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Imagine

Conor [1] comments on Pat Buchanan’s latest [2]:

It’s hard for me to imagine paleo-conservatives and neo-conservatives in the same party four years from now.

We’re in the same party?  That comes as news to me.  Of course, as I said the other day [3], it seems possible that neoconservatives will gravitate toward supporting an Obama administration that will prove to be every bit as activist and interventionist as Obama’s earliest policy addresses suggested that it would be.  Just as many Obamacons moved to Obama in the hopes of discrediting the neocons, they will probably be alienated from a President Obama who, while not advised by neoconservatives, nonetheless has many of the same objectives and has no intention of changing most U.S. policies abroad.  It might be difficult for some after having tried to portray Obama as a McGovernite, but they’ll manage.    Republican politicians, on the other hand, may become less eager to embark on foreign adventures and make new commitments around the world after having been burned by the fires of the “global democratic revolution” Mr. Bush tried to spark, so more paleocons may find the GOP barely tolerable once more if traditional realists enjoy a brief revival.  Without the steady tug of party/tribal loyalty, the GOP’s Jacksonians may rediscover hostility to needless deployments and unnecessary wars, which will, of course, evaporate the moment a future President from their own party declares an unnecessary war to be necessary.

P.S.  To help resolve Philip Klein’s puzzlement [4], the reason many so-called hostile critics of Israel “are looking forward to Obama’s policies in the Middle East” is one of the following: either they either don’t know what his policies are and are projecting their own desires onto him, or they know what his stated positions are and have gone into complete denial.  My guess is that most Obama backers who expect significant change in foreign policy are engaged in wishful thinking rather than willful denial, but it could be some of both.

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27 Comments To "Imagine"

#1 Comment By Howard J. Harrison On October 14, 2008 @ 9:01 am

Without the steady tug of party/tribal loyalty, the GOP’s Jacksonians may rediscover hostility to needless deployments and unnecessary wars, which will, of course, evaporate the moment a future President from their own party declares an unnecessary war to be necessary.

From this GOP Jacksonian’s chastened but unreformed viewpoint, it was the bombing of Manhattan that declared an unnecessary war to be necessary.

#2 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 14, 2008 @ 9:23 am

But I don’t understand this, Howard. There was no question, at least not in my view, that the war in Afghanistan was necessary, so what war do you mean?

#3 Comment By Adam01 On October 14, 2008 @ 10:22 am

“Uncle Sam’s VISA card is about to be stamped “Canceled.”

The budget is going to have to go under the knife. But what gets cut?”

If there are any benefit to the coming financial disaster, a pullback and retrenchment mandated by our foreign creditors has to be at the top of the list.

[5]

Chine, so dependent on the ability of the US consumer to buy its cheap products, is going to experience a sharp contraction, greatly limiting their ability to buy US bonds . Oil exporters are going to have much less to invest in the US as the price of oil declines.

#4 Comment By Mac G On October 14, 2008 @ 10:24 am

As a long time Obama supporter and backer, you are exactly correct about his foreign policy. His doubling down in Afghanistan will be a disaster (go ask a 80’s Russians Gerenal or even a current NATO commander his true opinion) and I have not seen his willingness yet to buck the military industrial complex over Iraq. The Pentagon has no intentions of leaving their gigantic billion dollar bases anytime soon, regardless who is president.

However, on the diplomatic level, his style will be much better than Bush’s confrontational world view and I can never come to grips with this “No negotiations ever” crowd in foreign policy stuck in bygone eras. Call me idealistic but in this day and age of globalization and technology, every actor has a common financial interest to get along somehow.

Long time reader and first time commenter. I am a progressive liberal who forgot what it was like to read different intelligent opinions than of my own and the last 8 years of neocon’s trash arguments soured me on conservative thinking. thanks for the enlightenment, Keep up the good work.

#5 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 14, 2008 @ 10:29 am

Thanks for the kind remarks. I appreciate the point about style and an emphasis on diplomacy, but I remain concerned that his disagreements with current policy are almost entirely about means and not ends. The worst thing I can imagine is the same wrongheaded goals pursued with greater competence and international support.

