of history in any particular time and place (and more particularly why men rebel), I think it aids one to temporarily suspend judgment. Your country is your country and its history is its history and your civic obligations have no other proper setting. That having been said, one task we have in contemplating that history is understanding why the country’s gentry political class thought disputes over excise taxes and parliamentary representation were worth the candle. (Personally, I would be content were the monarchy restored in this country, and the world’s anglophone territories confederated).

    Now consider:

    1. In a strong national defense.

    What resources you devote to your military is going to vary according to time, place, and circumstance. The United States can look after itself; it is rather less dependent than most on cunning, prudent concession and abstention, &c. A more general set of principles might be as follows: conflict is a given in human relations, force is legitimate, and there is no shame is self-reliance.

    2. In free enterprise.

    I think command economies have been thoroughly discredited. More particular questions of the right relation between markets, public administration, philanthropy, and family, remain unsettled. Your disputes with others are going to be over positions occupied on spectra, rather than over systems described categorically. A more general principle might be stated thus: that state allocation is not the default mode; that the burden of demonstration ought be on the advocates of state allocation.

    With regard to Thomas Storck and Mr. Hargrave and others who appear to be advocating the formation of parochial cartels in various economic sectors, you might offer as a counterpoint to tease out the implications not only for material welfare but for the quality of civic life of having all this organized rent-seeking going on.

    3. In limited government.

    The difficulty with this principle as stated is that advocates of Hobbesian absolutism, Dr. Francia’s Paraguay, Communism, and Fascism as practiced by Hitler and Mussolini are fairly thin on the ground in most occidental countries. Government is quite generally limited in its capacities and (more often than not) in its formal properties. The question is where the limits should be.

    4. In traditional moral values.

    An elaboration on this would be that enunciated principles of conduct are not properly derived from 1. contemporary social research or 2. contemporary popular preferences or 3. the fads of the elites, or the professional-managerial bourgeoisie, or the chatterati.

    5. A concern as to the Federal government usurping powers that belong to the state.

    That is quite particular to time an place. A more general principle might comment on the tendency you see to strip localities of discretion, which may be manifest in extensive federal republics (like ours) or in small commonwealths like Ireland). One might observe that the discretion of municipal councils is often replaced with that of a cartel formed of a central public agency staffed with professionals, lobbies staffed with those similarly educated, the appellate judiciary, and the (entrenched) elected legislators of the central government; and that the latter, favor the views of those Thomas Sowell has called ‘the anointed’ over ‘the benighted’.

    6. A deep rooted suspicion of utopian projects that depend upon governmental power.

    True. The thing is, Woodrow Wilson is long dead and Earl Browder never mattered much. A more salient problem is the influence in public discourse not of utopians but of folk like Barbara Ehrenreich and Ralph Nader, who are quite articulate but very misinformed about the anatomy and physiology of a political economy. (My personal favorite is the suggestion in 1986 by Ehrenreich and Frances Fox-Piven that everyone be given a guaranteed income equal to the domestic product per capita; you can call this ‘utopian’, but ‘stupid’ would be closer the mark). If you are speaking more particularly about foreign relations, a sort of utopianism is a grave problem, though more abroad than here.

    7. Self-reliance rather than reliance on the State.

    The trouble with this as stated is that the state produces services that commercial companies and philanthropies either cannot or can in only a half-assed way. Any working political society is going to have some reliance on the state. Your disputes with others are going to be on spectra than over categories. Perhaps some more general principles might be: 1. it is not the business of the state to produce salable goods and services, bar in the realm of ‘natural monopolies’ (i.e. no Beveridge in your Keynes); 2. common provision through public agencies tends to enervate to a degree families and philanthropies, and that this sort of impact needs to be weighed in the balance in considering augmentation of state provision.

    8. In low taxes.

    I think more properly stated would be a general bias against public expenditure. Over time, the level of taxation should reflect precisely the ratio of public expenditure to domestic product. To say you have a bias against public expenditure is a somewhat cruder restatement of a disinclination to have public agencies as allocators.

    I do think it would be better in contemplating this question to give some thought to what you would like the state to be undertaking and then to look at the implications. One might also note that there are unpredictable spikes in public expenditure which come from wars (about one year in ten since 1756 we have spent in a war which required a full-bore national mobilization) and banking crises like the one we are in now (which seem to occur about every 55 years or so). Personally, I think it would be difficult, or entailing some sacrifice of desirable public goals, to reduce public expenditure much below a long-term mean of 40% of domestic product. One principle you might enlarge on (as it is much in opposition to the practice of the Democratic Party in our time) is that public agencies should not be organized appetites, and that public policy should never be directed toward the provision of rents to public employees qua public employees).

    9. That government only derives its power from the consent of the governed.

    An elaboration particular to our time, and which might draw on the observations of persons as disparate as Thomas Sowell and Christopher Lasch and Robert Bork, is that much of what the opposition does is directed toward the erection of and justification of a mandarinate.

    10. That government is always a danger to human freedom unless carefully watched.

    Looking at our own time and place, I think what occurs is not so much that the state is a danger to liberty but that the state turns into a vast practitioner and promoter of rent-seeking by its employees, by elected officials, and by dependent economic sectors.

  • The social teaching of the Church has been consistent for 120 years.

    I suppose those encyclicals as they now stand rule out certain approaches to social relations (e.g. Ayn Rand’s), but if you can craft implementable public policies from those documents, you are way ahead of me.

  • Not to jump in inappropriately… but personally I’m uncertain if the church has a full understanding of “self interest” in the libertarian sense. To this day it seems that most Catholics equate “self interest” with selfishness, and in their efforts to exalt a “selflessness” end up distorting the society-wide benefits of “self interest” and free market capitalism.

  • Anthony,

    I do not equate those terms. We are all self-interested. It is, as always, a question of moral priorities. Self-interest is pursued within the context of the common good, not outside it or against it.

    Utilitarian arguments about the free market are worth next to nothing in my book. There has never been a “free market” at the state level – there has only been command economy and varying degrees of state capitalism.

    I don’t want to haggle over the standard words and their meaning. My argument, and that of the Church, is simple: when inequalities in wealth threaten social stability, wealth and property must be regulated. When workers are denied their fundamental rights, which the Church has listed, they have a right to organize economically and/or politically to fight for them. When commercialism and consumerism lead people into immoral, anti-social behavior by ceaselessly appealing to their lower natures, concerned citizens have a right to insist on their limitation.

    Catholic social teaching can tolerate a degree of liberalism – but only a degree. It cannot become liberalism. Liberalism’s view of society is still, in spite of some modification and improvement, atomistic at its core. The Chruch’s is organic. The Church warns against the danger of politics being reduced to “individuals and the state” – as has arguably happened to American politics, with one party talking of nothing but individual liberty and the other of the potential of state intervention.

    When this happens, like it or not, you are signing on with Hobbes. You can’t acknowledge the war of each against all and then prefer it to the Leviathan state – sooner or later that war will consume society. The Church has always known this. That is why she has always supported the “middle” layer between individuals and the state, and has always been concerned with its withering away.

  • Utilitarian arguments about the free market are worth next to nothing in my book. There has never been a “free market” at the state level – there has only been command economy and varying degrees of state capitalism.

    I attended some lectures years ago by the economic historian Stanley Engerman. Among the estimates he offered was that in the occidental world, the ratio of public expenditure to domestic product tended to be around 10% during the period prior to 1914. The expenditures of the central government in the United States prior to 1930 tended toward 3% of domestic product. The United States has never had much in the way of public enterprise (it has been limited to postal services, water provision, gas and electric provision, and mass transit) and state industrial and housing sectors in Britain were an artifact of the Atlee government (1945-51). From the repeal of the Corn Laws in Britain (ca. 1845) to the advent of the First World War, the liberal economic order was the default in the occidental world. (There is a distinction between an ideal type and a reality, of course).

    My argument, and that of the Church, is simple: when inequalities in wealth threaten social stability, wealth and property must be regulated.

    In this country, there have been two gross manifestations of threats to social stability derived from class stratification in living memory: the riots which tore through one city after another during the period between 1964 and 1971 and the mass of industrial actions occurring during the Depression. A discussion of neither would be particularly topical, the former was derived in large measure from a loss of nerve on the part of civic authorities and in part from communal stratification, not class stratification; the latter was in part derived from acute, not chronic, conditions.

    When commercialism and consumerism lead people into immoral, anti-social behavior by ceaselessly appealing to their lower natures, concerned citizens have a right to insist on their limitation.

    The drug trade and prostitution are generally illegal, gambling is in most locales circumscribed and technology has rendered it next to impossible to contain the most salient forms of trafficking in pornography, though more conventional forms could be were there political will to do so. Just out of curiosity, what else did you have in mind.

    Catholic social teaching can tolerate a degree of liberalism – but only a degree. It cannot become liberalism.

    Who has identified the two?

    Liberalism’s view of society is still, in spite of some modification and improvement, atomistic at its core. The Chruch’s is organic. The Church warns against the danger of politics being reduced to “individuals and the state” – as has arguably happened to American politics, with one party talking of nothing but individual liberty and the other of the potential of state intervention.

