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Politics Ends At The Water's Edge

[ Posted Friday, February 4th, 2011 – 17:44 PST ]

While there was indeed some domestic American political news happening last week, we're going to take a pass on focusing on any of it today. Instead, the news this week was dominated by foreign policy and events largely beyond America's borders. So, instead of dishing up our usual "Friday Talking Points" snarkiness here (did you hear Sarah Palin's trademarking her own name? Bristol, too!), and instead of providing useful soundbites for Democrats to use (unemployment dropped 0.8 points in two months!) and celebrating victories over Republican idiocy (such as shaming them out of changing the federal definition of rape to exclude non-incest statutory rape in an abortion amendment), we're going to do something different here today. We can wait until next week to begin highlighting Republican hypocrisy on budget-cutting, and all the rest of it. Because while Egypt's future is being worked out both in Cairo and in Washington, somehow it just doesn't seem appropriate to be handing out "most impressive" and "most disappointing" partisan awards this week. Instead of such pettiness, for the first time we're going to radically change our weekly approach here, and instead talk about bipartisanship of a very specific kind.

It can be summed up as: at times, politics is supposed to end "at the water's edge." This idea was originally put forth by Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan at the dawn of the Cold War. What Vandenberg actually said:


To me, "bipartisan foreign policy" means a mutual effort, under our indispensable two-party system, to unite our official voice at the water's edge so that America speaks with maximum authority against those who would divide and conquer us and the free world. It does not involve the remotest surrender of free debate in determining our position. On the contrary, frank co-operation and free debate are indispensable to ultimate unity. In a word, it simply seeks national security ahead of partisan advantage. Every foreign policy must be totally debated (and I think the record proves it has been) and the "loyal opposition" is under special obligation to see that this occurs.

Senator Vandenberg was speaking of the need for political unity when facing the rest of the world, and (as you can see) he was speaking of policies that had plenty of time to be worked out in advance. But what his phrase has come to mean in the political lexicon (now changed to the simpler: "politics ends at the water's edge") is that when presidents act in fast-developing situations around the world, they shouldn't be undercut by partisan griping at home, while the events are still in motion.

This doesn't mean blind obedience or unquestioned following of any leader. But it does mean "don't bump his elbow" deference to our elected leader when the country needs to speak with one voice.

This is precisely where we find ourselves with Egypt right now. There will be plenty of time for Monday-morning quarterbacking later on, for those who disagree with how President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are handling the Egyptian situation. But for now, the bottom line is that nobody really knows how the situation is being handled. And this is exactly as it should be.

Wikileaks aside, the concept of modern diplomacy requires privacy at times. Call them "secrets" if you will, but without private communications there simply wouldn't be diplomacy as we know it. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not arguing for or against the larger Wikileaks question -- but it would be foolish to think that the public deserves to know precisely what is going on and what is being said in any sort of real-time manner during a crisis situation.

This concept runs counter to the bedrock mission of the news business, I realize, and journalists everywhere are attempting to dig out exactly what is going on and what is and is not being said on a real-time basis. That's all fine and good, because that is their job.

But the secondary level in the media universe contains the pundits who don't actually report any news, but rather re-digest it and serve it up with their own opinion on what the reality is and what it should be. This is where loud cries are heard that we should know every word Obama is speaking to Mubarak right now, and that we should know every offer and counteroffer being made by Secretary Clinton as it happens.

While I definitely include myself among the punditocracy (I fully admit to my status as a leech, feeding off others' first-person reporting in parasitic fashion), I have to say that anyone right now calling for open disclosure about what is going on behind the scenes does not understand the way diplomacy works.

It is natural, of course, to try to spin events one way or another, since that's what pundits do. But we are in a time when no one can be certain of what they're talking about. Loud voices putting forth some version of "Obama should be doing/saying this..." have absolutely no way of knowing if he is already doing so. Which, again, is how it should be in the middle of a crisis.

We elect presidents not just to be leaders on domestic policy. We also elect them to personify America to the rest of the world, and to be commanders-in-chief of our military. At times, though, we must allow them to be this voice to the world without knowing what is being said or done in private, behind the scenes, on our behalf as a nation. This is the way things are supposed to work.

Any pundit looking to oversimplify the situation into any sort of definitive "we should be doing this" statement is free to do so, but should be taken with a large grain of salt by the media-consuming public. People should remember that no pundit writing such suggestions right now is in any way privy to the fullness of the real situation, and therefore has no idea whether what they're proposing is a good idea or a very bad idea.

Which is why I refuse to even attempt second-guessing Obama and Clinton at this point. I have no idea what either of them (or anyone else in the American government) is saying to Mubarak or the Egyptian military (or anyone else in Egypt). Nor, at this point, should I. I don't have their intelligence (in the "Central Intelligence Agency" sense of the word). Which means I don't know the full ramifications of what is happening right now, or what is even being proposed.

But my main point is: neither does any other pundit. Which hasn't stopped some of them from tying the entire Egyptian situation up in a nice, neat package with a convenient soundbite bow on top. When you're a pundit, the urge to pontificate (and to oversimplify) becomes overwhelming at times, even if you know full well you haven't a clue as to what you're talking about.

Some may see this as some sort of "let's all stick our heads in the sand" thinking. The inherent mistrust of government and government officials (up to and including presidents) has become deeply ingrained in America, stretching back through all kinds of lies and shenanigans to Watergate, Vietnam, and even earlier. This has bred a hyper-intensity of demanding the "people's right to know" what government is up to -- which, in most cases, I fully agree with.

But this is not one of those times. I am content, when events are moving quickly on the ground, to examine presidential and governmental actions after the fact. This is the trust I place in letting our elected officials to do their jobs. Hillary Clinton famously made this a campaign issue, when running against Barack Obama in the primaries, with her "3 A.M. phone call" television ad. When the phone rings at the White House in the middle of the night, who are you going to trust to be the one picking up the phone?