#6 Comment By rawshark On October 14, 2008 @ 10:42 am

‘From this GOP Jacksonian’s chastened but unreformed viewpoint, it was the bombing of Manhattan that declared an unnecessary war to be necessary. ‘

I guess the Pentagon didn’t matter. As Daniel asks, which war became nescessary? And the War on Terror was unnescessary before that? I bet Bush would agree.

#7 Comment By Mac G On October 14, 2008 @ 10:42 am

Afghanistan is a great example of your theory about the focus on means and not ends. More troops is not the answer and I believe our goal should be a Bin Laden man hunt. That is even questionable.

I have been waiting to figure out what our goal in the daily meat grinder in Iraq really is from both of these guys. What is our Mid East Goal? What is our goal in Pakistan? What about Somalia? What about the War on Terror? I follow foreign news and I really could not tell you off the top of my head.

Honestly, your point about Obama supporters being indifferent to his views on foreign policy has truth. I know most liberals hate his idea of more troops in Afghanistan because they are tired of human deaths of civilians and US troops. This sure does make Palin’s comments about Obama and Afghanistan even more out of touch.

Maybe, their will be a shift inside his inner circle with domestic Economic problems and the idea of scaling back our military expenses around the world. However, I read the Pentagon is already angling to get more funding before a new Administration so they would be less likely to cut it.

#8 Comment By Howard J. Harrison On October 14, 2008 @ 10:49 am

The Iraq war.

I cannot answer you in three sentences or even in three paragraphs, regrettably, but yours is a question I have been asked before, so this seems as good a place as any to formulate and to archive my response for the record, at least in rough-draft form.

Those like you (whom I hold in high regard) and my hero Pat Buchanan, who observe that Iraq had not attacked us and did not threaten us, are correct in the narrow sense. However, 9/11 was no occasion for the narrow sense. Saddam could hardly have made it clearer that, even if he had had nothing to do with 9/11 as such, he wished that he had. His only apparent regret was that Osama bin Laden had stolen his thunder, as it were.

I think that those of us disgusted at the uncontrollable excesses of Bushism and of the Global Crusade for Democracy ought to separate those issues from the clear memory of the situation that actually faced the United States after 9/11. Suppose that we had stopped after deposing the Taliban. The clear lesson political leaders across Dar al-Islam would have taken away would have been that, if you want to attack the United States, then you must maintain plausible deniability that your state had been involved. Such leaders could hardly but have concluded that the Taliban’s failure was a failure properly to practice the righteous Islamic deception of taqiyya.

This would have been a fine way to get the United States nuked by a suitcase bomb. Judging by our recent, spasmodic overreaction to the market’s Crash of 2008, a similarly spasmodic overreaction to a suitcase nuke, or a series of suitcase nukes, might get us involved in a nuclear exchange with China and/or Russia. No thanks! say I to that prospect.

Whatever President Bush’s own, perverse motives in prosecuting the Iraq War might have been, tens of millions of Americans realized with more or less perfect clarity at the time that it was Islam that had attacked Christendom, not just al-Qaeda that had attacked the United States. The only response was to deliver Dar al-Islam a blunt, Crusader’s blow to her whole house.

Recall by way of analogy how it was that, in Andrew Jackson’s and James Monroe’s day, North Florida bandits preyed on the people of Georgia. President Monroe did not settle for merely pursuing the bandits, for he knew that new bandits would only take their place. He led the United States to tear Florida itself from Spain. The response was disproportionate to be sure, but it was also wise and right under the circumstance.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said (the quote is from memory) “The world will learn that, when the United States is hit like this, America’s response is going to be just a little bit irrational.” I agreed with Mr. Eagleburger and still do. He was precisely and exactly right.

Warfare as you well know is not some prissy action in a court of law, where you invoke a procedural rule to complain that this or that action were illicit or unfair. A primary aim of war is to disrupt your foe’s ability to harm you, broadly defined. To suppose that Saddam were not a foe at the time would have been myopic in my view.

And there were the matters of the denouement of the First Gulf War, the U.N. resolutions, the plot to assassinate G.H.W. Bush, Saddam’s inexplicable pantomime of a nonexistent WMD program, etc., which are old news now but were significant at the time.

