Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Obama: Dropping the Banner of Democracy

For the past three decades, American presidents of both parties have been steadfast champions of promoting democracy and human rights abroad. And for good reason: democratic reforms yield reliable trade-partners, relatively-peaceful nations, and citizenry that share our same fundamental values.

Yet, as Joushua Muravchik in his Wall Street Journal op-ed writes, Obama’s foreign policy has abandoned democracy promotion. Obama’s disturbing approach cannot be written off as simple neglect or an effort to distance his policy from Bush’s. Instead, the new Administration is actively downplaying the significance of this definitively American precedent.

The Obama Administration’s disapproval of democracy-building and human rights promotion are widespread, from Tibet to Egypt and from Darfur to Russia. It was readily apparent in Obama’s unwillingness to denounce the sham elections in Iran. Even in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, where the seeds of democracy are already in bloom, the Obama Administration has abandoned support of democratic developments.

Additionally, Obama has stated democracy is “mere form,” secondary to results, while Secretary Clinton said concerning ourselves with democracy-building is “so yesterday.” These remarks go well with the Administration’s apparent disregard of American exceptionalism, as well as their painstaking efforts to point out U.S. shortcomings at every turn, all playing into Obama’s subscription to the doctrine of global relativism and moral equivalency.

While some argue that Obama should avoid stepping on toes as he establishes himself internationally, this couldn’t be more misguided. Obama should use his global popularity to champion democracy as a solution for developing counties’ problems. Instead, he seems content to provide aid to people while chumming up with the authoritarians who oppress them. Like continually applying Band-Aids to a gaping wound, his efforts will only bring temporary relief while also perpetuating these states’ reliance on U.S. resources and involvement. By securing democratic institutions and free-elections, these nations can begin to heal internally, relying on their own determination and initiative.

27 comments:

nathancontramundi said...

"Instead, the new Administration is actively downplaying the significance of this definitively American precedent."

This is not a definitively American precedent. It is a definitively Wilsonian precedent. Wilson, you may recall, was little better than a traitor to this nation, engaging her sons in bloodshed a continent away and setting in motion the events that led to the equally indefensible Second World War.

nathancontramundi said...

Moreover, that the long posting, thus far, at the Rover's Weblog today is so foolishly, wrongly partisan in tone, but no one has even mentioned that Pope Benedict XVI's long-awaited Caritas in Veritate has been released.

Things seem not to have changed much since my short-lived association with the paper.

nathancontramundi said...

*"lone posting", rather — and that should be an actual sentence, concluded with "released, is absolutely appalling."

Jonathan Liedl said...

Nathan,

First- Promoting democracy, freedom, and civil liberties abroad has been a vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy for decades, coming to prominence during and in the after-math of the Cold War. As stated in the article, it has been championed by every president since the 70's, of all political persuasions and ideologies, such as Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush. Your fixation on the policies of a presidency that occurred nearly a century ago are baffling.

Second- It is summer. School is not in session. Both the writers and the readers of this fine publication are more than likely engaged in work, internships, or other things which limit their ability to frequent this blog. Deriding the credibility of a college newspaper when it's staff and subscribers are on vacation is misguided at best.

nathancontramundi said...

Mr. Liedl,

Thank you for replying.

That this "vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy" (vital to whom, exactly? The ostensibly helpless Israeli state? Military contractors? Those who can bang war drums without having to subject their own children to the bloody results of their banging? has been championed since the 1970s (and for much longer) by presidents across the (very narrow) spectrum does nothing to justify an inarguably stupid policy inimical to American interests (Cf., e.g., the numerous attacks against us, on our own soil and abroad, that have incited and been part of "The Global War on Terror".)

That it baffles you that I have a "fixation" on the policies of a president whose decisions changed forever, and, incontestably, for the worse, the course of American foreign policy — that is, put us on a course that made unavoidable later presidents' adopting this obtuseness — positively mystifies me, as does your implicit praise of the rash ideology of American Exceptionalism (which Andrew Bacevich, inter alios, has ably debunked). As a Catholic, first, and a conservative, second, I find government policy dedicated to unnecessary meddling in the affairs of others — meddling wholly antipodal to the wise counsel of nigh all of our Founders — at undeniable costs to our nation, fiscally and spiritually, to be anathema.

I was, mayhap, unfair in criticizing this Weblog for not being sufficiently active to make note of the release of Caritas in Veritate. However, given that the lone post of the day, again, is dedicated to something so absurd, I do not retract my lament that President Obama, in one of his rare instances of doing something half-correct, received reprimand whilst a papal pronouncement of the highest order went unnoticed.

Finally, my attack on the credibility of the Rover, maybe misguided in this particular instance, by no means is misguided per se. The paper descended to rag status very soon after its founding (thus explaining the bolt made by those who, fearing that the paper, rather than representing any sort of of rainbow or big tent of conservatism, had emerged as little more than a Republican mouthpiece, founded the ill-fated (I think) Advocata Nostra. For my part, I, present from nearly the beginning, held quite high hopes for the paper; they were deflated all too quickly. What few encounters I've had with the paper, and the Weblog, over the last few years (including whilst I still attend Our Lady's University) have, by and large, left me still disappointed.

