A U.S. commitment can work

A back-and-forth discussion on the subject of Bosnia among readers responding (initially, anyway) to a recent post reminded me of this piece from The New York Times, which I meant to draw attention to it at the time, but got busy with other things. Unfortunately, you can’t read it online now without paying for it.

The thrust of it was that no, the situation in Bosnia isn’t perfect — far from it — but we accomplished our goal there. Our goal was modest by the standard of what we’re trying to do in Iraq: We just wanted to stop the killing (at least, that was the goal once we finally decided to do something). We accomplished that.

The author, Roger Cohen, called the Dayton accords signed in 1995 “a messy, and unedifying, end to a conflict” but went on to say that “the Dayton agreement had one conspicuous merit: it stopped the killing that had taken about 200,000 lives. The quieted guns were a tribute to what American power and diplomacy can achieve.”

Note the word, “diplomacy.” The piece stresses the importance of working in concert with powerful allies, and draws some obvious contrasts with what has happened in Iraq. That’s the first of “two lessons” he says the Bosnia experience holds for Iraq.

“The second,” he wrote, “is that a 10-year American military commitment can bear fruit.”

Now note “10-year.” Also note “commitment.” The result is that eventually, one can draw down the troop deployment — we only have 200 in Bosnia now. But note again, all you impatient sorts: “10-year.”

Anyway, the part I liked best about the piece was the headline: “Lessons From Bosnia, 10 Years On: A U.S. Commitment Can Work.” I saw that as a fitting rebuke to the isolationists and do-nothings on both the left and the right.

47 thoughts on “A U.S. commitment can work

  1. Lee

    American intervention in Bosnia was only one part of NATO forcing the breakup of Yugoslavia into its 19th century states as countries again. The American media continues to report very little facts, and when they do, it is through the Clinton administration template, a simplistic fairy tale of noble liberalism intervening to save Europeans from their hated dictator.
    The Muslim atrocities since the removal of Milosovec continue without notice, and have surpassed what the Serbs did to all other ethnic groups.
    Clinton’s intervention was motivated more by seeking to create a diversion from his many scandals. Additionally, the negotiator of the Dayton Accords, Richard Holbrooke, was also negotiating an oil pipeline deal to compete with a line through Serbia, which Clinton bombed.

  2. Mary Rosh

    Another colossal non sequitur. Here’s what I consider to be quite a significant part of the article, which you naturally did not quote:
    ”I am satisfied that every one of the worst-case scenarios was wrong,” said Richard Holbrooke, the relentless former United States ambassador to the United Nations who cajoled and bullied the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian leaders until they slunk toward his unlikely Bethlehem, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio. ”Total NATO deaths from hostile action in Bosnia since Dayton have been zero.”
    Get that? Total NATO deaths from hostile action in Bosnia since Dayton have been zero.
    Yes, a U.S. commitment can work. If entered into honestly, for a sufficiently important U.S. interest, in order to achieve a reasonably well defined and achievable goal, requiring a sustainable level of resources, and competently and honestly managed.
    However, an unsustainable commitment of U.S. resources, entered into based on lies, in order to bring about glorious fantasies of racist chickenhawks who suffer none of the consequences themselves, has the potential to bring great harm to the United States.
    For example, to people like this:
    While most of her friends and neighbors are amusing themselves with Christmas decorations and holiday gifts, Patricia Arndt is fretting over far more serious matters.
    The single mother from Medford has been unexpectedly pulled from the inactive Army reserve and ordered to report for active duty by Feb. 5.
    As Christmas nears, Arndt, 43, is trying to sell the Medford home she says she will not be able to keep on an Army salary of approximately $60,000 a year, and is searching for someone to care for her 13-year-old son, Shane. She expects to train for an 18-month tour of duty that could take her to Iraq or Afghanistan.
    She said she never saw her return to active duty as a possibility. “Never in a million years,” she said.
    “This is a very hard thing for me,” she said. “I absolutely love my country. I feel I owe it to the Army and my fellow soldiers, because I wouldn’t be here without them.
    “If I were a reservist assigned to a unit, I’d have been trained and informed of the possibility that I would be called. I’m not prepared for this.”
    This is from the December 8 edition of Newsday.
    This is the real cost of your chickenhawk fantasies. A war that has overtaxed the resources of the U.S. military to the extent that they have to drag in a 43-year-old single mother from the inactive reserve.
    And get this (also from the same article):
    According to Army officials, approximately 110,000 Army personnel are listed in the Individual Ready Reserve. By law, they may be called up for as long as two years to fill vacancies. But because they are not attached to any unit, they may go years without the training and supervision needed to transition back to active duty, officials said. The Army has traditionally not sent IRR soldiers into battle.
    The war in Iraq, now 21/2 years old, has changed that. Currently, more than 6,500 ready reservists have been called back to active duty, including Chief Warrant Officer Margaret Murray, 56, of Schenectady. While receiving training at Fort Jackson last year, Murray told Newsday that she hoped she would not be sent into combat. If she is sent, she said, “I’ll do the best I can.”
    You can sit talking about “democracy” and “ten-year commitments”, while you take handouts from the federal government, paid for by the taxes of people like Patricia Arndt and Margaret Murray. And they’ll go off and fight for you, because they agreed to follow the orders they were given.
    But I hope you won’t accuse me of “failing to support our soldiers” when I say that I think that their willingness to make such a great sacrifice doesn’t give us the right to ask it of them for anything less than the most vital interests of the United States.
    Allowing you to sit and talk airily about “10-year commitments” isn’t such an interest.
    Hmmm. Ms. Murry is 56, 4 years older than you, right? Why don’t you go take her place?

  3. Herb

    OK; I reluctantly see that we have to stay the course in Iraq, at least there is no cut and run option. But a 10 year commitment in the Balkans — what does that translate into in Iraq — 20 years? More? Over a period of time that involves how many American administrations? I agree with Mary at least on this: before we decide to go and fix things somewhere, we need to have all the facts on the table, and be absolutely up front on the costs. And what is the Unparty position going to be on the draft? Reinstate it, so we can police the world? Powerful allies — sure — but who are they going to be? We don’t have that many allies right now, at least on a job like this, as far as I can see.

  4. Mike C

    Looks like the whole NYT article is here.
    Hoagland’s review Holbrooke’s book To End a War provides some insight on the maneuvering that led up to Dayton. Bush 41 did nothing about the Balkans and it’s to Clinton’s credit, however it happened, that Clinton did.
    The following excerpt from the NYT article seems more literary than literal. I inject my comments where appropriate:

    That said, Bosnia, like Iraq, is a fragile country whose potential for disintegration along ethnic lines in 1995 was strong. Its survival appears to carry two possible lessons for Iraq.
    The first is that when the United States works in concert with powerful allies, and accepts the need for detailed planning in bringing peace to a traumatized state, it is more effective than when improvising ad hoc alliances with the likes of Bulgaria and Mongolia.

    This is a smarmy comment from a foreign policy realist who seems to have forgotten that Saddam the master politician had managed to corrupt the UN Oil for Food (OFF) program, gaining billions for himself, UN and EU diplomats, France, Russia, and even India (see the seventh comment in this post.) The participation of the smaller nations is beneficial for many reasons, and they seem to appreciate the chance to join in too. Finally, it ignores the fact that Europeans too can be jerks, prisoners of their own petty jealousies, much like the indolent heap scorn on their successful relatives.