Our invasion of Iraq, as originally formulated, was precisely irrational enough to serve Mr. Eagleburger’s prudential purpose.

I wonder how many Islamic governments have quietly quashed or quelled anti-American plots brewing on their own territories since 9/11. I wonder how many states have quietly intervened diplomatically with neighboring states with words to the effect of that “Yes, I know that Uncle Sam is a dirty dog, but don’t stir him up or you’ll get us all in trouble.” I wonder how many would-be nonstate carriers of jihad have found it difficult to organize against the United States because they could not find benignly neglectful host states in which to establish their base camps. Alternate history unfortunately being unknowable, we shall probably never find out.

Where the U.S. went badly wrong was not in waging war against Iraq but years earlier, in waging war against Serbia. That was the big mistake in my opinion, and it remains a moral stain on my country. In Iraq, the mistake was our failure to accept victory in 2004. We and our allies ought to have looted Iraq of precisely enough oil to pay our costs for the war, and then we should have come home. But victory in war was not good enough for us, was it? We just had to go on to lose the peace.

Howard

#9 Comment By Indya On October 14, 2008 @ 11:02 am

Doubling down is a yes and a no – yes in the sense that we need to stop with the air attacks that cause too much collateral damage to civilians and use foot soldiers instead. The over-reliance on air is precisely why we do need to double down, in a sense, because the excessive civilian casualties undermine the mission. And NATO is a joke, it can’t do anything without our being there in significant numbers. But at the same time, the Afghan situation is not the same as the Iraqi situation (there is no Awakening preceding a surge). I trust that Obama will listen to the commanders and will take the most responsible path. Afghanistan does require a long-term commitment, as General McKiernan said. We cannot let that situation devolve any further.

As for Israel – we’ll see. Both parties are far too beholden to the Jewish lobby. I sincerely hope that he will put us in a position as a more honest broker, because this Administration was farcical about that.

#10 Comment By Adam01 On October 14, 2008 @ 11:10 am

Howard,

“tens of millions of Americans realized with more or less perfect clarity at the time that it was Islam that had attacked Christendom, not just al-Qaeda that had attacked the United States.”

If that was the case (and I dispute that) then tens of millions of American’s were dead flat wrong, and their mistake and confusion was encouraged, tacitly or otherwise, by an administration chomping at the bit to invade Iraq.

“The only response was to deliver Dar al-Islam a blunt, Crusader’s blow to her whole house.”

Could we have had the same effect had we invaded, say, Yemen, or Indonesia? Would any Muslim country have sufficed? This line of thought reminds me:

“”Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration.”

#11 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 14, 2008 @ 11:29 am

Even if I accepted that argument, Howard, which I don’t, Iraq was the least likely target of wrath or vengeance. Even by the standad you’re using, invading Iraq makes no sense. We might as well have invaded Uzbekistan, which still has its own anti-Islamist dictator, or started bombing Turkey, since it, too, is part of the Dar-al-Islam. More “logically,” we should have marched on Mecca or Riyadh to “pay back” the Saudis, which would have been an even worse, terrible, no good idea.

The Florida example would work to explain why we invaded and still have a presence in Afghanistan. Had Monroe done as Bush did, his response after pursuing bandits into Florida would have been to invade Canada. If attacking Serbia was a moral stain on our country, and I agree with you that it was, how was doing far worse things to Iraq without cause in any way remotely justified? I understand that the public was very angry; we were all very angry. That doesn’t make random aggressive wars in any acceptable. Lashing out blindly because you have been hurt is neither wise nor just.

#12 Comment By Howard J. Harrison On October 14, 2008 @ 11:40 am

Adam:

“Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration.”

Incisively put, and with style! Your point is well taken. In detached principle, I fully agree with you. The only trouble was that 9/11 happened to hit not the Galactic Empire but my country—may she always be right!—but my country, right or wrong.

I have never blamed Europeans for opposing our Iraq adventure. Were I a European, I’d have opposed it, too; but 9/11 didn’t hit them. It hit us.

