Tuesday, 24 September 2013

“Floating City” by Sudhir Venkatesh (Allen Lane)

VenkateshS-FloatingCityA thoroughly engaging study of hustlers, strivers, dealers, call girls and other lives in illicit New York

After his insider’s study of Chicago crack gangs electrified the academy, Columbia University sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh spent a decade immersed in New York’s underbelly, observing the call girls, drug dealers, prostitutes and other strivers that make up this booming underground economy.

Amidst the trust-funder cocktail parties, midtown strip clubs, and immigrant-run sex shops, he discovers a surprisingly fluid and dynamic social world – one that can be found in global cities everywhere – as traditional boundaries between class, race and neighbourhood dissolve. In Floating City, Venkatesh explores New York from high to low, tracing the invisible threads that bind a handful of ambitious urban hustlers, from a Harvard-educated socialite running a high-end escort service to a Harlem crack dealer adapting to changing demands by selling cocaine to hedge fund managers and downtown artists. In the process, and as he questions his own reasons for going deeper into this subterranean world, Venkatesh finds something truly unexpected – community.

Floating City is Venkatesh’s journey through the “vast invisible continent” of New York's underground economy – a thriving yet largely unseen world that exists in parallel to our own, at the heart of every city.

I first came across Sudhir Venkatesh’s name in Freakonomics – as, I’m sure, did many non-sociologists. In Levitt’s book, Venkatesh contributed a small selection of his work with the crack gangs in Chicago. This study would go on to form much of Gang Leader For A Day, the author’s previous book. Venkatesh is a rare academic: he can write in such an engaging, riveting style, that his books read almost like novels. In Floating City, the ethnographer turns his gaze on New York City and its underground economy. This is, while flawed in minor ways, easily one of the best non-fiction works I’ve read in a number of years.

Friday, 20 September 2013

A Fascinating Photo–Modern Technology Meets Modern Warfare

I spotted this on The Atlantic’s website, as part of their photo-essay “Non-Chemical Warfare: Violence Continues in Syria”. It’s a superb shot, not only for the access the photographer had, but because of what it shows – a mortar team using an iPad to help them set up their shot (or “lob”, really, given how mortars work). I find it fascinating that the combatants have adapted the iPad to their battlefield needs – I can’t say for definite how specifically they are using it (perhaps some sort of angling app?), but… Well, it’s just a great shot.

Atlantic-Mortars&iPads

Photo Credit, from Atlantic: A member of the ‘Ansar Dimachk’ Brigade, part of the Asood Allah Brigade which operates under the Free Syrian Army, uses an iPad during preparations to fire a homemade mortar at one of the battlefronts in Joubar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria, on September 15, 2013. (Reuters/Mohamed Abdullah)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

“I would like you to put my trauma center out of business…”

A clip from yesterday’s Rachel Maddow Show, addressing the mass-shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. At the 7:30 mark (sorry, still can’t get the Clip-&-Share to work), the Chief Medical Officer of the Washington Trauma Center, Dr. Janis Orlowski, gives an emotional response to the mass-shooting at the Navy Yard. (Her remarks start at 5:38, and go on until around 8:50.) I highly recommend you watch this clip:

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“You see what I call ‘senseless trauma’. There is something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to eradicate… there’s something wrong here, when we have these multiple shootings… We have to work together to get rid of it. I would like you to put my trauma center out of business, I really would… We just cannot have one more shooting with so many people killed. We’ve gotta figure this out…”

Just to close out this post, I thought I’d share the final segment, from the same episode of The Rachel Maddow Show – “Mass shootings part of how we live now”. As a non-American, I can only look on with sadness and, yes, disgust, at how pro-gun fetishists in the United States refuse to see the connection between high rates of gun violence and the easy access to guns, not to mention the Hollywood-esque glamorization of firearms. This doesn’t happen in countries with stricter, tighter, or total gun control. It is an observable, quantifiable fact. And yet, to discuss guns with an American (of any political stripe) invariably leads to patronising and dismissive responses – or, less frequently, hostile attempts at ridicule.

“Are we supposed to believe that Americans are just more violent by nature?” I asked a fellow intern in New York, September 2012. “Maybe we are,” he replied.