    The hundreds of pages of the Dayton accords were of a mind-bending intricacy, relied on support from the European Union and Russia, and were buttressed from the start by a large NATO force.
    The second is that a 10-year American military commitment can bear fruit. The thousands of United States troops deployed in Bosnia have now dwindled to about 200, flanked by a 7,000-strong European Union force. Over the years, the mere absence of war has given way to peace, with large numbers of refugees returning.

    This omits the fact that boatloads of expatriate Iraqis have already returned, the miscreant Saddam was ousted quickly, unlike Milosevic who remained in power until the end of 2000 (and has been on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 since February, 2002.
    But even the agreements and NATO involvement did not prevent large scale murders in the area; see Brad’s blog entry about the massacre at Srebrenica. There are always unintended consequences to action, and sometimes they are ghastly in retrospect. But people of action pursuing a moral good suck in their guts and move out, ever watchful of pitfalls that may harm their endeavor or injure innocents. This is true of our intervention in the Balkans, which enjoyed bipartisan support, as well as in Iraq.
    Of late the architect of Dayton, Richard Holbrooke, is reluctant to go on record with a positive statement of what needs to be done in Iraq:

    “I’m not prepared to lay out a detailed policy or strategy. It’s not something that you can expect in a situation that is moving this fast and has the level of details you’re looking for.”

    He’s a loyal Democrat, but perceived as hawkish and has plenty of enemies in the antiwar movement.
    It is clear that any intervention in the Balkans could not have happened without US leadership for NATO, not the EU, and that Dayton would not have happened without Holbrooke.

  5. Nathan

    Mary, your examples are ridiculous. First, I would like to remind you that we have no draft. People sign up for the military. What exactly do these people who don’t want to go to war think we have a military for? Don’t be shocked or angry when you are called up. Second, you never say that Murray went to Iraq. In fact, the Newsday article doesn’t mention training at Fort Jackson and her quote doesn’t appear to reference Iraq. Likely, Murray is working a civilian-type job somewhere and would be suprised to hear that she is running around the desert with an AK-47. You are being dishonest, but what else is new.
    We are still in Kosovo, and Howard Dean isn’t asking about an exit strategy there (perhaps he thinks that it is unwinnable there too). The media isn’t attacking the reasons for that war. But that isn’t Bush’s fault, so it isn’t worth talking about. We need to stay committed to the task at hand in Iraq. Once thier military is trained, we will have an ally in the Middle East that will provide us with a great deal of help in the war on terror. We can’t just wave the white flag of surrender and and allow the terrorists to snatch victory out of the hands of defeat.

  6. Mary Rosh

    Nathan, what a worthless piece of garbage you are. You let these people be called on to make these huge sacrifices, and you sneer at them, saying that they volunteered to go into the military, so they should take whatever they get.
    The issue isn’t what they volunteered to do. The issue is our responsibility to them. Patricia Arndt spent four years on active duty in the 1980’s. She has been on inactive reserve for many years, and we have a responsibility to her not to take her away from the life she has built for herself for anything other than a real emergency. We have an obligation to manage our military, and our military commitments, so as to meet our military commitments without dragging people from inactive reserve into active duty unless there is a real emergency.
    And what are you talking about when you say the article doesn’t refer to Murray receiving training at Fort Jackson? It does mention training at Fort Jackson, specifically, where it says “While receiving training at Fort Jackson last year, Murray told Newsday that she hoped she would not be sent into combat. If she is sent, she said, “I’ll do the best I can.”
    The fact that you’re too lazy or stupid to read something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
    And your speculating about her not going to Iraq or having a desk job somewhere has nothing to do with anything. First of all, you are just grasping at straws trying to pretend there’s no problem. Second, it doesn’t matter what job she is assigned to do. We have no right to drag her back, regardless of what she volunteered for. People who join the military give us a great gift, and place on us, even though they don’t ask us to undertake it, a corresponding obligation. That is the obligation to minimize our demands on them. To avoid sending them into combat unless it is absolutely necessary, and to let them go back to their civilian lives after their active duty commitment is up, without interference.
    Instead, the Iraq war, and Bush’s mismanagement of the military, has overstrained the military so that we are now violating our obligations to people who have given us the greatest gift within our power. And you spit on them and sneer at them.
    Yes, we’re still on Kosovo. And no, no one is asking for an exit strategy there. That is because not every military commitment is the same. One the one hand, there’s Kosovo, where we stopped genocide with no soldiers killed by enemy action, and where our continuing military presence is very small. On the other, there’s Iraq, where we threw the country into chaos at great financial loss to America (none paid by you) and the cost of 2100 lives of our soldiers so far (not, of course, you), and great harm to our military strength and our security.
    You say that “we” need to stay committed to the task at hand in Iraq. Well, there were no weapons of mass destruction, so what is the task at hand? It changes constantly, depending on the rationalization du jour. Now you say that “once their military is trained, we will have an ally in the Middle East that will provide us with great help in the war on terror.” Always the future tense, isn’t it, it’s been 2.5 years and none of you chickenhawks can point to any success without putting it in the future tense.
    You say that “we” need to stay committed. Tell you what, why don’t YOU go sign up to go over to Iraq and then maybe Patricia Arndt can come back home and be with her son.

  7. Mike C

    Mary –
    You should also remind Nathan that no American lives were wasted in stopping the Rwanda massacre, nor have any been lost protecting Black Muslims in Darfur.
    I think you’ll agree that there are consequences to inaction. In fact, your call for supporters of the war to go to Iraq and engage in it directly is a call to action. But as I’ve unsuccessfully tried to point out before, there is neither logic nor reason in your assertion that if one supports something one must engage in it directly. If I support the eradication of muscular dystrophy, that means that I have go back to school, get some sort of medical degree, and engage directly in MD research. And if I support space exploration, I would have to get yet another degree to become a rocket scientist. What about ending cruelty to animals? Do I have to harass animal researchers? Are vegetarians supposed to kill butchers and ranchers, or just get them to stop producing meat? Well, at least the Jihadists are morally pure because they truly live their beliefs.
    To you indirect support is insufficient, only direct action counts in showing commitment. Isn’t that somewhat bizarre? How can folks engage directly in everything that they support? They obviously can’t, which is why your taunt is tiresome: it’s impossible. I’m not sure if you’re on a quest for the moral purity of our society or just like to throw a few brick and call folks names on this blog.
    Finally, perhaps its innumeracy, but you still don’t grasp how the numbers don’t support your frequent assertion that no one in SC pays his fair share of taxes because there’s an expenditure / tax payment ratio of 1.37. In part perhaps its because you refuse to take into account that Social Security, federal pensions, and the like are also expenditures, just like the agricultural and other subsides that you and I dislike are.

