Balkinization  

Friday, October 30, 2009

Why An American Veteran Urges Us To Get Out of Afghanistan

Brian Tamanaha

Last weekend I posted about an extraordinarily courageous Afghan woman, Malalai Joya, who has criticized both the Taliban and the current government--the government we are fighting to save--for being dominated by rapacious warlords. For expressing these views, she was ejected from the Parliament and now lives under a death threat. Despite her personal jeopardy, Ms. Joya wants the US and NATO out of Afghanistan because our presence is fueling the bloodshed, prolonging and worsening their civil war, at the cost of more Afghan lives. A recent poll found that, consistent with the views expressed by Ms. Joya, 60% of the Afghan people want us to leave.

Several critics who commented on the post suggested that Ms. Joya is foolish or naive--that we can indeed save the Afghan people from their dual scourges (the Taliban and the warlords), and bring them freedom and democracy, if only more American troops were brought in. Given this apparent faith in the power of our military to work miracles, perhaps those who want us to remain and double-down on our commitment will consider the views expressed by Mr. Matthew Hoh, a combat veteran in Iraq, and former high ranking Foreign Service official in Afghanistan. As recently reported, Hoh resigned his position (despite career inducements to remain) because he thinks our mission there is fated to be a disaster. Here is an except from his resignation letter:
The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The U.S. and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soliers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified. In both RC East and South, I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.

The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency. In a like manner our backing of the Afghan governmnet in its current form continues to distance the goverment from the people. The Afghan government's failings, particularly when weighed against the sacrifice of American lives and dollars, appear legion and metastatic:

* Glaring corruption and unabashed graft;
* A President whose confidants and chief advisors comprise drug lords and war crimes villains, who mock our own rule of law and counternarcotics efforts;
* A system of provincial and district leaders constituted of local power brokers, opportunists and strongmen allied to the United States solely for, and limited by, the value of our USAID and CERP contracts and whose own political and economic interests stand nothing to gain from any positive or genuine attempts at reconciliation; and
* The recent election process dominated by fraud and discredited by low voter turnout, which has created an enormous victory for our enemy who now claims a popular boycott and will call into question worldwide our government's military, economic, and diplomatic support for an invalid and illegitimate Afghan government.

....

Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to conflict in an indefinite and unplanned manner that has become a cavalier, politically expedient and Pollyannaish misadventure.
Mr. Hoh is an avowedly gung ho American patriot who believes in the U.S. military and wants us to succeed. Ms. Joya is fighting for women and the Afghan people at risk to her life. Although coming from such radically different perspectives, their respective analyses of the situation are precisely the same. And both urge us to get out--Mr. Hoh for the sake of America, Ms. Joya for the sake of the Afghan people.




Comments:

A speech by Malalai Joya can be watched here.

It should be noted that there is debate, even among usual allies at this blog, on what must be done in this area. For instance, on the Laura Flanders show, Joya spoke one view, while a panel discussion involved a debate on the value and need of keeping a military presence there with competing views.

OTOH, I won't repost it, but in the last thread I cited (h/t Glenn Greenwald) a former Russian soldier's view on this subject.

Strange bedfellows all around.
 

The bottom line remains the same:

There are no valid military objectives in Afghanistan. It's a complete waste of time, money, and lives -- going on eight years.
 

Before drawing too many conclusions about the Washington Post write-up on Michael Hoh's letter which is published in full by the Washington Post here, it may be worth also looking at
this piece on the Huffington Post Basic Truths in Hoh Resignation Letter Were True When He Took His Job from which this passage:-

"It fundamentally harms the long-term cause of global peace if America permits itself to move through history in a remorseless, irresponsible cycle wherein a Bush-type leader launches reckless wars and an Obama-type leader yanks our troops out. No matter how much we want our troops home, it is immoral to throw a country into chaos and then walk away simply because we grow weary of that chaos."
 

Well the Russians started the chaos... or was it the UK?

Once we get out they can re-occupy the country if they're in the mood. A joint British-Russian occupation sounds like big fun.

You're smarter than this Mourad, get serious. We could talk about a joint US-India-US occupation to pacify Pakistan for example.

I mean gee, wars are more exciting when the other side can fight back, you know?
 

Charles, even if one accepts that entering into the mess was completely unjustified (and yes, I recall that you supported the intervention until it was obviously mucked up by the former administration), don't we have an obligation to help clean up the mess we've made?

On a side note, I'd like to know how well opinion polls work in an area where elections--themselves a measure of opinion--do not seem to work well at all. I'm not saying that 60% of the Afghan people don't want us to leave, neither am I saying that we shouldn't respect their desires. As a purely academic matter, I'm wondering what sort of precautions one needs to take to get an unbiased poll in a war zone.
 

Who is being remorseless here? Who wants to make it a habit of undergoing such a cycle? Who simply wants to "yank" the troops as compared to a careful withdrawal? Are more troops or even the current levels the only way to help the situation there?

Who is leaving "simply" out of weariness instead of the belief that the current policy doesn't work, is immoral, the people in-country don't want our troops there or some other reason?

So, yeah, I call b.s. You can oppose removal, think it's necessary morally to leave the troops in, but the language of that discussion is phrased in false dichotomy fashion worthy of some neocon we like to make fun around here.
 

"...don't we have an obligation to help clean up the mess we've made?"

No, we have an obligation to stop using military force irresponsibly and foolishly. We're the primary cause of the mess.

This really is not complicated PMS. Some guy rapes your daughter and wants to marry her so he can "clean up the mess" he made of her life; your advice?

I just wish I had a phone number for the Intergalactic Police. Stupid, wanton criminality doesn't get any more stupid or criminal than this nonsense. It's been eight years, and there is important something you should get straight: the chaos is not an accident even though it consists almost entirely of unintended consequences; GIGO.
 

Almost at the end of the previous thread on this topic, I referred to two articles:-

(i) by Robert Frost: Obama has days not weeks to decide on Afghanistan; and
(ii) in the Guardian: Obama must listen to Gen McChrystal and I expressed a concern:-

The problem for the Obama Administration appears to me the extent to which the domestic unpopularity of continued long-term "nation building" efforts will weigh in the decision process - the Lyndon B. Johnson nightmare. That public unhappiness is a consequence of the wasted years of Enduring Freedom™ and the lack of tangible progress. One can only hope that this Administration will not sacrifice the Afghan people on the altar of public opinion.