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Sunday, 15 September 2013

American Right’s New-Found Love for Putin Should Not be Surprising…

… in fact, it’s easily explainable, and perhaps even over-due.

This is an interesting segment from Friday’s The Rachel Maddow Show (below). In it, she discusses how the GOP and American Conservative RIght has falled head-over-heels for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Maddow reports that Scott Lively, the evangelical who supported the Ugandan ‘Kill the Gays’ law, “is now suggesting American Conservatives should move to Russia, specifically because of Russia’s awesome anti-gay laws”.

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This right-wing love for Putin can be understood, though, when framed within the Republican Party’s existing pathologies. Specifically, their love of Manly Men. As chronicled in Glenn Greenwald’s Great American Hypocrites, the Right just loves male public figures who walk “tough”, act “manly”, or presents themselves as a “He-Man” (as one pundit mentions in the video clip above). Putin fulfills all of the stereotypes that sends the American Right swooning. George W. Bush adopted his Cowboy Aspect in order to distance himself from Kennebunkport and Northern prejudices, to inject testosterone into his campaign – interestingly, he spends his post-presidency years painting pictures of small dogs, which I can’t imagine would have gone over too well with the Red Meat Conservatives…

In the relevant chapter in Greenwald’s book (which is very good, if repetitive and slightly frothing), he offers a litany of Republican figures trying to up-man-ify themselves. So when I see the way Putin acts – everything from his near-endless flow of topless photos of his doing Manly things… It was only really a matter of time before the GOP fell head-over-heels for him, and especially during a major policy event that features President Obama and Secretary Kerry as their opposition – two American statesmen who certainly do not conform to the Republican Manly Man Ideal.

[I’m working on a review of the aforementioned Greenwald book. Hopefully in a week or two.]

Thursday, 12 September 2013

More Proof John Boehner is Bad at his Job? (This time, not from TRMS!)

US Syria Boehner

Credit: AP

Rachel Maddow has run a semi-frequent segment on her week-nightly show on MSNBC, taking a look at the various ways in which John Boehner is just bad at his job. Yesterday, however, Politico ran an article by Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan that supports this hypothesis, too, without articulating it explicitly. [In Politico-lingo, a hat-tip to Molly Ball at The Atlantic who also wrote about this.]

The Politico article, entitled “John Boehner, Eric Cantor struggle to lead House”, reports (in its opening sentence) that,

There are times when it looks like Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have no idea how to run the House Republican Conference.

Now, as someone firmly of the Democratic persuasion, I think this has been evident for years (and not only because Rachel Maddow has done such a good job of chronicling Boehner’s fecklessness as Speaker). Persistent, “quixotic” and non-binding (i.e. symbolic but utterly-useless except as an electoral prop) attempts to defund Obamacare, and a Tea Party revolt against a government funding bill, bode ill for the future, and cast a pall over Boehner’s and Eric Cantor’s ability to keep their historically-focused party in line. It used to be the Democrats who couldn’t pull together often enough to push through their desired legislation and agendas, because they were too disparate. Now, however, it appears that the Republican Tea Party caucus is intent on thumbing its nose at, well, everybody.

According to the Politico piece,

A clearly frustrated Boehner seemed to realize that he leads a conference where no plan is quite good enough. There are frequently about 30 Republicans who oppose leadership’s carefully crafted plans — just enough to mess things up. A reporter asked him whether he has a new idea to resolve the government funding fight. He laughed and said, “No.”

“Do you have an idea?” he asked the reporters. “They’ll just shoot it down anyway.”

It’s nice that the Republican leadership is now experiencing a bit of its own medicine. This has, after all, been the GOP’s strategy throughout the Obama presidency…

It looks like we’re getting ready for a re-run of the previous government-shutdown-circus, too:

To help pass a government-funding bill out of the House, GOP insiders expect they’ll have to take an increasingly hard-line position that will be irreconcilable with the Senate and White House preferences. That increases the chances of a government shutdown at the end of the month. GOP leadership aides say they’ll still work to gather support on the original bill next week.

