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Needless to say, I think Syrian intervention is a terrible idea. I think virtually all humanitarian interventions are terrible ideas, and these days they’re driven by a combination of several things: liberal guilt, neoconservative dreams of hegemony, and politics. None of these is even a remotely convincing argument for using force. I think the United States has had a fatally flawed doctrine of defense and military use since WWII, before and including which we fought wars to win them, and we fought them very sparingly. Since then, military force is merely another tool in the toolbox, something to be used narrowly. I was mostly convinced by the logic of striking Afghanistan after 9/11 (not so much for nation building and all the rest), but outside of that, none of our post-war military conflicts have been remotely necessary and few have been remotely successful. My white liberal guilt does not extend to the need to bomb foreign people for their own good, which is I think what this all boils down to.

So this misses the point:

The argument for intervening in Libya was not that doing so would turn the country into a peaceful, Westernized democracy moving rapidly up the OECD rankings. It was that it would prevent an immediate, enormous massacre of civilians. Libya remains an ugly place; it would have been so regardless of whether NATO intervened. But the narrow, humanitarian goal that drove the U.S. to act was unambiguously accomplished without the larger dangers of mission creep that foes warned against. It’s telling that, rather than arguing that the overall costs exceeded the benefits, opponents are resorting to listing any bad things that have happened since.

The list of bad things that have happened since could also be called a list of unintended consequences. The destabilization of Mali was a direct result of the Libyan bombing campaign, an unintended consequence but a consequence nonetheless. To ignore counting it would be deliberately obtuse and ideological. Of course, it’s possible to argue that decisionmakers could not have know about what would happen to Mali as a result of that action. This is fair. However, the conclusion to draw from this is that military action can often make a bad situation even worse in ways that are difficult to foresee. To use a military metaphor, let’s imagine that I managed part of a missile guidance system, and while my team’s code worked perfectly, in conjunction with another team’s code it had a tendency to accidentally explode once it was armed. I couldn’t very well say that my work was a complete success! In projects like that, you have a management team that make sure all the parts interact well together and avoids such mistakes. It’s not possible to do this so thoroughly with warfare, since there are far too many components to list them all on a flow chart, and all of them are dynamic and unpredictable. This is why people like Chait who see war as some kind of surgical tool that can be easily pulled out whenever political reasons call for it have been proven wrong every time from Korea onward. This has not dulled their ardor for bombing others for their own good, though.

Chait argues that people who grew up during the decade of military disasters known as the aughts have a skewed view of the value of humanitarian intervention, but considering how badly Clinton’s interventions went, and how horribly Bush’s went, and how poorly in an overall sense the Libyan episode went, I’d say that someone who’s based their philosophy of intervention on an outright fluke like Desert Storm that happened during their formative years might want to consider some newer evidence.

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Lev filed this under: ,  

Kathleen Geier’s nice post on the basics of transgender identity is good, though I think I take issue with the comparisons to the marriage equality and overall struggle for acceptance of gays and lesbians in the United States. There are, undoubtedly, some similarities between the two issues: long-persecuted minorities, misunderstanding and ignorance, and a perceived challenge to straight identity. But I don’t think the fights are going to take nearly the same shape, and I think the former are going to have a much harder time than the latter.

Basically, I see two major hurdles. The first is that there’s an order of magnitude less transgender folks out there than gays and lesbians, this means that there are fewer opportunities for them to just exist in peoples’ lives as normal people–probably the single best way of spreading acceptance–and, practically, it also means fewer wealthy donors who can exert power in making the issue a bigger deal with campaign contributions. Secondly, the basic concept one needs to grasp for transgender acceptance is a lot harder to grasp than on gay issues. On the latter, it’s fairly easy to intuitively believe that same-sex couples are no different from any other variety: just know some. With the transgender thing, it boils down to a (for most of us) non-intuitive nonalignment of gender identity, which is fairly easy to grasp intellectually, but a bit tougher intuitively. Kathleen admits she doesn’t really get it intuitively, and I admit I have to take it on faith myself. It’s certainly easy to imagine the public being educated to the finer distinctions of gender identity, but it’s a very difficult concept to grasp on that level. Sure, some people say that they can’t wrap their minds around two dudes hooking up, but at this point the people saying that are people who want not to understand, which is a a pretty good working definition for ignorance. But with transgender issues, it’s a genuinely difficult concept to grasp, even for open-minded people. To some extent it really does have to be taken on faith since it’s entirely in peoples’ heads. It’s certainly possible to educate the public better, and if history is any guide such an effort will eventually take after the normal cycle that starts with jokes, proceeds through a phase of being threatening, and ends with the shrug of toleration.