Could we have had the same effect had we invaded, say, Yemen, or Indonesia? Would any Muslim country have sufficed?

No. Iraq was a unique case. We had already been at war against Iraq a decade earlier. That wily fox, Saddam, had saved his own neck at the hands of Gen. Schwartzkopf by agreeing to abide by a specific set of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Now, I do not like the U.N. any more than you do, nor do I care a fig for its blue stamp of approval—and one can argue the original merits of the first Gulf War—but surely Saddam’s brazen flouting of his own instrument of surrender had some relevance. Why did we impose the instrument in the first place, after all, if we never had any intent to enforce it?

It was not this reason or that reason alone that rendered our 2003 invasion of Iraq proper, justifiable and prudent. It was the several factors taken in the balance together.

Thanks for the reply.

Howard

#13 Comment By Mithras On October 14, 2008 @ 11:55 am

First-time commenter here via John Cole, and liberal Democrat who volunteers for Obama. While I agree that Obama’s foreign policy goals are not radical, I am puzzled by the assertion that his objectives are the same as the necons’. Obama has discussed the limits of U.S. military power, and indicated he believes that diplomacy and soft power can be much more effective in many cases. This is not just a difference in means: The neocon agenda includes making the U.S. militarily strong enough to control events around the world. Also, neoconservatives believe in abandoning international institutions in order to “spread democracy” (albeit on a selective basis) on the U.S.’s timetable. Obama clearly disagrees.

In addition to their stated goals, I believe the necons wish to promote conflicts between Islam and the United States that the U.S. can now win, so as to nip in the bud the growth of Muslim political and economic power. They also believe, I think, that such a conflict will have the secondary benefit of creating an atmosphere of permanent crisis in western culture will help slow down the inevitable (they believe) breakdown of a social order that has few shared values. To the extent this view is correct, then the means are the ends. None of these things are goals shared by Obama or almost any other Democrat.

#14 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 14, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

The enforcement of old cease-fire provisions bit is one of the weakest links in the very weak chain that is the pro-war argument. I don’t really want to rehash the whole business, but the short version is that you can’t invoke a cease-fire that we started breaking in 1991 as a reason to invade a country in 2003. The no-fly zones were illegal, which didn’t stop us from bombing Iraq on what seemed like an almost daily basis. Our government claimed that the no-fly zones were part of the UNSCR that concluded the conflict, but this was simply not true. All of the other resolutions Hussein was accused of violating re: weapons programs are, I should think entirely irrelevant to the pro-war case at this point. Iraq was a unique case in one sense–it was a state with which we had no reason to go to war that we invaded and still occupy. Wars of aggression, wars of choice, are not proper, justifiable or prudent. It doesn’t get any more basic than this.

#15 Comment By Adam01 On October 14, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

Howard J. Harrison,

My Star Wars quote was just me being snarky. And if Iraq was supposed to be a successful demonstration to strike fear and terror (shock & awe?) into the hearts of Islamists everywhere, what has it actually demonstrated? From my perspective, it shows that a bunch of illiterate fellahin with improvised bombs can tie down and bleed the world’s “indispensable nation” with impunity for half a decade and counting.

“but surely Saddam’s brazen flouting of his own instrument of surrender had some relevance.”

Saddam flouted provisions of the cease-fire quite often, but it is the duty of statesmen to put threats in their proper perspective: one could make the argument that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we simply had much bigger fish to fry, and that the Ba’athist regime was something of a back-burner problem best left until we had brought Afghanistan under some semblence of control?

Mithras,

” I am puzzled by the assertion that his objectives are the same as the necons’. Obama has discussed the limits of U.S. military power, and indicated he believes that diplomacy and soft power can be much more effective in many cases.”

I’m not sure anyone is claiming that his objectives are the “same” as the neocons, but he is very firmly within the liberal internationalist tradition (the same tradition that gave us Kosovo) that does share a lot of assumptions with neoconservatism, not least of which is “bomb first, ask questions later”

Obama is (rhetorically at least) more belligerent towards Pakistan than is McCain, has declined to set a date for the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq (in one of the primary debates, he wouldn’t guarantee that he would have them all out by 2013). I don’t think that anyone really believes that an Obama administration would be quite as trigger happy as a McCain administration (Obama doesn’t seem to share McCain’s martial zest for war-as-national-redemption), but he has committed himself on many occasions to bombing when, where, and how he sees fit.