Very sagely, Joe wrote of that last comment:-

Since the public elects those who will fund this thing and will send their men and women to do it, a bit of kneeling down and sipping of the cup of public opinion will be warranted all the same. And, the public is getting legitimately wary of the whole thing, particularly because (1) "fool me once" ... (2) as this post noted (if one remembers it any more) many over in Afghanistan don't trust us either. It is unclear just what sacrificing means in this context, but public opinion will matter in the end and it should in a republican democracy. No trump, sure, but it matters.

and I am please to see that on this thread Joe continues in a similar measured vein:-

Who is being remorseless here? Who wants to make it a habit of undergoing such a cycle? Who simply wants to "yank" the troops as compared to a careful withdrawal? Are more troops or even the current levels the only way to help the situation there? Who is leaving "simply" out of weariness instead of the belief that the current policy doesn't work, is immoral, the people in-country don't want our troops there or some other reason?...the language of that discussion is phrased in false dichotomy fashion worthy of some neocon we like to make fun around here.

Both the USA and the UK are "representative" democracies. That means we elect our leaders and expect them to take difficult decisions on our behalf. Yes, they should have regard to public opinion, but were they to follow fickle public opinion slavishly, that would be an abdication of the responsibility entrusted to them.

Public opinion can be manipulated all too easily by those that have the money so to do. Remember the Powell Memorandum taken up and implemented by the Conservative foundations with a deliberate agenda of moving US public opinion towards the right? Is the USA now the better for that effort?
 

I'm thinking back to the late 1930s when I would spend rainy/snowy Saturday mornings at the Boston public library just up the street from where we lived. I would read National Geographic and learned of missionaries who went to Africa to help the natives, to bring civilization to them. These missionaries seemed like nice, well meaning people giving up their time to help others. Some of this help was in the form of proselytizing, perhaps as a condition of the help provided. In addition, the help sought to change some of the cultures of the natives.

Back then as a preteen I could understand humanitarian assistance. But I also learned that the natives seemed to be happy with their lifestyles, such as how they dressed. But such dress was "unchristian-like."

Some years later, I recall a popular song about not wanting to leave the jungle for civilization. This was a cute song with a good melody but it caused me to consider the situation from the perspective of the natives whom the missionaries came to help.

The zeal of the missionaries contributed to colonization. Did the eventual colonization of Africa contribute to the destruction of Africa?

Just Google "Bongo, Bongo, Bongo" for this song. There was exploitation back with the missionaries I learned of in the late 1930s and there is exploitation today with military missionaries as the military industrial industry marches onward like Christian Soldiers into war.
 

Charles Gitting wrote:-

"There are no valid military objectives in Afghanistan. It's a complete waste of time, money, and lives -- going on eight years...You're smarter than this Mourad, get serious. We could talk about a joint US-India-US occupation to pacify Pakistan for example.

and in response to a question from PMS: ""...don't we have an obligation to help clean up the mess we've made?" Charles responded:-

"No, we have an obligation to stop using military force irresponsibly and foolishly. We're the primary cause of the mess. This really is not complicated PMS. Some guy rapes your daughter and wants to marry her so he can "clean up the mess" he made of her life; your advice?"

Charles's web site & blog here does him honour and I do not doubt the sincerity of his views on the mess in Afghanistan, but I sincerely hope that by the expression "we have an obligation to stop using military force irresponsibly and foolishly", he does not mean that the USA should simply pull out of Afghanistan and leave its peoples to their fate among the chaos.

I would add that in quite a few cultures (including that of the USA) the phenomenon of what I think Americans describe as "a shotgun wedding" has been the norm until quite recently, in others it is still the norm and in yet others (including Afghanistan) the fate of both the rapist and the victim would be dire indeed.

I agree that military force should not be used irresponsibly and foolishly (as it undoubtedly was under the Bush Administration and by others before). Upping sticks and walking away would be just as irresponsible.

As for Harold Koh's resignation letter it is to be contrasted with the approach of the Irishman, Michael Semple,now a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School but who has some 20 years' experience in Afghanistan, latterly as head of the EU policy unit. Re-read Koh's letter and then watch this video of Semple speaking to students on 15th September 2009 Talking Helmand: The Political Officer's advice for armies campaigning in the Pashtoon heartland [warning - it's a 90 minute video].

Semple is particularly good on the fraudulent elections, Karzai's role, the changeover from Bush/Cheney to the Obama Administration and the proper role of the international community.

I suggest Koh comes across as naive - and that makes me wonder how he came to selected as a political officer in the first place.
 

Mourad may be mixing things a bit with this:

"I would add that in quite a few cultures (including that of the USA) the phenomenon of what I think Americans describe as 'a shotgun wedding' has been the norm until quite recently, in others it is still the norm and in yet others (including Afghanistan) the fate of both the rapist and the victim would be dire indeed."

The concept of a "shotgun wedding" in the USA seems quite distant from rape (Afghanistan?) with regard to which Roe v. Wade is available in the USA as an offset.

In the case of the role of the US in Afghanistan, is the "shotgun wedding" that of Bush/Cheney as rapist with Obama/Biden as the formers' victims? Consider the "shotgun wedding" of LBJ and Nixon on Vietnam and how that ended, not quickly, but with 5-6 years more; and consider the offspring of this "shotgun wedding" with what may be the offspring of the currently considered "shotgun wedding."

Will those invited to such a "shotgun wedding" be seated on different sides?

It's not easy correcting mistakes; perpetuating them makes things worse. Sometimes mistakes have to be aborted, even late term.
 

Harold Koh is resigning? Who knew?
 

Brian:

And both urge us to get out--Mr. Hoh for the sake of America, Ms. Joya for the sake of the Afghan people.

For the sake of the Afghan people?

Do you honestly believe that withdrawal of American troops would make life better for the Afghan people, apart perhaps for the Taliban?

If so, how?

Do you believe that the Taliban will stop attempting to conquer the rest of the country?

Do you believe life will be better under a full fledge Afghan civil war?

Do you believe that life will be better if the Taliban again rule the country?

If so, how?

If you cannot offer a legitimate scenario where the war will end and life will improve if the US withdraws, then stop using the Afghan people as human shields for your withdrawal proposal.

What then are your real objectives for proposing withdrawal?
 

Shag- I think the relevant lyrics are from the Clash

If i go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
Should i stay or should i go
 

Interesting segment on Rachel Maddow last night on the legitimacy under international law of drone attacks in Pakistan.
 

Joe:

You must be one of the three viewers who still watches Maddow.
 

I'm sure mls' reference to Clash was intentionally mischievous and misdirecting. See Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_(song)

I realize it's a jungle out there.

By the Bybee (unforgotten and unforgiven), Louis Prima's version is my favorite.
 

Our Backpacker seems to object to Joe's bringing up "the legitimacy under international law of drone attacks in Pakistan."

How about our Backpacker's "drone attacks" in this Blog? Fortunately, our Backpacker continues to shoot blanks.
 

Bart,

Those are fair and difficult questions. For most of them I don't have an answer.

Beyond my conviction that we should not increase our presence, and we should not remain for any great length of time, I'm not sure what we should do. It would be a disaster (for us and them) to pack up and leave immediately--and few people are proposing that.