I may not agree with any president's actions. I disagree with Democratic and Republican presidents as I see fit. But I also know that, at times, presidents need maneuvering room in diplomatic crises, and I don't begrudge any president this realistic level of trust. I wasn't blogging when 9/11 happened, but I wasn't calling on any sort of full disclosure from President Bush at the time -- because it was one of those times when the public has to be kept in the dark, while the political leaders make their plans. Imagine if President Kennedy had had to report his daily conversations with the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance. Sometimes leaders of countries cut deals, and sometimes the public doesn't get to hear about these deals until long after the fact.

But again, to a certain level, that's what we elect our leaders to do. It's a major part of their job.

I fully support anyone's right to criticize the president and the government at any time, of course. I'm not saying we shouldn't all have this right, even in the midst of a crisis. And I fully support (and sometimes join in) criticism of American foreign policy, even while we're going to war (I would argue especially when we're going to war, in fact). My intended message today is for the consumers of news and punditry -- to you, the readers and viewers of such. And that message is: when you hear anyone espousing: "Obama should be doing X," the proper response at this point is nothing more than: "How do you know he isn't doing X?"

The political ramifications and repercussions of how President Obama is handling the Egyptian situation will doubtlessly be discussed for months and years to come. We can all have a go at hindsight then, and declare how a perfect solution could have been achieved. But in the midst of an ongoing crisis, nobody but Obama and Clinton (and those in their confidence) really have any idea what is and what is not being done.

Neither President Obama or Secretary Clinton is going to step out in front of the cameras and say to the world: "Here is exactly what I just said to Mubarak." It's just not going to happen, nor should it. Diplomacy demands that some conversations remain private in situations like this. There's a reason for this, and the reason is face-saving. When Mubarak leaves office (note: "when," not "if"), he will tell his domestic Egyptian audience his version of the end of his reign. Obama must leave Mubarak open to tell whatever story he feels like telling, because if Obama didn't it could severely change the situation and the outcome. Probably for the worse. This is why we have to trust Obama at this point to be vague in public statements, while assuming he is being a lot more specific in personal conversations with the Egyptians. This is where the whole: "How do you know Obama isn't saying that?" question comes from.

Which means we truly are in a "politics ends at the water's edge" moment. If the outcome is a disaster, everyone will have plenty of time later to heap political blame on Obama. If the outcome is a step in the right direction, we've got plenty of Monday mornings later to suggest from our armchairs how the quarterbacking could have been better. Calling on the president to do one thing or another at any time is certainly everyone's right, but it's also somewhat irrelevant at this juncture. Obama has chosen -- and is choosing -- his course during this crisis very carefully, and there's nothing for us to do at the moment but trust that he's doing the best job possible. As I said, if it all goes south, there'll be plenty of time later to figure out why and to pay whatever political price needs to be paid. For now, I -- like most people -- am content to wait and see how it all plays out, and give Obama and Clinton the benefit of the doubt in the meantime.

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: Democrats For Progress
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post

 

64 Comments on “Politics Ends At The Water's Edge”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    I would bet that Senator Vandenberg never conceived of the likes of a Bush/Cheney administration ... an administration that did nothing if not cry out for dissent on foreign policy matters.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    >>>I'm not arguing for or against the larger Wikileaks question -- but it would be foolish to think that the public deserves to know precisely what is going on and what is being said in any sort of real-time manner during a crisis situation.

    Chris, do you think you might do a piece on Wikileaks and how it has affected the art of diplomacy, for better or worse?

    By the way, I have noticed that you haven't included a link to your HP columns here lately ... that always made it so easy to navigate. I hope you're still going to post at HP - God knows, your voice is desperately needed there!

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Is it safe to assume that Biden gets the benefit of the doubt, too?

    :)

  4. [4] 
    Kevin wrote:

    I hear you, Elizabeth. I've gotten to the point that I rarely bother with the Huffpo site. I DO like to see the responses to the latest CW brilliance, and appreciate clicking on the Huffpo link here rather than try to figure out where they've hidden the latest words of wisdom from our host :) PLEASE bring back your Huffpo link, Chris!!

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Kevin, Elizabeth -

    Man, you guys are eagle-eyed, I have to admit. I didn't think anyone would notice...

    A delay has been introduced into the cross-posting at HuffPost and at the new site I've been posting my Friday columns to (www.democratsforprogress.com). This delay is, sadly, beyond my control. What I propose to do is to post the links as they go active, so that they'll appear here. But if I don't have a link yet, I can't post it. I've posted the Democratic Underground link for now, and will post the HuffPost and DFP links when I get them.

    I apologize for this delay, but as I said, it's beyond my control.

    -CW

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    I would bet that Senator Vandenberg never conceived of the likes of a Bush/Cheney administration ... an administration that did nothing if not cry out for dissent on foreign policy matters.

    I disagree..

    I bet that Senator Vandenberg's wisdom was stated with an administration such as the Bush one specifically in mind...

    Michale.....

  7. [7] 
    tommymccarthy wrote:

    What a timely & throughly sensible reminder

    Mr. Weigant's characteristic humility and personal honesty lend added power to his observations regarding the balance between blind faith in our political leaders......and a necessary "unity of purpose" ....particularly with regard to international relations in times of uncertainty.

    Speaking personally, it helps to have a certain basic faith in the President's motives...and the experience and judgement of a number of his appointees....most notably VP Biden. (Hi Liz!)

    Just a "heads up" to add to some discussion of crosslinks ......

    The links (at HuffPo) to "ObamaPollWatch" are inoperable...have been for some time...