If there is no overlap at all between Obama & the neocons, please explain this…

[6]

#16 Pingback By The Economic Nationalist » Blog Archive » The rectitude and origins of the war in Iraq On October 14, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

[…] The Economic Nationalist suddenly seems to be publishing several articles weekly, after whole months of one article or none. Such are the times. Anyway, an interesting paleoconservative discussion over the rectitude and origins of the Iraq War is brewing over at Eunomia. Click and read comments at least by Daniel Larison, “Adam01″ and this writer if the topic interests you. —Howard J. Harrison […]

#17 Comment By Turbulence On October 14, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

I don’t think that anyone really believes that an Obama administration would be quite as trigger happy as a McCain administration (Obama doesn’t seem to share McCain’s martial zest for war-as-national-redemption), but he has committed himself on many occasions to bombing when, where, and how he sees fit.

America is a heavily militarized country. I don’t think it is possible for anyone to become President without talking about bombing countries under some circumstances. The reality is that there is no real constituency for electing a President that believes America should not intervene militarily in conflicts around the globe. So Obama, and every other serious candidate, has to talk tough about Iran for example. The question then becomes: does that boilerplate tough talk represent what Obama will actually do in office? I don’t know. All I can do is guess. The nature of his advisers suggests he’ll be more amenable to non-violent interactions with the world than either Bush or McCain though.

If I were Obama, my biggest fear would be Osama releasing one his videotapes to give McCain a boost just before the election. Osama gave Bush that favor after all. Without mouthing the standard tough talk in advance, there’s no way that Obama’s campaign can survive a well timed Osama tape, or, God forbid, a real terrorist attack.

If there is no overlap at all between Obama & the neocons, please explain this…

What is there to explain? Obama did not write that article. No one affiliated with his campaign wrote that article. If some lunatic anti-semite talks about how great Obama is, does that make Obama a lunatic anti-semite?

#18 Comment By rawshark On October 14, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

‘may she always be right!—but my country, right or wrong.’

The difference between a patriot and a nationalist;

a nationalist says my country right or wrong,

a patriot says my country right or wrong; if right, to be kept right, if wrong, to be put right.

#19 Comment By Adam01 On October 14, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

Turbulence,

“The nature of his advisers suggests he’ll be more amenable to non-violent interactions with the world than either Bush or McCain though.”

So, discount the rhetoric and take exceptional note of the people surrounding them? Would you care to pick out the ones to which I should pay attention?

[7]

The point I was making by linking the Hitchens endorsement is that neo-conservatives are at least comfortable enough with an Obama presidency to give non-interventionists concern.

#20 Comment By Turbulence On October 14, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

Would you care to pick out the ones to which I should pay attention?

In the article you cited, I find this paragraph:

Most of them, like the candidate they are working for, distinguished themselves from Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy camp by early opposition to the Iraq war. They also tend to be more liberal and to emphasize using the “soft power” of diplomacy and economic aid to try to advance the interests of the United States.

In 2002 and 2003, it wasn’t easy being against the war. People who knew the war was a bad idea and said so at the time seem indisputably better than those too stupid or too craven to go against the grain.

The point I was making by linking the Hitchens endorsement is that neo-conservatives are at least comfortable enough with an Obama presidency to give non-interventionists concern.

Let’s say that Osama endorsed Obama tomorrow. Would you claim that the endorsement proves that radical Islamic terrorists are “comfortable” enought with an Obama Presidency to give Americans concern? I should hope not. Hitchens, like Osama, is an independent actor who endorses for his own reasons that we are not privy to. Maybe Hitchens has seen where the polls are going and has determined that McCain won’t win, so he might as well try to salvage his reputation by slamming the powerless old man on his way down. Or maybe he knows that liberals hate his guts and hopes that by endorsing Obama, he’ll piss off enough of them to help electorally. Only an idiot who was convinced he has god-like power and influence would think that, but that describes Hitchens perfectly. Or maybe he’s decided that neo-con interventionism cannot survive another idiot President: he seems to buy into the [8], so it would make sense for him to protect his ideology from another idiot President.