As to when and how we should get out--I don't know enough (and am not smart enough) to say.

The bottom line is this: everyone with any familiarity with the situation insists that our very presence generates its own resistance (resistance not just from the Taliban). The longer we stay the more people will come to join the fight against us, both locals and foreign fighters, further destablizing the country (if that is possible given its already dire state).

As for the fate of the Afghan people, my specific reference was to Ms. Joya's views that it would be better for the Afghan people if we were to withdraw.

That would seem to be a surprising position for her to take, given that people like her (progressive) are likely to lose the most from our departure.

But her reasoning is that the civil war will happen no matter what (and has been going on in one form or another for about 30 years). Our presence is merely keeping it going, and we are adding to the death toll by bombings. As long as the civil war continues the Afghan people will suffer. She appears to believe that the war cannot end as long as we remain.

For various reasons, it matters which side wins, although both are terrible in their own way. The immediate problem is that the side we are backing, Karzai and warlords, are as odious to their own people as the Taliban are (see Joya). You know there is an extremely serious problem with the present government when Afghan people are beginning to look more sympathetically at the Taliban.

There is no happy ending here.

The question for us--assuming we are concerned about their interests and not just U.S. interests--is whether our presence is helping or making things worse. In my view, it is clearly the latter.

Brian
 

1. Joe:
(i) Sorry for confusing "Matthew" Koh - with "Harold" Koh;
(ii) Glad to note that you too partake of the Rachel Maddow Show; (iii) Yes, I think drones are admissible only as a means of surveillance.

2. Shag:

(i) You are my senior. I owe you the respect due to your seniority. Prithee, In the days of your and my youth, would you have advised a victim of rape to go though the procedure of making a complaint, putting up with the police and prosecutorial interrogations designed to "test the evidence",, and face cross-examination from counsel for the accused in a public court room knowing that every word would be in her local paper (or on TV) that evening? I am happy that we have moved on from that, but I still remember cases in the 1960's where the father put his daughter under pressure to marry her assailant rather than be stigmatised in her community.

(ii) The nuns at my primary school sold cards which promised that for every Half Crown (2 shillings and 6 pence or 12.5 p in post 1971 money) a black baby would be baptised and have our name. I bought some cards. So if you meet a confused Nigerian Roman Catholic called "Mourad" it may be that he went to a school staffed by the same order of nuns.

(iii) In place of Bongo Bongo try Flanders & Swann: The Reluctant Cannibal.

(ii) In my day, the expression "shooting blanks" had something to do with infertility. If dear Bart is thus afflicted, at least there will be no hordes of little Barts - which may be a blessing

3. Bart:

(i) MSNBC primetime has stomped all over CNN, and established itself as a solid number two behind the juggernaut that is Fox News. MSNBC was still the number one news network with people age 18-34. Countdown with Keith Olbermann suffered a 5% decrease in viewers, but put up huge numbers compared to the show hosted by Dan Abrams at 9 PM last year. Rachel Maddow’s show has continued to grow. Maddow is up a whopping 61% among views 25-54, and 92% in total viewers over last year. Maddow’s show continues to become a force on MSNBC. Maddow’s show is the fastest growing cable news show in its timeslot [Source: Politics USA].

(ii) I suppose from your many posts that you are a Faux News fan.

Perhaps this thread needs a moderator on Saturdays - along Joyce Grenfell lines: Nursery School: George, Don't do that! [audio only].
 

Mr. Matthew Hoh. :)

But, anyway, thanks for the opinion on drones, which particularly poisons the well for some.
 

I watch Maddow sometimes, too. She's smart, funny, and does not sreech at anyone. I don't assume she is an entirely objective reporter of news, by any means. On the other hand, I have seen her apologize for getting it wrong.
 

Let's assume we all recognize that the situation in Afghanistan is dreadful and admits of no easy solutions. Let’s assume, as well, that we all accept a few basic principles as prima facie obligatory:

1. You cleanup your own mess.

2. You do not make your mess in someone else’s country unless absolutely necessary.

3. If you have to make your mess in someone else’s country, you must take their interests and welfare into account every step of the way.

4. First, do no harm.

It seems evident that in Afghanistan, now, our presence is a source of the violence. There is reason to believe that our withdrawal would be followed by civil war [worse than it is now]. What are we to do, given the principles I have suggested we can all accept?

Although I am deeply committed to the first principle, it seems to me that we are not in a position to meet its mandate as we should and would like to do. I don’t think we can fulfill the third principle’s requirements, either; we are in over our heads and cannot manage all the variables.

So, that leaves me with number 4: Do no harm. We have done great harm, as well as good, already. At this point, I think the only way we can honor the principle is to slowly disengage, offering all and any support we can to those in Afghanistan who seek a reasonable peace.

I don’t like it. But we are causing continued harm to the people of that nation, and our people are dying as well.
 

Mourad:

Shooting blanks should not trigger Roe v. Wade and its progeny (pun intended). Nor should it be violative of the First Amendment speech clause unless in a crowded theatre, in which case it might be considered lewd and lascivious.

But growing up in Boston's Roxbury District in the '30s and '40s, a heavily Catholic neighborhood (dominated by Irish Americans and many Italian Americans), I was not aware of any shotgun weddings other than where pregnancy resulted from consensual relations. In case of rape, there may have been "street justice" invoked from time to time. I do recall neighborhood girls occasionally suddenly off visiting with relatives out of state. Abortion was treated as a medical issue, although it was frowned upon by many in the Catholic community. I heard stories of adoptions. But with my legal career that began in 1954, I do not recall the experiences you recited.

And I bought only baseball cards, so I guess there are no Shags other than those that have resulted from my own shagging. Alas, at age 79 I can't even shag flies anymore and when it's my turn at bat, ....

So who's the new moderator? I need a "hall pass."
 

Sir, I hope you do better research in your professional life.
He was not a "high ranking FSO."
He was not an FSO at all--no selection process, no A100 course, no commission.
He was a temporary government employee on a one year contract who happened to be employed by the State Department.
 

More on use of drones.

[Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.]
 

In the past I have pointed out that drone attacks in Pakistan are just as arguably "illegal" under international law as enhanced interrogation, and much more likely to anger the populations of Muslim countries. This wasn't a convenient view at the time, of course.
 

Professor Tamanaha writes:-

"There is no happy ending here. The question for us--assuming we are concerned about their interests and not just U.S. interests--is whether our presence is helping or making things worse. In my view, it is clearly the latter."

There is a potential happy ending.

If a truly international effort is made towards restoring order, reconstruction and what is sometimes derided as "nation building", a result can be achieved which will in some measure (i) mean that the lawlessness in Afghanistan and the FATA areas of Pakistan (and the two areas have to be treated as one because the Pushtuns do not
recognise the Afghan-Pak border) no longer represents a threat to international peace and security; and (ii) the situation of the inhabitants of both areas will improve.