    No sweat here...I have it saved to favorites
    Just lettin' ya know...

    Hoping all are well
    Regards
    TM

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    The links (at HuffPo) to "ObamaPollWatch" are inoperable...have been for some time...

    {sarcasm}
    THERE's a shocker....
    {/sarcasm}

    :D

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    dsws wrote:

    "When Mubarak leaves office (note: "when," not "if"),"

    Does dying count? He's 82. Actuarially, that corresponds to an 8% probability of dying in the next year. http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html Of course, that's for the US, but I doubt the difference is that huge.

    "This is where the whole: "How do you know Obama isn't saying that?" question comes from."

    Words and actions behind the scenes can have effects that would be visible. If you know enough about the situation to be confident that if Obama had said X then Mubarak would have done something along the lines of Y, and you can see that he didn't, then you can be confident that Obama didn't say X.

    "Any pundit looking to oversimplify the situation into any sort of definitive "we should be doing this" statement is free to do so, but should be ..."

    ... explaining it in terms of information that has been available over the last 30 years (or more), but almost no one in the US has bothered to learn. If I knew how the Egyptian security forces, ruling political party, government-supported religious institutions, and so on were constituted and what was in whose interest, I'm sure I would have a strong opinion about what our elected and appointed officials should be doing.

    "... clicking on the Huffpo link here rather than try to figure out where they've hidden ..."

    I access it entirely from HP, either directly or by getting alerted there to click a link to here. Every time he posts here, his tweet shows up in the HP sidebar, since that's the only use I make of twitter. Everything he puts on HP is linked from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant. I type "w" in the address bar, and it's the first item on the drop-down list. Originally, of course, I had to type "weiga" to exclude page titles with "weigh" in them.

  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    tommymccarthy -

    Long time no comment from... good to see you!

    Can you describe more accurately which OPW links aren't working? Maybe I did something wrong, I'd like to check. I think there's usually maybe three links. One text link (I usually plug the site at least once in the article text), one graphic link at the bottom, and maybe one text link at the bottom too, I dunno. This month's HP OPW was cut short, kind of an experiment on my part, so you only got the first third of the column, and then a custom "Read the whole article" text link at the bottom, which led you to my site. But, for anyone interested, it's really easy to get there, just type "obamapollwatch.com" into your browser, and it'll take you right there -- it's even easier than remembering how to spell "Weigant"!

    Anyway, let me know exactly which link isn't working, and I will look into it. Thanks. And good to hear from you again, and thanks for the kind words!

    :-)

    dsws -

    I would certainly think dying would count.

    As for the other, you'd also have to be positive that Mubarak would react to X by doing Y -- I've heard rumors (unsubstantiated, admittedly) that he's not sleeping well and is becoming irrational. This may just be propaganda (impossible to know), but if true has to be accounted for in your figuring.

    Thanks for pointing out the HP "author's page" link. This link exists on all of my pages, but I admit I haven't made it very prominent. On the left-hand sidebar, the last list box down is something like "Everything else I didn't have a category for" and the first item in the list is "Chris' HuffPost Archive". This link takes you to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant where my most recent article is on top of the list. Also, anyone who makes it to these pages can assumably confidently spell my last name, so all you have to do is remember the hyphen and type "/chris-weigant" after the HuffPost URL and you can go right there. Or I could make this link more prominent in some way, if people want me to (let me know)....

    Tweets, man, I have no idea what tweets go where. Or how, for that matter. Sigh. I just recently discovered the fact that you can see "retweets" about you on the Twitter page. I'm a Luddite, I fully admit, but if you want to be informed of new articles posting, I recommend either (1) "following" me on Twitter (if you're already a user), or (2) using the RSS thingie on the top menu bar here (don't ask me how RSS works, I'm a little unclear on the concept myself, sorry). Both of these will let you know almost immediately when a new CW.com article posts.

    The HuffPost link is finally up at the end of the article above, and I'll try to do better about posting the link as I get it -- but be warned, there may be a delay of many hours before this happens. This delay is beyond my control, and I apologize for it in advance.

    -CW

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    TM,

    Speaking personally, it helps to have a certain basic faith in the President's motives...and the experience and judgement of a number of his appointees....most notably VP Biden. (Hi Liz!)

    Absolutely, positively, unequivocally!

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Lemme ask ya'all a question...

    Would ya'all push for Mubarak to step down, even if you knew for an absolute fact that the Egyptian government would be replaced with a fanatical Islamic theocracy, a'la Iran??

    Michale.....

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    I hate answering hypothetical questions, especially when they are also wildly fantastical and have no relation, whatsoever, to the facts on the ground.

    An Islamic theocracy, a la Iran? In Egypt? Hardly. There is simply no basis for such nonsense.

    Now, having said that, and to borrow a famous phrase from William Butler Yeats ...

    Whether people or governments yet realize it or not, the politics of the Middle East have changed, changed utterly and a terrible beauty has been born.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, to continue my thought ...

    It is no longer a matter of whether anyone should push for Mubarak to step down as events have moved past what the future of Mubarak will be. That question has already been resolved ... for all intents and purposes the current president of Egypt has no future in Egyptian politics, whether he officially steps down today or seven months from now.

    The question now is what role the Egyptian military is going to play in the transition to a new political compact in Egypt between the government and its people and how the US responds to that, vis-a-vis the billions of dollars in aid it gives to Egypt every year of which a majority goes to the Egyptian military.

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    I hate answering hypothetical questions, especially when they are also wildly fantastical and have no relation, whatsoever, to the facts on the ground.

    I get it. You don't like Kobyashi Maru scenarios...

    But they DO happen...

    You just don't like choosing between the lesser of two evils. :D

    An Islamic theocracy, a la Iran? In Egypt? Hardly. There is simply no basis for such nonsense.