Jonathan Liedl said...

After reading your responses, I am left with two possible explanations for your rabid disdain, both disappointing in their own right: either my writing skills are so poor that I have failed to successfully communicate my ideas, or some personal vendetta or series of misgiving has led you to willfully mischaracterize and misinterpret my statements. Although, after briefly skimming your own publications, I am left to conclude that it is mostly the latter, I will nonetheless take the time to defend and define my points.

First off, though the policy of democracy-promotion and its entailing implementation may be most closely linked to Reagan and the recent Bush, I have no where in my writing suggested that this is an objective that needs be enforced by military engagement or bloodshed of any kind, a la backing the Contra or invading Iraq. Yet you continue to nay-say the entire concept by writing it off as a solely-military venture, the like of which led us into WWI or Afghanistan. While I don’t deny that the War on Terror certainly has aspects that fall under the “democracy-promotion umbrella,” it, and other campaigns like it, are not what I am suggesting President Obama engage in. Your insistence on this matter leads to the subverted implication that I believe we should go to war with China, Egypt, Russia, and any other suppressor of freedom and individual liberties, clearly an absurd assertion. Nowhere in my entire post did I come close to mentioning going to war on behalf of spreading democracy, or funding insurgents, or providing arms to freedom fighters. Yet whenever you make reference to democracy-building, these are the only actions you allude to. As I plainly wrote in my post, Obama should utilize America’s leverage as well as his own popularity to pressure regimes that purport gross human rights and individual liberty violations. If you’d bothered to read the excellent piece by Muravchik or followed any of the links referencing Obama’s inaction in this regard, you would know that he has willfully removed several opportunities to promote these causes through already wide-open diplomatic avenues, i.e. Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan.

On a related note, just because Obama is completely AWOL on the democracy-promotion front does not mean he is choosing to refrain from “meddling” with other countries. He has denounced Honduras for defending their constitutional integrity, far more boisterously then he decried the atrocities in Tehran; he has lectured the world on how they must respond to climate change and the current economic downturn; and, perhaps more than any other U.S. president, he has sought to directly communicate and influence foreign populations. Yet admist all of these “global engagements,” championing democracy or human rights is all but missing. It isn’t a matter Obama choosing not to involve himself in the affairs of other nations, but rather his neglect to promote these principles in the process.

Jonathan Liedl said...

Now we get into more technical details. Your first statement of any consequence is baffling: “That this "vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy" (vital to whom, exactly?”. You then go on to make references to Israel, military contractors, war, and a whole host of other things I never came close to mentioning. Clearly, in simple grammatical fashion, my statement “vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy” means that the aspect being mentioned (democracy-promotion) is vital to U.S. foreign policy, as in it is an important, considerable part of, as demonstrated by our actions in the past 30 years. You somehow take this innocuous statement and turn it into a witch hunt.

You also make the claim that this policy is “inarguably stupid,” and that it is contrary to what’s best for America, citing 9/11 and the continued hostility directed at our land from regions where this approach has been attempted. I could sit here and defend backing the mujahideen initially, committing troops to Somalia, or a whole host of other instances that you are obviously referencing. The simple fact is, I don’t have to. The foreign system is dynamic, and as a result, the strategies and policies one uses to survive within it must be pragmatic. I would say that our differing viewpoints are derived from irreconcilable perceptions of what the disposition of the international system currently is and what America’s place in it is. While I like to think that I take an approach that acknowledges 9/11 happened, as well as our current involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems apparent that you have a mind-set more suitable for 1817. One where it is possible and even justifiable and perhaps even more beneficial to take a policy of isolationism. This type of thinking may have even had some weight all the way through the 20th century. But, although I reference the policies of democracy promotion carried out by the likes of Reagan and Carter, I do not place the merits of these measures solely on past precedent, but instead believe they are the right course of action for the here and now, independent of what previous administrations thought. The fact that these administrations did so forcefully value these goals simply makes it more astounding that Obama has decided to take a very different path. So, in all actuality, it could turn out that democracy-building and support for human rights was the absolute worst possible position the U.S. could’ve taken in the latter half of the 1900's. But that does little to nothing to mitigate our need for it now.

Jonathan Liedl said...

I find your continuing referral to the policies of Wilson deplorable, not because I deny that they may have invariably altered U.S. foreign policy, but because simply bemoaning this does not change the facts and realities of today. There is no magic re-set button we can hit to undo the events of the past century, returning us to a point where U.S. involvement on the global stage was not a necessity as it is today. Deal with what’s on our plate now, not what was in 1916. Not to throw out cliche’s, but things have changed since 9/11. Sitting back on our haunches is not going to prevent another attack. Unlike communism, the threats we are dealing with today don’t consider us to be unsavory competitors, but targets, worthy of extermination. They are highly volatile and far less rational than our former foes. You can decry this as “fear-mongering,” but tell me, would 19 Soviets have been willing to give their lives to kill 2947 innocent citizens? The past 50 years have solidified our position as the leader of Western civilization. Again, I am not an apologist for our rapid rise to prominence, but I do not deny it. Islamic fascists will continue to target us, perhaps because of Desert Storm, perhaps because of Afghanistan, perhaps because of Iraq, perhaps because of globalism, perhaps because of our previous efforts to spread democracy and human rights- but they will target us nonetheless. No amount of apologizing nor inactivity will remove the bull’s eye on our head. With this undeniable truth in mind, promoting democracy is in our best interests. Islamic extremists thrive under the doting care of oppressive regimes- a la al Qadea thanks to the Taliban or Hizbollah and Hamas with the support of Iran. Promoting democracy in these regions serves to assimilate the more moderate factions of these groups while increasing the irrelevancy of the more extreme. Democratic regimes, where human rights are guaranteed, removes breeding grounds for terrorism and hate.

