Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Max Sawicky posted a soon to be published piece by Michael Berube on NWB. [archive.org] I posted my response this morning before I went to work and I'll repost it here:

Berube exhibits the same symptoms as the rest of the American populace. He is waiting for someone to lead, someone he can 'trust.' Everybody needs to be loved, and nobody wants to be left out in the cold, as a leader always is. So they wait for someone else to take the responsibility. The majority of the population on this planet thinks this war is driven by ridiculous ideology and greed. There have been protests from London to Tokyo, while liberals in this country think about thinking about being opposed to it, and the eccentric left leads the marches. I will sign every petition sent to me about this stupid self destructive war. I'll even make common cause with Maoists and Libertarians. What exactly does Berube say that hasn't been said before? What direction does he suggest? Discoursing on the need to be reasonable does nothing to advance an argument. Yes, he should be leading teach-ins -as my father did in Philadelphia (in 1965). And no he wasn't a Maoist. Berube should be thinking more clearly.

If, for example, we argue against first strike use of nuclear weapons, then where are we going to aim them? The only answer is at civilian populations, to be murdered as punishment for the actions of their leaders. Is this any more or less moral than the "first strike" policy? His opponents in this argument, though not popular -in this country- were logically and morally on the ball. And as for his critique of the right of self determination for independent states, he is arguing against the rule of law. He understands, I think, that the sheriff and the law are not one and the same. If the US does what it pleases, it acts as both, which is not allowed, nor would Berube defend it, in domestic cases. Why should we not strengthen the UN rather than weaken it, as we always try to? And every unilateral action weakens it more. His argument reminds me of those against an America national health service. "Look how bad it is in England." But it wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't slashed the budget.

If you want to argue the value of practical Machievellianism, do so. If you want to argue against it, then do that. But the reason people do not take liberals seriously is that liberals use situational ethics while denying they do so, even to themselves. The only way to convince the people that this war is an mistake is to speak simply and directly and in these terms: On pure principle the war is wrong. It follows immoral precedents and strengthens them. Lecture the people, who will listen, on international law, and on the idea of law. For the rest, tell them that as amoral geopolitical gamesmanship, for which no one has to give a damn about the Kurds, or anyone else, as long as the markets and our own safety are not affected, the war is stupid and dangerous, and the president's policymakers either ideologues, amateurs or both. We should not be in the business of bullying bullies. And if all the other kids in the playground are more worried about us than they are about him, we have a problem. It really doesn't matter which reason you choose. You can choose both, as I have. That is why I'm here [at NWB]. But this article is about dithering, however articulately it may present it, and that is something most Americans have no patience with.

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