Not Saussure

October 21, 2006

Matthew Parris on the scramble to save reputations as the ship goes down

Filed under: Iraq, Neo-conservatives, Panic, UK — notsaussure @ 1:13 am

Matthew Parris in today’s Times:

HARK — CAN YOU hear it? Borne on the wind, can you hear the sounds of construction — of hammers hammering and woodsaws sawing? And do you detect a note of panic? I do. The good ship Neocon is going down. She has struck the Iraqi rocks, the engine room is awash, and on the deck in anxious pursuit of something to float them away is a curious assembly.

Her Majesty’s Brigade of Neocon Columnists and Leader Writers mingles with much of the elite of British politics. The new Labour Cabinet and its courtiers and most of the Opposition’s front bench rub shoulders with Fleet Street’s finest. Is that David Aaronovitch I see, hammer in hand? Jack Straw is handing him the nails. There’s Michael Gove scribbling notes while Danny Finkelstein rips a blank sheet from a discarded do-it-yourself regime change manual, and ponders a hastily sketched design. Willie Shawcross has the saw and Tim Hames and Margaret Beckett are ripping planks from the deck. Gordon Brown skulks behind the mast as those unlikely bedfellows, Matthew d’Ancona, of The Spectator, and Johann Hari, of The Independent, assemble what timber they can find.

They are building a lifeboat for their reputations. The task is urgent. It is no small thing to find oneself on the wrong side of an argument when the debate is about the biggest disaster in British foreign policy since Suez; no small thing to have handed Iran a final, undreamt-of victory in an Iran-Iraq war that we thought had ended in the 1980s; no small thing to have lost Britain her credit in half the world; no small thing — in the name of Atlanticism — to have shackled our own good name to a doomed US presidency and crazed foreign-policy adventure that the next political generation in America will remember only with an embarrassed shudder.

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September 28, 2006

Jon Swift on Traditional Torture Values

Filed under: Neo-conservatives, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 1:40 pm

Jon Swift, the American reasonable conservative, some months ago converted from Judaism to Born Again Christianity, as he movingly described at the time, after watching The Chronicles of Narnia:

The film is about British children who have been sent to the country during World War II when London is being bombed. In this big country house where they are staying one of the children discovers this closet and goes inside. I am not sure what being in the closet is a metaphor for (I am very new at this Christian allegory stuff) but I do know it awakened in me feelings of being safe and secure.

In a recent post, he writes of some of how his new faith helps him analyse a current ethical problem with which American conservatives are understandably concerned:

Some people have the mistaken impression that Christians are inflexible and unable to change with the times. The debate over the bill to clarify what techniques the CIA and our military can use in interrogating prisoners and what constitutes torture illustrates just how “with it” Christians can be. As the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition shows us, sometimes in order to maintain your traditional values you need to change with the times.

As Dr Swift explains,

Now let me just state at the outset that like President Bush I am opposed to torture except in certain circumstances when it’s really, really necessary, which is why I am a member of Blogs Against Torture. I agree with the President that “torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere.” But liberals have got us all so confused with their convoluted notions of what torture is so we need to get back to traditional torture values. If we let the liberals and activist judges define torture down, the next thing you know our secret prisons will be like country clubs and the terrorists will take over our country and impose their ideas of morality on us, which, except for the stuff about homosexuality and a few other things, we vehemently disagree with.


The Evangelical Outpost held a symposium of very thoughtful conservative Christian ethicists who responded to an article by Charles Krauthammer that criticized McCain’s bill outlawing torture

which has clarified the matter for him no end, as he explains in a lengthy and thoughtful post, which I greatly recommend.

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September 17, 2006

Krauthammer vs Chatham House

Filed under: Chatham House, Iran, Neo-conservatives, Politics, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 2:47 pm

The Tehran Calculus — not, as I initially thought, a thriller by Robert Loodlum, on the lines of such works as The Moscow Vector, The Maltarese Circle and The Bourne Trajectory, but a Washington Post article by a gent — rather an influential gent in the US, it seems — by the name of Charles Krauthammer has been causing some comment in the American neo-conservative blogosphere (quite why they call themselves ‘Conservatives’, I do not know, since they have even less to do with what I understand by Conservatism than does David Cameron… splutter… where was I?)

I apologise for the length of this piece, though there is an entertaining movie buried inside it.


September 14, 2006

Not letting the terrorists win

Filed under: Blogroll, Books, Neo-conservatives, Politics, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 11:09 pm

Mr Jon Swift , the man of letters and eminently reasonable American conservative, has been moved by the anniversary of 9/11 to contemplate what contribution he can best make to fighting the War on Terror;

Perhaps the best way to make sure the terrorists don’t win is to figure out what they want and do the exact opposite no matter how difficult, painful or even self-destructive that might be. Lately, I’ve been wondering if there is anything I’m doing that might help the terrorists win and I’ve been trying to live my life by doing the opposite of what the terrorists would want me to do. I have to admit it has been very difficult, especially since I’m not always sure what it is that the terrorists do want.