GOPLeadership-BoehnerGavel Reuters201309

Credit: Reuters

***

UPDATE: John Boehner’s future and time as Speaker (and whether or not he is bad at his job) was also discussed on UP with Steve Kornacki (September 14th):

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“The United States Military does not do ‘pinpricks’…”

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The quotation in the title starts at 08:13, and is a response to members of Congress who “have said, there’s no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria.” The President is right, of course – the US Military doesn’t do “pinpricks” well. At the same time, I have always felt concerned with the idea that raining missiles down on a country from afar will do anything but create chaos in the targeted nation.

[Incidentally, the only decent place to get the transcript, on a single web-page, is on the New York Times website. The other main news sites insist on splitting it over multiple pages without a Single Page option.]

Not a bad speech, but not wholly convincing. I have never been a supporter of war, and only more so in the wake of the Iraq debacle. My general position on the use of force, and the use of force by the United States in particular, are perhaps too long and convoluted to include in this blog post, but I thought I’d offer a couple of the key take-away comments from the president’s marks.

“Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that’s so complicated and where, as one person wrote to me, those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights? It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists. But al-Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death. The majority of the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition we work with just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.”

This is a worthy sentiment, but what does “we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution” entail? How would the United States do that? President Obama continued,

“I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad or any other dictator think twice before using chemical weapons.”

I am deeply skeptical about this premise. I have yet to read a convincing argument that ‘proves’ air-strikes are enough to smack a dictator down. It hasn’t exactly worked in the past – Saddam Hussein, whose regime was a long-time target for US airstrikes, stopped for a bit, then started again, for example.

Andrea Mitchell picks up some of this in the post-interview portion of the segment, above. And, I must say, Rachel Maddow provides the best commentary in the discussion afterwards, with Chris Hayes a close second. [As an aside, I strongly recommend their latest books – Drift and Twilight of the Elites, respectively.]

“… several people wrote to me, we should not be the world’s policeman. I agree. And I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warnings and negotiations. But chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.

“However, over the last few days we’ve seen some encouraging signs in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons and even said they’d join the chemical weapons convention, which prohibits their use.”

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

“We should not be the world’s policeman”, Obama says. And yet…

From All In, September 10th:

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Katrina van den Heuvel does an excellent job in this segment – calm, measured, intelligent suggestions. She should be invited onto these shows more often. The show continued, with broader analysis and clips of President Obama’s speech:

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

“This Town” by Mark Leibovich (Blue Rider Press)

Leibovich-ThisTownTwo Parties and a Funeral (Plus, plenty of valet parking!) in America’s gilded capital

Tim Russert is dead. But the room was alive.

Big Ticket Washington Funerals can make such great networking opportunities. Power mourners keep stampeding down the red carpets of the Kennedy Center, handing out business cards, touching base. And there is no time to waste in a gold rush, even (or especially) at a solemn tribal event like this.

Washington – This Town – might be loathed from every corner of the nation, yet these are fun and busy days at this nexus of big politics, big money, big media, and big vanity. There are no Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation’s capital, just millionaires. That is the grubby secret of the place in the twenty-first century. You will always have lunch in This Town again. No matter how many elections you lose, apologies you make, or scandals you endure.

In This Town, veteran reporter Mark Leibovich (currently chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine), presents a somewhat-reluctant insider’s account and examination of America’s ruling class in their natural habitat: Washington, D.C. The book is catnip for political junkies and anyone who studies politics, policy-making and the media. These are three things that have fascinated me for years (academically and vicariously), and I found this book fascinating. It is not perfect, and there was the occasional whiff of the author protesting a bit too much about his own place in This Town’s ecosystem, but it also offers some fascinating insight into the movers and shakers in D.C.

A Very Bizarre Segment from ‘The Last Word’, in Typical Lawrence O’Donnell Style. [With an eventual point, but made by the guest…]

This is such a badly constructed approach by Lawrence O’Donnell. “What is wrong with you?” he asks Anthony Weiner, first thing, which naturally completely flummoxes the interviewee. This is a very strange, highly-combative interview. It’s typical of O’Donnell’s style, he bulldozes his guest, and doesn’t really make any point.