    What is your evidence to support such a claim??

    Michale.....

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    Wanna explain to me again how a fanatical Islamic theocracy in Egypt is "nonsense??? :D

    Tide turns in favour of Egypt's Brotherhood in revolt
    http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE7151NF20110206?sp=true

    Michale.....

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Oh, yeah. Let's play competing links!

    But, not on Super Bowl Sunday, for God sake. :)

    In the meantime, though, here's a question for you just to start things off ...

    What is the percentage of popular support that the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys among the 87 million Egyptions and who do you think will be involved in writing the new Egyptian constitution?

    Not a trick question ... I swear. :)

  18. [18] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Newsbreak...

    Here's a Huffington Post link that answered a few of my questions about recent changes, just for everyone's information:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/huffington-post-aol_b_819373.html

    No comment yet, just saw it myself, and had no idea this was going to happen.

    -CW

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    What is the percentage of popular support that the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys among the 87 million Egyptions and who do you think will be involved in writing the new Egyptian constitution?

    The percentage is around 20% give or take...

    It is small, no doubt.

    But that is because Mubarak was the valve that kept the MB from growing and becoming more "popular"...

    Without the Mubarak government, the Muslim Brotherhood will grow and flourish..

    As is happening right now...

    As to who is writing the Egyptian Constitution? As of last reports, it's El Baraidi allied with the Muslim Brotherhood..

    Whether or not that becomes the "official" Egyptian Constitution remains to be seen..

    Michale.....

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    Which brings me back to my original question.

    Would you advocate the overthrow of the Mubarak regime if the result would be a fanatical Muslim theocracy?

    Michale.....

  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    What an incredible step backwards for HuffPo...

    AOL is about as relevant in today's Internet as Barney would be at an Egyptian protest....

    The article mentioned that AOL has great brand-recognition.. So does the Titanic and the Hindenburg...

    Doesn't mean a merger is a good idea...

    Michale.....

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Which brings me back to my original question.

    Would you advocate the overthrow of the Mubarak regime if the result would be a fanatical Muslim theocracy?

    I believe I answered that ... see [13] and read between the lines.

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    It is small, no doubt. But that is because Mubarak was the valve that kept the MB from growing and becoming more "popular"...

    Without the Mubarak government, the Muslim Brotherhood will grow and flourish...

    I'm not sure I'd agree with you 100% on your reasoning there. In fact, I'm pretty sure you have it ass backwards.

    The Muslim Brotherhood may have been banned as a political party. But, they were hardly alone in that respect. Which is part of my point. They were able to garner no more than about 25% popular support with no competition whatsoever. How do you think they'll fare in a more democratic Egypt?

    Egypt is not Iran, Michale. Deal with it. :)

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    First impressions Re. Huffington Post sold to AOL ...

    I guess Arianna now has what she has always wanted ... a healthy ROI.

    Because, it has been quite obvious to me over the years that she is not at all interested in reality-based political analysis nor in cultivating excellence in political journalism.

    And, that's all I have to say about her.

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    As to who is writing the Egyptian Constitution? As of last reports, it's El Baraidi allied with the Muslim Brotherhood..

    Where did you read that ... in the Huffington Post?

  26. [26] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Interesting. Who would have thought Huffington post was worth $315 million?

    I wonder how many bloggers will stick around if they know they are working for AOL, for free?

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    Egypt is not Iran, Michale. Deal with it. :)

    Assumes facts not in evidence...

    Time will tell...

    Where did you read that ... in the Huffington Post?

    Actually, it was a Reuters report....

    Bashi,

    Interesting. Who would have thought Huffington post was worth $315 million?

    Not me... :D

    I wonder how many bloggers will stick around if they know they are working for AOL, for free?

    Judging from the comments, not many....

    Another Leftist arena sold out to corporate interests....

    Anyone STILL wanna claim that there is a difference between the Left and the Right??

    Michale.....

  28. [28] 
    Michale wrote:

    "I would not refer to {Mubarak} as a dictator.”
    -Joe Biden

    Also, when asked if Mubarak should resign, Biden said "No, I don't think he should go anywhere"

    Just thought I would throw that out there.. :D

    Michale.....

  29. [29] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Does this mean the Huffingtonpost is going to get slower? Or maybe start sending out free software disks in the mail?

    Sorry, couldn't resist. Let the AOL jokes begin!

    -David

    p.s. Interesting discussion going on re: Egypt. Fits in very well with CW's previous post about Democracy. If you're for Democracy, what do you do when people vote for something you don't like?

    Put another way, it's hard to say you're for Democracy until you disagree with the Democratically elected government. To me, that's not pro-Democracy or pro-Freedom. It's "we don't give a damn about who's in power or how they got there so long as they do what we want them to do".

    p.s.s. The best thing about the Egypt uprising is that somehow all the "mosque at ground zero" crap went away. Whatever happened to that non-story? Though some of the current fear-mongering about Egypt being the first Muslim domino to a complete Muslim takeover of the world is pretty entertaining.

  30. [30] 
    Michale wrote:

    Does this mean the Huffingtonpost is going to get slower? Or maybe start sending out free software disks in the mail?

    hehehehehehehe :D

    Now THAT was funny... :D

    Put another way, it's hard to say you're for Democracy until you disagree with the Democratically elected government. To me, that's not pro-Democracy or pro-Freedom. It's "we don't give a damn about who's in power or how they got there so long as they do what we want them to do".

    So, what's your opinion on the Palestinians democratically electing a terrorist organization??

    Put another way, it's hard to say you're for Democracy until you disagree with the Democratically elected government. To me, that's not pro-Democracy or pro-Freedom. It's "we don't give a damn about who's in power or how they got there so long as they do what we want them to do".