He finds this surprisingly difficult, even though, as he rightly explains ‘Since the media is biased I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues’. As he explains,

As I pulled into the parking lot I was surprised by how many cars were there. Apparently, a lot of people had come to the same conclusion as I did, that the best way to fight terrorism was to go shopping. Some people are supporting the idea of making September 11 a national holiday . I think giving people the day off so that they could shop at September 11 sales might be the perfect way to send a message to the terrorists that they can’t change our way of life.

However, as his thoughtful analysis shows, it isn’t quite that simple, particularly if you’ve read about a new book by Dinesh D’Souza that comes out next year. Since Professor D’Souza’s book, to quote the Amazon blurb,

argues that it is not our exercise of freedom that enrages our enemies, but our abuse of that freedom—from the sexual liberty of women to the support of gay marriage, birth control, and no-fault divorce, to the aggressive exportation of our vulgar, licentious popular culture.The cultural wars at home and the global war on terror are usually viewed as separate problems. In this groundbreaking book, D’Souza shows that they are one and the same. It is only by curtailing the left’s attacks on religion, family, and traditional values that we can persuade moderate Muslims and others around the world to cooperate with us and begin to shun the extremists in their own countries.

this causes Mr Swift some difficulties in deciding what movie he go and see:

So, seeing a movie the terrorists wouldn’t approve of actually increases the risk of making the terrorists more angry and gives them an excuse to attack again. So maybe I should see a movie they would approve of. Then again, if I made sure I saw a movie they approved of wouldn’t I be letting the terrorists determine what I should and should not do? Wasn’t I, in a sense, letting the terrorists win?

The whole article has much to commend it, even to those who, like me, tend to favour moderate progress within the bounds of the law.

September 12, 2006

The Right Way To Look At It

While musing a few days ago on the curious intellectual alliance between some American neo-conservatives and the present government in Tehran, neither of whom is particularly impressed by what they see as the undesirable intellectual hegemony of secular liberals in their respective countries’ universities, I was vaguely reminded of something I’d read years ago.

My memory was again jogged by reading reports of David Cameron’s latest speech, in which he attempts to distance himself from what he takes to be ‘neo-Conservative thinking’, thus prompting the Indy to ask ‘What is neo-conservatism?‘ (a question that most other papers explored in depth some years ago, but then the Indy works to its own pace).

I recalled reading, some years ago, Imperial Caddy, by Joe Queenan, a very funny take on Dan Quayle, President Bush the Elder’s intellectually-challenged Vice President. The book’s now understandably out of print but still available at Amazon. It’s relevant, though because, with hindsight, Mr Quayle looks eirily like a trial run for the present incumbent.

Many of the neo-conservative advisors and speechwriters who are now, or were until their star began to fade because the debacle in Iraq, very close to President Bush the Younger, were, as Queenan puts it, originally hired by Mr Quayle ‘to make him seem far more intelligent than he actually was’.

This, by the way, was apparently not without its problems:

Attempts to enhance Quayle’s image by force-feeding him biographies of Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, and encouraging him to discuss Plato’s Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince with influential journalists blew up in [William] Kristol‘s face; once a cerebrally retrograde Hoosier starts telling reporters he’s been reading Plato and Machiavelli, those heartless sons of bitches will immediately start setting traps for him, so that they can show their wiseass, know-it-all readers that Dumbo really read only the Cliff Notes version.

Anyway, looking through Mr Queenan’s book to see what he had to say about the neo-conservatives then, rather than now, I came across what I’d been reminded of. Then, as now, they were very concerned about ‘leftist professors who have been indoctrinating our children with their dangerous Marxist ideas’. Queenan suggests they’ve got this wrong, and that, on the contrary, ‘by having leftist academics on college campuses, the rest of us have them right where we want them.

He explains,

Look at is this way: If leftist intellectuals were working at Burger King or the utility company, they might organize downtrodden laborers and bring a hungry, poorly lit nation to its knees. But by cloistering them together in universities, leftists limit the subversive impact of their seditiious ideas to young people between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one, many of whom do not have driver’s licences. We should accept it as a normal and healthy part of growning up for teenagers to flirst with the ideas of Karl Marx and Mao Tse-tung, knowing full well that these ideas will be banished from their consciousness forever the first time they get their quarterly earnings report from Fidelity Select Biotechnology and find out that their OTC stocks have skyrocketed 46 percent in the previous three months.

[…] The way [American] society works is this: Leftist intellectuals with hare-brained Marxist ideas get to control Stanford, MIT, Yale, and the American Studies department at the University of Vermont. In return, the right gets IBM, DEC, Honeywell, Disney World, and the New York Stock Exchange. Leftist academics get to try out out their stupid ideas on impressionable youths between seventeen and twenty-one who don’t have any money or power. The right gets to try out its ideas on North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and parts of Africa, most of which take MasterCard. The left gets Harvard, Oberlin, Twyla Tharp’s dance company, and Madison, Wisconsin. The right gets NASDAQ, General Motors, Apple, McDonnell Douglas, Washington DC, Citicorp, Texas, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Japan, and outer space.

This seems like a fair arrangement.

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