  8. Dave

    Mary, you have to be joking about the mother who has to give up her house. She has lots of options: rent it out while she is away, refinance with the bank for an interest only loan, or negotiate payment deferrals while on active duty. On $60k a year she will have almost no personal living expenses. Your typical bleeding heart analysis of that circumstance is plain silly. It is funny how the do gooders and feminists nagged and nagged to put women on the front lines, after all, we are exactly equal, right, and now when the piper must be paid, we hear about, oh my, this poor single mother. Women in battle zones is dumb, irrational, dangerous (even to our own soldiers), and should be revoked. You can’t have it both ways, join the military, enjoy the benefits and compensation, and then when called start whining about how unfair it is. I give Ms. Arndt credit for serving and her love of the country, but in this case she needs to act like a man!!!!!!!!!

  9. Steve Aiken

    It’s an indication of the degree to which overheated rhetoric has corrupted political discussion in this country that people who voluntarily keep their commitments to our nation get told they need “to act like a man!!!!”, while skating past the unanswered question: If they keep their commitments, what commitments will we make to them? Higher taxes? A reinstated draft? What?

  10. Mary Rosh

    Mike, so you’re saying that the whole excess of federal dollars flowing into South Carolina versus taxes contributed by South Carolinians is due to pensions and Social Security? Don’t make me laugh.
    Can you really sit there in all seriousness and say that South Carolina contributes as much to the United States as it takes out? What would happen to the rest of the United States if South Carolina left? Would it be better off or worse off? What would happen if (be still, my heart!) the entire South left? Would the rest of the United States be better off or worse off?
    Give an honest answer to that, and then tell me if the entire excess payments to the conservative states from the liberal states simply result from a greater number of retirees in the conservative states, or if there’s another explanation. Like maybe the fact that the economies of the conservative states cannot be supported by depending on the initiative and industry of their people, so they have to have help?

  11. Mary Rosh

    Dave, it amazes me that anyone disputes the point I was making, but it doesn’t surprise me that if anyone were to dispute it, that person would be you. You have lived your whole live sponging off the work and sacrifices of people like Patricia Arndt, and you think it’s your due, so it doesn’t surprise me that you react to her new sacrifice not with gratitude, but with complacency and contempt.
    Patricial Arndt served four years on active duty, twenty years ago. She was placed on inactive reserve. We (the people of the United States) have an obligation to the people who undertake to serve us in the military. We have an obligation to limit the demands we place on them. We have an obligation never to ask them to go into danger unless it is absolutely necessary, and we have an obligation to make only reasonable demands. Once their active duty service is over, we have an obligation to let them go on with their lives unless a genuine emergency requires their services, and we have an obligation to manage our affairs and our military in order to avoid such an emergency.
    The Iraq war was not such an emergency. It was a response to a nonexistent threat, and statements about both the threat to be averted and the cost of averting it were lies. The war was planned inadequately, so that insufficient troops were committed, resulting in an excessive burden on the troops that were committed. We have no right to call on Patricia Arndt, or any former soldier on inactive reserve, to leave the life they have been living. It is a disgrace and shame to America that Patricia Arndt and Margaret Murray have been called. I don’t care that they’re willing to respond to the call. It was our obligation to manage our affairs so that we could not need to call them. We have failed in our obligations to them, and to every soldier subjected to a stop loss order or subjected to a longer than usual deployment or in any other way required to serve for an excessive length of time.
    Now, here’s an idea. You could seek to take Patricia Arndt’s place. I know that you’ll say that you already served in the military, to which I respond – so did she.
    But I won’t be holding my breath. You were happy to let her pay taxes for you; you’ll be glad to sit on your sofa and let her fight for you too.

  12. Phillip

    I’m not going to weigh in here with the differences between the Balkans intervention and Iraq; those differences seem too obvious to be worth arguing about. The frustration felt by those who feel it is America’s right to mold the entire world to fit its prerogatives is conveyed well by the ridiculous tone and oversimplification of this post that Mike linked to, as well as by Mike’s surprisingly churlish characterization of Europeans as the “indolent heaping scorn upon their successful relatives.” I don’t think Europeans looking at a country with as entrenched an underclass as we have are so consumed with jealousy as you think, Mike.
    It drives Bush and Cheney nuts to think about this, I’m sure, but an awful lot of people around the world are fighting back against the “God-tells-me-to-do-it” Bushesque vision of American corporate/military world dominance, and they’re doing it by democratic means. Stay tuned, people: what will Cheney do about it? Can anybody say “Allende?”

  13. Dave

    Mary, Ms. Arndt, like every other person who ever entered the service, knew her legal contractual obligations up front. I know people like yourself on the left think you can litigate yourself out of any obligation, but on this one I doubt it. Here is a better suggestion than me heading into the military, how about you? They obviously would want a female in place of a female to keep the quota system in place. The military could turn your nastiness into a great weapon against the terrorists. While you are serving over there, you could see firsthand all the good progress that is underway in Iraq. You go girl!!!!!!!

  14. Dave

    Steve, I dont have anything against Ms.Arndt or the fact she is a woman. But equal is equal and the point Mary was trying to make, how could the cruel, uncaring military and USA do that to this single mother, just doesnt wash with me. People like myself who argued that women have no business being sent into a dangerous combat zone were attacked by the likes of the Marys out there. That is a fact.

  15. Paul DeMarco

    The Iraq war is not what we signed up for. Unless I missed something in the run up to the war, no one in the administration was talking about our intervention lasting decades or costing hundreds of billions (trillions?)of dollars. White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay suggested in 9/2002 that the cost of the war would be $100-200 billion and was fired. I can’t find any record of anyone in the administration in 2003 giving much credence to estimates the war would last more than a year or two.
    However, it was apparent to an alert high school student prior to engaging in Iraq that:
    a) It was an elective war (ie no national interest was threatened). Even at the time Bush’s claims that Saddam had nuclear weapon sounded hyperbolic.
    b) It had almost nothing to do with the war on terror. Again, Bush’s claims that there was a close tie between Saddam and Al-Qaeda were suspect even in prelude to the war.
    c) Once engaged in Iraq, there was no easy way out.
    The president knew all this and yet failed to lay out the likely course of the war. He neglected to warn the people of this nation about what an awesome commitment we were making. If he had, the likely consequence would have been, either:
    a) the American people would have rejected going to Iraq
    b) we would have gone to Iraq with reasonable expectations, and support for the war would still be strong because we are only two years into a 20 year commitment.
    It’s hard to follow Bush’s lead on Iraq when he played us for fools.

  16. Mike C

    Mary –
    Those with elementary school education — even those who attended school here in SC, as you might observe — would understand that I did not assert that “the whole excess of federal dollars flowing into South Carolina versus taxes contributed by South Carolinians is due to pensions and Social Security.”
    (In this case I think that’s a #5 on this list, but you do an outstanding job of using all seven, and a host more.)
    I pretty durn clearly acknowledge subsidies, agricultural and others. I’d just hoped that you’d understand that subsidies are but one component of the expenditure side. Then again, I hope in vain for all sorts of things, so my disappointment in this case does not cause depression.
    In a previous thread I directed your attention to this paper prepared for the state of Illinois. SC sure looks like a piker compared to Montana ($1.73), West Virginia ($1.72), Mississippi ($1.69), and North Dakota ($1.65). But as the paper explained, a rich state (higher median income) will have a tougher time getting below the $1.00 in to $1.00 out parity because of the progressive nature of the income tax. Huh!
    Don’t tell the Democrats or the Unparty folks, but the writer notes that across-the-board tax cuts would level that playing field. Here’s more on that line (from the Wall Street Journal courtesy of these libertarians:

    Consider deep blue Connecticut and vivid red Oklahoma. Both have roughly the same number of people, five Congressmen and seven electoral votes. Last year, 1.66 million Connecticut tax filers paid $19.1 billion in personal taxes on $107 billion of adjusted gross income. That makes for an average tax rate of 17.9% in Connecticut. In the same year, 1.5 million Oklahoma tax filers paid $6.6 billion in personal taxes on $54 billion in adjusted gross income; an average tax rate of 12.2%. Democrats … seem to want the rich to pay more in taxes, but not for rich states with rich people to pay more taxes. It’s unclear how one accomplishes this mathematically.

