Monday, August 14, 2006

Work, Not Cooperating

TIA is suffering from a work-imposed black-out today, and possibly parts of tomorrow. Damn clients. Don't they know I have real work to do. Sheesh.

In the meantime, I give you Spencer Ackerman discussing an idea that has been a near-obsession around TIA for the entirety of its 2-plus year existence [emphasis mine]:
There's a bigger problem with his pitch: Lieberman isn't strong on defense at all.

Sure, Lieberman's a hawk. Since arriving in the Senate in 1989, he rarely met a U.S. military action he didn't like. And on numerous occasions, Lieberman's enthusiasm for war has led to enhanced national security, as with his votes for the 1991 Gulf War and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. What's more, he also stood up for commendable interventions, like the NATO campaigns in the Balkans during the 1990s, when not many Democrats were willing to lend them unequivocal support.[...]

Indeed, Lieberman's judgment on defense questions is like that of a stopped clock: the hawkish position, applied consistently, has to be right sooner or later. What Lieberman is asking Connecticut -- and the Democratic Party, and the country -- to accept is that the only secure America is a bellicose America. And that position is a guarantee of future Iraqs.[...]

But belligerence isn't the same thing as wisdom -- and hawkishness does not always lead to a safer America.
The phrase I have repeated ad nauseum is: the strength of a policy is in the results. Not the means used to achieve the ends - which if confused with the results, often leads to counterproductive misadventures. Ackerman puts is slightly more succinctly (the advantages of an editor?). Notwithstanding Haggai's well-reasoned caveat, my criticism of Israel's latest military engagement falls along these lines (as that discussion is being advanced by praktike).

This all ties into something that Kevin Drum began to address late last week. Said Drum, while discussing the notion that sometimes it is smarter to respond to provocation with less than a heavy-hand (as evidenced by the less than ideal results of the current Israeli/Lebanese conflict):
It's human nature to demand action following an attack. Any action. Counseling restraint in the hope that it will pay off in the long run is politically ruinous.

But our lives may depend on figuring out how to make this case. If it wasn't obvious before, it should be obvious by now that conventional military assaults are usually counterproductive against a guerrilla enemy like the ones we're fighting now. We can't kill off the fanatics fast enough to win, and in the meantime the war machine simply inspires more recruits, more allies, and more sympathy for the terrorists. It's not the case that conventional military force is always useless in these cases — the Afghanistan war still holds out hope of success — but as Praktike says, it usually results in a terrorism own goal.

Unfortunately, I'm not smart enough to figure out how to formulate this argument in an effective way. I wonder at times how Harry Truman managed the trick at the dawn of the Cold War, fending off the "rollback" hawks and convincing the public that containment was a more realistic strategy. But despite reading a fair amount about the era, I still don't know what the key was — though the presence of a sane faction in the Republican Party at the time was certainly a factor.
Well, I'm not sure I'm smart enough to find the magic formula for this argument either. But I'll likely try, in vain, again. And again. Because it is crucial for us to understand this, regardless of my abilities as a communicator.

Honestly, if there is one thing that I could contribute to the world, one accomplishment that would make the endless hours spent blogging worth it, it would be persuading a handful of people of the wisdom of this proposition. And then maybe they persuade a couple themselves. And so on.

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