It is, however, true in my view that there are many aspects of the past involvement of the USA (and to some extent the UK as well) which have made matters worse rather than better and as a consequence there ought to be some changes. I have set out some of the reasoning on the two previous threads but this would include:-

(a) Ending operation Enduring Freedom™. There is no good reason now for US forces in Afghanistan to be there under a different command structure and operating outwith the terms of the UN Mandate to NATO/ISAF. Enduring Freedom™ is a continuing symbol of the original unlawful invasion. It makes it more difficult to persuade other states to contribute to what ought to be a global international effort.

All forces in Afghanistan should be clearly identifiable as a UN-authorised force (symbols matter), with the same objectives and rules of engagement.

(b) Internationalising the contribution. Efforts must be made further to internationalise the military and police contributions. The effort is for the benefit of the whole international community as well as for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Therefore, more countries should be cajoled into contibutions - both in terms of manpower and it terms of financial assistance. For example, it is high time for the USA to cash in some chips from the states of the Arabian Gulf.

(c) Sorting out the civil power (see further post to follow).

(d) The rules of engagement should be reinforced to emphasise that this is an operation in aid of the civil power. The aim is to disarm (not assassinate) armed bands. There must be much more restriction of the use of air power and artillery. Drones for surveillance only. Much more attention to how military personnel appear to the people.

(e) Increased emphasis on reconstruction and development.

So, if matters are presently being made worse by aspects if the US presence, there ought to be a discussion about how that situation can be rectified, rather than simply opting for the superficially easy option of withdrawal.

The USA has generated obligations by its invasion. It now has to abide by those obligations, difficult though that might be.
 

Sorting out the Civil Power

There is a lot wrong with the Kharzai government. I refer again to Michael Semple's views of Kharzai as a master of Machiavellian intrigue.

As set out previously, I believe the Bush Administration backed the wrong horse. Matters are deteriorating by the day. See: Afghanistan poll chaos as Abdullah quits run-off and the quite clearly nonsensical Administration public reaction here Hillary Clinton: Afghanistan vote
legitimate even if Abdullah boycotts.


I share the reaction of the clever young man behind the Ghosts of Alexander blog:-

"Well, that’s wishful thinking on the part of Secretary Clinton. After the first round, there was no way that this process was going to have much legitimacy. As for Abdullah, the withdrawal from the run off election is probably the “smart move” on his part. Why accept a coalition or power sharing offer in a hyper-centralized state where you could (and would)be easily marginalized? And why contest a second round if you will just lose to the same machine?".

On 27th October 2009 the International Crisis Group issued this Alert: After Afghanistan's Fraudulent Elections from which the following:-

"The international community must now realise that stabilising Afghanistan requires a drastic overhaul of the institutions they have helped put in place and subsequently supported. These include a highly centralised constitutional order in which the legislature has been denied the tools to check an overbearing executive, and a neglected judiciary, which contributes to the climate of impunity and corruption fuelling the insurgency...

Afghans and the international community alike must set their sights on genuine political change. Vigorous constitutional reform is what is needed most now, and this can only be undertaken through a loya jirga (grand assembly)....

Parliament can no longer allow itself to be sidelined by executive power run amok in Kabul. Deliberations over constitutional reform are likely to be contentious, and possibly drawn out. But there are no quick fixes on the route to stability. Anything less than vigorous constitutional and electoral reform will only fuel further conflict in Afghanistan."


It may be time to engage in a trial of strength with Kharzai. If the international community is to continue to expend blood and treasure in Afghanistan, then it is entitled to set terms and conditions. The UN Security Council has great powers when there is a threat to international security. It can even remove a president and rewrite the constitution. Even presidents can be removed, exiled or detained.
 

Mourad:

If a truly international effort is made towards restoring order, reconstruction and what is sometimes derided as "nation building", a result can be achieved...

Your idea of international reinforcements to restore order sounds great. The Taliban and al Qaeda are a crime against humanity and I would love to have someone in addition to the Americans, Brits and Canadians do the fighting. However, your proposal is a bit short on specifics.

What other countries are willing to send their troops to fight and die in combat to restore order in Afghanistan if we end "Enduring Freedom" and put this operation under NATO rules?
 

I just watched a rerun of Bill Moyers' Journal of last Friday evening (10/30/09) and endorse fully his editorial commentary on Afghanistan calling for restoring the draft as a means for Americans to share the sacrifice that would be entailed with Gen. McChrystal's ball if Pres. Obama decides to follow McChrystal's advice.

(Can someone provide the link to Moyers' website for his editorial commentary?)
 

A link to Bill Moyers.

Mourad puts forth an alternate ending that some might dismiss as a "and can I have a pony too" scenario, but time will tell.
 

Shag from Brookline said...

I just watched a rerun of Bill Moyers' Journal of last Friday evening (10/30/09) and endorse fully his editorial commentary on Afghanistan calling for restoring the draft as a means for Americans to share the sacrifice that would be entailed with Gen. McChrystal's ball if Pres. Obama decides to follow McChrystal's advice.

Why would I possibly want the likes of BB and Gittings involuntarily drafted and put next to me on the battlefield? They would run away at the first shot fired.

Moyers is the last person who should be lecturing me and mine about the "shared sacrifice" of military service. Moyers and his family never volunteered for service when they had the opportunity. Moyers dodged Korea with a college deferment In contrast, every single generation of my family since we got off the boats has volunteered for military service.

If liberals are all fired up about sharing the sacrifice of military service, get your hindquarters down to the local recruiting station or apply for ROTC or the military academies. Otherwise, shut the hell up and do everything in your power to support the men and women doing the sacrificing to win their wars.

BTW, please spare me the litany of GOP Vietnam deferment stories. I am not speaking of the bipartisan and less than heroic act of legally avoiding the draft. I am condemning the hypocrisy of liberals who avoided service themselves and now self righteously argue that the military should involuntarily draft other people to share a sacrifice they themselves fled.
 

Re Bart's latest contribution:-

Bart should be aware that total forces under the NATO/ISAF mandate currently total 71,000 of which 34,000 are US forces.

Therefore if half the total ISAF force already consists of US forces operating under the terms of the current mandate, there should be no problem whatsoever in bringing the entire US presence under the same umbrella - unless of course there are special reasons why that should not be so - in which case one might very much want to know what those reasons are.

I am quite sure that if the President and the Secretary of State were to "work the phones" a little, they could obtain commitments for more contributions, both can be pretty persuasive.

More on Matthew Hoh.

A CNAS correspondent blogging as Abu Muqawama writes here including the following:-

"First, I am currently serving in a PRT in Iraq. I trained with Matt in northern Virginia in April of this past year before we both moved on to our respective assignments. Matt is a smart young man who has honorably served his country, but by no means was or is he an expert on counterinsurgency, Afghan tribal culture, or U.S. strategic policy....