    The Illinois paper as well as the blog entry that the WSJ article appears in also start along the track that subsidies are not really local, their effects are dispersed. This article argues that federal crop subsidies and water regulations out west hurt farmers in the southeastern US. More evidence that subsidies are stupid, but you and I know that.
    Assume that SC peach farmers get a huge subsidy (they may, I can’t find the detail). That allows them to set their product at a lower price than they otherwise would get. Consumers in SC and out-of-state benefit by getting more peaches at a lower price. The same is true for any subsidy since few of the crops or whatever is being subsidized are actually fully consumed locally.
    The tobacco allotment system — not a subsidy, but a system of limiting producers — benefited directly only those farmers in the region who had an allotment. With the end of that system, we now know that the true villains were the evil tobacco companies and framers have been demanding “just” compensation for the end of their gravy train. But the commodity grown and processed in the South provided a windfall in taxes for state and local governments up North through cigarette taxes. Qui bono? From the federal data alone I’m reluctant to say that the South (or Red states) are leeches sucking the lifeblood from the coastal or Blue states, although it sure looks that way.
    If the Red states are leeches using the federal ratio you cite, they are more generous as measured by charitable giving than blue states are. I hasten to add that this measure may be as imprecise as the one you rely on. Then again, maybe it does truly reflect the Southerners’ generosity with their own money.
    If you really would like the South to leave, I’ve got some pretty bad news for you: they tried that once, but the Republicans stopped them. That’s the truth — you can look it up.

  17. Mary Rosh

    Mike, in all your pompous rambling, you didn’t answer my question. If South Carolina left the United States, would the United States be better off or worse off? Does South Carolina contribute more to the United States than it takes, or does it take more than it contributes?

  18. Mary Rosh

    Dave, it has nothing to do with her being a single mother. And it has nothing to do with the obligations she agreed to. It has to do with the fact that she served four years active duty, and we, as a country, have an obligation to do our best to manage our affairs so as not to drag her back after 20 years. You prove your worthlessness and dishonesty when you keep ignoring the point. No one is talking about someone who just signed up for active duty and is objecting to going into combat. We are talking about someone who is being dragged back because the war and the military were so poorly managed that we weren’t able to fight the war without dragging back people who have long since fulfilled their obligations.
    But I don’t expect you to admit this fact, any more than I expect you to pull your own weight financially, instead of taking subsidies paid for by Ms. Arndt’s tax dollars, or to fight in the war you wanted, instead of letting Ms. Arndt do it for you.

  19. Brad Warthen

    Yep, I left out what Holbrooke said, because the author made a point of noting, “Also, Mr. Holbrooke is a Democrat with little inclination to praise a Republican administration.” Which I didn’t think disqualified him, but since Mr. Cohen made a point of it, I left it out to avoid objections from the OTHER side of the fence. Include it, and you have the right-wingers griping. (They would have accused me of “naturally” leaving out what I just quoted.) Leave it out, and you have Mary on your case. I learned long ago you can’t win with these people. Story of my life. The irony is that they are so much alike, when they see each other as opposites. To both of them, nothing from the “other side” is legitimate.
    And Phillip, I don’t “feel it is America’s right to mold the entire world to fit its prerogatives.” Rather, I believe — and here’s where I’m likely to set off both the Marys and the Lees — that it is our OBLIGATION to right wrongs that no other nation or force in the world has the power to address.
    That means we have the obligation to use our overwhelming resources (military, economic, diplomatic, everything in the arsenal) to do what we can in Bosnia, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Darfur, Rwanda — you name it. If there’s a decent chance of making a positive difference, we have to try. To stand by, with all our wealth and power, and ignore intolerable situations is absolutely inexcusable.

  20. Mary Rosh

    This is the quote that I put in, that you left out:
    ”I am satisfied that every one of the worst-case scenarios was wrong,” said Richard Holbrooke, the relentless former United States ambassador to the United Nations who cajoled and bullied the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian leaders until they slunk toward his unlikely Bethlehem, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio. ”Total NATO deaths from hostile action in Bosnia since Dayton have been zero.”
    And this is the point I took from it, that I was emphasizing:
    Get that? Total NATO deaths from hostile action in Bosnia since Dayton have been zero.
    You didn’t leave that quote out because Holbrooke is “a Democrat with little inclination to praise a Republican administration.” That quote has nothing to do with praising or criticizing a Republican administration. You left the quote out because it contains a factual point that undermines your argument. You left it out because you’re dishonest.
    If there were zero NATO deaths from hostile action, there were zero NATO deaths from hostile action. It doesn’t matter who said it, whether it’s Holbrooke, Bill Clinton, you, me, Winston Churchill, or the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. If there were zero deaths, there were zero deaths, and if there weren’t zero deaths, than there weren’t zero deaths. It’s not a political question, and ignoring an important factual point because it casts a Republican president in a bad light by contrast doesn’t show you as the “nonpartisan” you claim to be; it shows you as the whore for the Republican party that you in fact are.
    You left out the quote because it is important in a part of the evaluation you always leave out. That is, what are the costs of the proposed action. You leave it out because the costs to you are always zero. You don’t bear any of the financial or personal costs of the action; they are borne by people like Patricia Arndt and Margaret Murray. All you do is sit and spin our your fantasies, and talk about “trying to make a positive difference.”
    You don’t consider the likelihood of achieving the goal or the costs of achieving the goal, or the actual situation that will arise from an attempt to bring the goal to fruition. All you consider is whether the goal, as articulated, is a worthy goal. You think that once you say “bringing democracy to the Middle East is a worthy goal”, the analysis is over.
    Well, it isn’t over. As I pointed out above, and as you ignored, factors to be considered include whether the goal is honestly articulated and competently pursued, and whether the goal can be achieved through the commitment of a sustainable level of resources.
    The question isn’t: “would democracy in Iraq be a good thing.”
    There are numerous questions, such as:
    1. Can the United States, through force of arms, reasonably expect to bring democracy to Iraq.
    2. What will be the consequences to the United States of an attempt to bring democracy to Iraq?
    3. What steps will be taken?
    4. What are the various contingencies that may arise, and what actions may be taken to meet those contingencies?
    5. What is the likelihood of success, and what are the consequences of success?
    6. What is the likelihood of failure, and what are the consequences of failure?
    7. Can the persons in charge of planning the effort be trusted to carry it out in a competent way?
    8. Are the American people likely to be made better off or worse off by the attempt?
    9. Are the Iraqi people likely to be made better off or worse off by the attempt?
    10. What will be the effect on the United States military, and the consequences of these effects on our security?
    and, to my way of thinking, the most important question of all:
    11. What ways are available, short of armed conflict, to achieve democracy in Iraq and in the Middle East within a reasonable time [10 years, for example]?
    These are all questions that you should have considered, not only this one, which appears to be the sum total of your analysis on the question of costs and consequences:
    1. Will I, Brad Warthen, have to bear any of the costs of the course of action I advocate, or can I count on people like Patricia Arndt and Margaret Murray to bear all of the costs for me?
    And oh yeah, are you going to ask if you can take Ms. Murray’s place? Let me guess. No, right?