Also, as I argued in the OP, promoting democracy in foreign countries is actually the realistic approach one should take if they don’t to continually be “meddling” in other affairs. I used the analogy of a gaping wound to illustrate this point. Another one I considered was the age-old gift of fish/gift of fishing fable. Barack Obama’s approach thus far has been to increase the amount of aid and financial support invested in foreign countries, while doing nothing to address the oppressive nature of the government which brings about the need for this assistance in the first place. This would be giving foreign countries a “fish.” It will certainly be beneficial to them, but in the long run you’re involvement will be needed to maintain their survival. I argue on behalf of the other approach, teaching these countries the precepts of “fishing,” or democracy. This approach doesn’t just address the problems these people face, it addresses the cause: their governments are inefficient and corrupt. Implementing a framework of democratic institutions not only allows these people to more aptly address their problems themselves, but it also allows reliance on the U.S. (and naturally, the amount the U.S. contributes) to dissipate. So, in reality, this approach is exceedingly more efficient in the long run. You may again argue for a complete lack of U.S. involvement abroad, and thus say neither one of the above approach is desirable, but this, in essence, is refusing to give a hungry man any assistance, an approach I believe is morally bankrupt.

Jonathan Liedl said...

Which brings me to another point. I do not question your motives nor do I claim that your faith is insincere, or mine is more righteous. But your callous disregard for promoting Church endorsed human rights and civil liberties to the oppressed of the world seems highly uncharacteristic of someone so adamantly Catholic.

Re: American Exceptionalism: I believe America was founded on the greatest set of principles and ideas any government has ever seen, or will ever see. In the words of Coolidge: “If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.” I fully embrace our role as a shining city upon a hill I believe America is exceptional, and for the I make no apologies.

The final paragraph simply confirms in my mind that you regard anything associated with the Rover as filth and partisan dribble. If this is the case, you are the one who comes across as deficient in credibility.

nathancontramundi said...

After reading your responses, I am left with two possible explanations for your rabid disdain, both disappointing in their own right: either my writing skills are so poor that I have failed to successfully communicate my ideas, or some personal vendetta or series of misgiving has led you to willfully mischaracterize and misinterpret my statements. Although, after briefly skimming your own publications, I am left to conclude that it is mostly the latter, I will nonetheless take the time to defend and define my points.
You take a little bit of liberty in referring to “rabid disdain”. Were this the emotion du jour, I’d not waste my time with this. Rather, I comment out of concern for the soul of America, for the soul of conservatism, and for the Right flank at my alma mater, particularly in the form of a student-run newspaper about which I was once quite enthused, but that, I again note, quickly disappointed me. I find no fault with your writing skills — that is, you have not failed to communicate your ideas clearly —, nor do I hold any personal vendetta. I am curious about the exceedingly asinine suggestion, in fact, that anything I have ever written could possibly compel you to think that I “willfully mischaracterize and misinterpret [your] statements”. In fact, given that you make only a vague reference to “skimming [my] publications”, I am astounded that you would level such a baseless, uncharitable charge, rather than considering that perhaps, despite your having clearly elucidated your case, I continue to disagree on substantive grounds.

nathancontramundi said...

First off, though the policy of democracy-promotion and its entailing implementation may be most closely linked to Reagan and the recent Bush, I have no where in my writing suggested that this is an objective that needs be enforced by military engagement or bloodshed of any kind, a la backing the Contra or invading Iraq. Yet you continue to nay-say the entire concept by writing it off as a solely-military venture, the like of which led us into WWI or Afghanistan. While I don’t deny that the War on Terror certainly has aspects that fall under the “democracy-promotion umbrella,” it, and other campaigns like it, are not what I am suggesting President Obama engage in. Your insistence on this matter leads to the subverted implication that I believe we should go to war with China, Egypt, Russia, and any other suppressor of freedom and individual liberties, clearly an absurd assertion. Nowhere in my entire post did I come close to mentioning going to war on behalf of spreading democracy, or funding insurgents, or providing arms to freedom fighters. Yet whenever you make reference to democracy-building, these are the only actions you allude to. As I plainly wrote in my post, Obama should utilize America’s leverage as well as his own popularity to pressure regimes that purport gross human rights and individual liberty violations. If you’d bothered to read the excellent piece by Muravchik or followed any of the links referencing Obama’s inaction in this regard, you would know that he has willfully removed several opportunities to promote these causes through already wide-open diplomatic avenues, i.e. Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan.