    For at least the last thirty years, politicians within the Republican Party have been speaking of the erosion in the durability of family relations and of encroachments on the discretion of families.

    When this happens, like it or not, you are signing on with Hobbes.

    Stop it.

  • “Self-interest is pursued within the context of the common good, not outside it or against it.”

    I’m not sure we see this statement in the same way. When a person pursues their self-interest, they are contributing to the common good whether intentional or not. They better society in a variety of natural ways by their self-sustenance, providing for family and friends, and improving the lives of those they produce for.

    “Self-interest outside the common good, or against it” to me WOULD be the very definition of selfishness. And, to improve the libertarian argument, this selfishness is naturally self-destructive. It can’t be maintained forever, and the market has natural mechanisms for punishing such behavior. No one argues in favor of this kind of attitude because its understood to inevitably do harm to society.

    “My argument, and that of the Church, is simple: when inequalities in wealth threaten social stability, wealth and property must be regulated.”

    The Church can say that, but I’m not certain it has an kind of infallibility when doing so. I would argue that when inequalities in wealth threaten social stability the market must be allowed to equalize itself. To end that statement with your “wealth and property must be regulated” is extremely problematic. For one, regulation by its very nature would redistribute wealth not according to moral needs, but rather according to political interests. I shouldn’t have to explain the dangers in that. Two, the regulators (ie, the state) have no moral means to accomplish the moral end of stabilizing society. They only have the coercion that legal violence affords them. We can be certain in that respect that the Church would not support immoral means even in the service of a moral end.

    In short, the tact your above statement seems to take would not resolve conflict, but rather entrench it.

    “When workers are denied their fundamental rights, which the Church has listed, they have a right to organize economically and/or politically to fight for them.”

    This is true. But there are limitations. Workers do not have a right to coerce wealth and resources out of their employer, nor do they have right to coerce participation from other workers.

    Unions, which I presume you are referring, serve a positive role in the economy. Not only to they allow workers to organize their own resources, they serve as a way of letting employers know more information about their own business and the labor market. This information is invaluable to the employer because now he can better organize his business to a variety of ends: either to attract more talented labor, or to increase efficiency or to improve relations with current employees.

    However, when Unions become a political force with the intent of using the law to extract wealth from the employer it drags down the very source of the wealth it had to start with. The Union is also selfishly attempting to benefit its members at the expense of non-members and the unemployed: for if it had kept within its moral bounds, society would be further benefited either in the increased profit or the increased employment the lesser regulations would allow.

    “When commercialism and consumerism lead people into immoral, anti-social behavior by ceaselessly appealing to their lower natures, concerned citizens have a right to insist on their limitation.”

    Says who exactly? Some consumers might engage in such behavior, but whose to say that a.) violence is being done to other citizens and b.) that “bad” consumers are not already being punished for their choices?

    Many Americans in the past 10 years lived way beyond their means. Now they are suffering the consequences by having to improve their behavior, i.e. under-consume resources in order to pay off their debts. The market has forced them to re lifestyle. This is the marketplaces’ natural punishment. “Regulation” does nothing to improve the situation. In fact we often see what passes for regulation more often that not enables FUTURE bad behavior and places restrictions and arbitrary obligations on the responsible consumers.

    Besides, citizens only have a ‘right’ to ‘insist on limitations’ when actual harm (usually either violent or financial) has been done to them. If an individual or a corporation simply makes a bad decision, or enters into a foolish contract, or produces a tasteless product, I as a citizen and consumer can punish them by taking away my business but I cannot render any other kind of harm. As I’ve alluded to above, moral means are requisite to a moral end.

    “The Church warns against the danger of politics being reduced to “individuals and the state” – as has arguably happened to American politics, with one party talking of nothing but individual liberty and the other of the potential of state intervention.”

    Well of course it does… because that reduction leaves no room for religion in the life of society. However, that does not equate to making counterproductive policies in the halls of Congress. The Church has a responsibility to teach and behave in concert with Christ’s message. Its that effort that fills gaps between individuals and the state.

    “You can’t acknowledge the war of each against all and then prefer it to the Leviathan state – sooner or later that war will consume society.”

    I’m not really sure what you’re getting at here. If I might be allowed to shoot from the hip for a second, an ‘ordered’ society in my view would place primacy on individual liberty, followed by the natural phenomena of religious, philosophical and moral teaching all secured by a severely limited and small contractual government. But of course, thanks to our fallen nature that ‘order’ is rarely in proper proportion, isn’t it?

  • AD,

    You don’t think potential social unrest is mounting right now? America is more polarized today, politically, than it has been in a long time. The divides may be cultural, but there is also widespread populist discontent with the Wall Street marauders. Obama will only hold the lid on that for so long.

    Even if it didn’t lead to open, violent class warfare, vast inequalities still unbalance the political system and tend towards plutocracy. Not to mention, they eat up resources that could and should be used to promote the common good. The disproportionate share of the wealth commanded by the top 1% of Americans is simply unjustifiable.

    “Just out of curiosity, what else did you have in mind.”

    I have in mind the informative Vatican document “Ethics in Advertising” which condemns the practice of creating demand for items that no person needs or asked for.

    I also have in mind towns like Ave Maria, which weren’t able to regulate pornography as they originally intended thanks to threats from the ACLU. Our society is drowning in pornography, which is a multi-billion dollar industry. It has having horrible, corrosive effects on families and communities.

    Pornography is only the most extreme example. Fast food joints are taking over public schools, paying for books in return for the privilege of peddling their unhealthy junk food to impressionable children. This is an assault on public health and a Faustian bargain with the devil. A high school diploma won’t help you when you develop diabetes as a teenager.

    Our ability to regulate and control our own lives, our health, our spiritual and intellectual well-being, is ceaselessly undermined by big business and big government. You can trivialize these problems if you wish – yes, look around you and most people appear sated, comfortable, supportive of the status quo. But appearances are deceiving and deeper down, there is more suffering than we realize.

    “Who has identified the two?”

    I have. Is there is some problem with the way I am using them? I’ll defend my interpretation of both, if so. You can read this if you like, where I talk about Catholic social thought maneuvering between both individualism and collectivism:

    http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6026&Itemid=121&ed=4

    “For at least the last thirty years, politicians within the Republican Party have been speaking of the erosion in the durability of family relations and of encroachments on the discretion of families.”

    The nuclear family is a flimsy copy of the extended family that has faded out of existence in the West. And even that is not enough – families must be united as communities. We need all of the little platoons, not just one or two. Those are what support the individual and his efforts and serve as the natural, organic buffer between him and the state.

    “Stop it.”

    I won’t, because it’s true. Social atomization necessarily gives rise to the Leviathan state. Without the intermediate organizations, the weak have only the state to protect them, and they eagerly seek out its services.

  • Whew. Another long post to reply to. I hope it goes somewhat appreciated. I type fast, but I can’t keep this pace forever.

    Anthony,

    “And, to improve the libertarian argument, this selfishness is naturally self-destructive. It can’t be maintained forever, and the market has natural mechanisms for punishing such behavior.”

    It is not only self-destructive, it destroys society. Unfortunately many people do not think about the long-term consequences and seek only short-term gain. All economic activity is a social act and has social consequences, hence, the community and the state, to various degrees, have every right to regulate it for the common good. We are under no obligation to sit and wait for the self-destructive effects to culminate in disaster before we do anything. Society is an organism, not an amalgamation of individuals – preventative medicine today prevents costly and painful treatments tomorrow.

    “We can be certain in that respect that the Church would not support immoral means even in the service of a moral end.”

    Of course not – but the Church does not consider regulation and the redistribution of wealth, again within reason, to be ‘immoral’, partly for the reason stated above – economic activity, as social activity, must be regulated by individuals themselves, communities, and the state, each acting within their proper role. This is a central message of Catholic social thought.

    Again, we are under no obligation to ‘wait for the market’. It boarders on an idolization, if not an anthropomorphizing, of an abstract entity. The economy is made up of real individuals with real obligations to the society in which they live. Severe imbalances could be prevented through wise policy before a catastrophe that requires ‘correction’ even materializes.

    Personally, I prefer cooperatives to unions – when everyone is an owner with a substantial share and say in the business, there is no class conflict. The relationship is between the firm and the community, without internal antagonisms distorting it. This serves the common good.

    The Church supports both unions and cooperatives. The most successful cooperative in the world was founded by a Catholic priest inspired by Quadragesimo Anno. My goal, if anything, is to help spread that inspiration further.

    “Besides, citizens only have a ‘right’ to ‘insist on limitations’ when actual harm (usually either violent or financial) has been done to them.”

    I disagree. I believe communities have every right to decide what kind of content will be allowed in their community – a person is always free to move to another one. In my post above I cited the example of Ave Maria town. Pornography is harmful – just because something isn’t force or fraud does not mean it does not cause harm.

    Frankly I don’t see how you can have a Catholic view of morality and spirituality if you don’t acknowledge these things. Moral and spiritual harm is real, psychological harm is real – when these things break up families and corrupt the minds of children, society is harmed, we are all harmed.