There are lots of possible explanations and the one you proffered doesn’t seem any more likely than any of the others. You might have a stronger case if Hitchens had endorsed Obama before the polls indicated that the race was basically over, but he didn’t and you don’t. Even if I thought that Hitchens was convinced that Obama thought just like Hitchens, I wouldn’t be worried: Hitchens is an idiot. He’s consistently wrong on many issues, so why should I trust his assessment of Obama? He did some interesting work before 9/11 reduced him to a frightened child and before alcoholism and ego made him unbearable, but it has been a long time.

#21 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 14, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

“In 2002 and 2003, it wasn’t easy being against the war.”

In Hyde Park it was, and that’s where Obama was. It was not only easy, it was politically necessary. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but I am so tired of hearing about Obama’s courageous dissent. He doesn’t do courageous dissent. There are a lot of other things you can say about Obama that are favorable, but courageous dissident is not among them. I get it–he’s a pol, and he wanted to move up in the political world, so as Kass says he “don’t make no waves and don’t back no losers.” That’s why he’s going to be President, and actual dissidents spend their lives out of power. Fine, okay. He is ambitious, and he is achieving his goals–on one level, you can’t deny the accomplishment. Just don’t tell me that he gets some kind of credit for being a courageous dissident.

He came to the right conclusion and gave some of the right reasons, but he did so because he represented an area where antiwar sentiment was overwhelming. What is striking about his antiwar speech, the one he rode all the way to the nomination, was how open he remained to entering into conflicts of all kinds when he deems it smart and prudent. Again, that wouldn’t necessarily be so bad, except that his foreign policy vision is so expansive and the role for America he sees is so great that it worries me.

The point about Hitchens’ endorsement is that, just as when Robert Kagan cheered on Obama’s early foreign policy speeches, it tells us something about how acceptable they find Obama. They have their own agenda and their own reasons, but it cannot be a good sign that Hitchens and Kagan are comfortable with an Obama administration. If he were what many of his supporters want him to be, they would be declaring endless resistance against him; Hitchens certainly wouldn’t endorse him if he believed him to be what he calls a “capitulationist” (a.k.a., a sane person who does not want endless war). Obviously Hitchens is jumping on a bandwagon and reasserting his identity as a leftist, but he would not do this if Obama were anything like what his most optimistic admirers believe he will be.

#22 Comment By Turbulence On October 14, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

In Hyde Park it was, and that’s where Obama was. It was not only easy, it was politically necessary.

Um, Daniel? When I wrote that it wasn’t easy, I wasn’t talking about Obama at all: I was talking about his foreign policy advisers. The sentence was part of the answer I gave to a question about Obama’s FP advisers and it immediately followed a quote about — you won’t believe this — Obama’s FP advisers. Given all that context I thought my meaning was very clear, but perhaps I was mistaken. You’ve made a very strong counterargument to an argument I never made.

Look, I get that you’re really peeved by the sense that lots of people seem irrationally attached to Obama and seem to be projecting their own wishes onto a guy who just doesn’t share many of their beliefs. I understand that that’s frustrating. But it seems like the frustration has primed you to see that projection in places where it just doesn’t exist.

Most foreign policy staffers and subject matter experts are not politicians. They are not trying to suck up to a local constituency. They work in government service or think tanks and depend on acceptance by a network of people for their continued employment. I agree with your earlier post about how the cocktail circuit metaphor might not make sense for pundits and pols in DC, but I think it does apply (at least a little) to FP staffers. There are a lot more smart people with International Relations degrees floating around DC than there are good government/NGO/think-tank jobs and these people depend on networks of older more senior members of the FP establishment to keep their career going.

The point about Hitchens’ endorsement is that, just as when Robert Kagan cheered on Obama’s early foreign policy speeches, it tells us something about how acceptable they find Obama. They have their own agenda and their own reasons, but it cannot be a good sign that Hitchens and Kagan are comfortable with an Obama administration.