He says Weiner seems incapable of running for public office (a “relentless” pursuit), then effectively tells Weiner off for working as a lobbyist and says he should have done charity work. I did have to smile when told Lawrence to “Chillax, buddy!” Weiner rightly tells Lawrence to ask the question he wants answered.

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“This can’t be good TV for anybody,” Weiner says. Spot on. It was just surreal. Neither man came across well – Lawrence as a bully, who asked a question without bothering to allow his guest to answer it; and Weiner as a frustrated, eventually glib, candidate for mayor of New York. It was, frankly, surreal. And terrible television. The interview continued in a second segment:

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Weiner is, finally, allowed to respond, in the second segment. He picks apart O’Donnell’s premise, too. I can’t but feeling that I could have done a much better job as host of this show. Ari Melber, who has guest-hosted the show from time-to-time, did a much better job, too. Maybe someone needs to tell Lawrence to dial it down a little bit? It’s very strange to see the host act this way, given what he wrote for The West Wing and his oft-stated issues with the right-wing media and Fox News’ aggressive, combative approach to reporting “news”.

Lawrence O’Donnell’s point about Weiner’s belief he isn’t going to lose was infantile and ridiculous. The host says Weiner’s vocal confidence is “proof” of his pathology. Which political candidate ever vocalises doubt, regardless of how obvious their impending defeat may be?

Terrible example of broadcast “journalism”, but a perfect example of media personality bullying. It descended into petty, school-yard sniping. Perhaps it was staged, political theatre? I doubt it.

[Full disclosure: I was Ari Melber’s assigned intern at The Nation for three months at the end of 2012.]

Passing Comment on Zimmerman’s Latest Brush with the Law.

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I can’t help but seeing clear evidence of violent tendencies and gun-fetishism on display. Hearing and reading more about Zimmerman’s continued ‘problems’ (for want of a better word), the portrayal is one of someone who has developed a sense of invincibility and, perhaps, a false sense of how much he can get away with. Certainly, as Hayes covers in the second segment, below, he appears to have been emboldened by his acquittal. He has not, as Joy Reid states, “behaved like a man chastened by the act of killing someone”.

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“The visit to the gun manufacturer, to me… that was the moment when I was, like, ‘No, no, no, no…’” Chris Hayes says. I can’t help but agree. Gun-fetishism is never comfortable to see, or read and hear about. But this instance is even more chilling, in its way. The fact that Zimmerman got his gun back after he used it to hunt Trayvon Martin continues to stun me (not to mention many people I have spoken to – American and not).

“… the presence of a gun is transformational on all interactions between humans in the midst of conflict… the presence of the gun absolutely alters the calculus of everything that happens between two human beings involved in any kind of conflict.”

***

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow also had a segment about the NRA and guns in America. The NRA is flexing its muscles politically, again…

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

“Foreign Policy Begins At Home” by Richard N. Haass (Basic Books)

Haass-ForeignPolicyBeginsAtHomeThe biggest threat to the United States comes not from abroad but from within.

A rising China, climate change, terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, and a reckless North Korea all present serious challenges. But U.S. national security depends even more on the United States addressing its burgeoning deficit and debt, crumbling infrastructure, second class schools, and outdated immigration system. Foreign Policy Begins at Home describes a twenty-first century in which power is widely diffused. Globalization, revolutionary technologies, and the rise and decline of new and old powers have created a “nonpolar” world of American primacy but not domination. So far, it has been a relatively forgiving world, with no great rival threatening America directly. How long this strategic respite lasts, according to Haass, will depend largely on whether the United States puts its own house in order. Haass argues for a new American foreign policy: Restoration. At home, the new doctrine would have the country concentrate on restoring the economic foundations of American power. Overseas, the U.S. would stop trying to remake the Middle East with military force, instead emphasizing maintaining the balance of power in Asia, promoting economic integration and energy self-sufficiency in North America, and working to promote collective responses to global challenges. Haass rejects both isolationism and the notion of American decline. But he argues the United States is underperforming at home and overreaching abroad. Foreign Policy Begins at Home lays out a compelling vision for restoring America’s power, influence, and ability to lead the world.