At no point have I argued, explicitly or implicitly, that the promotion of international democracy requires military force, nor that you in anyway support going to war with Egypt, China, et al.. That you could extrapolate that much from such a small paragraph suggests, at the very least, that you possess a vivid imagination. (I offer this comment, rest assured, at least as much as a compliment as I do an animadversion.) I did, however, argue that rarely does this promotion not either involve or incite bloodshed. I take in good faith your statement that you had no intention of asserting that President Obama’s policy should involve violence; however, I think it naïve to discount the high probability — as you seem to do — that any such adventurism, particularly in the Middle East, invariably will lead to violence.

And that is one reason why I reject the idea that President Obama, or any American leader, should “utilize America’s leverage as well as his own popularity to pressure regimes that purport gross human rights and individual liberty violations.” Moreover, from a strictly Americanist (but arguably not very Catholic) perspective, I don’t believe that redressing violations of “individual liberty” in other nations, particular in those whose culture is decidedly not Western liberal, is any of our business. Outright violence against human rights is another issue, but even then, pressure applied by the United States is, at best, a risky venture — first, again, because of the tendency for bloodshed to occur, whether as part of the process or as a a result, direct or indirect, thereof; second, because the long-term results of intervention are unpredictable and can, in fact, be worse than the deficiencies that we address; and third, because world-policing is not our responsibility or our business, and stands rather contrary to the wisdom of the men who gave to us “the greatest set of principles and ideas any government has ever seen”. (Cf. John Quincy Adams, respecting “monsters to destroy”, and George Washington’s Farewell Address, inter alia).

nathancontramundi said...

Now we get into more technical details. Your first statement of any consequence is baffling: “That this "vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy" (vital to whom, exactly?”. You then go on to make references to Israel, military contractors, war, and a whole host of other things I never came close to mentioning. Clearly, in simple grammatical fashion, my statement “vital aspect of U.S. foreign policy” means that the aspect being mentioned (democracy-promotion) is vital to U.S. foreign policy, as in it is an important, considerable part of, as demonstrated by our actions in the past 30 years. You somehow take this innocuous statement and turn it into a witch hunt.

There is nothing simple about the grammar of this. That you accuse me of turning a purportedly innocuous statement into a “witch hunt” is redolent of anti-McCarthyism in the worst vein. The predominance of this aspect of American foreign policy over the last thirty years, and then some, in no way suggests that it is important, let alone essential, to our foreign policy. It has played an inarguably considerable role, but that is not the same as an important role. I may parse, but this is, I think, imperative.


You also make the claim that this policy is “inarguably stupid,” and that it is contrary to what’s best for America, citing 9/11 and the continued hostility directed at our land from regions where this approach has been attempted. I could sit here and defend backing the mujahideen initially, committing troops to Somalia, or a whole host of other instances that you are obviously referencing. The simple fact is, I don’t have to. The foreign system is dynamic, and as a result, the strategies and policies one uses to survive within it must be pragmatic.

You don’t have to because the boldfaced text disingenuously, and intellectually flaccidly, gives you cover. “Pragmatism” anathema to the ideals upon which our nation was built is not acceptable pragmatism; that, so often, these have led to a) bloodshed and b) the sort of unpredictable, far worse long-term consequences to which I refer above only further weakens your feeble attempt to escape the corner into which your words have painted you.

nathancontramundi said...

One where it is possible and even justifiable and perhaps even more beneficial to take a policy of isolationism. This type of thinking may have even had some weight all the way through the 20th century. But, although I reference the policies of democracy promotion carried out by the likes of Reagan and Carter, I do not place the merits of these measures solely on past precedent, but instead believe they are the right course of action for the here and now, independent of what previous administrations thought. The fact that these administrations did so forcefully value these goals simply makes it more astounding that Obama has decided to take a very different path. So, in all actuality, it could turn out that democracy-building and support for human rights was the absolute worst possible position the U.S. could’ve taken in the latter half of the 1900's. But that does little to nothing to mitigate our need for it now.

Ah, yes, that great bugbear of the progressive: “Isolation”! Permit me, yet again, to make a deplorable reference to the policies of Wilson. It was precisely until he engaged us unnecessarily in the First World War that, with occasional exceptions (Spanish-American, Mexican, and Civil Wars primarily), that we were able properly to mind our own business. I make “continuing” reference to Wilson not because, as you risibly suggest below, I think that we can press a “magic re-set button”, but because I think it painfully unwise (Cf. Santayana.) to ignore this series of points in history that, as I have noted, made perpetual meddling and “democracy-promotion” so “necessary” through this day and beyond. Moreover, I don’t see how we now have a need for democracy-building, particularly given that those nations wherein we have attempted this, by and large, have proven often enough a) to be parts of cultures generally disinclined toward democracy and b) more of a threat to American than they ever were before we involved ourselves.