    What I see in your thinking is what I see in many Americans, on both sides of the spectrum – in the name of freedom, allow problems to fester until they require a drastic and heavy-handed response. The left says “lets make a law” and the right says “let the market fix it”. The Church says “lets create morally capable individuals and communities who can handle problems on their own” without waiting for some outside entity to solve it.

    “he Church has a responsibility to teach and behave in concert with Christ’s message. Its that effort that fills gaps between individuals and the state.”

    Then why does every Papal encyclical on social issues constantly remind us about and implore us to build the intermediate organizations? It isn’t just a moral lecture that the Church calls us to listen to, but real ideas to be implemented in our lives.

  • “I have in mind the informative Vatican document “Ethics in Advertising” which condemns the practice of creating demand for items that no person needs or asked for.”

    Oooh. Thats right up my alley, considering that I’m an art director at an advertising agency.

    Umm… who exactly gets to determine what a person needs or is asking for? That is sort of the consumers job isn’t it? Its not our fault if they make a bad choice, and its kind of insulting to imply that the consumer either isn’t capable of making proper decisions or is too intellectually weak to resist material temptations.

    And to boot… advertising does not create demand. That’s actually giving advertising a little too much credit. Consumers in the determine the level of demand in the same way supply is determined by production. Advertising does, however, create AWARENESS by alerting consumers to products and services available.

    At any rate, I won’t go further because I haven’t examined the document myself. But it is fun to think that the Vatican thinks advertising is worth commenting on. Hahaha.

  • Donald is indeed a liberal — I think 8 of his 10 tenets have their genesis in classical liberalism. And no, one cannot simply define terms as one sees fit. The term conservative has a clear meaning that cannot be simply transformed in an Orwellian manner. I readily admit that I find things to like in the liberal Enlightment- the modern papacy has tended in that direction, and Pope Benedict has said as much Unlike dear old Elizabeth Anscombe (close friend of a close friend of mine), I would not dub it the “Endarkenment”!. But I also recognize the fatal flaws in its anthropology, especially its emphasis on the individual over the person (again, one must use precise language — these words mean 2 very different things in the Catholic context).

  • There has been an insufficiency of financial prudence manifest in excessive consumption, public and private, over the last 25 years. The thing is, I think you will find the effect and purpose of advertising is to influence people preferences on a fairly granular level. If you walk about my home, you will see four appliances which had no analogue in the home my grandparents occupied in 1940: a television, a pair of personal computers, and an associated laser printer. On some shelves you see compact discs, cassette tapes, and long-playing records. These, and the equipment used to render the sound, are technologically updated versions of the 78s and record player they owned. Some of the vegetables in the refrigerator would not have been vended in 1940 as they were not in season. The quantum and quality of merchandise is better, but the sort of things people find utile are not all that much different. Per capita income has about quadrupled since 1940.

    If you say that advertising plays on and promotes a conception of satisfaction that diminishes our character, you might have a point. Personally I cannot imagine what sort of public policies might be crafted and adopted to address that.

    The misbehavior of the appellate judiciary and the har har public interest bar is their doing, not that of the Republican Party as an institution or of associated publicists.

    I am not sure why you have concluded that nuclear families are ‘flimsy copies’ of extended families (and I think you mean ‘stem families’), or where you came by the idea that ‘extended families’ have been the primary social units in occidental civilization.

    I asked you who had suggested ‘liberalism’ was properly identified with ‘Catholicism’. You were implicitly accusing someone of having done that . I asked you and your answer was you yourself. Now I am thoroughly confused.

    I won’t, because it’s true. Social atomization necessarily gives rise to the Leviathan state.

    The following are not true:

    1. That Mr. McClarey or persons with an affinity for the Republican Party generally can be fairly characterized as being unconcerned with the welfare of small communal groups;

    2. That Mr. McClarey et al. are composing justifications for absolute monarchy.

    (I might also add that the nuclear family is not properly dismissed out of hand as an unimportant social body, but you are entitled to your own opinions if not your own facts).

  • “We are under no obligation to sit and wait for the self-destructive effects to culminate in disaster before we do anything. Society is an organism, not an amalgamation of individuals – preventative medicine today prevents costly and painful treatments tomorrow.”
    Nor are we under an obligation to curb productive development or hunt down economic boogee men that may or may not exist. The responsibility of the state is to ensure the integrity of the playing field in the free market by enforcing contracts and punishing fraud.
    I’d love ‘preventative medicine’ but I’m afraid you and I might disagree on what that means exactly. The American public has been suckered into that ‘medicine’ (ie regulation) time and again and yet it still did not prevent economic destruction from occurring. Had we genuinely believed in free markets none of this would be happening – yet instead we’ve bought into the collusion of government and business and have been fooled into thinking it actually protects us from an uninhibited and malicious capitalism. It does not.
    Take the Federal Reserve – a quasi-private / public institution that in essence also serves as a cartel of large banks wishing to limit competition. By arbitrarily setting interest rates under self-serving or politically motivated pretenses, “bad” behavior on the part of banks, corporations, governments and individuals is ENABLED. Had the market been allowed to determine its own price for money, much of the irresponsible choices would never have happened thanks to higher interest rates. Consumers and businesses would be forced to save and wait for better conditions to borrow funds. In other words, the very ‘preventative medicine’ you are looking for is built right into the free market system if it would only be allowed to work!
    Sadly this bogus monetary system is sold to the public as benign and regulated when in fact it is the precise opposite. The intervention into the economy, and others like it, has been the beginning, middle and end of these problems by manipulating the environment in which the free market must operate. It should come as no surprise to any one that under these conditions bad decisions, both innocent and deceptive, would occur!
    “It boarders on an idolization, if not an anthropomorphizing, of an abstract entity. “
    I don’t see the free marketers idolizing the market any more than physicists idolizing gravity. Plus, a lot of the voices that supposedly talk up the free market contradict themselves by their own actions: either going to the government for assistance (in the case of business people), or supporting interventions ( on the part of politicians).
    Additionally I’m unsure that the market is an abstract entity rather than a natural phenomenon that can be observed and studied. If anything it has been in reading about the free market and its natural modes of reward and punishment that has reinforced my awe in God’s creation.
    “Personally, I prefer cooperatives to unions – when everyone is an owner with a substantial share and say in the business, there is no class conflict. The relationship is between the firm and the community, without internal antagonisms distorting it. This serves the common good.”
    Yikes! I bet that company has the most inefficient and unproductive meetings imaginable!
    “I disagree. I believe communities have every right to decide what kind of content will be allowed in their community – a person is always free to move to another one. In my post above I cited the example of Ave Maria town. Pornography is harmful – just because something isn’t force or fraud does not mean it does not cause harm.”
    Hmm. Mixtures of yes and no on my part. Your example only works because it is on a small, local level. Taking such measures on a much larger scale across multiple communities and cultures would probably result in worse, unintended antagonism.
    The harm you speak of however is more moral and spiritual. I strongly hesitate to see the state intervene in such matters. At some point it has to be accepted that some, perhaps many, will morally fail and that maybe they should be allowed to. The state cannot make up for the inadequacies of the churches, families, friends etc. that aim to steer the human person away from the harmful paths you refer to. The monolith will not save you, will not save society and cannot force you into heaven kicking and screaming.
    “Frankly I don’t see how you can have a Catholic view of morality and spirituality if you don’t acknowledge these things. Moral and spiritual harm is real, psychological harm is real – when these things break up families and corrupt the minds of children, society is harmed, we are all harmed.”
    I don’t disagree. I just acknowledge that the state is ill suited to solve such matters interior to the human heart.
    “What I see in your thinking is what I see in many Americans…the left says “lets make a law” and the right says “let the market fix it”. The Church says “lets create morally capable individuals and communities who can handle problems on their own” without waiting for some outside entity to solve it.”
    Don’t really disagree with the above.
    Creating those very individuals is a role for the Church, the individual, the family and to a lesser degree local communities- not the large, fat behemoth federal state that encompasses multiple societies and cultures with at times differing and conflicting moral convictions. A bureaucrat from Connecticut who works in D.C. at the Department of Education ought not, should not and cannot make proper formative decisions for a kid growing up in Arizona with one parent, no matter how well intentioned.
    “Then why does every Papal encyclical on social issues constantly remind us about and implore us to build the intermediate organizations? It isn’t just a moral lecture that the Church calls us to listen to, but real ideas to be implemented in our lives.”
    Sure. But who said those organizations had to be the state’s brainchild? Such intermediate organizations should come from individuals and the private sector, where charity finds its genuine home.
    You need only look at the arguments over abortion, marriage, poverty, etc. to see what happens when people accept the state as a route to solving moral deficiencies in society.

  • I am not sure what is so unhealthy about Chicken McNuggets. I diet composed of Chicken McNuggets would be unhealthy, but so would a diet of chicken fried on the top of my stove the way my great-grandmother used to make it. The aesthetics of retail trade and associated real-estate development are distasteful and something to be addressed by policy, but it is rather de trop to refer to the local franchiseur as ‘the devil’ for selling you lunch prepared according to stereotype. I think the teachings of the Church will allow us to hold people responsible for what they stuff into their face.