Matt Hoh is NOT a Foreign Service Officer. This basic fact, central to the [WaPo] article and its headline, is wrong, despite the wording in his letter. Matt is a "3161" State Department employee, a special category of temporary appointments brought on for 12 month assignments in certain areas of expertise-- engineering, ag, business, rule of law, etc. Some may sign on for a second 12-month tour.

This is a very different thing than being an FSO-- a commissioned, career diplomat who is a generalist and is appointed not as a result of an online job application and single interview (sometimes over the phone), but after a series of competitive oral, written, and physical exams.

There are hundreds, perhaps over 1000, 3161s in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many, many of them are ex-military (having done multiple tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan), and have also faced combat, death, etc., just like Matt bravely did.

In my own PRT, we are rocketed frequently, have small arms fire, IEDs, etc., hit our movement teams, you name it. My point is that as compelling as Matt's story sounds to civilians, it is a fairly typical story here in theater, and by no means gives one any special insight.

There are so many people here with the same experience--or much more experience--that would passionately disagree with Matt's assessment. Maybe Matt is right; maybe not. But to present his memo and resignation as a significant event of a "U.S. official" with special insight is, with all due respect to Matt, patently absurd.

He is a de factor[sic] contractor that was on the ground in his PRT about 4 months! On that, one assesses strategic counterinsurgency??

 

Re Bart's very latest contribution:-

I did not have the pleasure of reading Bart's latest diatribe before posting.

I for one am quite sure that dear Bart heroically volunteered for Enduring Freedom™ as soon as it was announced. So why is he not blogging from somewhere in Afghanistan, which would at least give Mrs Bart some kind of a break?

Perhaps the US Army looked at his record and decided that they could scrub along without him, or perhaps they looked at his civilian record and decided they had quite enough "barrack-room lawyers" in the service already.

Or perhaps the Neocons decided he would be of more use as part of their propaganda effort and the set him to slave over a hot computer spreading "noble lies" over the blogosphere.

No doubt Bart will provide full particulars in due course.
 

BTW, please spare me the litany of GOP Vietnam deferment stories. I am not speaking of the bipartisan and less than heroic act of legally avoiding the draft.

Numbnuts, the problem isn't that Cheney avoided the draft, the problem is that he avoided the draft, but now is eagerly trying to start wars.
 

I for one am quite sure that dear Bart heroically volunteered for Enduring Freedom™ as soon as it was announced.

Even as the Army was having trouble finding recruits, and raised the age for recruits that it would accept, Baghdad Bart heroically avoided his local recruiter.
 

Mourad said...

I did not have the pleasure of reading Bart's latest diatribe before posting. I for one am quite sure that dear Bart heroically volunteered for Enduring Freedom™ as soon as it was announced. So why is he not blogging from somewhere in Afghanistan, which would at least give Mrs Bart some kind of a break?

I am currently 48 years old. While I believe I am still fit for duty as an infantry officer, the Army disagrees.

I served as an NCO in the 82d Airborne in the 80s, left to complete university and then returned to service as and infantry and intelligence officer in the early 90s. I left the service because they were drawing down the Army and denying my troops the training I thought they needed.

After the 9/11 attacks, I checked with with the Army to see if they would reactiviate my commission so I could serve a third time to defend my country, but the Army did not want 40 year old infantry company commanders.

I believe you posted that you served queen and country. However, I will not follow your lead and slander your military service or willingness to serve. Doing so would only show a definite lack of character on may part.
 

After the 9/11 attacks, I checked with with the Army to see if they would reactiviate my commission so I could serve a third time to defend my country, but the Army did not want 40 year old infantry company commanders.


Note that he could not find the recruiter when there was a good chance that they would accept his offer.
 

Bart is to be commended on hs readiness to serve his country.

I am surprised that he is against a draft, however. Why shouldn't we all serve our country for some period of time?

Most volunteers do not volunteer to seve in a specific war, so we cannot assume that every volunteer supports every war. If we are concerned with someone's being sent to a war they would not have supported, we should be asking all our volunteers about each war before requiring them to go.

Or, is Bart suggesting that only those who have been in the service should be in Congress and the WH, so that only those who were in some degree willing to serve will be sending others to do so?
 

One of the points made by Bill Moyers is that many who do join the military do so because there are no other jobs available to them. So in a sense, there is a sort of economic necessity for their enlistments and reupping. But might not the military benefit from college graduates or are many of them Cheneyesque?

Our Backpacker has some short military time in his resume that he can continue to flaunt at no personal risk while waving the flag for others to put their asses on the line.
 

So Bart did, as I suspected, heroically volunteer after 9-11.

And the Army looked at his record...

"I left the service because they were drawing down the Army and denying my troops the training I thought they needed."

...and decided they could scrub along without him.

Why am I not surprised?
 

CTS wrote:-

"I am surprised that he [Bart] is against a draft, however. Why shouldn't we all serve our country for some period of time?"

There are two views in the UK on this: the military and the civilian. We turned to all volunteer services a goodly while ago.

From the military point of view, it takes so long to sufficiently train a recruit that he is of some use and not a danger to others on the same side, that the military did not recover its training investment over the 2 years of our former compulsory service.

That seems to be the reason why advanced countries are nearly all moving to an all volunteer military.

There are those who call for a return to national service [the draft] as a part of "growing up", or of "citizenship training", or of "remedying juvenile delinquency" - they have a point. A period of disciplined service has its social uses. But in that case the funding has to come from the education or some such budget - not the armed services one.

Like the proverbial stopped clock, Bart is right sometimes.
 

CTS said...

I am surprised that he is against a draft, however. Why shouldn't we all serve our country for some period of time?

This libertarian loathes government compelled service to the state in all of its guises. Additionally, on a practical note, volunteers make better soldiers than draftees and not everyone has the right psychological makeup to serve as a soldier.

BTW, the last observation is not a judgment of those who do not have the psychological makeup to serve as a soldier. Most warriors do not have the psychological makeup to be social workers or artists.

I understand that drafts may be necessary to obtain the necessary manpower in a large war against an enemy offering an existential threat to the nation. However, it is never necessary simply to "share the sacrifice."

Or, is Bart suggesting that only those who have been in the service should be in Congress and the WH, so that only those who were in some degree willing to serve will be sending others to do so?

As a combat veteran, I would lie if I did not admit the idea offered in Heinlein's Starship Troopers where only veterans became citizens, voted and held office did not have a certain appeal. However, then we would have lost the services of many of our finest Presidents - Lincoln, FDR and Reagan.
 

Bart [to Joe]: You must be one of the three viewers who still watches Maddow.

To quote "Forrest Gump": "Are you stoopid?!?!?"