Finally, I have in no way associated myself with “isolationism”, itself a virtual figment of the progressive’s imagination. Non-interventionism, yes; however, I have not suggested that we seal off our borders, disengage in trade, and avoid any and all sort of alliance with other nations. This is a matter of difference, not merely of degree.

nathancontramundi said...

I find your continuing referral to the policies of Wilson deplorable, not because I deny that they may have invariably altered U.S. foreign policy, but because simply bemoaning this does not change the facts and realities of today. There is no magic re-set button we can hit to undo the events of the past century, returning us to a point where U.S. involvement on the global stage was not a necessity as it is today.

I have addressed why I feel referring to Wilson to be necessary. I am, however, quite perplexed by the queer accusation you make, to wit, that of “continuing referral.” By my count, prior to this strand of replies, I made two mentions of Wilson: My initial comment and then one made in direct reply to your being baffled. Not to reply to that would have been irresponsible at best, a cop-out at worst.

Deal with what’s on our plate now, not what was in 1916. Not to throw out cliche’s, but things have changed since 9/11.
How? Realistically, what has changed, other than that we have stalled the completion of a necessary and justifiable victory in Afghanistan to chase after phantasms in Mesopotamia, thereby over-extending our military, draining our national coffers ,and costing too many lives, all the while voluntarily stripping away, by way of the USA PATRIOT Act, the selfsame civil liberties that, apparently, are our responsibility to protect globally?

Sitting back on our haunches is not going to prevent another attack. Unlike communism, the threats we are dealing with today don’t consider us to be unsavory competitors, but targets, worthy of extermination. They are highly volatile and far less rational than our former foes. You can decry this as “fear-mongering,” but tell me, would 19 Soviets have been willing to give their lives to kill 2947 innocent citizens? The past 50 years have solidified our position as the leader of Western civilization. Again, I am not an apologist for our rapid rise to prominence, but I do not deny it. Islamic fascists will continue to target us, perhaps because of Desert Storm, perhaps because of Afghanistan, perhaps because of Iraq, perhaps because of globalism, perhaps because of our previous efforts to spread democracy and human rights- but they will target us nonetheless. No amount of apologizing nor inactivity will remove the bull’s eye on our head. With this undeniable truth in mind, promoting democracy is in our best interests. Islamic extremists thrive under the doting care of oppressive regimes- a la al Qadea thanks to the Taliban or Hizbollah and Hamas with the support of Iran. Promoting democracy in these regions serves to assimilate the more moderate factions of these groups while increasing the irrelevancy of the more extreme. Democratic regimes, where human rights are guaranteed, removes breeding grounds for terrorism and hate.

No, sitting back on our haunches may not, but actively retreating from places where we have provoked hatred may. Whatever the deficiencies of “fundamentalist” Islam and how the affect practitioners thereof, that 9/11 would have occurred without meddling, militaristically and culturally, in places where we had no business being — a lesson that we failed to learn in 1983 in Beirut. Why will they continue to target us if we give them no reason? This answer still escapes me. Perhaps because it is, by this point, incomprehensible to me that we’re capable of not giving them reasons.

nathancontramundi said...

Which brings me to another point. I do not question your motives nor do I claim that your faith is insincere, or mine is more righteous. But your callous disregard for promoting Church endorsed human rights and civil liberties to the oppressed of the world seems highly uncharacteristic of someone so adamantly Catholic.

Re: American Exceptionalism: I believe America was founded on the greatest set of principles and ideas any government has ever seen, or will ever see. In the words of Coolidge: “If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.” I fully embrace our role as a shining city upon a hill I believe America is exceptional, and for the I make no apologies.

There is nothing callous about my disregard. Rather, I don’t believe it is the appropriate role for the United States to play, particularly in light of what I have said today. Moreover, even were I to advocate some form of promoting human rights, I wholeheartedly back away once “democracy-promotion” is tied thereto. Not all cultures are amenable to democracy, and to shove it down their throats is disrespectful and stupid. To contrast my rejection of this with my Catholicism is just plain silly. From Caritas in Veritate: “Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice: (6). The promotion of democracy in societies disinclined to democracy stands antipodal of this wisdom, does it not? So to, the enforcement of Western notions of “civil liberties”, I reckon.

No one’s asking you to make apologies for that. However, simply espousing those beliefs is a far cry from the American Exceptionalism projected by the American Imperium; again, the very men who established this once-great Republic rejected the notion of engaging in foreign intrigues, et cetera.




The final paragraph simply confirms in my mind that you regard anything associated with the Rover as filth and partisan dribble. If this is the case, you are the one who comes across as deficient in credibility.

Not anything; just a lot of things. As I’ve noted, I was present at the paper’s founding; little time passed before I realized how partisan it is. Most, but certainly not all, of what I’ve read since has re-enforced this perception.

nathancontramundi said...

Finally, as a side note, I recommend that y'all consider moving this Weblog to WordPress, if only because WP offers a comment-box feature that allows posters to reply directly to other comments. It may, if the transfer isn't too much trouble, be worth the effort.

Cheers,
NPO

Jonathan Liedl said...

First of, all thank for taking the initiative and breaking the point/counter points down in manageable groupings. It is definitely more efficient and user friendly.

