Tuesday, December 1, 2009

And on the other side of inanity...

I swear we didn't all get together and decide to bash the media - they're just asking for it these days. So while Gulliver is calling out Hitchens, and Alma is eviscerating Newsweek, let me just ask: is this really the best WaPo can do?

First, we've got this on the challenges of nation-building. Instead of penetrating insight that might help Americans figure out whether Obama's speech is on the mark or out to lunch, there's this pearl of wisdom:

Diplomats and officials involved in past nation-building efforts generally agree that the process works best when warring factions are ready to make peace. Elections, while important to lend legitimacy to a new government, should not be rushed -- creating lasting institutions is more important. The international community must have realistic, if modest, goals. Regional experts need to be consulted, and neighboring countries should be brought on board.

And nation-building should be done primarily by the people of the country involved, with the outside world there to assist, diplomats said.

Above all, there must be resources.

All more or less true, but so vague as to be somewhere the other side of useless. They talked Dobbins, Brahimi, and Admiral Howe, who offer somewhat differing perspectives, but seem not to have asked any of the three a single hard question, or even tried to parse the tensions in each position, let alone between them. This doesn't necessarily reflect on the writer - who knows if he's got a background on this stuff, how much time he was given, etc. - but even within the albeit sharp limits of his word count, I don't see how this article is going help anyone understand the issues even a little bit better.

And while that article was frustrating, this one just left me incredulous. According to Dana Milbank, Obama is betraying his progressive base not only by deciding to send more troops to Afghanistan, but by gasp giving the speech in front of a military audience.

...Obama's flirtation with military imagery should be of concern to his allies on the left, who are already unhappy with the hawkish direction his Afghanistan policy has taken. Already in his young presidency, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has addressed the troops at Osan Air Base in South Korea, Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Now Milbank points out that the proliferation of speeches before the military is a relatively new phenomena, pioneered in large part by GW Bush. And that's fine, as an observation, but even while citing the criticism that Bush exploited the troops as props, it seems just a tad disingenuous not acknowledge that this trend has emerged during some of the largest, most prolonged and most intense combat deployments of US troops in decades. So, maybe, just maybe a little contextualization is in order?

Oh, but it gets better. How does Milbank know Obama's base is pissed? Because Michael Moore says so. I don't even know where to begin on this one, so I'll just ask this: can we agree that any reasonable policy on almost any subject is going to piss off Michael Moore? In fact, couldn't we use Cheney and Moore as the metrics for reasonable policy? If either of them are pleased, it's a signal you need to go back to the drawing board.

6 comments:

  1. In fact, couldn't we use Cheney and Moore as the metrics for reasonable policy? If either of them are pleased, it's a signal you need to go back to the drawing board.

    I like this idea.

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  2. "So, maybe, just maybe a little contextualization is in order? "

    Uhhh, it kind of was, eh?

    Nixon also was a wartime commander (of dubious morality). But he didn't use the troops as props, did he?

    Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was a Naval officer.

    On another note, DM might assume the base is pissed because he also read polling results, noticed a certain progressive movement in the House and Senate to fight the increase in troop numbers to Afghanistan or commented on one of Michael Cohen's "Mission Creep" missives on Democracy Arsenal.

    As a on again-off again progressive in favor of competence in the military arts and escalations and whatnot, I also notice the tension between the far-left and Obama's current position on OEF.

    SNLII

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  3. "So, maybe, just maybe a little contextualization is in order? "

    Uhhh, it kind of was, eh?

    Nixon also was a wartime commander (of dubious morality). But he didn't use the troops as props, did he?

    Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was a Naval officer.

    On another note, DM might assume the base is pissed because he also read polling results, noticed a certain progressive movement in the House and Senate to fight the increase in troop numbers to Afghanistan or commented on one of Michael Cohen's "Mission Creep" missives on Democracy Arsenal.

    As a on again-off again progressive in favor of competence in the military arts and escalations and whatnot, I also notice the tension between the far-left and Obama's current position on OEF.

    SNLII

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  4. "In fact, couldn't we use Cheney and Moore as the metrics for reasonable policy? If either of them are pleased, it's a signal you need to go back to the drawing board."

    Nice :-)

    Many posts here since last I checked. I wouldn't mind it if you added SNLII as a regular commentator. :-)

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. No points for repetition, SNLII, and I don't think your characterization of Obama's speeches to date as using the troops as props is accurate.

    I thought the way Bush invoked the military to shut down criticism and dissent on substantive policy was obscene. The simple fact of Obama giving the speech at West Point is not in and of itself equivalent in my book. I'd be surprised if you disagree.

    Bottom line, critique him on substance, and style if you think it's disingenuous or dishonest. I find the knee-jerk hostility to all things military that is the habit of too many (but certainly not all) progressives (and obviously not you) ignorant and disingenuous, and this Milbank piece seemed symptomatic.

    I count myself a progressive too, and I stand by my incredulity that Michael Moore would be a metric of anything except shrill, deceptive self-righteousness.

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