Keep pretending that MSNBC is irrelevant or insignificant. Not knowing your enemy is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. As for Maddow, she'd rip your head off, Bart, and have it for supper. That you don't appreciate this fact is all the more reason as to why she would do so.

Cheers,
 

Bart:

Why would I possibly want the likes of BB and Gittings involuntarily drafted and put next to me on the battlefield? They would run away at the first shot fired.

[...]

BTW, please spare me the litany of GOP Vietnam deferment stories.


Why? Because Armey/Gingrich/LimpBalls/Cheney/Dubya stories are embarrassing?

Because Operation Chickenhawk has shown that the GOP that you defend at every chance is a bunch of pansies?

Cheers,
 

Has our Backpacker forgotten Abu Ghraib and Bush/Cheney's "Torture R US" results with these volunteers?

" ... and not everyone has the right psychological makeup to serve as a soldier."

And how about the post-war syndrome of dealing with the evils of war, especially a war of choice?

By the Bybee (another neocon hero), Lincoln and FDR had drafts whereas Reagan did not.

And our Backpacker anoints himself:

"As a combat veteran, ...."

with a follow up DUI career as his contribution to society.

Here's our Backpacker's libertarian wisdom on display:

"However, it is never necessary simply to 'share the sacrifice.' "

Naturally; the libertarian wants others to sacrifice. Is this our Backpacker's definition of courage:

"This libertarian loathes government compelled service to the state in all of its guises. "

So offer, via the government, financial incentives to the volunteers who otherwise have no jobs opportunities, and adjust standards to satisfy the need for more bodies to put at risk.
 

This morning's newspapers will not make pleasant reading for the Obama Administration in Washington (or for the Brown Government in London).

The Independent's Leading Article Karzai is burying our hopes of ever leaving Afghanistan is not comfortable reading.

The New York Times analysis is no less negative: With Karzai, U.S. Faces Weak Partner in Time of War

With public opinion in both the USA and the UK turning against continued involvement in Afghanistan , the two major contributing nations to the ongoing intervention, today's leadership is yet again hoist with petards left behind by their predecessors.

A return to constitutional monarchy, might well have been a better solution for what remains an essentially feudal society outside Kabul than the "instant democracy" essentially designed by the Neocons of the Bush Administration. Above all, the executive presidency was a mistake. To those with a passing familiarity with the difficulty of making the antiquated US Constitution fit the needs of the 21st Century, that should come as no surprise.

People have forgotten that Afghanistan had a Monarchy and that under Mohammad Zahir Shah Afghanistan saw significant progress and stability between 1933 and 1973.

What is depressing is that much of the public debate is still being framed in terms of "war".

Enduring Freedom™ which was the Bush Administration's newspeak title for the invasion, is over. We are now involved, for better or for worse, in an attempt at establishing a functional and stable administration which will provide the people of Afghanistan with a better future.

The Independent newspaper today also carries a piece by Adam Holloway, a Conservative MP who is on the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, with a timely reminder about the need not to over simplify matters by equating the Taliban with Al-Quaida We need to understand what we mean by the word 'Taliban' ending with this:-

"The Taliban is no single group. It is just a label for hundreds of different armed bands. Fighting NATO is what unites them, not ideology. Most are ordinary local people. But their enemies'
enemy is their friend, so into the mix you can find many Pakistani Pashtoons and foreign Jihadis in the large "flying columns" that range across the south, organising and energising village militias. (According to the head of the Afghan intelligence service, "probably dozens of British Muslims" of Pakistani ancestry have fought in the country over the last four years).

A large proportion of the Afghan population remains deeply traditional and resistant to change. Important aspirations (for the West), like women's rights, will have to wait until the reality on the ground catches up There is a huge difference between traditional, deeply religious local people who fight against an invader (whether British, Russian or American) and Al Q'aida."


The Obama Administration is being put under intense pressure to develop more "instant" solutions to complex problems. I hope that the Administration resists that pressure. If nothing else, the past 8 years' experience of the toxic mixture of "divine guidance" of the "born-again" with the "noble lies" and the "Project for the New Ameican Century" should have taught us that the "instant" solutions are rarely the right ones.

Sometimes, in this imperfect world, there is no "perfect solution" and it takes time to arrive at a view of that which does least harm.
 

Take a look at Tom Engelhardt's "Too Big to Fail?" posted 11/1/09 at TomDispatch:

http://tomdispatch.com/
 

Perhaps I might question the use of the word "advanced" in Mourad's support of our Backpacker as a "stopped clock":

"That seems to be the reason why advanced countries are nearly all moving to an all volunteer military.

Maybe "advancing" is more appropriate in this day of neocolonialism.

Asian nation states should be focusing upon Af/Pak rather than NATO.

And here in the U S of A we can go back to "originalism" and its attitude towards standing armies. Yes, an all volunteer military can be more efficient than a draft. But there can result an "irrational exuberance" with the role of the military when the domestic economy is going gangbusters and voters do not feel any sacrifices not only regarding their children who do not volunteer but with their basking in economic bubbles. When the economic bubbles burst, however, funding the military becomes an issue. Perhaps too many voters are prepared to sacrifice the children of so few but reluctant to bear the post-bubble-burst expense of military spending. And perhaps there is a "military bubble" to be considered. But of course, that would be the military-industrial complex Ike warned of as he departed his presidency.

By the Bybee (non-military neocons all), Ike had a tad of experience with war before he became President.
 

But in that case the funding has to come from the education or some such budget - not the armed services one.

One reason why people go to the service now is for the education and other benefits not related to military service. Where does the funds for this come now?

I see the pluses/minuses to this, but currently we have a system in this country where people who serve in state militia instantaneously swear an oath of service for the national one. [see Perpich v. Dept. of Defense].

And, if nothing else, service in the state militia including for domestic defense and national emergency sort of things very well might be something that should be on an evenhanded basis.

The 2A, for instance, is in some fashion written in the mindset that an armed citizenry has a duty to serve in this fashion. Traditionally, you did not have an out here. The Framers even let off an explicit conscientious objector provision partially because of this obligation.

As to the lack of a need of a draft unless there is some existential crisis (like the first or second civil war, WWII ... um Vietnam?) ... the Washington Post apparently thinks Afghanistan is more important than health care.

Also, we are not just talking about the foxhole here. Mourad speaks of national building. This involves a lot more than fighting. And, there probably are some people who rather not serve on that front that militia-like might have some obligation to do so.

BTW, fwiw, Lincoln did serve in the militia as a youth for some minor Indian War. He was in Congress by the time the first serious war -- Mexico. FDR served in the Wilson Administration during WWI. He was 16 in 1898 ... don't think they needed to call him up.

Reagan was nearsighted but I see by his Wikipedia page that he had limited military service all the same. He later served in WWII in various non-combat roles. Some ridicule that, but it's more than a lot of conservatives do for the war effort these days.
 