  21. Mark Whittington

    Brad, Mary, and All,

    Brad it strikes me how you are perfectly willing to right the wrongs across the globe in a military sense, yet you are wholly apathetic to workers here in SC that are being screwed by the Republican Party, the DLC, and the Chamber of Commerce. Not only are you apathetic to the plight of SC workers, you purposely exclude voices for working people on the editorial page. How can we set-up a democracy in Iraq when workers in SC don’t have the right to unionize? In every Western democracy that I’ve been to (I’ve been to about twenty countries or so), workers have the right to unionize without having to worry about being fired. How can we convince the rest of the world that we are for human rights when the Country’s so called leadership does nothing but enact policies that hurt working people and benefit the wealthy. We’re going backwards by using free market policies that most other civilized countries long ago abandoned. Do you really think that free market capitalism and democracy are consistent? Tell that to that to my co-workers who are being freaking victimized by a bunch of people who could care less about the damage that they are doing to our community. We’re being forced into a fifty hour workweek at reduced wages while the company spends millions and millions of dollars on advertising. At least 90% of the workers at my plant vehemently oppose forced overtime for peanuts, and if an election were held today, all the management would immediately be thrown out of office, assuming of course that corporations were democratic and such a thing could happen. But corporations are not democratic, and the only protection that workers have is the law, and federal and state law are woefully inadequate. So, do you ever try to help workers by allowing those of us who are familiar with the plight of American workers to get a word in edgewise? No way. Hey, if I were one of you rich investor buddies, then you’d be falling all over yourself trying to get my word out. Do you mind if I stop by next week-I want you to float a trial balloon for me on the editorial page concerning my economic agenda. Huh buddy, does that sound good to you-hmm? Fat chance.

    And Mary-Mary, I happen to agree with many of your ideas, but the name-calling has got to stop. Everybody knows that you hate Brad and his very existence (Are you Brad’s Ex or something?). Of course, Mike is not retarded-no matter how much you or I disagree with him (Mike a very smart guy). You are very talented writer, but your virulence often obfuscates your keen intellect.

  22. Mike C

    Thanks for the affirmation, Mark.
    Phillip objects to my comparison of the European anti-Americanism to the “indolent heaping scorn upon their successful relatives.” Let me explain. I lived in Yurrip for eight years and loved every minute of it. I respect the folks, their accomplishments, history, food, and culture. I’m saddened that instead of facing up to the challenges before them, they’re following their elites down a path of cultural suicide and economic ruin.
    Europeans are not lazy, but their elites have figured out a way to punish those who want to succeed. Mark may remind us that they get six weeks of vacation. He’s right: those who work for a governmental agency or any business that has more than ten employees, do have wonderful benefits.
    But entrepreneurs don’t. The first challenge you face is trying to pay folks for 52 weeks when they work only 46. Oh, you can’t fire anybody either. What are your benefits as an entrepreneur? Whether you’ve got a small restaurant, shop, consulting firm, or whatever, you get what your customer base generates in excess of your costs. Keeping your job at Siemens or Thompson becomes very attractive. Er, and don’t even think about starting a business in a garage — it’s against the law.
    I look at the western hemisphere as one big family. Sometimes, when one member of a large family works hard and makes it big, some of the other members don’t celebrate the success, they get jealous. And that’s what I meant to convey in the remark Phillip finds fault with.

    “Certainly, then, envy is the worst sin there is. For truly, all other sins are sometime against only one special virtue; but truly, envy is against all virtues and against all goodnesses.”
    Geoffrey Chaucer – The Parson’s Tale

    Folks can hate another for their own reasons, things that have nothing to do with any act that the hated one committed, but because of envy or faults imagined by those doing the hating. Paul Berman treated this phenomenon quite well in a recent article in The New Republic; even Le Monde is taking a more nuanced view of America. Even the French in general are starting to realize that their anti-Americanism has little to do with who we are or what we do, and more to do with what they themselves have not succeeded at.
    US economic growth and the accompanying increase in standard of living have trounced those of Europe over the past twenty years, leaving European elites dazed and amazed. It’s not us, it’s them.
    Ditto for South America. Most countries in Latin America suffer because they remain adolescents in their social and economic development. The common thread, the “popular challenge to the market fundamentalism of the Washington Consensus,” is another way of describing the fight between socialism and oligarchy that produces populism. Populist movements themselves produce strong leaders who practice disastrous economic policy; that’s the norm down there.
    Economist Hernando DeSoto remains a champion of the common folks down south, yet most of the nations remain on a path of incremental growth and development followed by a sharp left turn that turns the country to ruin. Hugo Chavez’ turn would have been over by now were it not for Venezuela’s oil wealth.
    (Aside: You’ll note that the disingenuous Wikipedia entry implies that he’s “partisan” because he’s an adherent of the Austrian School of economics. To that writer, being a property rights champion is partisan. Who knew?)
    We can look at anti-Americanism in terms of racism too. Why does guy A hate ______ (insert rude nickname for members of despised race here)? Is racism rational? What on earth can any member of the hated race do to stop the hatred? Shuffle on by?
    Brad’s getting a little old-time liberal, neo-conny about America’s obligation to right wrongs worldwide. But I do agree. The Bush administration is implementing a brave and humane strategy designed to limit the number of Muslim casualties, especially Muslim civilian casualties. It may also be a misguided one, but we need to pursue it first, because its failure will result in the loss of millions of lives. Bush is giving the Islamic world a chance to avoid destruction a chance it may or mat not take. Should this strategy fail, all that’s left is the inevitable Tancredo option.
    So I have a suggestion for all the folks that hate this war, hate Bush, think I’m retarded, und so weiter: just go along and say to yourself “Well, I don’t like this, but maybe the next place we try to make a big difference will be Zimbabwe.” Or it could be Dafur, Haiti, or Takoma Park. I know you don’t like the notion, but our enemies have been mistaking the outrageous outbursts against the war in Iraq as a sign that we’re about to pull out. Hard to believe, no?
    Don’t forget that we Americans – as individuals, in groups, and as part of great American companies are changing the world too. Wal-Mart, for example, is changing the way that its suppliers in China do business – no payoffs, no personal gifts, fair work practices. Our allies – the Brits, the Aussies, Japan, Mongolia, and France are helping out as they can. Some of the folks we’ve helped have even expressed their appreciation.
    Did I mention Iran?

  23. Lee

    Why do the Democrats who pretend to be so offended by Halliburton rebuilding Iraq have any outrage at Richard Holbrooke being hired as a negotiator for an oil company that was building a pipeline to compete with the one through Serbia?