Foreign Policy expert Richard Haass’s new book argues for the adoption of a whole new American foreign policy, one that is “defined by a doctrine that would bring to an end an era characterized by large land wars designed to refashion countries in the greater Middle East, and replace it with an approach to the world that would place greater emphasis on the Asia-Pacific and Western Hemisphere, on instruments of statecraft other than the military, and on shaping more how other governments act beyond their borders rather than within.” On the whole, Haass does an excellent job of outlining the current issues with US foreign policy, not to mention the international and domestic issues facing the nation. As with many shorter volumes, however, I question the logic of apportioning the space as he has. The balance between background, context and prescriptions is slightly off. Nevertheless, this is a valuable book, and sure to inspire debate among policy professionals and academics.

“Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus?”

An interesting segment from today’s episode of UP, hosted by Steve Kornacki, on the role of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.:

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The title of this blog-post is taken from the title of Peter Hamby’s article, “Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign”, which Kornacki mentions in the segment. It’s both an interesting segment, as well as interesting article (the PDF is linked above). The article,

“… examine[s] the merits of being a reporter ‘on the bus’ during a presidential campaign, at a time when Twitter and other web-driven developments in the media have broken down walls between the political press and the public. A political junkie can follow a campaign minute-by-minute with Twitter, watch it via live-streamed campaign events, or read about it on a growing number of niche news outlets devoted to covering even the most incremental developments in politics. But as some walls are crumbling, others are going up…”

Here’s the second segment from UP, which adds more.

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Friday, 6 September 2013

“The Founders would be horrified…”

A very good, long segment. Of particular interest (to me, at least), is the interview with Michael Beschloss, which starts around the 13-minute-mark:

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The Achievements of the Do Nothing 113th Congress…

ta130805

Above by Tony Auth. Below by Joe Heller.

jhe130805

Secretary of State John Kerry on ALL IN

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The above is Secretary of State John Kerry’s distilled explanation of why the United States needs to intervene in Syria.

Below is a clip of Chris Hayes’s exclusive interview with Secretary Kerry, on last night’s episode of All In:

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This was a very good segment, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen, heard or read Kerry arguing so passionately for anything. It makes me wish he could have been like that in 2004. Here is some of the main meat of the interview:

“… let me make this clear: the President, and this is very important, because I think a lot of Americans, a lot of your listeners, a lot of people in the country, are sitting there and saying, oh my gosh, this is going to be Iraq, this is going to be Afghanistan, here we go again. I know this. I’ve heard it. And the answer is, no, profoundly, no. You know, Senator Chuck Hagel, when he was senator… [and I] opposed the president’s decision to go into Iraq [in 2003], but we know full well how that evidence was used to persuade all of us that authority ought to be given… We are informed sufficiently that we are absolutely committed to not putting any evidence in front of the American people that isn’t properly vetted, properly chased to ground, and verified, and we are both convinced that what we are putting before the American people is in the security interests of our country and it will not lead to some further engagement. There will be no American boots on the ground. This is not Iraq. This is not Afghanistan. This is not even Libya. This is a very limited, targeted effort…” [emphasis mine]

[As an aside – Hayes issues a clarification at the end of the first Kerry segment about the New York Times video, and that it was recorded almost a year before it was originally stated. This was bad journalism – this should have been expressed when Hayes first showed the clip, and not offering it as new evidence to back up contemporary policy suggestions.]

In the second Kerry segment (below), Hayes asks the Secretary about the former Bush administration officials who are attacking Kerry as “feckless”, and Chris gets him to state (often) that this is not Iraq:

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I still find it very hard to accept certain explanations. Hayes, for example, mentions to Kerry that many see the administration’s proposal as a potential “door opening to further intervention”. Kerry responded,

“We have made it crystal clear… this action has nothing to do with engaging directly in Syria’s civil war on one side or the other, it has to do with enforcing a norm of international behavior that has protected people against chemical weapons… this measure that we’re asking the Congress to authorize will have a profound impact on the judgment of the North Koreans and the Iranians and others as to whether or not the United States will stand up for the policies it adopts; and whether or not the United States when it says something, means what it says.”