    It's not really about them doing what we WANT them to do.. It's more about them NOT doing what we DON'T want them to do..

    As in NOT killing innocent people by the hundreds of thousands...

    The best thing about the Egypt uprising is that somehow all the "mosque at ground zero" crap went away. Whatever happened to that non-story?

    They have gone thru a few Imams... :D

    Though some of the current fear-mongering about Egypt being the first Muslim domino to a complete Muslim takeover of the world is pretty entertaining.

    I KNOW you are old enough to remember Iran...

    Why do you think it couldn't happen again??

    Michale.....

  31. [31] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    So what's your take on the HuffPo/AOL marriage??

    How do you see it affecting your relationship with HuffPo??

    Enquiring Minds Want To Know... :D

    Michale.....

  32. [32] 
    akadjian wrote:

    It's not really about them doing what we WANT them to do.. It's more about them NOT doing what we DON'T want them to do.

    You're right. I do remember Iran.

    The U.S. never really cared one way or another about Iran until we realized how much oil they had and how this made them one of the power brokers in the Middle East.

    We led a CIA-backed coup against their prime minister in 1953 and propped up the Shah. Our goal was to establish a dictatorship to gain control of Iran's oil.

    Is it any wonder that the people of Iran were angry at the U.S. when they overthrew the Shah in 1979?

    -David

  33. [33] 
    Michale wrote:

    Is it any wonder that the people of Iran were angry at the U.S. when they overthrew the Shah in 1979?

    But, of course, we agree that none of that justifies what happened next, right??

    But fast forward to today and Egypt...

    Isn't it possible that Egyptians would be just as angry at the US for 30 yrs of Mubarak support as Iranians were 30 years ago??

    Given these facts, it appears to me that Egypt is ripe to follow in the footsteps of Iranians from 30 years ago...

    Michale.....

  34. [34] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Well, that's an interesting way to go about it. Double down on our "we don't care what you do or who you are so long as you support us" policy.

    Or, maybe we could support Democracy and freedom in other countries instead of propping up corrupt governments and dictatorships?

    I know, I know. Crazy idea, right?

    Of course the irony is, that because our wars and policies are not liked in the Middle East, anything we actually come out in support of is bound to have the opposite affect on much of the public.

    -David

  35. [35] 
    Michale wrote:

    Or, maybe we could support Democracy and freedom in other countries instead of propping up corrupt governments and dictatorships?

    We could...

    If it's in our own best interests to do so...

    But what happened with the Palestinians is a prime example of why we shouldn't support Democracy unilaterally to those who show that they don't have the maturity to handle it..

    Of course the irony is, that because our wars and policies are not liked in the Middle East,

    But they sure love taking our money and our help when they need it..

    anything we actually come out in support of is bound to have the opposite affect on much of the public.

    Sounds to me like the peoples of the Middle East have a lot of growing up to do... :D

    Michale.....
    Then that seems to me

  36. [36] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I think the perspective I'm coming at this from is that I believe advocating Democracy IS in our best interest.

    It was what won us the moral highground (back when we did it) and respect throughout the world. Everyone used to want to model their democracies after us.

    When we start trying to achieve our goals through force or through means like puppet dictatorships, we lose that leverage.

    Then, we only have force to rely on. And force is expensive. It's hard to wage physical war with everyone :)

    Will there be situations where Democratically-elected governments cause problems? Potentially. In this case, at least we'd have just cause to act to stop them.

    It seems just as likely, if not moreso, that we're going to have issues with some of the puppet governments we've helped - take Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein in the past was seen as an anti-communist ally and supported by us. Until Kuwait.

    Seems much more likely to me that a dictator is gonna do something nutty than a Democracy.

    -David

  37. [37] 
    Michale wrote:

    I think the perspective I'm coming at this from is that I believe advocating Democracy IS in our best interest.

    {{{cough}}}Palestinians... {{cough}} {{cough}} Hamas...

    It surely wasn't in our best interests to advocate Democracy in THAT case.

    And THAT is my point...

    It's a Pollyanna approach to say that advocating Democracy is good in ALL cases everywhere...

    The people MUST be able to handle Democracy...

    The Palestinians weren't...

    Seems much more likely to me that a dictator is gonna do something nutty than a Democracy.

    "Earth, Hitler, 1939."
    -Captain James T Kirk, STAR TREK VI: The Undiscovered Country

    Sometimes people CAN'T be trusted with Democracy...

    History is replete with examples....

    Michale....

  38. [38] 
    akadjian wrote:

    It's also a Pollyanna approach to say that forcing other countries to do what we want always works out just fine.

    {{{cough}}} Vietnam {{cough}} {{cough}} Iraq {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} Afghanistan {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} Iran {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} Libya {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} {{cough}} Saudi Arabia

    I think I'm getting sick. But I'll take my chances with Democracy. Trying to impose our will doesn't seem to be doing very well.

    -David

    "For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither."

    "President Mubarak has unlocked the door for change. Now, the Egyptian government must put its faith in its own people."

    - Condoleezza Rice, Cairo, 2005

  39. [39] 
    Michale wrote:

    It's also a Pollyanna approach to say that forcing other countries to do what we want always works out just fine.

    No one claimed "always"..

    Why do you have a problem with our elected leaders looking out of the best interests of the US?

    Isn't that why we elect them??

    I think I'm getting sick. But I'll take my chances with Democracy. Trying to impose our will doesn't seem to be doing very well.

    "Democracy" didn't do very well in Iran. Nor did it do very well with the Palestinians..

    All I am saying is that you can't give Democracy to EVERYONE...

    For the same reasons we don't give automatic weapons to chimps..

    It's dangerous...

    Michale.....