  24. Dave

    Steve, I wasn’t sure whether your question about what will happen if we keep our commitments were pertaining to individual soldiers who have served or the US in general. I lost the context way back.

    I agree strongly with Brad that if the US as THE world’s superpower does not take the lead in attempting to right wrongs then what kind of people would we be? Our actions take the form of economic help, charity help, and in some cases military actions. The War on Terror falls in the latter category. Our military intervention in Bosnia may be a perpetual commitment. The mission there was a success only in the sense that we have PAUSED extreme civil war and genocide. If we and NATO were to pull out, full scale fighting would be imminent. The same will be true in Iraq and for that reason we will have military base presence there for a long long time. So I think you are wondering how this can be maintained and who can pay for it. There is no doubt that Iraq itself must pay for much of this commitment. With the world’s second or third largest reserve of oil, Iraq does not have to be a pauper state. I will leave the economic details to those who understand micro and macro economics much better than I do but Iraq as a growing, healthy free market instantly becomes a natural trading partner with us and that is a win win scenario. Another way to look at Iraq is what would be the cost of NOT keeping our commitment? Myself, Mike C. and others have posted some what-if theories about the middle east region with a militant, expansionist set of terrorist Muslim states. No matter what the cost, we cannot afford that. As for internal US taxes, I think everyone is noticing that as Bush has lowered taxes, federal revenues are going UP. The deficit is going down, the GDP is growing, and all of this is happening while we spend these huge amounts of monies in Iraq and Afghan. Keep the Middle East stabilized and oil prices moderate to a point. They still are dependent on demand worldwide. It always helps to look at costs in context. The US has a multi-trillion economy and if we spend billions in Iraq then keep in mind that money, not all of it, acts as a multiplier through the US economy. When generators, elevators, trucks, windows, bridge piers, etc get bought, Americans go to work (see our low unemployment rate) and the economic engine runs. Also, keep this in mind, the US maintains a standing military of between 1 and 2 million soldiers. Let’s say we are having NO military action. Does anyone think we are then NOT spending military dollars? Of course not, so now instead of our military conducting war games in the CA desert, or the GA swamps, they are doing the real thing. The same dollars are being spent. Simplistic analysis yes, but overall this is true.

    One last thought on “commitment”. I would really like to see us phase in a minimum 6 month military tour of service for ALL US citizens. If we did this, there would be a much better understanding of what the military is all about, and everyone would have a sense of service, duty, honor, and country. I have gone to some sporting events where we see those who will not stand during the national anthem. My full service idea would put an end to that.

  25. Nathan

    Mary, as for SC leaving the US, and would they be better off, I seem to recall that actually happened before. They sent troops to get SC back.

  26. Herb

    Brad, I agree that we ought to do something if we can. But I just see that all too often our abysmal ignorance of history, cultures, and languages keeps us from wisely using our power. (A case in hand: recently one international aid worker in East Africa, who has years of experience, and knows the language of the people in question, was asked to advise a U. S. diplomat. The diplomat politely listened, and proceeded to do the exact opposite, which included publicly shaming a foreign government official. The foreign offical buckled, but not without harboring a deep-seated anger towards U. S. diplomacy. (This happens all too often, by the way. My impression is that the Brits were better at foreign relations than we are.)
    So your work in the field of improving American education is what I think to be the most valuable, ultimately. (Along with that, we’ve got to stop pampering our kids. )
    Billy Graham was asked not too long ago what he would do over again, if he had the chance. Among other things, he apparently said he would pursue a PhD in anthropology. A life-long learner, that man is. I like that. I wish we all had some of his humility.

  27. Mark Whittington

    When you get a chance, check out the new movie about Wal-Mart. Listen to former Wal-Mart managers and employees as they tell the truth about this organization. Listen to conservative small business owners complain about Wal-Mart buying off their local governments in order to gain an unfair advantage, which in turn led to the little guy’s ruin. Watch and listen to Chinese slave laborers as they explain how Wal-Mart can offer such low prices (at their expense).

    I think it Ironic that the people Mike criticizes in France are conservatives for the most part. French conservatives want to conserve their culture. Unlike American conservatives, French conservatives don’t confuse conservatism with neo-liberalism. To principled people, some things are more important than money.

    The credit for innovation in human history should mostly go to academics, artisans, and workers, who have made millions upon millions of incremental improvements in processes. Entrepreneurs usually steal the ideas of others and then claim them as their own-then they use the capital investment process to exploit the very people from whom they have robbed.

    Egregious levels of wealth inequality are built into free market capitalism even among statistically equal people. Today, with stochastic modeling of simulated economies, one can prove this fact. Capitalism is a giant pyramid scheme that takes the wealth generated by a given population and redistributes it to a tiny minority of the population. Most people outside of the US understand this, as did most Americans forty years ago. That’s why there is such resistance to free market capitalism all over the globe. The US has been so corporatized and so inundated with neo-liberal/neo-conservative propaganda through the corporate media, that ordinary people have had a difficult time ascertaining the truth as of the past few decades-but that’s beginning to change.

    Five years ago, a typical white, blue-collar maintenance coworker of mine would inevitably espouse the conservative mantra. Not today. Workers, including the white guys, are fuming pissed off at the white-collar criminals who are running the country into the ground. Just keep threatening these folks at work-you’re doing the left a giant favor. You want a corporate dictatorship? You want to treat people like crap? You want to intimidate people? Just keep it up. We’re ready for the consequences. Are you?

  28. Mike C

    There’s a very important bit of terminology we need to understand: Bush lowered tax rates. The theory is that if you reduce the cost of something (reduce tax rates on labor, dividends, or capital), you will increase the supply of it. Similarly, if you increase the price of something, say, tobacky , by raising taxes on it, demand will decrease. Too many politicians understand the latter and not the former. The 1986 tax act raised the tax on capital gains from 20% to 28%, a 40% increase. The results?. Initial public offerings fell by 60% — from 953 to 371 — and capital gains intake fell too. (One can defer taking capital gains by not selling the appreciated asset. While doing so introduces a new set of considerations that are, economically speaking, idiotic, folks do it.)
    As for Wal-Mart, it’s just a retailer. Retail jobs have always been on the lower end of the scale unless one works at a fancy-dancy place that pays commissions. The beauty of Wal-Mart is that it has streamlined the pipeline from producers to consumers. The WaPo’s Sebastian Mallaby summarized Wal-Mart’s contributions to the US economy as follows:

    Wal-Mart’s critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is “a progressive success story.” Furman advised John “Benedict Arnold” Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart’s discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart’s products.
    These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart’s “every day low prices” make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart’s $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

    The Wall Street Journal has documented Wal-Mart’s role as a first-responder to the Gulf Coast hurricanes. It reviewed sales data for stores around previous natural disasters and deployed a massive fleet of trucks stocked with water, gas cans, disposable diapers, drugs, and, surprisingly, strawberry pop tarts. Wal-Mart knows hurricanes. It’s master of supply-chain management to logistics benefits us all. (Home Depot and other first-class American companies did yeoman’s work too.)
    Mark notes a Wal-Mart movie, but he, like much of the MSM, ignores the fact that there are two movies. I prefer the one that’s true.
    Mark and I have gone around and around about his model. The economy is not stochastic, folks can and do make decisions that change behaviors and the course of the economy. As for how we got to where we are today, I suggest that Mark read up on “The Exit” and The Industrial Revolution and the origin of the Modern Age.