What makes me wonder is, who do conservatives go to after that to target peoples’ sexual anxieties? You’re really running out of viable targets at this point. Asexuals, perhaps? Except they’re not really all that threatening, lack any sort of a group identity that I’m aware of, and don’t seem to want anything. They wouldn’t make so good a target, though if you think about just how much society uses sex as a way to get people to do and buy stuff, not wanting sex would have to result in a pretty fucking different point of view from everyone else, gay, straight, transexual, right?

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Lev filed this under:  

Plain Blog has been discussing whether it’s right and proper to discuss the 2016 election so far in advance (really, he thinks its fine, though irrelevant). But I am sort of wondering why we’re getting this all of a sudden. What, 2012 wasn’t enough for you? The drudgery of every stage of that election sure sated my appetite for that kind of horserace for a good couple years. In any event, there was extremely little of this in mid-2005 so far as I can recall. What gives

My opinion on why is this: for one thing, nothing’s going on on Washington, so hacks have to write about something. Even when there’s something going on with Congress being in session, there’s not really anything going on. So it’s not crazy to start thinking about what the next phase in American politics looks like since the current iteration looks pretty damn stable, unfortunately, at least until 2016. Back in 2005 there was all manner of stuff going on, between Iraq, Katrina, and so forth, so 2008 stayed a background consideration until 2007, as it should be. I do also wonder if it’s because of a perception of change in the political winds: in 2005, the Dubya combination of hawkery with the occasional attempt to be a domestic policy president seemed like it had some juice left in it, more than it did as it turned out. The wariness of the Democrats’ base toward Obama’s national security stuff, and the shambolic state of the GOP just generally, means that 2016 might (or might not) involve some actual transitions in policy. It’s been known to happen.

Lev filed this under:  

…but I think he means that other thing. Via TPM, here’s GOP Congressman: Would Be “Dream Come True” To Submit Obama Impeachment Bill on BuzzFeed:

“If I could write that bill [to impeach President Obama] and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” [Michigan Republican Rep. Kerry] Bentivolio said. “I stood twelve feet away from the guy and listened to him. I couldn’t stand being there, but because he is president I have to respect the office.

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…but I think he means that other thing. Via TPM, here’s GOP Congressman: Would Be “Dream Come True” To Submit Obama Impeachment Bill on BuzzFeed:

“If I could write that bill [to impeach President Obama] and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” [Michigan Republican Rep. Kerry] Bentivolio said. “I stood twelve feet away from the guy and listened to him. I couldn’t stand being there, but because he is president I have to respect the office.

Continue reading »

…but I think he means that other thing. Via TPM, here’s GOP Congressman: Would Be “Dream Come True” To Submit Obama Impeachment Bill on BuzzFeed:

“If I could write that bill [to impeach President Obama] and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” [Michigan Republican Rep. Kerry] Bentivolio said. “I stood twelve feet away from the guy and listened to him. I couldn’t stand being there, but because he is president I have to respect the office.

Continue reading »

…but I think he means that other thing. Via TPM, here’s GOP Congressman: Would Be “Dream Come True” To Submit Obama Impeachment Bill on BuzzFeed:

“If I could write that bill [to impeach President Obama] and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” [Michigan Republican Rep. Kerry] Bentivolio said. “I stood twelve feet away from the guy and listened to him. I couldn’t stand being there, but because he is president I have to respect the office.

Continue reading »