  40. [40] 
    Michale wrote:

    Just this past week, during Tehran Friday prayers, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, speaking not in Farsi but in Arabic to make certain he reached and impressed observers and actors in Cairo, praised the “explosion of sacred anger” and warned against any US “interference” in Egypt. Attacking President Hosni Mubarak as a “servant” of Israel and one guilty of “great betrayal” of Egyptians, Khamenei said the events in Tunisia and Egypt were the natural extension of the 1979 “Islamic revolution” in Iran.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/02/09/egypt-unrest-iran-secretary-clinton-needs/#ixzz1DYQnAWer

    Oh yes... There is no threat of Egypt becoming another Iran....

    It's funny how the Obama Administration encourages revolt in an ally country, yet turned a blind eye to protesters being butchered in the streets by a fanatical enemy..

    Michale.....

  41. [41] 
    akadjian wrote:

    "For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither."

    If you parse Ms. Rice's statement, she's saying that we've pursued our interests in the Middle East for the past 60 years.

    That is, we've done what you're advocating for the past 60 years. Conditions today are a result of this policy. I just don't think its worked out very well.

    If you view Iran through the lens of history, there was a revolution there in large part because of the corrupt Shah who we supported.

    -David

    "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

    or to post a funny:
    http://www.acorscadden.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/science_vs_faith.jpg

  42. [42] 
    Michale wrote:

    I just don't think its worked out very well.

    One simply cannot say things would have been better for the US if we hadn't....

    If you view Iran through the lens of history, there was a revolution there in large part because of the corrupt Shah who we supported.

    Maybe we should have left Iran as the Qajar Dynasty when the British and the Soviets harrassed and discriminated against the Persians.....

    Would the people's lot have been better??

    Doubtful...

    "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

    A truism that knows no political Party boundary... :D

    Michale.....

  43. [43] 
    Michale wrote:

    or to post a funny:
    http://www.acorscadden.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/science_vs_faith.jpg

    Now that IS funny!! :D

    And oooo soooooo true...

    Michale.....

  44. [44] 
    Michale wrote:

    Ya know, David..

    Looking back over the comments, I noticed you did not address the issue of Hamas and how they were "democratically elected"...

    Don't you agree that that's a perfect example of why peoples who are not ready for Democracy should NOT be afforded Democracy?

    Michale.....

  45. [45] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Looking back over the comments, I noticed you did not address the issue of Hamas and how they were "democratically elected"

    I'm not claiming it always works. de Toqueville to this day has some of the best critiques. Though to be honest, I'm not sure you can blame Hamas coming to power on Democracy. They were pretty much running things even before the Palestinian elections from what I understand.

    I do believe though that encouraging Democracy is a better approach than the one we've taken for the last 60 years.

    -David

    p.s. I kinda feel like this conversation got all turned upside down and I find myself in the unusual position of defending Condi ... :)

  46. [46] 
    akadjian wrote:

    p.s. I noticed you haven't responded to any of the situations where our "intervention" has not exactly worked.

    Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iran, Chile, Saudi Arabia, etc.

  47. [47] 
    Michale wrote:

    Though to be honest, I'm not sure you can blame Hamas coming to power on Democracy. They were pretty much running things even before the Palestinian elections from what I understand.

    Not really... The PLO was the leadership in the West Bank and Gaza... During democratic elections that were allowed by the US, the people in Gaza elected Hamas to some representative positions. Hamas took that as a divine mandate and started brutally murdering any Palestinian who stood against them...

    Apparently, the Palestinians who voted for Hamas ...... chose poorly..

    But it completely validates my point..

    You can't force Democracy onto a peoples who are not ready for it..

    Bad things happen...

    p.s. I kinda feel like this conversation got all turned upside down and I find myself in the unusual position of defending Condi ... :)

    I noticed that... Bet ya had to bathe after ya wrote that, eh? :D

    p.s. I noticed you haven't responded to any of the situations where our "intervention" has not exactly worked

    Oh, I thought I did...

    Iraq??
    Seems to be going pretty good there.. Much better than it would be under Saddam, wouldn't you agree??

    Afghanistan??
    Could be better.. But it was a LOT worse under the Taliban.. And Al Qaeda is severely inconvenienced...
    Hard to see a downside there...

    Vietnam??
    Ancient history.. We've learned a lot since then...

    Iran??
    Yea, it's SOO much better now, that the US doesn't have a hand in it, right??

    Chile??
    Pepper?? :D

    Saudi Arabia??
    What's the problem there?? Oh, besides the King of SA calling the shots for the Obama Administration??

    Michale.....

  48. [48] 
    Michale wrote:

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/02/10/muslim-brotherhood-win/

    This is why everyone should be concerned about the Eqypt situation...

    Which brings me back to my original question, differently stated.

    Do you support "Democracy" in Egypt, even if it would bring to power a radical Islamic theocracy??

    Michale.....

  49. [49] 
    Michale wrote:

    Ya gotta hand it to the Obama Administration..

    They never miss an opportunity to put their incompetence on display...

    Witness DNI Clapper claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood "is not a secular organization"..

    CIA Chief Panetta claiming that Mubarak was ready to step down, even though Panetta's own intelligence analysts were saying otherwise. Panetta based his report to Congress on what the MEDIA was saying...

    Get that?? Our CIA chief is not reporting to Congress what his AGENCY is saying, but rather what the MEDIA is saying...

    That's reminiscent of AG Holder claiming that the AZ Immigration Law was unconstitutional. Holder made the claim, not based on his reading of the law, but rather what the MEDIA was saying about the law...

    I tell ya, 2013 can't come soon enough for this country...

    Michale.....

  50. [50] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Do you support "Democracy" in Egypt, even if it would bring to power a radical Islamic theocracy?

    Yes.