  • Apologies for my lack of paragraph breaks above. Could the above be removed allowing an easier to read repost?

    *****

    “We are under no obligation to sit and wait for the self-destructive effects to culminate in disaster before we do anything. Society is an organism, not an amalgamation of individuals – preventative medicine today prevents costly and painful treatments tomorrow.”

    Nor are we under an obligation to curb productive development or hunt down economic boogee men that may or may not exist. The responsibility of the state is to ensure the integrity of the playing field in the free market by enforcing contracts and punishing fraud.

    I’d love ‘preventative medicine’ but I’m afraid you and I might disagree on what that means exactly. The American public has been suckered into that ‘medicine’ (ie regulation) time and again and yet it still did not prevent economic destruction from occurring. Had we genuinely believed in free markets none of this would be happening – yet instead we’ve bought into the collusion of government and business and have been fooled into thinking it actually protects us from an uninhibited and malicious capitalism. It does not.

    Take the Federal Reserve – a quasi-private / public institution that in essence also serves as a cartel of large banks wishing to limit competition. By arbitrarily setting interest rates under self-serving or politically motivated pretenses, “bad” behavior on the part of banks, corporations, governments and individuals is ENABLED. Had the market been allowed to determine its own price for money, much of the irresponsible choices would never have happened thanks to higher interest rates. Consumers and businesses would be forced to save and wait for better conditions to borrow funds. In other words, the very ‘preventative medicine’ you are looking for is built right into the free market system if it would only be allowed to work!

    Sadly this bogus monetary system is sold to the public as benign and regulated when in fact it is the precise opposite. The intervention into the economy, and others like it, has been the beginning, middle and end of these problems by manipulating the environment in which the free market must operate. It should come as no surprise to any one that under these conditions bad decisions, both innocent and deceptive, would occur!

    “It boarders on an idolization, if not an anthropomorphizing, of an abstract entity. “

    I don’t see the free marketers idolizing the market any more than physicists idolizing gravity. Plus, a lot of the voices that supposedly talk up the free market contradict themselves by their own actions: either going to the government for assistance (in the case of business people), or supporting interventions ( on the part of politicians).

    Additionally I’m unsure that the market is an abstract entity rather than a natural phenomenon that can be observed and studied. If anything it has been in reading about the free market and its natural modes of reward and punishment that has reinforced my awe in God’s creation.

    “Personally, I prefer cooperatives to unions – when everyone is an owner with a substantial share and say in the business, there is no class conflict. The relationship is between the firm and the community, without internal antagonisms distorting it. This serves the common good.”

    Yikes! I bet that company has the most inefficient and unproductive meetings imaginable!

    “I disagree. I believe communities have every right to decide what kind of content will be allowed in their community – a person is always free to move to another one. In my post above I cited the example of Ave Maria town. Pornography is harmful – just because something isn’t force or fraud does not mean it does not cause harm.”

    Hmm. Mixtures of yes and no on my part. Your example only works because it is on a small, local level. Taking such measures on a much larger scale across multiple communities and cultures would probably result in worse, unintended antagonism.

    The harm you speak of however is more moral and spiritual. I strongly hesitate to see the state intervene in such matters. At some point it has to be accepted that some, perhaps many, will morally fail and that maybe they should be allowed to. The state cannot make up for the inadequacies of the churches, families, friends etc. that aim to steer the human person away from the harmful paths you refer to. The monolith will not save you, will not save society and cannot force you into heaven kicking and screaming.

    “Frankly I don’t see how you can have a Catholic view of morality and spirituality if you don’t acknowledge these things. Moral and spiritual harm is real, psychological harm is real – when these things break up families and corrupt the minds of children, society is harmed, we are all harmed.”

    I don’t disagree. I just acknowledge that the state is ill suited to solve such matters interior to the human heart.

    “What I see in your thinking is what I see in many Americans…the left says “lets make a law” and the right says “let the market fix it”. The Church says “lets create morally capable individuals and communities who can handle problems on their own” without waiting for some outside entity to solve it.”

    Don’t really disagree with the above.

    Creating those very individuals is a role for the Church, the individual, the family and to a lesser degree local communities- not the large, fat behemoth federal state that encompasses multiple societies and cultures with at times differing and conflicting moral convictions. A bureaucrat from Connecticut who works in D.C. at the Department of Education ought not, should not and cannot make proper formative decisions for a kid growing up in Arizona with one parent, no matter how well intentioned.

    “Then why does every Papal encyclical on social issues constantly remind us about and implore us to build the intermediate organizations? It isn’t just a moral lecture that the Church calls us to listen to, but real ideas to be implemented in our lives.”

    Sure. But who said those organizations had to be the state’s brainchild? Such intermediate organizations should come from individuals and the private sector, where charity finds its genuine home.

    You need only look at the arguments over abortion, marriage, poverty, etc. to see what happens when people accept the state as a route to solving moral deficiencies in society.

  • Art Deco,

    I meant extended family. I really don’t know or want to speculate on why you thought you needed to correct my phrase.

    “I am not sure why you have concluded that nuclear families are ‘flimsy copies’ of extended families”

    Because they are smaller and offer less social support. It’s pretty simple.

    “or where you came by the idea that ‘extended families’ have been the primary social units in occidental civilization.”

    I came by the idea from history. At least in Mediterranean cultures in Spain, Italy, etc. extended family played a large role. In other societies, perhaps not as much – but families were still more integrated than they are today.

    “I asked you who had suggested ‘liberalism’ was properly identified with ‘Catholicism’. You were implicitly accusing someone of having done that . I asked you and your answer was you yourself. Now I am thoroughly confused.”

    I’m confused. You asked “who has identified the two” – I thought you meant, who tried to say what they were. Perhaps the word you were looking for was ‘conflate’ or ‘confused’.

    “That Mr. McClarey or persons with an affinity for the Republican Party generally can be fairly characterized as being unconcerned with the welfare of small communal groups”

    As economic units, I would say they don’t give them their due – economic liberalism undermines communities when it doesn’t destroy them. Unless Donald is a Pat Buchanan style conservative, and I don’t think he is, I’d say the economic policies he supports don’t help and often hurt local economies.

    As guardians of morality and culture, I would say they do give them their due. But it isn’t enough.

    “That Mr. McClarey et al. are composing justifications for absolute monarchy.”

    That isn’t what I argued. Social atomization leads to a Leviathan state – and it doesn’t need to be a formal monarchy, a 20th century style dictatorship will do as well – without anyone necessarily desiring it.

    What is so hard to understand about the notion that, in spite of what one intends and one wishes for, something else may result? Why does my saying x leads to y = saying those who support x, wish y?

  • Anthony,

    You’re going to have to get used to the idea that I, and a lot of other people, and most importantly, the Catholic Church, simply do not buy market orthodoxy. Not even physicists are as confident about their models as some people are in their economic ones.

    It isn’t that I ‘reject science’ – what I reject is the notion that your economists are automatically more knowledgeable than the dozens of economists I could find who say something different. Economics is a discipline that is still open to rational debate, to competing models, to different ideas. If we can’t agree to that, we can’t discuss economics. You can talk at me, and I can ignore it.

    Economic activity is moral activity. Pius XI (and every other modern Pope) has condemned the invisible hand theory from a moral point of view. Here is what Pius said, in part:

    “[T]he right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching. Destroying through forgetfulness or ignorance the social and moral character of economic life, it held that economic life must be considered and treated as altogether free from and independent of public authority, because in the market, i.e., in the free struggle of competitors, it would have a principle of self direction which governs it much more perfectly than would the intervention of any created intellect. But free competition, while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain limits, clearly cannot direct economic life” (Quadragesimo Anno 88)

    Justified and useful – within certain limits. The same applies to private property – justified, and useful, but within certain limits.

    “The American public has been suckered into that ‘medicine’ (ie regulation) time and again and yet it still did not prevent economic destruction from occurring.”

    I believe it did. I believe regulation such as Glass-Stegall was in for a reason – and that dismantling it is what accelerated the financial collapse. Alan Greenspan, the man who ran the economy while all of this was bubbling up, frankly admitted that his deregulatory philosophy was wrong.

    I suppose there are some ‘experts’ who will say that even Greenspan’s authority is no match for their model.

    “By arbitrarily setting interest rates under self-serving or politically motivated pretenses, “bad” behavior on the part of banks, corporations, governments and individuals is ENABLED.”

    I disagree that this is what causes the economic crisis. We always have a Federal Reserve. We don’t always have a crisis. We have a Federal Reserve, doing what it does with money and interest rates, through good times and bad. Does it contribute, can it contribute to the problems? Of course. But is it the only source? No.

    “Consumers and businesses would be forced to save and wait for better conditions to borrow funds. In other words, the very ‘preventative medicine’ you are looking for is built right into the free market system if it would only be allowed to work!”

    I disagree again. It only ‘works’ if people actually behave ethically and rationally. This is why I hated ‘rational choice theory’ – it makes assumptions about human nature that are profoundly wrong. In reality, you have a bunch of people consumed with the rat race, with keeping up with the Joneses, with consumerism and materialism, acting today without thinking about tomorrow. That’s the market. That’s the people who play in it. And their behavior affects me and you. Therefore society has a right to set limits on what they can do with their wealth. Regulating the financial institutions was wise; deregulating them was insane.