You said:
"You take a little bit of liberty in referring to “rabid disdain”. Were this the emotion du jour, I’d not waste my time with this. Rather, I comment out of concern for the soul of America, for the soul of conservatism, and for the Right flank at my alma mater, particularly in the form of a student-run newspaper about which I was once quite enthused, but that, I again note, quickly disappointed me. I find no fault with your writing skills — that is, you have not failed to communicate your ideas clearly —, nor do I hold any personal vendetta. I am curious about the exceedingly asinine suggestion, in fact, that anything I have ever written could possibly compel you to think that I “willfully mischaracterize and misinterpret [your] statements”. In fact, given that you make only a vague reference to “skimming [my] publications”, I am astounded that you would level such a baseless, uncharitable charge, rather than considering that perhaps, despite your having clearly elucidated your case, I continue to disagree on substantive grounds."

I say:
-You did say Wilson was little more than a "blood traitor" to this country. I disagree with Obama immensely, but I attempt to refrain from calling him a baby-killing Marxist. A saying I've taken to when describing those of the opposite end of the spectrum: "Not evil, just wrong."
-While your concern is duly noted, I fail to see how my line of thinking is somehow antithetical to the conservative movement. I’ve read in your blog that you disdain the hypocrisy of the GOP’s supposed “Big Tent” policy, which opens up to the moderates but shuts out various perspectives from the right. I would argue it’s a two way street. I’m assuming your aware of this, but your views, at least on this issue, are a little more libertarian than conservative, at least by the standards of these words since the 80's. While your opinions are both welcome and thought upon (at least by me), you can not expect the majority opinion-holders to respond well to your type of badgering (calling the Rover a “rag” and my ideas “absurd”) or the assertion that they are no longer true to the Right. Additionally, I can’t help but thinking that at the end of the day, the issue discrepancies between you and I are minuscule, relative to the spectrum of American politics.
-You hate the idea of democracy promotion and are unabashedly isolati- err, anti-interventionalist. Going on your obvious intelligence and what I thought was decent job of writing by myself, I concluded that it wasn’t a matter of a failure of communication on my part. I felt my points were being misconstrued, so, given your perceived loathing of the views I was expressing, I was led to believe that you had altered them to make them more susceptible to your barrages. I apologize if this was not the case.

Jonathan Liedl said...

You said:
"At no point have I argued, explicitly or implicitly, that the promotion of international democracy requires military force, nor that you in anyway support going to war with Egypt, China, et al.. That you could extrapolate that much from such a small paragraph suggests, at the very least, that you possess a vivid imagination. (I offer this comment, rest assured, at least as much as a compliment as I do an animadversion.) I did, however, argue that rarely does this promotion not either involve or incite bloodshed. I take in good faith your statement that you had no intention of asserting that President Obama’s policy should involve violence; however, I think it naïve to discount the high probability — as you seem to do — that any such adventurism, particularly in the Middle East, invariably will lead to violence."

I said:
My assertion of you implication was, granted a bit of hyperbole, but it addressed what I believe was a valid complaint. While I talked about promoting democracy in Egypt and Iraq (present day, not with reference decisions made c. 2003), you always seemed to counter with some example relating democracy-building to senseless military campaigns, though clearly the real-life scenarios I continued to point to do not necessitate (TODAY) military involvement. And while past instances of “democracy-building” can be made to include funding resistance movements, organizing coups, and, in extreme cases, full out invasion, I reassert again that this is NOT what I was advocating. My entire point was that democracy-building need not involve military engagement nor covert, interventionist tactics. My qualm with Obama resulted simply because not only was he failing to capitalize on EASY opportunities to champion human rights and civil freedoms, he was actively avoiding and disparaging their value. You find this agreeable, I do not."

Jonathan Liedl said...

You said:
"And that is one reason why I reject the idea that President Obama, or any American leader, should “utilize America’s leverage as well as his own popularity to pressure regimes that purport gross human rights and individual liberty violations.” Moreover, from a strictly Americanist (but arguably not very Catholic) perspective, I don’t believe that redressing violations of “individual liberty” in other nations, particular in those whose culture is decidedly not Western liberal, is any of our business. Outright violence against human rights is another issue, but even then, pressure applied by the United States is, at best, a risky venture — first, again, because of the tendency for bloodshed to occur, whether as part of the process or as a a result, direct or indirect, thereof; second, because the long-term results of intervention are unpredictable and can, in fact, be worse than the deficiencies that we address; and third, because world-policing is not our responsibility or our business, and stands rather contrary to the wisdom of the men who gave to us “the greatest set of principles and ideas any government has ever seen”. (Cf. John Quincy Adams, respecting “monsters to destroy”, and George Washington’s Farewell Address, inter alia)."