Look, I think we both agree that American policy towards Israel has been…a little biased over the last few decades. Now, there are some real anti-semitic nutjobs who also happen to believe this. Sometimes I see good preceptive columns or editorials written by perfectly decent people explaining problems with our Israel policy. These pieces are often cited by gushing anti-semites. Doesn’t that tell us something? Is it a good sign when crazy nutbags gush about your writings?

Let me put it another way: there are multiple possible explanations for why Hitchens (or Kagan) might endorse Obama. You’ve suggested one explanation: that they recognize that Obama agrees with them. I’ve suggested a bunch more. Can you tell me why your explanation is more likely to be correct than any of the ones I’ve suggested? I don’t see any reason to prefer one explanation over the other, so I’m inclined to say we just don’t know, but please, correct me if I’m wrong.

Finally, why exactly do you care what Hitchens and Kagan think? Do you believe that these are intelligent people who are capable of finely discerning Obama’s FP beliefs better than you are? Do you believe these are men of sound judgment and discernment, men who are serious intellectuals? Do you really think that Kagan, one of McCain’s FP supporters and the man who claimed that there was nothing wrong with Palin’s knowledge of foreign affairs is a trustworthy guide on any complex issue?

If he were what many of his supporters want him to be, they would be declaring endless resistance against him; Hitchens certainly wouldn’t endorse him if he believed him to be what he calls a “capitulationist” (a.k.a., a sane person who does not want endless war). Obviously Hitchens is jumping on a bandwagon and reasserting his identity as a leftist, but he would not do this if Obama were anything like what his most optimistic admirers believe he will be.

#23 Comment By Turbulence On October 14, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

Again, that wouldn’t necessarily be so bad, except that his foreign policy vision is so expansive and the role for America he sees is so great that it worries me.

What makes you say that his foreign policy vision is so expansive or that the role for America he sees is so great?

#24 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 14, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

“You’ve made a very strong counterargument to an argument I never made.”

Sorry. I wasn’t reading closely enough and I jumped the gun on that one.

I take your point about foreign policy advisors. I don’t care what Hitchens and Kagan think except that they recognize something in Obama’s views that they can live with, and that concerns me because I have perceived the same undesirable elements in his views. If I didn’t see Obama as dangerously interventionist, I suppose I would think nothing of whether other interventionists found his views attractive. Of course it’s possible that he can have admirers with whom he has no common views, but my main criticisms of him have been based on what he has said rather than on what others have said in support of him. Speaking of Israel policy, his admirers run the gamut from Peretz to post-Zionists, but I take the more hawkish ones more seriously because he echoes their views in his own statements. Likewise, I take it more seriously when Hitchens or Kagan or someone like that praises Obama because Obama has already shown sympathies with their policy views.

“What makes you say that his foreign policy vision is so expansive or that the role for America he sees is so great?”

I have read his speeches and essays on foreign policy. And by great in this case, I mean vast and overreaching.

#25 Comment By Turbulence On October 14, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

Hitchens certainly wouldn’t endorse him if he believed him to be what he calls a “capitulationist”

How do you know what motivates Hitchens? You’re not inside his head. You seem to have a very great deal of confidence in things that you cannot possibly know.

Obviously Hitchens is jumping on a bandwagon and reasserting his identity as a leftist, but he would not do this if Obama were anything like what his most optimistic admirers believe he will be.

Obviously, if Hitchens was really interested in the liberation of Iraq back in 2002, he never would have associated with such odious and idiotic crooks as Ahmed Chalabi. He wouldn’t have went on and on about how Chalabi was a genuis who would be the savior of his country. Clearly then, we must conclude that Hitchens was not a neoconservative and had no interest in liberating Iraq. Is that right?

#26 Comment By Turbulence On October 14, 2008 @ 6:27 pm

Sorry. I wasn’t reading closely enough and I jumped the gun on that one.

No worries, it happens to all of us. I appreciate your willingness to engage.

I take your point about foreign policy advisors. I don’t care what Hitchens and Kagan except that they recognize something in Obama’s views that they can live with, and that concerns me because I have perceived the same undesirable elements in his views.