    “Yikes! I bet that company has the most inefficient and unproductive meetings imaginable!”

    Have you seriously never heard of the cooperative model? There’s nothing inefficient about it – people are capable of organizing things both democratically and efficiently at the local level.

    Give people a little more credit. Yes, they do things a way differently than you or most Americans would, and yes, they still manage to succeed and thrive in a competitive market.

    Now, as for the rest – you use the word “state” over and over, “state state state”. First, the state DOES have a role to play in regulating the economy. How large a role really depends on the extent of the problems we face, which are at this time, unfortunately, quite large. Secondly, the community has a role to play, and community is the word I used even where you replied with “state”.

    “But who said those organizations had to be the state’s brainchild?”

    It wasn’t me – but the state can and should play a role. Everyone needs to play a role. I have to tell you, more and more people my age are sick of these categorical rejections of ideas that seem like holdovers of the 60s and the 80s. You’re either 100% for the state or 100% against it. We don’t want to hear that, Anthony. I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for a majority, according to the pollsters, in saying that we do not and will not share a rigid view that seeks to totally exclude the state from economic matters.

    I don’t think conservative values will survive another century if they aren’t wedded to a social and economic vision that recognizes consumerism, corporate greed, environmental destruction, vast inequalities in wealth, and above all poverty as problems that are the responsibility of everyone to solve – the state, the community, the public sector, the private sector, the family, the individual. Everyone has a role to play, and some may have a bigger role to play than you or others like you have been willing to accept. Compromise is what is needed, balance is what is needed. That is what I have found in the social teaching of the Church.

  • Alright gents,

    I’m out of here for the day. I’ll be happy to pick it up again tonight 🙂 Something to look forward to.

  • “Economic activity is moral activity.”

    And I tend to view Economics the younger of the sciences, something which can be observed and studied in a valueless way, leaning towards Mises’ study of praxeology, ie human action.

    That does not mean that economics has no moral aspects or that there are no moral dimensions to economic decisions. But before we can fully understand those moral implications its crucial we attempt to best understand the reality in which we live.

    We, as ‘created intellects’ make choices within this reality. We should be allowing nature to take its course, rewarding those that create and produce while punishing those that over-consume and do not produce. I genuinely believe that is the best course for human progress, the best means towards bettering the lot of humanity, rich and poor.

    The question Catholics face is – how do we best use our weath? How will we, as free acting individuals, choose to use the fruits of our labor to better society?

    That is a completely valid question for Catholic social teaching – but it is separate from observations of the free market.

    “Alan Greenspan, the man who ran the economy while all of this was bubbling up, frankly admitted that his deregulatory philosophy was wrong. I suppose there are some ‘experts’ who will say that even Greenspan’s authority is no match for their model.”

    No, but they will say that Greenspan was a traitor. Greenspan chucked his free market principles when he became Federal Reserve Chairman. You can’t believe in free markets and deregulation if you’re also going to believe in fiat money that can be created at will and distributed according to political conditions.

    The worst thing Greenspan ever did was that “admission” of his. He did a massive disservice to his country and to liberty.

    “I disagree that this is what causes the economic crisis. We always have a Federal Reserve. We don’t always have a crisis. We have a Federal Reserve, doing what it does with money and interest rates, through good times and bad. Does it contribute, can it contribute to the problems? Of course. But is it the only source?”

    Of course it is! None of the bad decisions could have been carried out had the money not been so easy to come by.

    Central banking causes both the boom highs and the busts. That is why we have a Fed in both good times and bad. Its just that the bubbles are illusions encourage by low interest rates, which down the road results in economic retraction once all the bad investments fall apart.

    Thats not to imply that somehow bad economic choices would not be made. Far from it! But the scale would be lessened and the shock waves easier to recover from.

    “In reality, you have a bunch of people consumed with the rat race, with keeping up with the Joneses, with consumerism and materialism, acting today without thinking about tomorrow. That’s the market. That’s the people who play in it. And their behavior affects me and you. Therefore society has a right to set limits on what they can do with their wealth. Regulating the financial institutions was wise; deregulating them was insane.”

    Your argument is a cartoon of the market realities. The ‘rat race’ you described is not true, its a distortion. Some of us in the market are there to better ourselves… to do that we work hard and try to make wise choices with the wealth we accumulate.

    The people you describe are the irresponsible ones – obsessed with ‘things’ and consumption. Yet this consumerism would be impossible to entertain if money did not come so easily. Money provided by the Federal Reserve – working under political pressures or with selfish motivations.

    This is the problem with fiat currencies. When money- false ‘wealth’- can be created from nothing the insane behavior becomes possible.

    This is why there are those that still argue for commodity standards in currency, like gold. If money is REAL and cannot be made by the wave of a magic wand out of control consumerism and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ becomes much more difficult. Our economic choices would be made with two feet on the ground, and giving us MORE freedom to work towards a properly ordered society.

    This is a moral and NATURAL way of regulating economic activity. It helps ensure that what growth occurs is genuine, and blunts the spread over-consumption.

    “Now, as for the rest – you use the word “state” over and over, “state state state”. First, the state DOES have a role to play in regulating the economy. How large a role really depends on the extent of the problems we face, which are at this time, unfortunately, quite large. ”

    Because its the state that typical makes situations worse. The problems we face are large, but they were in part created by the state, and the collusion of big business and the state. If ‘the state’ would be so kind as to get out of the way and play its proper role (like in bankruptcy courts), society could more quickly get back on its feet. Now, thanks to government’s ever expanding hubris, companies that should die- like GM- will limp onward, taking up resources and handicapping the private sector’s search for new investments that can produce our way back into prosperity.

    “I have to tell you, more and more people my age are sick of these categorical rejections of ideas that seem like holdovers of the 60s and the 80s.”

    You and I have completely different visions of history. The 60s were all about guns and butter. We were going to save the world through war and social programs. And what did it result in? The crappy 70s, where American society had to finally pay the bills for all that foolishness. And to add insult to injury, all those well-intentioned programs didn’t relieve poverty, it entrenched it by creating a generation of people now dependent on the government. It wasn’t until the 80’s that things began to grow again…but even then there were still plenty of bad choices made within a framework of easy monetary policy that hurt the taxpayer and enriched bankers.

    I don’t know what holdover ideas your talking about, but they certainly aren’t the ones I’m talking about.

    “You’re either 100% for the state or 100% against it. We don’t want to hear that, Anthony. I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for a majority, according to the pollsters, in saying that we do not and will not share a rigid view that seeks to totally exclude the state from economic matters.”

    A.) Who the heck is ‘We’? and b.) your ‘philosophy’ (whatever it is) is an arrogant one.

    Its not a matter of being “100%” for or against the state, its about understanding what the roles are, what the parts in the play are. Its about having the humility to see what happens when the various actors in society overstep their moral boundaries and believe themselves capable of making decisions for others.

    I just think we would be much better off if our economic lives reflected life on Earth as opposed to some obscure magical world were utopia is only a social program and printing press away.

  • I see this thread has been busy today! Good! I will have various responses and comments tomorrow when I can spend some time at the computer.

  • Ugh. When I reread my posts I find so many annoying errors. I renew my demand for an edit feature!

  • iafrate said this:

    The problem with this view is that it preserves the separation of government and the people. Anarchism, which has a strong suspicion of gov’t as well, seeks to make the people the government in the most direct way possible. It’s the only way forward.

    The problem, of course, is that unless you anticipate that all human beings will live in towns of no more than 150 or so people, the “people” will never be completely identical with the “government.” Indeed, you can’t even expect the parents at a decent-sized school to have the time or energy to make every decision about what goes on in that school (down to the purchasing of supplies); which is why they always delegate decision-making power to superintendents, principals, and the like.

    And society as a whole is immeasurably more complicated than a school — decisions have to be made about roads, garbage collection, utilities, policing, fire protection, insurance laws, alcohol sales, gun licensing, and literally thousands of other topics in every locality. There simply isn’t any way that a town of even 10,000 will be involved in making all of those decisions . . . which means that they will inevitably delegate power to some smaller group of people . . . call them “government officials.” Voila, you have a separation between the “people” and the “government.”

  • S.B. – Recognition of a tendency does not require that that tendency be reinforced and systematized.

    MM – Yes, Donald is a classic liberal. His understanding of “freedom” bears no resemblance to the Catholic understanding and his view of politics has absolutely no roots in Christianity.

  • Anthony,

    Two things.

    “Of course it is! None of the bad decisions could have been carried out had the money not been so easy to come by.”

    Who is really responsible for that, though? Credit card companies are as much to blame for people living beyond their means as the Federal Reserve, if not moreso. And though I mean no personal offense to you, relentless advertising also tempts people into trying to spend money they don’t have.

    Alan Greenspan was not a “traitor” to deregulatory ideals.

    “Mr Greenspan admitted that he was “partially” wrong in his opposition to tighter regulation, and added that he was in a state of “shocked disbelief” that shareholders were not protected.”