  29. Nathan

    That movie you are promoting is the corporation version of Farenheit 911. It is dishonest liberal propaganda. I recently saw a segment explaining that a hardware store featured in the movie as a Walmart casualty actually closed months before the store opened and had financial problems for years.
    The so-called progressives (or toned down socialists) should love Walmart. Thier CEO personally lobbied for a higher minimum wage because it would help his low income shoppers. That is what a free market economy is all about. Policy making based on real economic conditions. Companies can want what is best for others even without bleeding heart liberalism.
    I don’t know why Walmart is the great satan and Target, Kmart, et al, get off of the hook, though they have many of the same practices. Perhaps because Target sells out to the liberal intelligensia and Walmart markets to the people whom the liberal politicians purport to want to help.
    If you don’t like Walmart, don’t shop there. But cool it with the propaganda about how evil they are. Lastly, consider the source. The guy who made this documentary is the same one who did “Outfoxed”, which was also a dishonest peice of garbage.

  30. Lee

    The current recovery from the last Clinton recession is entirely due to the meager income tax cuts, especially on stocks. More companies are paying dividends, which makes their stock more attractive.
    The federal government and states are receiving increased revenue at the lower tax rates, due to the improved economy.

  31. Mike C

    I should add that Wal-Mart is trying to shake up the staid retail market in Germany, but is having trouble with quaint German laws that restrict the prices that stores may offer. Consumer protection? Nope, the laws set a floor so that retailers don’t have to compete too hard.
    As for the system the European elites have set up for their citizens, you should know that the EU budget has never been properly audited and many fear that the elites have squandered billions. You might find humorous this email sent last week by Britain’s ambassador to Poland.
    What the UK objects to is the budgetary shenanigans over the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the means by which almost half of the revenue collected from all of the EU’s member states are dispersed to subsidize farmers, most of whom happen to live in France.

  32. Lee

    The whole idea of the EU is to create an ruling class who take turns among themselves, which meaningless popular elections several levels below.

  33. Mark Whittington


    There were two sets: the hardware store owner and his sons, and the grocer, his wife, and his son. These folks ain’t part of a liberal/socialist conspiracy my friends-neither were the Chinese slave laborers (OK, they work for 3 bucks a day so technically I don’t suppose that they’re slaves). I don’t think the former Wal-Mart managers were liberal operatives either. They were people with a conscious who told the truth.

    Wal-Mart spends big money to create a phony positive image, and it’s a lie-they show people from the very groups that they exploit as being happy and successful Wal-Mart “associates” and managers. Go to the Wal-Mart on Forest Drive and take a good look at the “associates” and tell me which vision is more correct: the Wal-Mart happy associate model, or the WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price rendition. Are these folks just a stone’s throw away from living in Spring Valley, or would they be moving up just to get a single–wide in the Spring Valley Trailer Park? You tell me. If Wal-Mart is so great, then why don’t you go get a job there as an associate and see if you can make ends meet? I’m sure that your hard work and incredible sense of personal responsibility will take you to the top in no time. Hey, maybe Wal-Mart will make you the star of a commercial. The sky is the limit.

  34. Herb

    Ah, if only I had known how miserable my life was for 28 years in Germany! I surely would have returned to the promised land of bliss much earlier!
    I am slowly coming to the conclusion that you guys both on the right and left have a naive view of human nature. You on the left think that, if you only create the right environment, the poor victims in society will improve their lot (and rise above the horrible circumstances that prevail in places like Europe!). And on the right, you think that if we “get government off the backs of the people,” then the people will be little angels and do what is right for everybody. What did Brad Warthen call it, “the freedom of the almighty individual”?
    I think I still like the middle. Some reasonable, limited control of what otherwise becomes unbridled selfishness. Except that you get shot at from both sides.

  35. Dave

    Mark, At the WM dist. centers near Simpsonville and Pageland, high school educated workers start at $12 per hour with benefits. As they progress, they get raises and move to better positions. One friend of mine works at a center. He tells me the work pace is steady and demanding but the people are treated well and there is opportunity. What part of that formula are you against?

  36. Lee

    Wal-Mart managers make $100,000, and can work up to those positions from the stock room, without needing a college diploma.
    Name a local business in Columbia which offers such an opportunity for advancement. Most of the nicer department stores only pay $8.00 to start for sales clerks. Richland One Schools pay less to experienced secretaries and teaching assistants than Wal-Mart’s starting wage for stock clerks.

  37. Mike C

    Herb –
    Europe has been a great place to live; I too enjoyed it. My point was that the economies of the large EU nations have stagnated: unemployment is high (over 10%), economic growth is low (under 2%), and government activity takes too large a share of the GDP (over 40%). Their hopes that the Euro would streamline commerce and spur the economies have been dashed. As few correctly predicted, a shared currency works only in an integrated economy with a mobile workforce; language and cultural barriers hinder such movement in the EU.
    The threat of inflation in Euroland keeps interest rates high, preventing the application of a needed economic stimulus, a rate cut. Job creation is nonexistent; that has an inordinate impact on youth who go elsewhere for work, usually Ireland, Britain, or the US. Our social security situation is a mess, theirs is worse, and they’re making no more progress than we are.
    I could quibble with your definition of the two sides of the aisle, so I will. The right tends to try to legislate morality, while the left tries to legislate economics with equal dismal success.
    The modern conservative movement articulated by William F. Buckley, Jr. did more than just hold a hand up and shout “Stop!” It also shouted the principles of free markets, private property, and rule of law based on a foundation of culture, the key element of which is its Judeo-Christian roots. While often characterized as reactionary, it has proactive components and objectives: limited government, individual empowerment, strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, and the like. You can find a humorous but accurate description of conservatism here.
    From that basis springs paleo-cons, neo-cons, and several other groups. The great thing about conservatives is that they’re always ready, willing, and able to argue ideas with each other in the search to refine their philosophy. National Review Online (a conservative magazine / website) editor Jonah Goldberg offers some excellent advice to liberals that they ignore at their own peril: decide what you stand for and then move out smartly. (More on that below.)
    The consequence of the focus on individualism and individual liberty is that it’s hard for conservatives to appeal to groups. Outreach to the African-American or Hispanic communities, for example, is difficult because conservatives, and the Republican Party that is predominantly conservative, have nothing to offer to groups. They so have themes and push policies that could appeal to members of the groups — vouchers and emphasis on the importance of religion and culture as support mechanisms — but tend to also emphasize policies that may offend some groups. A great example is affirmative action. Conservatives speak of it in operation as nothing more than racial preferences program, equivalent in theory to the preferences that operated during segregation. These are charged words, I realize, but conservatives argue that if one does truly want to help the economically disadvantaged, why focus on race? Should we not instead focus on aiding those in dire economic circumstances so that Rev. Jesse Jackson’s or Bill Cosby’s kids don’t get assistance that should go to a needier child? Moreover, the focus on race facilitates all sorts of stupidities, as I wrote here.
    Most of this is difficult to see in today’s politics. Many Republicans have proven adept at ladling out pork and resisting responsible budgeting.
    Such irresponsibility lends credence to the left’s charge that conservatives are in the pocket of big business. Actually, conservatives are in the pocket of small businesses –entrepreneurs — simply because those are the folks that want the chance to compete, to slug it out in the free market. Any business wants to become a monopoly, and the big ones try to maintain their market dominance through any means, to include influencing politicians. Behind any tariff or import restriction you’ll find one or more businesses trying to protect their market at the expense of the consumer. Most conservatives support free trade because it favors consumers and leads to maximum economic efficiency.
    Which reminds me that conservatives are often regarded as anti-science, primarily because some seek to displace Darwin’s theory of natural selection in biology classes in favor of what’s now called Intelligent Design (ID). That move is by no means universal in conservative circles — there’s a really good fight going on right now. But conservatives do have economics on their side because they’ve studied it and because its findings generally support conservative (and libertarian) policy. (The reason is that their policy is based on economics and the study of human nature. I should add that some Republicans are not conservatives, so they’re easily pushed in the direction of unnatural acts.)
    There’s a lot more that perhaps I’ll add to my website as time allows.
    It’s difficult for me to fairly represent the left / liberal philosophy because they’ve deviated from their tradition over the past several decades. I’m not being cute. I’m just not sure what the liberal philosophy is today and who its most significant proponent is. I’m sure that others who contribute to this blog can assist.
    I can add more bad news about Wal-Mart: it’s good for the U.S. economy.