    Your question is unfair though. It's the same as if I asked you "Do you support meddling in the Middle East even if it brought more terrorist attacks like 9/11 to our country?"

    But I'm going to answer it anyways and say yes. I'll stick to my principles.

    There's no guarantee that Democracy in Egypt will work out the way WE, Americans want it too. But there's also no guarantee that puppet governments will do what we want - witness one of our favorite puppets, Saddam.

    I think in the long run there's more evidence that Democracies are more stable than puppet governments.

    But its hard. If you and your neighbor agree to not use weapons then you have to negotiate and work with your neighbor. It's much easier if you could force your neighbor to do what you want. But you'll have to live in fear all your life that that neighbor will decide to use a weapon. Or someday you'll let your guard down for just a second. Or that the neighbor will somehow rise up against you.

    Its the easier path to buy a gun. But its not the better path. In some cases, we may have to grow up and accept that we can't always get what we want.

    And think of all the money we'd of saved. Ron Paul claims we spent $70 billion propping up Mubarek in Egypt over the past 30 years. Only to see him topple.

    -David

    p.s. I know, I know. Millions of people are going to die because of ME. Its all my fault. I'm a horrible liberal blah blah blah. Obama this, Obama that.

    p.s.s. I thought 2013 wasn't gonna get here because of the Rapture in 2012

  51. [51] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Here's a history question for 'ya, Michale. Can you tell me, without looking it up on the Internet, who we were rooting for in the Iran-Iraq war?

  52. [52] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yes.

    Good for you.. :D I don't agree with you, but at least you can throw down an answer, unequivocally...

    Your question is unfair though. It's the same as if I asked you "Do you support meddling in the Middle East even if it brought more terrorist attacks like 9/11 to our country?"

    That's not unfair...

    But I would have to equivocate my answer, because your question is not as specific as mine..

    What do you consider "meddling"?? What would be other tangible results besides terrorist attacks at home?

    My answer would be a tentative "yes" depending on the answers to those questions..

    I think in the long run there's more evidence that Democracies are more stable than puppet governments.

    And that evidence would be....??? :D

    And think of all the money we'd of saved. Ron Paul claims we spent $70 billion propping up Mubarek in Egypt over the past 30 years. Only to see him topple.

    And what would the cost have been had we not??

    Monday morning quarterbacking is easy... We elect our leaders and hope that they make the best decisions for us..

    In the case of Bush, that worked out pretty well..

    Not so much with Obama, though... :D

    p.s.s. I thought 2013 wasn't gonna get here because of the Rapture in 2012

    The rapture is not in 2012, silly.. It's the Mayan thing in 2012... :D

    Here's a history question for 'ya, Michale. Can you tell me, without looking it up on the Internet, who we were rooting for in the Iran-Iraq war?

    Near as I can recall, we were supporting Iraq with weapons and such...

    What's your point?

    Michale.....

  53. [53] 
    akadjian wrote:

    The rapture is not in 2012, silly.. It's the Mayan thing in 2012.

    I always get those cornfused :)

    And that evidence would be....?

    Well, the U.S. for one. When George Washington announced he would step down after 8 years many people feared that we'd collapse in the absence of a strong leader. Not to worry.

    Europe has many good examples of long-standing Democracies. South Korea. Taiwan. Thailand. Canada. Australia. Turkey. The Philippines.

    Here's a cool map that color-codes the world by systems of government:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Forms_of_government.svg

    Near as I can recall, we were supporting Iraq with weapons and such...
    What's your point?

    The point is that we helped Saddam and Iraq become a regional power in the hopes they would keep the region stable for us after the fall of the Shah of Iran. This included billions of dollars in aid, weapons, military intelligence, special ops training, etc.

    I think we all know how this turned out.

    I would rather see the people in charge than a single person. Because people, in general, throughout the world want the same things: family, peace, business, happiness, etc. In a Democracy, if one person goes nuts and grabs power at least that person can be un-elected by the people. If a single person's in charge and has control of the military, its not so easy.

    Cheers
    -David

  54. [54] 
    Michale wrote:

    The point is that we helped Saddam and Iraq become a regional power in the hopes they would keep the region stable for us after the fall of the Shah of Iran. This included billions of dollars in aid, weapons, military intelligence, special ops training, etc.

    I think we all know how this turned out.

    But it's entirely possible, even likely, that it would have turned out a LOT worse if we hadn't propped up Saddam...

    I would rather see the people in charge than a single person. Because people, in general, throughout the world want the same things: family, peace, business, happiness, etc. In a Democracy, if one person goes nuts and grabs power at least that person can be un-elected by the people. If a single person's in charge and has control of the military, its not so easy.

    What you are proposing is governing by committee...

    We see the results of THAT with the current state of the United States... :)

    Sorry, low blow.. :D

    Michale.....

  55. [55] 
    akadjian wrote:

    What you are proposing is governing by committee.

    Democracy

    Seems like you're only for Democracy when it puts the people you want in charge. No?

    But it's entirely possible, even likely, that it would have turned out a LOT worse if we hadn't propped up Saddam.

    So now you're defending propping up Saddam?

    Seriously? Even though he cost us 2 wars and untold billions of dollars?

    Unlikely things could have been any worse. Please direct my tax dollars elsewhere than ineffective Middle East meddling.

    We see the results of THAT with the current state of the United States.

    We know. Someone you don't like is in charge. But the world didn't end when he got elected. We've been ok.

    Really. Look around. Things are much better than they were 2 years ago. Still bad because of an economic crisis which ... ahem ... ok, I won't say it. But getting better.

    -David

  56. [56] 
    Michale wrote:

    Seems like you're only for Democracy when it puts the people you want in charge. No?

    No.

    I am for Democracy when it's inescapable that the people in question are READY for Democracy...