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/article5003610.ece

    It’s one thing when the FR is doing things that go against your economic philosophy – when it is doing things that supposedly align with it and they fail, what then?

    Meanwhile the Community Reinvestment Act, which conservatives immediately blamed for the crisis, upon closer examination actually prevented it from being worse than it was. For 20 years that policy encouraged lenders to make safe and profitable loans to low and middle income borrowers. If anything is responsible it was the repeal of Glass-Stegall, which prevented financial institutions from engaging in risky ventures such as mortgage backed securities. It opened the floodgates for a tsunami of predatory lending practices that were subject to no regulation whatsoever. Both Greenspan and Bernanke admitted before Congress that there were financial incentives for individual, unregulated, independent lenders and brokers to engage in such practices, since their income was mainly derived from the volume and not the quality of the loans they made and then repackaged and sold upstream.

    Next,

    “A.) Who the heck is ‘We’? and b.) your ‘philosophy’ (whatever it is) is an arrogant one.”

    A is, as I clearly said, my generation – Generation “Y” or the millennial generation. I posted a link somewhere above to a study showing this generation’s view on the economy, which is nothing like yours or Donalds.

    B, my philosophy is Catholic social teaching, with which I have taken time and effort to familiarize myself. I won’t say you can’t be a Catholic and a libertarian, but I will say that I resent flippant attempts to dismiss the Church’s economic teaching as ‘unscientific’. You sound like Dawkins and Hitchens dismissing the idea that our universe is created as some backwater hick idea. It’s sterile dogmatism and we – my generation and the Church – want nothing to do with it.

  • “Yes, Donald is a classic liberal. His understanding of “freedom” bears no resemblance to the Catholic understanding and his view of politics has absolutely no roots in Christianity.”

    Rubbish Catholic Anarchist. My views on freedom are completely within the mainstream of Catholic thought of this century and the last century. Your attempt to produce a synthesis of Catholicism and Anarchism is the oddity and not my political views.

  • Best to shackle government as much as possible and to allow people the maximum possible freedom to work out private voluntary associations between themselves.

    This is “freedom from.” It’s an incomplete view of freedom, distorted by individualist liberalism. It could rightly be called Americanism, not Catholicism.

    My anarchism flows directly from Catholic social teaching. It’s the same anarchism of Servant of God Dorothy Day.

  • A is, as I clearly said, my generation – Generation “Y” or the millennial generation. I posted a link somewhere above to a study showing this generation’s view on the economy, which is nothing like yours or Donalds.

    The thing to consider there, however, Joe is that opinion is often rather more dependent on state in life than generation.

    At one time, it was insisted that the 60s and 70s generation would usher in a new and more communitarian world. That was certainly the impression many of the gave while in their 20s and early 30s. However, they’re now pretty much an establishment generation. Having and raising children tends to have a moderating effect on people — and polling has been quite consistent over the last fifteen years that the “marriage gap” is much more of a dividing line between liberal and conservative political opinions than generation.

    After all, if you start wielding the Generation Y “we”, I could always do the same. 😉

  • “At one time, it was insisted that the 60s and 70s generation would usher in a new and more communitarian world.”

    Because it didn’t happen then, doesn’t mean it can’t happen now.

    “Having and raising children tends to have a moderating effect on people — and polling has been quite consistent over the last fifteen years that the “marriage gap” is much more of a dividing line between liberal and conservative political opinions than generation.”

    I simply do not agree with this. If that were the decisive factor, we would not see broad ideological and political realignments. For better or worse, the boomers did usher in something new – it wasn’t a communitarian society, but an atomized society. First it was morally and culturally pulverized by the sexual revolution, then economically by the Reagan revolution. It was and remains “the me generation”.

    This generation is different. It confronts new challenges and new problems. No offense intended at all, but the notion that marriage and children would make people less inclined to care about changing and fixing serious problems is ludicrous to me. Indeed I agree that there is a ‘moderating effect’ – the impulse is to moderate the economy.

  • I should add, of course, that realignments may or may not be observed within a 15 year period. From a historical perspective 15 years is nothing. It may be capturing the mood of one particular generation but that doesn’t mean it has found a pattern that works across several generations.

  • Well, I think what will moderate for a lot of people is their illusions about how much can be achieved through government related activism. For most people, by the time they’ve been working away at a steady job and raising several kids for a few years, big schemes to change the whole world start to fade, and a desire to be allowed to go about the business of raising one’s family without undue interference starts to take precedence.

    That said, one of the things which I think has clearly led to more and more atomization in our society (and advocacy for government support to allow individuals with no community support to get by) is that people are marrying significantly later, having fewer kids, and more are remaining permanently (or recurrently) unmarried. As compared to the status quo sixty years and more ago when political and economic power rested squarely with stable families, this has resulted in ever increasing demands for supports and protections for those which no organically grown ones.

  • Running a business and dealing with government regulators would have turned Marx, Karl but probably Groucho too, into a conservative Republican overnight!

  • Darwin,

    Here we agree. I was just discussing this very topic with my future wife. Atomization leads to a more powerful state, not a less powerful one. Individualism is an illusion – we are social beings, and in the absence of an organic community, people will create an artificial one (see Hobbes).

    That is why the 1980s were as destructive as the 1960s, culturally.

    Your first argument is premised on the existence of an economy that supports the existence of families, however. We see that family is disintegrating – so how can it be that people will ‘settle down’? It is precisely because those stabilizing forces have been ground down by the twin doctrines of reckless individualism and overbearing statism that this new generation will have no choice but to fight for a better social order.

    That is the true significance of “Hope” and “Change” as it relates to Obama. There is a massive generational divide. I don’t even agree with Obama on some pretty important issues but I can’t work myself into a frenzy over every thing he says and does the way older conservatives sometimes do. Older conservatives grew up when the family was in a less advanced state of decay, when the culture wasn’t quite as rotten.

    When he speaks about the economy, in a philosophical way, he makes a great deal of sense to me. Because he was a community organizer, my hope is that he will use the power of his office to help communities rather than smother them. But, unlike many others, I don’t count on it.

  • I now happily return with a moment to respond to Joe.

    “Who is really responsible for that, though? Credit card companies are as much to blame for people living beyond their means as the Federal Reserve, if not moreso. And though I mean no personal offense to you, relentless advertising also tempts people into trying to spend money they don’t have.”

    Sure the credit card companies are responsible.They made a bad choice in giving credit to people who could not pay. As the former messiah-in-chief said “Wall Street got drunk.” But who gave them the alcohol? The Fed. And the Fed did just that to keep afloat wealth that was never real in the first place. Through money creation the Fed quite literally has the power to create explosive “growth” – but none of it is real, thus creating the inevitable, massive retraction we are now seeing.

    In regards to the advertising swipe, I’m going to use your own words from an earlier post: “Give people a little credit.” Are you kidding me? My profession is about as much to blame for people making bad personal choices with their money as the Church is for AIDS in Africa. I’ve art directed vodka and tequila ads – does that make me responsible for alcoholism?

    Frankly, I think people at large are cynical enough to see through advertising and distinguish between the good and the bad, the truth-tellers and the liars.

    I help brands put messages out there in the world with the goal of growing business and alerting people to products and services available. The only ethical lines I really draw regard lying and matters of faith/morals that the Church binds me to.

    I’d also add that if we’d had a sensible monetary policy much of the oh-so-tempting advertising you find destructive would be unaffordable for our clients. But thanks to their ability to get easily loans and fudge the books, they’ll spend like there’s no tomorrow rather than make the tough decisions for their brand.

    “Alan Greenspan was not a “traitor” to deregulatory ideals…

    It’s one thing when the FR is doing things that go against your economic philosophy – when it is doing things that supposedly align with it and they fail, what then?”

    I’m sorry, perhaps I didn’t make myself clear: I don’t think the Fed should even exist. The Fed is an immoral and unconstitutional defacto fourth branch of government that has little to no accountability to the people or Congress, yet its given monopoly control over our nation’s medium of exchange – the dollar.

    Alan Greenspan’s very presence as Chairman tells me he either chucked his principles long ago or foolishly believed he could tame the Fed from within. Personally I think its the former.

    If you deregulate within an economy that has fiat currency created at political whim it shouldn’t be shocking that money will immediately flow disproportionately to that sector of the economy. Then to make matters worse, once the market realizes that the whole thing is phony, society is unwilling to endure the the bitter medicine of recession because its all ‘too big to fail’. Thus all the idiots involved go to the Fed and the taxpayer hat-in-hand begging and demanding that their bad choices should be further subsidized!

    I would encourage you to support Congressman Paul’s bill H.R. 1207 to audit the Federal Reserve. It has garnered over 230 cosponsors from across the political spectrum. The people deserve to know what the Fed is doing with the nation’s currency.

    “Meanwhile the Community Reinvestment Act, which conservatives immediately blamed for the crisis, upon closer examination actually prevented it from being worse than it was.”

    This law is “part” of the problem, but is so miniscule its not worth mentioning. The very building blocks of the economy, and the attitudes they enable, are where the problems lay.