Shag wrote:-

"But of course, that would be the military-industrial complex Ike warned of as he departed his presidency."

Indeed. Eisenhower, for me the last great Republican President, was certainly deeply marked by his WW2 experiences and he was certainly scathing about the Anglo/French/Israeli fiasco of Suez -and rightly so. Reagan's military service, through no fault of his own, was limited to the making of motion pictures to support the war effort. Nixon served in the US Navy - but saw no
combat. While George H.W. Bush had significant combat experience, George W. Bush's service in the Air National Guard did not include any combat experience.

Every year on Rembrance Sunday, the great and good of our land gather to honour our war dead. At that ceremony, led by the Queen, not only the Government, but all the leaders of the parties in parliament, the service chiefs and the High Commissioners of the Commonwealth countries lay their wreaths at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and the there is a march past of ex-servicemen. I well recall the first year of the Blair Government's participation in the ceremony. I was very much struck by the fact that the Government ministers had few service medals between them. Very few indeed. I remember thinking that for the first time since WW2 we were likely to have decisions about sending our servicemen into combat taken by people who had no actual first-hand military experience of hostilities.

I suppose that this is in one way to be welcomed inasmuch as the post WW2 institutions of the United Nations, NATO and the EU - all conceived by war leaders with first had experience of the horrors of total war - have saved Europe from a repetition of the total war (never actually experienced by the wartime civilian citizens of the USA in the same way as Europeans).

Yes, there have been regional conflicts galore, but no WW3. But I confess that my deep unease remains about "war leaders" who have not themselves "been there and done that", particularly when it comes to expeditions overseas when there are less drastic alternatives which have not been tried first.

I understand, of course that Bart's self-description as a "libertarian" involves a usage of that word in a meaning which is quite foreign to Europeans and which seems to involve coupling neoconservative foreign policy objectives with the strange belief that the very government they claim can't do anything right can still do a good job of waging war.

Well, "by their fruits ye shall know them": Enduring Freedom™ and "the Enterprise of Iraq".

When Bart's views and mine happen to coincide (i.e on the economic reasons for the military preference for an all volunteer service), it does tend to be a coincidence on the "stopped clock" principle.
 

Joe:

Almost every able bodied male was in the militia when Lincoln was a youth. The militia back then was not the same as joining the military for a tour of duty.

Reagan attempted to join during WWII against the threats of his studio. However, is eyesight was so poor he was not accepted. Instead, Reagan made propaganda films at Culver City for the military.
 

"The militia back then was not the same as joining the military for a tour of duty."

Under Moyers' plan, everyone won't do a "tour of duty" overseas either. Doing military service, including back in Shag's day when it was required as a general part of young adulthood, does not just mean that. In this day and age, even going overseas does not just mean fighting.

Serving in the state militia then and now included the possibility of being called up for federal service. In the Civil War, this led to great risk and loss of life. Some also died in Indian wars. Also, our independence was in part run by people serving and dying in state militia service.

Again, Lincoln and Reagan had military service. Reagan had military service before WWII too. If military service is a requirement, you still might do some civilian job (including serving in the navy department), particularly if you have a disability. By doing so, you served your duty of citizenship to serve the military effort.

So, again, Lincoln, FDR and Reagan did perform military service. The ability to fight alien bug like invaders is not the only way you can do that.
 

Mourad said...

I understand, of course that Bart's self-description as a "libertarian" involves a usage of that word in a meaning which is quite foreign to Europeans and which seems to involve coupling neoconservative foreign policy objectives with the strange belief that the very government they claim can't do anything right can still do a good job of waging war.

Europeans have not understood our concept of self reliance and ordered liberty since the Revolution. Euros look to the state first to solve their problems and only then to themselves. Most Americans outside the quarter of the electorate who self identify as liberals look to themselves first and to the government second, if at all.

Libertarians believe in maximizing individual liberty and minimizing government control over our lives.

Neoconservatives are modern liberals who did not join the left in isolationism after Vietnam and still believe in FDR style internationalism. These folks have very little in common with libertarians.
 

Most Americans outside the quarter of the electorate who self identify as liberals look to themselves first and to the government second, if at all.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 11:08 AM


Yes, that explains why public schools, Medicare, and Social Security are so unpopular. Wait a second...
 

Neoconservatives are modern liberals who did not join the left in isolationism after Vietnam and still believe in FDR style internationalism.

I realize that it's fun to co-opt the legacy of popular Democratic Presidents of the past like FDR and JFK, but you need to find a definition that leaves some space in between neoconservatism and isolationism for, say, the Clinton administration.
 

Neocons are prone to rewrite history to suit their views, and Reagan's military record is hardly exempt. The facts, it appears, are not enough.

What are the facts?

". . . his military service had been in Hollywood, making training and motivational films. Industry insiders referred to the duty station as 'Fort Roach' after [movie] producer Hal Roach . . ."

The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years
Thomas W. Evans, 2008.

"He spent the war in California making army training movies at a military base in Los Angeles, with time off to make feature films at Warner Brothers . . . Much of the time, he lived at home with his family. Despite his later claims to the contrary, he never left the country and never saw combat."

http://www.presidentprofiles.com/Kennedy-Bush/Ronald-Reagan-Acting-career.html

So, he got a cushy deal, but did at least show up and do the work expected of him, which is more than Shrub did.

But just try and find these plain facts on any of dozens of neocon sites. His record is worshipped and glorified and distended into painful positions: what a war hero he was!

And then there's the endless refrain of Ron's "extreme nearsightedness" that kept him out, although it was never a problem for him reading teleprompters.

My Dad had severe nearsightedness and astigmatism (I used to marvel at what the world looked like through his lenses). He was drafted, trained for combat, and sent overseas. The Army never mentioned his nearsightedness. Wasn't an issue, I guess. Any more than it was for millions of other doughboys who wore glasses and lacked connections.
 

Our rulers have nothing to spend on education
because all their resources are already pledged to the account of the next war.

Immanuel Kant 1794
 

Steve M:

Clinton falls in between the Neocons and his party's isolationists - he will use American military power so long as the chance of casualties are negligible and it will not offend anyone.
 

It's telling that Baghdad Bart tries to equate "isolationism" with an unwillingness to support idiotic wars.
 

So, Bart, I am utterly confused by your statements.

You claim that Moyer and others who did not volunteer for military service should not decide/weigh in on whether others go to war. But, you do not want to say that only those who have volunteered for service should be in a position to make those decisions or weigh in on them. This makes no sense. Is it that you only will allow conservatives/Republicans/libertarians to make such judgments if they have not volunteered?

By the way, I suspect the folks at VC would be stunned by your self-identification as a libertarian.
 

Shag says: Perhaps too many voters are prepared to sacrifice the children of so few..