I say (why have I been putting "said" here??:
I believe advancing human rights causes and democracy, though not in an obnoxious “slam-it-down-your-throat” style, both advance American interests in the long run (security [which I’ll address later], less aid provided in the future, additional avenues of trade, but also meet desirable Catholic moral objectives. I reject the claim that some US prodding will instigate resulting violence of greater significance in most of the countries we are talking about (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, China- I’ll give you Iran). If the type of pressure applied is purely diplomatic, I doubt there would be any serious repercussions (in the countries mentioned above) in the long run. Egypt is not going to ice relations with us and increase government crackdowns on dissent simply because Obama urged them to expand their civil freedoms. Furthmore, because I believe promoting democratic reform is in our interests, and is also best for our national security, I wouldn’t classify the types of policies I’ve described as going “abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”

Jonathan Liedl said...

You said:
“There is nothing simple about the grammar of this. That you accuse me of turning a purportedly innocuous statement into a “witch hunt” is redolent of anti-McCarthyism in the worst vein. The predominance of this aspect of American foreign policy over the last thirty years, and then some, in no way suggests that it is important, let alone essential, to our foreign policy. It has played an inarguably considerable role, but that is not the same as an important role. I may parse, but this is, I think, imperative.?”

I say:
I believe there is. This is not a statement of opinion, but merely a fact. Perhaps using the word “vital” here was a mistake on my part, and maybe I should have substituted “has been” for “is.” But the fact remains, all I was attempting to say here is that democracy-building is an integral (not my opinion or desire, simply based on observations since the 80's) part of U.S. FP, in much the same way one would say “Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system” I think this sufficiently explains why I found your outraged objection to this area so tll-placed.

You said:
“You don’t have to because the boldfaced text disingenuously, and intellectually flaccidly, gives you cover. “Pragmatism” anathema to the ideals upon which our nation was built is not acceptable pragmatism; that, so often, these have led to a) bloodshed and b) the sort of unpredictable, far worse long-term consequences to which I refer above only further weakens your feeble attempt to escape the corner into which your words have painted you.”

I say:
This corner doesn’t exist. I believe the Constitution clearly describes one of the federal government’s top priorities is to provide security for its citizenry, from internal threats and those abroad. A pragmatic understanding of what and where these threats are coming for allows for pragmatic policies to address them, abiding by the original intent of the FF’s. The game has changed. In order to ensure that we are carrying out our constitutional duty to provide security for our people, we must be able to counter the relatively novel threat of non-state agents motivated by hatred and radicalism. Winning the battle for hearts and minds is key to this end.

Jonathan Liedl said...

You said:
“Ah, yes, that great bugbear of the progressive: “Isolation”! Permit me, yet again, to make a deplorable reference to the policies of Wilson. It was precisely until he engaged us unnecessarily in the First World War that, with occasional exceptions (Spanish-American, Mexican, and Civil Wars primarily), that we were able properly to mind our own business. I make “continuing” reference to Wilson not because, as you risibly suggest below, I think that we can press a “magic re-set button”, but because I think it painfully unwise (Cf. Santayana.) to ignore this series of points in history that, as I have noted, made perpetual meddling and “democracy-promotion” so “necessary” through this day and beyond. Moreover, I don’t see how we now have a need for democracy-building, particularly given that those nations wherein we have attempted this, by and large, have proven often enough a) to be parts of cultures generally disinclined toward democracy and b) more of a threat to American than they ever were before we involved ourselves.”

I say:
“To your cries of injustice at invalidly being labeled “an isolationist,” I retort by saying you do the same thing when you call anyone remotely interested in active U.S. foreign policy and interventionist. Again, it’s a two way street. Regarding your “a” and “b”: a) the assertion that Islam is incompatible with democracy is at the very least unverifiable and at the very most flat out incorrect. Indonesia, the largest Islamic nation in the world, is a bonafide democracy. And if you’re alluding not to Muslims per say, but to the Middle Eastern peoples, Turkey, at 99% Muslim, has maintained a secular republic while Iraq’s fledgling democracy shows improvements every day. b) with the aggressive variety of “cram-our-ideals-down-your-throat” democracy promotion, perhaps. But with the more nuanced, and diplomacy-based measures that I endorse? doubtful.”

You said:
“Finally, I have in no way associated myself with “isolationism”, itself a virtual figment of the progressive’s imagination. Non-interventionism, yes; however, I have not suggested that we seal off our borders, disengage in trade, and avoid any and all sort of alliance with other nations. This is a matter of difference, not merely of degree.”

I say:
“Well if you really want to no longer be the target of radical Islamo-fascists, this may be your only option (see: emigration of educated Afghans/Iranians (read traitors) to the land of the infidel, globalism, alliance with Israel)

Jonathan Liedl said...

You said:
"I have addressed why I feel referring to Wilson to be necessary. I am, however, quite perplexed by the queer accusation you make, to wit, that of “continuing referral.” By my count, prior to this strand of replies, I made two mentions of Wilson: My initial comment and then one made in direct reply to your being baffled. Not to reply to that would have been irresponsible at best, a cop-out at worst."

I say:
True, only two, mentions. I guess my ire should have been not at the quality, but at the fact that I felt you continually relied on Wilson this/Wislon that as significant extent of your argument.

You said:
“How? Realistically, what has changed, other than that we have stalled the completion of a necessary and justifiable victory in Afghanistan to chase after phantasms in Mesopotamia, thereby over-extending our military, draining our national coffers ,and costing too many lives, all the while voluntarily stripping away, by way of the USA PATRIOT Act, the selfsame civil liberties that, apparently, are our responsibility to protect globally?”