    Because when the people aren't ready for Democracy and it is forced upon them, bad things happen. Much worse than the denial of Democracy would be.

    So now you're defending propping up Saddam?

    Seriously? Even though he cost us 2 wars and untold billions of dollars?

    What was the alternative? Letting Iran swallow up Iraq and become even MORE dangerous??

    Unlikely things could have been any worse.

    Really??

    How about an Iran that has a full complement of NBC weapons and was THE only power in the Middle East. An Iran that has a stranglehold on OUR lifeblood.

    Oh, and, incidentially the complete and utter annihilation of Israel..

    You sure that things couldn't be worse??

    Please direct my tax dollars elsewhere than ineffective Middle East meddling.

    Ineffective?? Hardly..

    Our "meddling" served it's purpose. It kept Iran in check...

    Michale....

  57. [57] 
    akadjian wrote:

    How about an Iran that has a full complement of NBC weapons and was THE only power in the Middle East. An Iran that has a stranglehold on OUR lifeblood.

    So now it's NBC weapons? What happened to WMDs? Oh that's right ... they didn't exist.

    The utter annihilation of Israel? Sharia law everywhere? The world is going to end if Obama is elected President? Millions of people are going to die! Be afraid, be afraid, be afraid.

    And oh yeah. Do what we tell you.

    The end-of-the-world doomsday scenarios are getting a little old. Seriously.

    -David

  58. [58] 
    Michale wrote:

    Unfortunately, there are some of us who do not have the luxury of living in a rose-colored world where everyone is "excellent" to each other... :D

    The world is a dangerous place...

    "No country has ever been saved by 'good men'. Because good men will not go to the lengths that may be necessary."
    -Horace Wapole

    Michale...

  59. [59] 
    Michale wrote:

    So now it's NBC weapons? What happened to WMDs? Oh that's right ... they didn't exist.

    It's always been NBC....

    As for no WMDs in Iraq??

    You sure???

    "Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist."
    -National Ground Intelligence Center
    http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/Iraq_WMD_Declassified.pdf

  60. [60] 
    akadjian wrote:

    "This is a do-it-yourself test for paranoia: you know you've got it when you can't think of anything that's your fault."
    Robert M. Hutchins

    :)

  61. [61] 
    Michale wrote:

    "Of course I'm paranoid. Everyone's out to kill me!"
    -Garak, DEEP SPACE 9

    :D

    Michale.....

  62. [62] 
    Michale wrote:

    You seem to be operating under the impression that I believe that the US is blameless in all that has occurred in the Middle East.

    Quite the contrary..

    I fully concede our responsibility in the issues that face the Middle East.

    I simply maintain that the alternative to our "meddling" COULD have been much worse..

    It goes back to what CW said in this commentary.

    We elect presidents not just to be leaders on domestic policy. We also elect them to personify America to the rest of the world, and to be commanders-in-chief of our military. At times, though, we must allow them to be this voice to the world without knowing what is being said or done in private, behind the scenes, on our behalf as a nation. This is the way things are supposed to work.
    -Chris Weigant, CHRISWEIGANT.COM

    Amongst many readers here, it seems to be that most believe that looking out for the best interests of the US is somehow evil or wrong..

    But that is EXACTLY why we elect our leaders. So they CAN look out for the best interests of this country.

    Has it been perfect? No..

    Has mistakes been made? Of course..

    But I submit that, given the facts in the here and now, it's likely the alternatives would have been a lot worse...

    Like it or not, for better or for worse, in the here and now, the USA is the world's police...

    Don't get me wrong. I am ALL for a "world government"... A United Earth that will go on to create the mighty United Federation Of Planets... :D

    But, let me ask you...

    Would you want a United Earth under an Iranian style government??

    Or a United Earth under a USA form of government??

    Michale...

  63. [63] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I fully concede our responsibility in the issues that face the Middle East.

    Good for you! I do always appreciate your honesty, Michale.

    But that is EXACTLY why we elect our leaders. So they CAN look out for the best interests of this country.

    Also agreed. I think where we differ is what we both think are "best interests".

    This is probably a bit of a broad generalization but I think our differences could be described this way:

    1. You believe that the best option is always the "big stick"; or, the world's policeman, as others would say
    2. I believe that there are a wide array of options open to us and that it's not always in our best interests to use the "big stick" first; I see force as a last resort and one that long term can have more negative consequences than positive ones.

    Both of us believe in our country's best interests though and feel our leaders should act accordingly.

    Fair? Please don't hesitate to correct if I'm mischaracterizing.

    Contrary to popular Republican literature, most liberals I know would say there are times when force is necessary. We just don't agree with it always being the first option.

    I know, I know. It's just not as much fun as saying we're 50-lb cut-and-run cowardly weaklings :)

    -David

  64. [64] 
    Michale wrote:

    Also agreed. I think where we differ is what we both think are "best interests".

    Probably...

    But, as has been stated, we elect our leaders to determine what our best interests are..

    And, in times of national emergency, we should defer to those leaders and not question their motives.

    Fair? Please don't hesitate to correct if I'm mischaracterizing.

    Nope, that sounds about right..

    I would say the only difference is that, on the issue of Use Of Force, you would prefer to exhaust all other options in all cases whereas I maintain that, often, there isn't time to exhaust other options.

    Contrary to popular Republican literature, most liberals I know would say there are times when force is necessary. We just don't agree with it always being the first option.

    I disagree. Most liberals are your "Peace At Any Cost" variety and don't believe that force is EVER necessary...

    Now, if you were to change 'liberals' to 'progressives' in your statement, then I probably would agree with you.

    I know, I know. It's just not as much fun as saying we're 50-lb cut-and-run cowardly weaklings :)

    Touche' :D

    Michale.....

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