Exactly. It is far too easy to be gung ho for war when neither you nor anyone you love will stand in harm's way.


Joe: If military service is a requirement, you still might do some civilian job (including serving in the navy department), particularly if you have a disability. By doing so, you served your duty of citizenship to serve the military effort.

Indeed. My father and uncle were both denied active service (one had lifelong TB and the other had had scarlet fever), but they were able to serve in other roles.
 

CTS:

I never said the citizenry and their elected officials could not decide whether the country should go to war.

I simply oppose involuntary servitude to the state in the form of a draft unless there is absolutely, positively no other way to win a war.

I also stated that folks who chose to avoid service themselves are in no moral position to demand that others be compelled to do so.
 

I also stated that folks who chose to avoid service themselves are in no moral position to demand that others be compelled to do so.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 4:27 PM


And yet you had no problem with the likes of Cheney and Bush starting a war with Iraq?
 

I also stated that folks who chose to avoid service themselves are in no moral position to demand that others be compelled to do so.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 4:27 PM


Who, exactly, do you think is going to be responsible for compelling others to serve in the case that we need a draft?
 

BD: I also stated that folks who chose to avoid service themselves are in no moral position to demand that others be compelled to do so.

BB: Who, exactly, do you think is going to be responsible for compelling others to serve in the case that we need a draft?


The citizenry who vote through their elected representatives responding to wartime need, not a subset of folks like Moyers who avoided service but insist that others be compelled to serve to "share the sacrifice."

Because he lacks the moral authority to do so, it would be politically impossible for a draft dodger President to propose a draft.
 

Ah. So, the issue is not whether a draft-dodger President or non-volunteering President/VP/SoD/ etc. send others to war, it is only whether such folks recommend a draft?

Well, I have to say, I care far less about those who recommend a draft to offset the injustice of sending only the poor to war than I do about those who do send people to war despite having made every effort to avoid that for themselves and their offspring.

But, that's me.

By the way, Bart, don't most libertarians hold that service in defense of one's nation is part of the social contract? In other words, that this is one instance in which one's ability to buy oneself out of something is not morally decisive?
 

Ok. I'm going to indulge my worse nature.
I have long wondered why Bart prefers Balkanization to Volokh Conspiracy as a place to present himself. Most of us prefer to spend most of our time in the company of those who will not deride us.

Of course, at VC, he is a little fish in a big pond, and here he is a little fish in a smaller pond. But, I have also noted that at VC he either gets ignored (except by Brett and the passing troll) or trashed.

I know JB does not want to ban anyone (though I wonder what happened to the really idiotic troll). But, it might invigorate discussions on this blog and expand the readership if either (a) Bart were banned or (b) we all ignored him.

I am inclined to the latter, so I will attempt to do so in the future.
 

CTS said...

Ah. So, the issue is not whether a draft-dodger President or non-volunteering President/VP/SoD/ etc. send others to war, it is only whether such folks recommend a draft?

There are a couple degrees of hypocritical separation between a draft dodger President calling for a draft and calling for a war to be fought by volunteers. However, a draft dodger President who avoided the danger of war comes to the issue of war with definite lack of personal moral authority. That President will not be given the benefit of the doubt and better have good reasons for asking to go to war.

By the way, Bart, don't most libertarians hold that service in defense of one's nation is part of the social contract?

It is my personal view that I bear a responsibility to do my part to defend and protect the freedoms my family and I enjoy in this incredibly blessed country. But for God's Grace, I could have been born in a totalitarian hell hole like Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

However, I have never read or heard any Libertarian opinions on the subject of personal duty to serve. The Libertarians have a far more absolutist opposition to a draft than I do, though.
 

The citizenry who vote through their elected representatives

The citizenry not including Moyers, apparently.

I hate to break it to you, but Moyers has just as much of a right to his opinion as you have to yours.
 

Because he lacks the moral authority to do so, it would be politically impossible for a draft dodger President to propose a draft.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 6:18 PM


But it's ok for people who avoided wars (bush/cheney) to start them? You have a very warped concept of "moral authority".
 

I have long wondered why Bart prefers Balkanization to Volokh Conspiracy as a place to present himself.

a) In Bart's mind "liberal" is a repository for his considerable anger and aggression.

b) This being a liberal law blog, it's a natural place for Bart to find liberals with whom to contend.

c) Since Jack Balkin, unlike Glenn Greenwald for example, hasn't banned him he is able to persist.

d) Battling liberals on a liberal blog let's Bart indulge his fantasy of a lonesome & heroic battle against the "leftist hoards." Remember Orin Kerr's words:

Bart,
I would be happy to help.
First, always add appropriate caveats and limitations to your arguments. If the law is murky, admit it up front: Never pretend that the law is more certain than it is. Relatedly, if someone points out an argument or case that cuts against you, thank them for it and ackowledge it: Don’t come off as if you cannot be moved by a good argument.
Part of it boils down to attitude: Be humble. You write as if you think you are the smartest and most principled person in the room, and that you are being unfairly victimized by the leftist hordes.


Interestingly, Bart thanked Professor Kerr for his advice... and has since completely and utterly failed to implement it.

Btw, it's an interesting thread with quite a few good comments:

http://volokh.com/2009/01/29/developing-a-comment-culture/#comment-499444
 

Baghdad Bart has also been getting his ass kicked at 538.com. It's amazing that he finds the time to help out the local drunks.
 

"Since Jack Balkin, unlike Glenn Greenwald for example, hasn't banned him he is able to persist."

No, Jack Balkin just stopped allowing comments to his posts. Thus, those who wanted to talk about his post citing Marty Lederman's brief in support of the hate crime law had to do so over at VC where Orin Kerr cited it and allowed comments.

The reason JB cut ALL the comments to his own posts is well known to all here.
 

Joe- are you saying that it is Bart's fault that JB cut off comments? Because that is not my impression at all.
 

Bart was shall we say the major catalyst.

With some degree of instigation, certain responses to his posts resulted in a back/forth that dominated many threads. JB got annoyed and did not see it worth his time to take some half-measures (e.g., not allow people to have names like BB) to try to save the comments.

So, no I'm not just blaming Bart. Blame, if we want to use that word, can be shared.
 

At least one other person was involved and might have added fuel to the fire.
 

mattski:

Thanks for the link [how do you keep track?!]; I had forgotten that thread.

I am going to recommit to not feeding trolls.
 

[how do you keep track?!] ... I am going to recommit to not feeding trolls.

CTS, I have a peculiar memory. Generally, my memory sucks, but certain things stick probably because they piss me off. :^)

As for engaging or not with certain folks I think I've concluded that this is an insurmountable conundrum without a right answer.

We have to go with our instinct, and it helps to examine those instincts quietly and alone from time to time.

Best,
Mattski
 

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