    You and I are blaming different things for the same problem. You’re saying that its the cracked wall that is to blame for the roof collapsing, and I’m saying that none of it would have happened if the house’s foundation wasn’t sinking.

    “…my generation – Generation “Y” or the millennial generation…”

    “…I won’t say you can’t be a Catholic and a libertarian, but I will say that I resent flippant attempts to dismiss the Church’s economic teaching as ‘unscientific’. You sound like Dawkins and Hitchens dismissing the idea that our universe is created as some backwater hick idea. It’s sterile dogmatism and we – my generation and the Church – want nothing to do with it.”

    Well I was born in 1979, so you’re not going to get rid of my views any time soon…

    OUR spoiled generation that spent half its time in malls maxing out credit cards on Abercrombie & Fitch shirts changes opinions at the speed of Twitter, so I wouldn’t rush to proclaim inevitable future trends just yet. When the dollar won’t purchase squat, or another war spreads it’ll be interesting to see what happens to all that “hope” and “change” that gave young people the vapors this past fall.

    You might not say I can’t be Catholic and a “libertarian” – but it sounds like you’d want to!

    Faith and reason, as our Church teaches, is never in contradiction with one another. Both are beautiful sources of knowledge that spring from a variety places. The fact that economic realities can be discovered, such as the law of scarcity, in no way strikes a blow against we Catholic’s mission of teaching and living the Gospels, or our individual moral responsibilities. What it does do, most importantly, is aid us in living our faith, by finding moral and productive means of relieving the suffering we see in society.

    The principles I allude to in my posts, that of liberty and a return to real “laissez faire” ideas are done with that very mission in mind. A society that allows risk taking, believes in honest money and trusts in the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail does more towards helping those in need than any effort to forcibly take (ie, steal) from one group and give to another. Indeed I think it does a disservice to all of society.

    Neither is liberty contrary to the Catholic faith.

    Those of us with a strong inclination towards a philosophy of liberty aren’t opposed to the aid our society needs, just where it comes from. “We” believe that the unseeable consequences will be more damaging than the small, short term benefit. Often times our analysis might appear cold and utilitarian, but its done with intent of learning the truth so that we can best spread the “Truth”! The inaction, limited role that I desire from the state does not equal indifference, and I think thats the mistake some Catholics make when evaluating free market capitalism and libertarian political thought.

    Forced charity is not charity at all, and I will always oppose it as much as I would oppose forced faith. Material charity, like any love, must be given freely because that is where it has its greatest impact! It is in that free-giving that hearts and lives can genuinely be changed, with none of the strings that coercion brings. Using our reason to better understand material reality serves the Catholic Church by lighting the pathway towards living the faith! They work together Joe, thats what I’ve been trying to tell you!

  • That is why the 1980s were as destructive as the 1960s, culturally.

    The annual attrition rate for marriages trebled in the years running from 1967 to 1979. In the decade subsequent to that, it declined. The index crime rate increased 2.8 fold during the years running from 1960 to 1980. During the succeeding decade, it was stable. The consumption of street drugs among adolescents, a problem limited to slums prior to 1965 but rampant everywhere fifteen years later, fell by half over the years running from 1980 to 1992. The decades long slide in standardized test scores administered to secondary school students came to an end around 1983….

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Free Iran

Monday, June 15, AD 2009

In the proud tradition of news photos of beautiful women protesting against political oppression, the Boston Globe provides a series of photos of the protests over Iran’s apparently rigged presidential election, but the first is this one:

Free_Iran
(In all seriousness, this is some of the best photo journalism I’ve seen in a long time, go check it out.)

There’s some reasonable dispute as to whether it would help or hurt the protestors for the Obama Administration to break silence on the issue and speak in support of the protestors. Given Iran’s history and the fierce national pride across the political spectrum, if Obama openly supported the protestors it might give Ahmadinejad the ability to paint Mousavi’s supporters as stooges of the US. However, the US and the rest of the world should make it clear that a violent crackdown ala Tiananmen Square would be absolutely unacceptable.

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21 Responses to Free Iran

  • Yes, and China sure did pay the price for Tiananmen, right? Most favor nation trade status, billions upon billions in foreign investment, hosting the Olympics…

    Yeah, we don’t like to talk about China. But, the good news for Iran is that 75% of its population is under the age of 30 – plenty cheap, exploitable labor to get itself back into the world’s good graces if it wants. Like Chinese communism, Islamic theocracy can learn to play ball too.

  • Joe: You’re giving me whiplash. I went from disagreeing with you quite strongly in recent days to saying “Amen!” to what you expressed here. Thanks!

  • Trade between the U.S. and Iran has been largely illegal for the last 30 years. Are the Iranian people better off on account of this fact? It’s hard to see how. Would the Chinese people be better off if the U.S. had adopted a similar set of sanctions against China twenty years ago? Again, it’s hard to see how.

  • Blackadder: Your reasoning is consequential here, which seems problematic to me.

  • I think you mean consequentialist. I deny the charge. Consequentialism is not the view that consequences matter (something it would be insane to deny), but the view that *only* consequences matter. There’s nothing intrinsically evil about not having sanctions against China or Iran or whatever, and as such whether sanctions are a good or bad idea is going to turn on whether the overall consequences of those sanctions are good or bad.

  • The “turn” you describe is what make it consequentialist, I think, for precisely the same reasons you gave with a minor adjustment: consequentialists do not say that *only* consequences matter, as you say, but, instead, that consequences are *the* criterion by which we ought to judge things, especially morally relevant actions. So, by judging things as they “turn” on overall consequences, you seem to be making a consequentialist point, which, for reasons that should be obvious, I find problematic.

  • Sam,

    That’s like saying it’s consequentialist to tell someone to take an aspirin for their headache, since whether taking the aspirin is a good idea or not turns on whether it will help with your headache. It would be consequentialist to argue that we should use an immoral means to achieve a desirable end. There’s nothing consequentialist in arguing that we should use a morally indifferent means to achieve a desirable end. Nor is there anything consequentialist about saying we shouldn’t use a given means to achieve a desirable end because it won’t actually do so.

    What, exactly, is the point of sanctions if not to help the people of Iran? If sanctions don’t actually do that, then the sanctions would seem to be pretty pointless, no?

  • I think this could lead to a clearer understanding of what my general problem is with what I see as consequential, instrumentalist reasoning (and the problems with that reasoning, perhaps). I promise to resume this one tomorrow.

    Peace.

  • Interesting stuff viewing those photos. I have vivid memories of similar scenes 30 years ago. A generation of young rising up to shrug off a regime that was by regional standards fairly lenient and Western influenced (for better or worse) and establish an anti- West (especially US) and oppressive regime. Thirty years later their children are attempting to shrug off the stifling regime in favor of some degree of liberty and one with (at least) a not-so-anti-Western flavor. Interesting, really.

    I agree too that Obama should be prudent in any vocal support. Better at this crucial time to do a Reagan/JPII and work through back channels to facilitate communication to and among the populace.

  • The mass protests today were organized on twitter. The mullahs apparently forgot to shut that down as they did Facebook. Those protesters in the street are the future of Iran, and I would not bet against them toppling the mullahs.

  • I think Blackadder makes a good point that at a certain point tools such as sanctions should only be used if they are effective. I am one who sees a place for retributive justice, but it has its limits and I’m not even sure it’s appropriate when dealing with groups (such as nations) rather than individuals.

    It did upset me at the time that Bush didn’t call on the Chinese government to avoid violence against the protesters back in 1989, and that there was basically no effort to distance ourselves from them afterwards. But at the same time, I have to admit that in many ways the openness to trade in the twenty years since has achieved more in getting the regime there to loosen strictures on most Chinese citizens than long term sanctions would have.

    I would like to think that there is a right balance to hit, where countries threaten disapproval of wrong actions and imposed sanctions at times because of bad behavior, but don’t let things stretch on endlessly (as with Cuba.)

    Frankly, one of the things I like about “neo-conservatism” rather than the realism of a Henry Kissinger or Brent Scowcroft (both of whose mantles the current administration was eager to assume) is that I think the neo-cons tended to assert that one should at least denounce bad regimes and seek to support good ones. (Queue someone saying that talking about “good” and “bad” regimes is dualistic…)

  • Those protesters in the street are the future of Iran, and I would not bet against them toppling the mullahs.

    I would like to think that this will happen and that the current situation will have a storybook ending (I’m a red blooded American and hence incapable of not rooting for the protesters and wishing they would kick the mullahs out on their asses), but I’m pessimistic. Typically repressive regimes either collapse under their own weight, or they are overthrown by force. The fall of the Communist regimes twenty years ago was an example of the former type. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not really getting that vibe from the mullahs.

    So that leaves option two, violent overthrow; which is all well and good, except that the people in Iran with all the weapons aren’t exactly the ones you’d want replacing the mullahs. Here, for example, is a brief analysis of the possibility of overthrow at The Corner by Michael Rubin. He says that “the key isn’t how many people are out on the street, but whether the security forces and, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, switch sides.” Am I the only one who finds that a terrifying sentence? A takeover by the Revolutionary Guard doesn’t strike me as being something to hope for. If you think nothing could be worse than the mullahs, I’d say you lack imagination. Most revolutions start with people in the streets chanting about freedom. That’s how the revolution that brought the mullahs to power started. Most of the time they end up in a much darker place.

