Thursday, March 17, 2005

Unexpected Wisdom of the Day: Machiavelli

I was doing a bit of reading the other day, and upon reading my copy of Machiavelli's Prince, I noticed a timely bit of advice. One caveat: The whole of Machiavelli's ideas are not to be completely embraced. He was after all, not the biggest fan of democracy. However, this tidbit from chapter 3 of The Prince, does serve as a sufficient counter-argument to that overused anti-war misconception that war is never the answer:

"Because the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them. there is no longer a remedy. Therefore, the Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others."

my emphasis added.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A word of advice...

For those who supported the Iraq war in the beginning, but are now unsure. For those who support the war somewhat reluctantly. For those who didn't and still don't support it, but have an open mind:

You really ought to read the Iraq War Resolution again. I'm serious. Read the whole thing.

Friday, March 11, 2005

War Crimes? Really!?

You know, I realize the war in Iraq is controversial. I gather that. I realize that a lot of mistakes have been made. Despite my cautious support for the war (I've had my concerns), I'll readily admit that mistakes were made by the adminstration. I've made clear that I'm not the biggest fan of Bush, and I had no problem backing Kerry this past election. My point is this: I recognize that there are those with reasonable disagreements with this war. However, let me say this without equivocation: THIS WAS NOT A WAR CRIME.

You see, I can understand people thinking the war was unwise, or unsound, or poorly planned in several ways (I'll cede the last one). But the only war criminal involved in this affair is Saddam and his rogues, and the insurgents and terrorists killing Americans, our allies, and innocent Iraqis.

I know about Abu Ghraib. It was horrible, but it hardly represents the actions of the whole military. I know about the pre-emption thing. I know about there being no WMDs. The lack of WMDs bothers me to this day. But, I'll say again. This war is not illegal, and I have a real hard time calling the liberation of millions of people, from three decades of tyranny, unjust.

Bush is not a war criminal, and certainly the troops aren't. Bush my be a self-interested, simple-minded, stubborn fool, but he is no fascist. He is no murderer.

BTW, he's gone in four years, so let us look beyond this, huh?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A Question of Values

As all of us must surely know by now, things didn’t exactly turn out well for the Democrats this past election. We can debate the size and scope of Bush’s victory, and we can agree that Bush’s “mandate,” is an overblown exaggeration. Regardless of how we slice it however, us Democrats took a hit last November. In the days and weeks following, the self-appointed experts of the political sphere made it their duty to inform us of why we lost. The Democratic leadership went back to the beginning, after having a sort of political “dark night of the soul.” “Did we move too far left?” Did we move too far to the center?” Did we pick the wrong candidate in John Kerry?” These are the questions we asked of ourselves, and others in the media asked. The right-wingers, in-between their fits of gloating and complaining (they’ve won, and they’re STILL complaining!), made up their minds that Bush’s victory was a rebuke of “blue state values, Michael Moore, the Clintons, the ‘anti-Bush Hollywood Left,’ and the so-called liberal media. According to the prevailing political wisdom, the Democrats lost on values. A question must be asked: What on earth does that mean?

Apparently, a lot of people in middle America were really upset that people had the audacity to question the policies of the President. The “liberal media” canard is an old straw man—the more things change, the more they stay the same. Conservatives have been at this for years, but the intensity has increased exponentially in the last few years. In the few months after 9-11, the country was for the most part, unified. One would think this would have lasted, but it seems that both sides are split like never before. In the realms of the lunatic fringe, it has always been like this, but even on the street, it can be brutal. Friends are lost, families are divided, and partisan division stalls those elected to do the people’s business. The debate over who is most responsible for the division could roll on ad infinitum, but it seems to me, that with a few notable exceptions, most of the criticism of Bush was policy-based, while most of the criticism of the opposition was personal, or based on distortion. Max Cleland was compared to Osama for questioning the President, Tom Daschle was compared to Saddam Hussein for opposing drilling in ANWR, and Democrats were labeled obstructionists for opposing Bush even an inch. Legitimate concerns about protecting civil liberties were dismissed as paranoia, and a whole host of pundits, activists, and Republican leaders attacked liberals and Democrats at every turn. Republicans cried about Michael Moore. Maybe sitting him next to Jimmy Carter was a bad idea. I’ll be honest, I have serious issues with Moore, but why does the Left have to rein in its extremists, and the Right gets a pass? Did Howard Dean ever accuse Bush of accusing Vietnam vets of war crimes? Did Al Franken ever accuse Bush of conspiring with the Vietcong? Need I even mention the decade of pure vitriol against Bill Clinton? What makes this even more absurd is that conservatives accuse the Left of being the haters.