I say:
Since 1916?A whole heck of a lot. The reconfiguration of the global system; The rise of asymmetrical warfare; The rise of non-state agents as our greatest threat; the rise of nuclear proliferation and the reality that small scale players can inflict enormous damages upon much greater players; The failure of Pan-Arabism and the rise of radical Islam in the vacuum; our alliance (whatever you think of it, there is no denying it exists) with Israel; our (regrettable or not) significant involvement in the Middle East over the past 30 years; 9/11; GLOBALIZATION....all of these have changed things dramatically, and as a result, our approach to securing ourselves should look far different than it did almost 100 years ago.

Jonathan Liedl said...

You said:
“No, sitting back on our haunches may not, but actively retreating from places where we have provoked hatred may. Whatever the deficiencies of “fundamentalist” Islam and how the affect practitioners thereof, that 9/11 would have occurred without meddling, militaristically and culturally, in places where we had no business being — a lesson that we failed to learn in 1983 in Beirut. Why will they continue to target us if we give them no reason? This answer still escapes me. Perhaps because it is, by this point, incomprehensible to me that we’re capable of not giving them reasons.”

I say:
Of all the things we disagree on, I believe this one takes the cake. Retreating (I’m assuming you not only mean militarily but in terms of population engagement, or public diplomacy) from these regions would absolutely not remove the threat for a whole host of reasons I have previously mentioned before. But I want to focus on the most apparent: Globalization. Oppressive Islamic regimes hate us. They hate our culture; They hate our religion; They hate our (debatable) respect for women; they hate our movies, they hate our tv shows, they hate our clothes, our celebrities, our literature, our sports; simply, our way of life. But what they hate most is that their people like these things. As long as American products, ideas, and values are shipped throughout the world and throughout the global market, we will undoubtedly continue to be a target to these people. Therefore, I don’t believe total disengagement is an option, and thinking it will somehow make us “not the infidel” is gravely mistaken.


You said:
“There is nothing callous about my disregard. Rather, I don’t believe it is the appropriate role for the United States to play, particularly in light of what I have said today. Moreover, even were I to advocate some form of promoting human rights, I wholeheartedly back away once “democracy-promotion” is tied thereto. Not all cultures are amenable to democracy, and to shove it down their throats is disrespectful and stupid. To contrast my rejection of this with my Catholicism is just plain silly. From Caritas in Veritate: “Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice: (6). The promotion of democracy in societies disinclined to democracy stands antipodal of this wisdom, does it not? So to, the enforcement of Western notions of “civil liberties”, I reckon.”

I say:
“I agree. NGO’s and religious bodies have played an exceptional role in this regard. But they aren’t always enough.” I believe the US is the ideal candidate to promote these principles, given its considerable international sway as well as the fact that its constitution is the first legally binding document to recognize such unalienable rights as the right to self-governance, a truth that is God given. And while I’m not claiming that we should use our constitution as some sort of legal justification for demanding reform, at the very least, the fact that our own constitution recognizes this right in people of all colors and creeds and countries leads me to believe that promoting these values abroad is not something the founders would have opposed.

Jonathan Liedl said...

You said:
“No one’s asking you to make apologies for that. However, simply espousing those beliefs is a far cry from the American Exceptionalism projected by the American Imperium; again, the very men who established this once-great Republic rejected the notion of engaging in foreign intrigues, et cetera.”

I say:
I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. As I pointed out above, philosophically, the founders believed these rights were applicable to all man kind..


You said:
“Not anything; just a lot of things. As I’ve noted, I was present at the paper’s founding; little time passed before I realized how partisan it is. Most, but certainly not all, of what I’ve read since has re-enforced this perception.”

I say:
Such as...?

You said:
“Finally, as a side note, I recommend that y'all consider moving this Weblog to WordPress, if only because WP offers a comment-box feature that allows posters to reply directly to other comments. It may, if the transfer isn't too much trouble, be worth the effort.

Cheers,
NPO.”

I say:
My association with the Rover began on Monday, so hopefully someone else with a little more rank sees your suggestion.

Regards,
JLL

nathancontramundi said...

Will get back to you soon — unless you're as worn out as I am by this! —, but I've been trying to step back from the glowing rectangle.

Cheers,
NPO

Jonathan Liedl said...

Ha, it's been fun and a healthy exercise, but I'm a bit worn out. I think we've both exhausted all the points and explanations we have for our particular positions. And you know what? I don't think either one of them is the "definitive" Catholic-conservative position, if there is such a thing on this matter. That's fine. Debate is healthy, and at the end of the day, I think we both can justify ourselves within the framework of conservatism.

nathancontramundi said...

Works for me.

I'll let sleeping dogs lie, but, without getting into details, I'll note that a sort of systemic rejection of the attitude manifested by "I think we both can justify ourselves within the framework of conservatism" had a lot to do with my leaving the Rover and my bitterness toward the paper. Maybe things have improved, at least a bit, after all!

In Notre Dame,
NPO