What exactly do you think Hitchens’ options are right now? I see him as having two options: (1) support McCain and curry influence with the loser of the next election, thus cementing your own widely recognized irrelevance or (2) support Obama and hope that gives you some influence getting access to future Obama administration officials. Hitchens has nothing to lose by supporting Obama; therefore, I don’t think his support tells us anything useful.

If you’re correct and Obama has a vast overreaching vision of US FP, then that assessment should be able to stand on its own merits without relying on Hitchens. If you’re not confident that Obama has this vast overreaching vision, then you can’t just presuppose it in order to justify seeing Hitchens’ endorsement as proof. That’s circular logic.

Of course it’s possible that he can have admirers with whom he has no common views

I thought this was a fundamental property of his persona: he says nice, respectful-sounding things about people he disagrees with and they start gushing about how likable and reasonable he is even though he clearly disagrees with them. I mean, haven’t you criticized Obama supporters precisely because they have projected their own beliefs and desires onto him? If you think they’ve done that, why should his nominal detractors be immune from that same effect? I mean, Hitchens has not exactly distinguished himself with critical analysis of other people’s motives, now has he?

Speaking of Israel policy, his admirers run the gamut from Peretz to post-Zionists, but I take the more hawkish ones more seriously because he echoes their views in his own statements.

This sort of thing worries me greatly as well. On the other hand, I really can’t imagine anyone, even a revivified George Washington, getting elected in this country without promising to remain biased towards Israel and without closely clinging to a bunch of pro-Israel advisers. I wish it were otherwise.

I have read his speeches and essays on foreign policy. And by great in this case, I mean vast and overreaching.

But what specifically does vast and overreaching mean? Do you mean Obama is committed to ensuring that the US eliminates all armed conflict on Earth? That the US should comply with the Convention on Genocide? I’m genuinely curious because from what I’ve read, I don’t see this vastness and overreach. But I often miss things. But not usually things that are vast.

#27 Comment By Daniel Larison On October 14, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

“You’re not inside his head.”

Something for which I am very grateful. Look, for the purposes of analysis I’m taking what these people claim are their beliefs to be their beliefs. Yes, Hitchens could have spent the last eight years lying and we might have no idea how he “really” thinks. He might secretly think Bill Clinton is the greatest man who has ever lived and has been having us on for the better part of two decades. Might his judgement about Obama be mistaken? That is, might Obama be what he would call a “capitulationist”? Anything’s possible, but there’s also no evidence from *anything Obama has ever said* that would lead you to believe that, either. When you put it all together, you get a fairly clear picture.

This is exactly the opposite of random speculation that Obama might be less “pro-Israel” than other pols because poorly-informed supporters want him to be. You can find evidence that Obama holds views not very dissimilar from Hitchens in what Obama has said he believes, while you cannot find evidence that Obama wants to change anything in Israel policy. Unless we assume that everyone is lying at all times (which I suppose would save us all a lot of time), that means that we weigh Hitchens’ support for Obama more than we do the support of someone whose policy ideas Obama has never shown the least sympathy. Looked at another way, it is more significant that Marty Peretz, for example, finds nothing objectionable about Obama than it is that Jeremiah Wright is sympathetic to the Palestinians. We can say that because of Obama’s clear views on this subject. In theory, both Scowcroft and Kagan support McCain, but we know whose views he will tend towards because of McCain’s stated views. In a vacuum, the views of supporters and associates would all be equally meaningless. It is through comparison with the candidate’s views that we get at least some sense of which supporters are more representative of the candidate.

“Obviously, if Hitchens was really interested in the liberation of Iraq back in 2002, he never would have associated with such odious and idiotic crooks as Ahmed Chalabi.”

That doesn’t follow at all, unless you are not using the word liberation ironically. If you mean that no one who desired actual freedom for Iraqis would associate with Ahmed Chalabi, I suppose you have a point, but to be a backer of the officially sanctioned Liberation almost required being chummy with Chalabi. You could hardly turn around back in ’02-’03 without being confronted with a pro-war writer who thought Chalabi was a hero (and later a “hero in error”). There is so much irony in your comment that I can’t get a fix on what you mean.