After the election, conservatives complained about “anti-Bush hate,” and assailed the Left’s patriotism in the next breath. They gloated, arguing the Left’s supposed hatred of Bush sealed our fate. Consider this: How is it, that a handful of radicals can engage in real-live personal attacks (Bush is Hitler, Bush is a war criminal, etc), or even bash America, and the WHOLE group of liberals, Democrats, progressives gets blamed, but when practically every activist, pundit, and think tank scholar on the far-right engages in attacks, and they get a pass? O’Reilly says that Richard Mellon Scaife isn’t as far right, as George Soros is far-left. That really depends on one’s perspective, no? If Bill O’Reilly really were an independent, he would never utter such foolishness. Soros is certainly far to the Left, but Scaife is as equally far to the Right, and the only reason he doesn’t se it that way, is because he himself leans right.

Now, I’m sure you knew all that. The hypocrisy is well established in this situation. Conservatives didn’t consider what they said hate, because in their minds, it is all true. In the minds of the hard right, the Left really does hate America, and any criticism of Bush is seen as a treasonous attack against America, and American values. Now, perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, most mainstream Republicans and conservatives don’t think this way. My best friends are Republicans. It is those elites, the pundits, the think-tankers, the activists, the ideologues, for them liberalism isn’t just different—it’s evil. That being said, it’s no wonder that conservatives get upset when Hollywood makes movies. They say they hate it when Hollywood gets involved in politics. The truth is, Hollywood’s always been political. What they hate is that it’s not their politics. When conservatives speak out in Hollywood, it’s cool. When liberals do it, it’s treason. Since Bush represents America in their minds, an attack on Bush is an attack on America. That explains why all those Dixie Chicks fans turned on them after Natalie Maines said she didn’t like Bush. “Dixie sluts!” was the outcry. Hollywood Dems who backed Bush (i.e. Ron Silver, James Woods) are seen as heroes and noble outcasts. Dennis Miller says he backs Bush because he’s a patriot. Backing the President no matter what doesn’t make you a patriot, it makes you a sheep. Never mind that none of this seemed to apply during Clinton’s term.

So, let us return to the initial question of values. I’m an evangelical Christian, and a moderate on a lot of issues, so I don’t think we should ignore the values issue. It does no one any good to label all Christians and people of faith, as “stupid, right-wing, bigots.” That behavior is just as bad as labeling blue staters “godless, commie, liberal, elites.” I do however, think it is past time for someone to stand up and draw the line between those sincere people who want sanity and balance in the debate on morality, and those self-important, un-elected, self-righteous, moralistic elites, who think it their duty to define morality for the nation, assault every work of art under the sun because it doesn’t openly endorse conservatism, and use wedge issues to divide and conquer. Christianity is not conservatism, and vice versa. We need to rise up and declare that the sum total of moral values is not simple opposition to gay marriage and abortion. The Taliban opposes gay marriage and abortion. Are we to follow their example? Strong families. A sound economy. Healthcare. Education. Equal rights. A sound and effective foreign policy. Fighting poverty. Protecting the environment. Civil rights and liberties. Free speech. Truth in government. These are all moral values too.

The Democrats don’t need to move to the Left, or to the Center. The Democratic Party is a Center-Left party. We need to stop trying to out-Republican the Republicans. We need to define issues. We need to move beyond simple opposition and take a stand. We’ve misunderstood red-state voters, while the Republicans have used them for their own political gain. Bush’ll be gone in four years. We’ll survive Bush. At the end of the day, the ideologues will fight each other, while the rest of us will take the Party back, and win this thing for America.