  38. Mark Whittington

    OK Mike,

    It’s 6:00a.m., and I don’t have time to respond to your blog piece. Soon, I’ll give you the real name of the wealth distribution and why such huge levels of wealth inequality are built into capitalism. Also, I’ll show you a little discovery of mine-and it’s going to shock many people. Investors-stay tuned-you are going to want to see this! Hint: My book is going to be called The Quantum Economy.

  39. Lee

    Capitalism has a wide range of wealth distribution because those with ability and hard work are able to become wealthier than than the average. They are not held down in to the homogenous mediocrity of socialism.

  40. Herb

    Nor are they limited as to the degree of exploitation of which they are capable. May God deliver us from all the cynic Ebenezer Scrooges of this world.

  41. Lee

    Socialism seems to be a lot less limited in its exploitation. Just ask the 100,000,000 peasants and workers murdered by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Tito, and Hitler… if the dead could speak.

  42. Nathan

    Mark, I don’t think that the hardware store people are part of a liberal conspiracy, but it is amazing what you can do with cut-n-paste editing. The “documentary” (how did documentaries become the new medium for fictional liberal activism?) was funded by a bunch of left-wing extremists and unions who are angry that the largest private employer in the US doesn’t have employees give it dues money to pass on to left-wingers.
    We live in a free market economy. People want to shop at big stores that are convinient and cheap. If all of the people who voted for John Kerry got together an started shopping at some green, union-loving, high-tax paying, enlightened gay-friendly small-box store that provides abortions to teenagers in the back (does that cover the liberal agenda?) then Walmart would lose power and maybe Robert Greenwald would be happy. I don’t know what else you guys want?

  43. Herb

    Thanks for the input. I learned from it. And I am a lot more conservative than I let on. I’m also aware of the problems in Europe and the economic stagnation. A German friend of mine said years ago of the socialist government under Helmut Schmidt, “they are killing us.” Still I have some problems with your position:
    1) The place of God. As you said, (or was it on a link?), conservatives like to include God. Only problem is, (going on the basis of biblical revelation: you know where I’m coming from), God does not take sides, nor does He particularly like to be used as a basis for our economic theories. What ultimately happens when people transgress His boundaries too far is that they find situations that are impossible to change. Theologically, we call it “hardening.” And we end up thinking that things will be right if we let people choose. They will, however, generally speaking, choose wrong, and be increasingly incapable of choosing right. The whole thing snowballs. We end up pretty much getting the government we deserve. Anyway, it’s the reason I became a minister, and am now in the business I’m in. Just reading through Jeremiah, I’ve got the intense feeling that literature like that comes up very short nowadays. Nobody wants to hear that stuff. Most Jews don’t want to read Deuteronomy, either. They want to hear wonderful things about how Israel came out of Egypt (if they have any connection to the Bible at all), but not stuff that sounds like it is predicting the holocaust.
    Anyway, when we evangelicals sound off, it is (hopefully) because there is stuff going on that will, we are convinced, ultimately be the ruin of this country. That includes, for example, the freedom to publish and produce porn, and it includes some of the liberal excesses you mentioned. It goes without saying that we evangelicals are some of the worst listeners to what we profess to believe, but that only proves the indictment of human nature that we have to endorse, if we have any chance of improving at all.
    2) The place for justice. I agree, the individual is paramount in Western society and democracy, and individual responsibility is rooted in biblical revelation. The flip side of that is unbridled egoism that many conservatives advocate. I saw it in the ’64 campaign when I worked with Young Republicans. I realized, “hey, these guys are in this for nothing else than total freedom to do as they please – God bless America, and damn the rest of the world. Make it like we are, and if we can’t, we can always nuke it. And if we need the oil in the Middle East, let’s go and take it. It’s ours by divine right . . . Truth is, the community orientation of many other cultures is much more biblical than our own, and it looks like it is more just, too. Sure, there are excesses, such as the old African problem that prevents the accumulation of wealth, because when I save up something, I’m already obligated to help the family with it. On the other hand, it’s the only explanation why families in destitute poverty can even exist. When one sees these situations first hand, as I have, I can only ask, how on earth can they survive – they do, because they have each other. And interestingly — the children are happy.
    Contrary to the opinion of some, the Declaration of Independence is not a Christian document, and America was never at any time a Christian country. But it was profoundly influenced by the disciplines of Christianity and the effects of evangelical revival, which very much counterbalanced the “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration. The problem is that Christians are giving in to the latter and leaving the former. It is typical of affluent societies, though.
    So I guess my words belong in another blog than this one, but at least you know why evangelicals cannot, in my opinion, acquiesce to the spirit of William Buckley or Rush Limbaugh. Their optimism with regard to human nature, even the American variety, is tragically misplaced. Funny thing, though, the more we mistrust human nature, the more confidence we have to affirm those struggling to do good and build others up. Among those, to my mind are the editors of The State, whom I will still contend in my naivety are doing a pretty decent job, despite all the cynics. I especially applaud Brad’s and others’ attempts at improving public education. I wish evangelicals were more involved in the same, but I’m afraid we tend to retreat into our subculture. Have we perhaps taken on too much of the individualism of the right-wing that many here advocate?

  44. Lee

    I can personally confirm Wal-Mart’s relief efforts in the Gulf. I was working as a consulting engineer down there. Fuel was scarce, the roads were empty as far back as all through Georgia and Tennessee. Wal-Mart had lost dozens of stores.
    Instead of laying off employees, they put them to work distributing goods. The drivers, who had no work, now were picking up donations from Lutheran Family Services, American Red Cross, the Mormon Church, etc, and delivering them where needed, under the command of Wal-Mart’s logistics control center.

  45. Herb

    Oops, my blog from Dec 15th is back up again. However, I revised it and posted it again yesterday under “The Groundswell Continues.” Feel free to ignore this one, or (Brad) to delete it.

Comments are closed.