  • “That’s how the revolution that brought the mullahs to power started. Most of the time they end up in a much darker place.”

    The historical record is mixed Blackadder. The Polish Revolution led by Solidarity led the people of Poland to a much brighter place. The 1916 Easter Rebellion, a completely hopeless and quixotic adventure, ultimately led to independence for most of Ireland. I imagine most Tories at the time of the American Revolution thought the country was ruled by mobs and was on a path to anarchy, but they were completely wrong. Rebellions and revolutions can lead to people being worse off, and they can also lead to the people being better off. If I were an Iranian I would certainly be willing to roll the dice in the hopes that something better would result.

  • Reagan didn’t just work backchannels, nor did JP II. Both spoke up loudly in support of individuals and organisations standing up for their legitimate rights.

    In this case any active participation is ill advised, but at least the moral support of the US would be of great assistance. They are asking for our support… instead of “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”… we hear…. “” from the “One” who stands for change.

    There are several interesting points here. The conventional armed forces is of course the most powerful military force, but they are not acting, they almost certainly would join the protesters if it seemed likely to succeed, and/or the security forces began mass killings. The Republican Guard are loyal to the regime, but probably don’t have a taste for slaughtering their own people. The real danger is the thousands of Arabs (probably Hezbollah) that have been brought in, they have no love for the people of Iran, and no compunction about killing innocent men, women and children.

    Seriously, this is an issue that should bring all elements of the spectrum together. Toppling of the Mullahs would be good for the Iranians, the region, and US interests.

  • The historical record is mixed Blackadder. The Polish Revolution led by Solidarity led the people of Poland to a much brighter place. The 1916 Easter Rebellion, a completely hopeless and quixotic adventure, ultimately led to independence for most of Ireland.

    Those are cases where the ruling power capitulated. As I said, I don’t see the mullahs just giving up. Do you?

    I imagine most Tories at the time of the American Revolution thought the country was ruled by mobs and was on a path to anarchy, but they were completely wrong.

    The American Revolution is a somewhat different case, since the goal was not regime change but independence (the same is true, of course, of the Irish example). I would note that the Americans almost did end up with a military dictatorship, and that it was only avoided because George Washington happened to be a man of exceptional character. I somehow doubt the same can be said of the members of the Revolutionary Guard.

    I hope you’re right, though.

  • I agree with Joe here.

    Communist China gets off way too easy.

    I still abhor their human rights violations. No matter how ‘capitalistic’ they look, they still are a totalitarian regime.

    They kidnap businessmen to resolve bad business debts, suppress opposition in the Church, and still occupy foreign territory, ie, Tibet.

  • My attitude towards the PRC is indicated by the fact that I still prefer to refer to it as Red China.

  • Blackadder: I’m back for some more. Let’s pick up when you wrote:

    “That’s like saying it’s consequentialist to tell someone to take an aspirin for their headache, since whether taking the aspirin is a good idea or not turns on whether it will help with your headache.”

    This will depend on whether we understand sanctions (which includes non-sanctions) and other things as justifiable in the way that aspirin is justifiable. Medicine like aspirin seems pretty different than the valuation of the scenario according to the anticipated effects. I know it seems weird, but, as I see it, policies in general ought to be guided by a sense of what it is intrinsically for, not the mere consequences.

  • Sam,

    That would lead to the question, though: Are sanctions (or the lack of them) or formal denunciations) or the lack, for any intrinsic purpose other than reducing repression and helping the citizens of the target nation?

  • Speaking of China, Falun Gong has excellent news coverage, Epoch Times for whatever one thinks of them.

    What a sea of humanity: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/18205/

    I really feel bad for them.

  • Well, apparently Obama thinks North Korea is to be stopped at all costs: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/americas/8103807.stm

9 Responses to A Coup in Iran?

  • This could be a very dangerous situation very quickly. Serious civil unrest in a nation that has been racing to get the bomb is a frightening combination. Meanwhile the lunatics running North Korea are warning of nuclear war.

    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20090614/D98QDSOO0.html

  • Good comments Donald:

    AND, I don’t really get into listening to the alarmists:

    But, North Korea building a bomb, being defiant, an alarmist type on Michael Savage’s show said they could “market” the bomb according to one guest… this same guest appeared on Relevant Radio. I think it is alarmist but it might still be a possibility.

    I believe listening to a Dennis Prager rerun show, another guest was saying if Israel hit Iran’s facilities, they may well do “Commando Raids.”

    Bleak stuff, like seeing Drudge this morning, “threatening nuclear war”, I just don’t know.

    But I would think, if there were someone that would be nervous about N. Korea’s weapons, it’d be Japan, since Japan acted real ugly in WWII and in fact, is the only nation to suffer the nuclear bomb. Or maybe we the USA is the great Satan, seeing how NK is allied with Iran it seems.

    The 3rd loose cannon is Pakistan, if things ever happened fast, that government could fall too. However, India is there ancient rival.

    I really, really feel sympathy for the Iranian people. I think they are largely good people because they have shown some “Western” inclinations in the past. So, God help us, anyone getting killed in Iran or rioting I think largely are those who want a more moderate state.

    There is 1 movie out there worth watching, “Off side” and it is about 5 young women in individual ways, try to get in to see a game with the National Football game of Iran in a world cup qualifier It’s a bit of a comedy, made in Iran and banned in Iran. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0499537/ It’s an interesting take.

    I didn’t mean the long post but comments are welcome.

    And Obama said they were having a “vibrant debate”, rolls eyes!

  • Tom, a large portion of the Iranian people have been fed up with the mullahs and their crazy President for quite some time. This obviously rigged election might be the thing that causes the whole country to blow up. The mullahs will not go quietly however, and I would not put anything beyond them in their quest to hang on to power at all costs. In regard to North Korea, a nervous Japan could go nuclear overnight. The South Koreans of course have the greatest reason to feel alarm. Seoul is so close to the border that even a crude missile carrying a nuke could take it out in a matter of minutes. This could be a very turbulent summer for the world.

  • I’d been expecting this sort of thing ever since the prelim reports had someone besides the messianic midget winning.

    Praying for ’em. All I can do, I fear…..

  • I don’t see how this can be defined as a coup. The Mullahs were in charge last week, they’re in charge now and will be next week.

    The Mullahs have simply been forced to bring out in the open the fact that Iran is not a democracy. This isn’t the first time this has been the case, though they prefer to keep this fact quiet enough to allow liberals some cover.

    Frankly, I applaud what the counter-revolutionaries are doing right now in Iran, I hope this can take hold and that there would be a coup.

    Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are a cause of concern, but there are plans and mechanisms in place to ensure they are secured, deactivated, and/or destroyed in the event of political instability. Remember, unlike Iran, Pakistan’s military is not run by fanatical Islamic fascists. THey do not want their country destroyed, as it surely would be if there was a risk of it’s weapons falling into the hands of fanatical Islamic fascists.

    The threat to South Korea is not just nuclear. The DPRK has thousands of conventional artillery tubes pointed at Seoul, if

  • See this excellent roundup by Michael Totten — it would also appear ‘The Mullahs’ aren’t as cohesive a religious unit as one might suppose.

  • A country has an election. The outcome is not what you would like it to be; therefore, there had to be election fraud.

    Just continue on with the Weekly Standard neocon blather.

  • awakaman,

    dig a little deeper than that.

    Frankly, I don’t think it matters who got elected, the Mullahs run that country…. what matters is the response of the people who’ve had their legitimate aspirations of self-governance dashed once again. It looks promising, but I don’t have my hopes up just yet.

  • “A country has an election. The outcome is not what you would like it to be; therefore, there had to be election fraud.

    Just continue on with the Weekly Standard neocon blather.”

    Yep, all those Iranians out in the streets protesting and rioting over the fixed election must be neo-cons!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSEVA14340720090614?sp=true

Biden Was Right-Take II

Tuesday, April 7, AD 2009

biden

Well, somewhat to my chagrin I have to use the phrase “Biden was right” again.   With North Korea launching a missle that traveled 1900 miles before it crashed into the Pacific, Biden’s prediction of an international crisis early in the Obama administration is coming true again, and this time I doubt if doing nothing will probably work either short term or long term.

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One Response to Biden Was Right-Take II

  • The situation will escalate in the coming months and years, to be sure. The potential for World War III is drastically increasing, what with Russia, Iran, N. Korea supporting each other and thumbing their collective noses at any other governments or governing bodies. Throw the Israeli/Palestinian conflict into the mix (with Iran and maybe Russia as possible allies of Palestine) and the situation is becoming volatile.

    The UN and the US continue to do nothing, of course. Remember the last time we tried appeasement? That went well.

    As far as Japan going nuclear, I’m doubtful. I’m living in J-land at the moment, and anti-nuclear sentiment is pretty strong among the general populace, from what I’ve seen anyway. There are some who think Japan should have its own military, but even that is pretty controversial…