This seems, to me, strangely worded. The United States is intervening in Syria to send a message to North Korea and Iran? It doesn’t seem like enough. Also, how can anyone in the Obama administration state that they will have “nothing to do with engaging directly in Syria’s civil war”…? How are they not getting involved? By attacking Assad’s government’s war-making abilities, they are by definition intervening on behalf of the opposition. Will they also bomb/strike against rebel emplacements and resources if they cross a ‘red line’? As the retired General Lawrence Wilkerson tells Chris, there is a “high” probability that the United States will have to go “all the way”.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Another Clip from All In… (Obama, Syria, etc.)

Sorry, another clip from All In’s August 30th episode (which was excellent throughout, actually), this time featuring a panel of discussants, including the ever-excellent Amy Goodman (Democracy Now):

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Obama & Kerry “Outline US March to War in Syria”

From Friday’s All In, this is a pretty good segment, with plenty of video clips of Secretary of State John Kerry making the case for intervention, and why it matters to the United States.

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Here is what Kerry said:

“It matters today that we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters because a lot of other countries, whose policies challenge these international norms are watching… What we choose to do, or not do, matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things, we need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing?”

The US will go it alone, if it judges it necessary. And the American people’s “war fatigue” was not enough, and a poor excuse:

“President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests. We know, that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history will judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction…”

In other words… Well, this is a bit thin. Stating that it is in the United States’ interest to go in, but not explaining what these interests are is not good enough. “History will judge us extraordinarily harshly” is also not sufficient. As someone who errs towards Realism-as-Sense, this type of ephemeral nod towards “interests” comes across as thinly-veiled liberal interventionism (or adventurism, depending on how you see these things). I think the only way the administration is going to convince the American people, and on-the-fence members of Congress, is to articulate clearly which national interests are under threat.

And the dismissal of “war fatigue” is equally lacking in intelligence. Not only for ethical reasons, but for financial reasons. This intervention in Syria will not be like George H.W. Bush’s actions in Kuwait and Iraq in 1990-1, in which the US actually made a profit, because the other nations involved donated more financial aid than was ultimately needed.

Representative Jim McDermott, who joins Chris in the segment, articulates a popular concern, and that is that the language from the administration is so similar to that which we heard in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. As mentioned in the previous post on this blog, for administration officials to say the comparison can not, and should not be made is disingenuous. The tone we are hearing from administrative officials (and David Cameron’s government in the UK) is very bellicose, as if they are “banging the war drums”. Regardless of what you believe, or whether or not you agree that the US, UK and UN should intervene, the manner in which officials are articulating the case comes across as so eager for war, that it is perhaps not surprising that citizens are nervous and leery of agreeing.

Here’s the second clip from the same show, which offers parallels between Syria and Iraq (with statements by David Cameron, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and others)…

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This is the greatest long-term blow that has come about since the George W. Bush administration, and the Republican handling of Iraq: the President’s (and US’s) ability to act internationally, especially when clear national interests are not visibly under threat, has effectively vanished. The construction of Foreign Policy has become more constrained.

The segment also goes into the wisdom of telegraphing the upcoming attack, as the President and White House voices have been doing for days.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Catching up on Syria Coverage (Some Select Clips, Links & Quotations)

Here is a clip from the Rachel Maddow Show, from August 28th:

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Includes clip from an interview with President Obama, in which he states that the evidence suggests that there is no way the opposition forces (i.e. non-Assad) could not have been responsible for the deployment of chemical weapons, due to the delivery methods needed to do so.

From MSNBC’s All In, hosted by Chris Hayes (Aug.29):

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The part of this clip that caught my attention came around the 3:10-mark, in which Marie Harf, White House Deputy Spokesperson, said,

“Iraq and Syria are in no way analogous. We’re not considering analogous responses clearly in any way, so I would really caution people against using both the language that people used in the Iraq intelligence assessment, but also making any kind of intellectual comparisons because they don’t exist.”

I think this is a rather disingenuous statement. I think any intelligent observer can see that the specifics of the two cases are different. What many people are uncomfortable about are the parallels in rhetoric that we are hearing and reading in relation to proposed action and justifications for intervention in Syria. A cynical Washington watcher might wonder why a deputy is making this statement, on perhaps the most important issue in politics this month. Is it an attempt to create distance? Why isn’t Jay Carney making this statement? Perhaps he was too busy addressing twerking...?