Name that Scheme

by Kieran Healy on April 17, 2006

You sometimes see a rhetorical device were the author compares himself (or another) to some related group of people, real or fictional, and says that while one might have hoped to be _x_, it turns out one is actually _y_. So, for example, here’s one inspired by reading “Untold Stories”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0374281033/ref=nosim/kieranhealysw-20 the other night. “When I was younger I hoped I might be “Peter Cook”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cook, or even “Jonathan Miller”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Miller, but then I discovered I was really Alan Bennett.” As can be seen from this example, there is usually a strong element of faux-modest self-promotion in the apparent putdown, at least when the author is the subject of the comparison. When there is some other target, this scheme is a vehicle for insult. In these cases, the comparison individuals will be related not by a substantive tie but only by name.

Huh?

by Belle Waring on April 17, 2006

Relatedly, I am genuinely curious about something. Some people claim to fear a future in which citizens of the Western nations are reduced to “dhimmitude” by muscular Islamists. The first act of this tragedy is meant to be the excessive deference to Muslim sensitivities we see in US papers’ craven refusal to print Danish cartoons about The Prophet (now stipulate that I type PBUH in an ironic way) or Cartoon Network’s Comedy Central’s patent lack of cohones (yeah, man, they totally censored Buttercup from the Powerpuff Girls when…oh, no.) Act three includes women from Cleveland being legally required to wear burkas as their impotent menfolk look on. What the hell is act two supposed to be? Lots of suicidal terrorist attacks on US soil? Can anyone, reviewing the recent past in her mind, believe that this would decrease the American appetite for rizziping some shit up? Like, Indonesia is going to invade the US or something? Hitlery turns US soveriegnty over to the UN and they implement Sharia law using unstoppable black helicopters? I’m not being snarky here; I really want to know. Wait, that’s a total lie. I am being snarky, but I also want to know. WTF?

No One Is That Crazy. Right? Ummm…right?

by Belle Waring on April 17, 2006

One thing that strikes me as funny about this whole “let’s invade Iran” thing…wait, did I actually just type that? I’m looking at the desk and I don’t see any glass tube with burnt-up brillo pad in it, so I probably didn’t just smoke a glittering rock of yeyo. Probably. OK, nothing about this is funny except in a nervous, “ha ha I’m sure he’s just joking way” that one might employ if locked in a room with a drunk person holding a chainsaw and making jokes about how Texans love real meat. The warmongery is starting up, from Mark Steyn columns to “hawkish” “liberals” pontificating on how no options should be off the table (not even A NUCLEAR FIRST STRIKE ARE THEY INSANE???!!!!), to stop-making-me-commit-genocide wankery to credulous NYT articles to James Lileks relating everything back to this one chick who wouldn’t sleep with him was wrong about Iran in the ’70s. (You should really read the Vodkapundit post and accompanying thread. He says you’ll need a drink, and the man is not kidding at all. The story he links to [by Dan Simmons] takes grave misreadings of Thucydides to a whole new level, a category in which the competition is stiff. Simmons is sure to win this year’s coveted “Golden Hanson”. The trophy features a stern VDH uprooting an olive tree with one hand and hitting himself repeatedly on the head with an axe handle with the other.) [Edited for clarity–thanks tom scudder!]

Any minute now I’ll have to read from K-Lo about how hypocritical western feminists don’t care about women being oppressed in Iran. I can’t be the only one to find the machinery a bit creaky. Are the warbloggers’ hearts in it? The more important question is whether the US will really do something so extraordinarily, supremely crazy, but I’m firmly committed to lowering the tone at CT. If that means ignoring the important issues of the day to make mocking, ad hominem comments, then let the chips fall where they may.

No, the thing that strikes me as funny is that everyone who supports was with Iran is all about the “mad mullahs” and how they can’t be deterred by normal deterrance because they’re crazed jihadis content to incinerate their own country, plus OMG THE HIDDEN IMAM!!! The people making this argument now insist that of course MAD worked back when we faced rational opponents like the USSR or, you know, Mao’s China or whatever. But now, in a new era of crazy people having nukes, all bets are off. It’s like Iran is one big suicide bomber! The limits of the internet and my own laziness prevent me from researching this at all, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet that all these people (over a certain age) did not regard the commies as secular rationalists who weighed the costs or war carefully back in the day. Not at all. Much more of the “they’ve got a plan to retreat to their bunkers and sacrifice their own hapless citizens upon the altar of destroying America!!!” Just a theory. (Obligatory on-the-otherhanding: I’m sure some of the liberals now advocating deterrance railed against MAD at the time as an armageddon-hastening nightmare.)

Thread and thrum

by John Holbo on April 17, 2006

Atrios used to have those fine bits of poetry, threadbare from overuse. "He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument," etc. Now he just says ‘yeah, yeah, another stupid open thread.’ What with timezones, that’s all I ever see at the top of the page when I visit. Let’s see if memory and google can do better.

[click to continue…]

Last Word on Mearsheimer/Walt

by Henry on April 17, 2006

I don’t have much more to say about the Mearsheimer/Walt controversy, but I do want to point readers to this “blogpost”:http://jacobtlevy.blogspot.com/2006_04_02_jacobtlevy_archive.html#114437688320082488 by Jacob Levy, who has resumed occasional blogging at his old Blogspot account. Jacob’s critique seems to me to have Mearsheimer and Walt dead to rights – while I don’t believe that Mearsheimer and Walt are guilty of anti-Semitism, I do think that their argument is fundamentally flawed, as Jacob illustrates at length.

The core of the paper’s difficulty has little to do with Israel or Jews and a great deal to do with its core purpose. M&W are committed to the neorealist view that powerful states act in their security interest. They’re also, independently, committed to opposition to the Iraq War and to what they see as U.S. overreach in the Middle East; they think that the U.S. does not effectively pursue its security interests in the region. So there’s a puzzle, an anomaly– of their own making. If you are both committed to a predictive theory and committed to an interpretation of a particular case by which it falsifies your theory, then there’s a puzzle for your views, but not yet a puzzle about the world. They proceed to address this puzzle with a slippery– I do not say sloppy– ambiguity between explanatory and evaluative claims.

bq. The mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest to bring it about.

This is, I think, the worst paragraph of political science I’ve read in many years. The best, most-justified policies don’t automatically spring into being at the end of the policy-making process. An all-things-considered judgment that X is the best policy is essentially irrelevant to one’s ability to predict whether or not X will be adopted. … The snarky way to put it is: M&W treat their say-so about strategic and moral considerations as if it was naturally entitled to such overwhelming political deference that the fact that the polity hasn’t accepted their say-so is deeply anomalous. The probably-fairer way to put it is: M&W proceed as if the political system has some very strong natural tendency to reach true beliefs and justified policies about strategy and morality– such a strong tendency that, if it fails in some case, there must be an unusual explanation, such as an unusually intense and effective Lobby that includes people willing to deliberately place the interests of a foreign power over that of their own country, and that includes powerful politicians, media figures, and so on who can make their preferred policies come about.

NB – comments that veer into general discussion of the Israel/Palestine debate will be ruthlessly expunged as soon as I see them.