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Rationality and the Mob
September 13, 2012 4:48 AM   Subscribe

Good Fighter, Can’t Cheerlead Worth A Damn. The War Nerd writes an insightful piece on why Obama doesn't get much credit for military successes.
posted by jaduncan (117 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I like to think of them grumbling about it now, a bunch of youngish dressy-casual technocrats drowning their sorrows in frappucinos at some suburban DC Starbucks, counting off their so-what accomplishments: “We got out of Iraq … not one American killed there this year; we took down Qaddafi without one single American casualty; we killed bin Laden right in front of the Pakistani Army and got away with it; what does a C-in-C have to do to get a little respect around here?”

"The answer is: He has to look convincing when he holds our enemy’s head up on a stick and shows it to the crowd, all drippy and drawing flies. That’s what we want, and Obama, with all that creepy self-control, is the last guy you’d pick for that job."

posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The answer is: He has to look convincing when he holds our enemy’s head up on a stick and shows it to the crowd, all drippy and drawing flies. That’s what we want, and Obama, with all that creepy self-control, is the last guy you’d pick for that job."

Also, sort of awkward for a Nobel Peace Prize winner. (The Nobel crowd, on the other hand, are less squeamish about cold-blooded master assassins: cf. Kissinger, Henry)
posted by Skeptic at 5:17 AM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know that disclaimer "For Novelty Purposes Only", that you see on fake diplomas or edible underwear? They should probably put one on the War Nerd's columns as well.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:21 AM on September 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


I am pretty sure Obama doesn't cheerlead military successes because Obama doesn't like military successes.

They represent a failure of diplomacy and reason. I don't want to see a parent seek a high-five for using physical force on a child who won't behave -- that parent has failed and should be ashamed, not proud, of reaching for the stick. Why should a reasonable, modern nation shout about its military triumphs? We should not be warlike, we should be peace-like, and triumph when mere words and kindness win the day.

That's the kind of C-in-C I want -- one who is uneasy with the use of force, and does so reluctantly yet competently, and is more than anything else relieved -- not exultative -- when it's over.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:22 AM on September 13, 2012 [120 favorites]


And the other tribe, the flyover state white glob I come from, would sooner comp bin Laden a suite in Vegas than give Obama any creds for taking him down. They sulked through it like a confused, hungover Pillsbury doughboy; the way they saw it, Obama got bin Laden on a technicality. There’s always been a lot of Osama/Obama blur in the way they see things, and they might’ve been happier if it’d been Osama zapping that snotty Hawaiian instead of the other way around.

This struck me as the heart of the matter -- basically, there are huge numbers of Americans (comprising those who desperately need "an enemy to defeat" than "a problem to solve") who, in order to give Obama credit, would have to face themselves, actually look at the world, and grow the fuck up. Obviously, pretending that it hasn't happened is more psychologically rewarding, just the way that accepting that you will never be rich so worrying about the "plight" of the ultra-wealthy is kind of self-defeating is harder than just "hating on the socialists."

And this is not just "flyover state white blobs." I've seen the same crap on the Coasts, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:25 AM on September 13, 2012 [18 favorites]


The answer is: He has to look convincing when he holds our enemy’s head up on a stick and shows it to the crowd, all drippy and drawing flies. That’s what we want, and Obama, with all that creepy self-control, is the last guy you’d pick for that job.

Speak for yourself. That's the last thing I want in a leader.
posted by Kevtaro at 5:26 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I see it costs $3 per month to subscribe to the site. Trolling for cash?
posted by DanCall at 5:28 AM on September 13, 2012


That's the kind of C-in-C I want -- one who is uneasy with the use of force, and does so reluctantly yet competently, and is more than anything else relieved -- not exultative -- when it's over.

You have one. But I think that Dolan has a point that Obama's unpopularity is not just about race, given that Gore only won 37.5% of the White Male vote whilst also being a peace loving policy wonk.

It's not talking about desirability (my word, you think that Dolan wants Bush III?) but about the political id.
posted by jaduncan at 5:29 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


So a good chunk of the population is disappointed and angry that someone who has wrestled all his life with being an Other, and with the underpinnings of Othering, refuses to engage in that behavior?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:36 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gary Brecher is the ultimate Keyboard Kommando:
While Brecher lacks military experience or formal training in war, he has credited himself as self-educated out of a personal, lifelong obsession with warfare. He has also described himself as a fat slob who spends approximately eight hours a day on the internet searching for war news. Brecher describes himself as a "war nerd".
War is shit, it sucks. It needs zero "cheerleaders." That was the last lot and look what that got us.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:38 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The War Nerd is to war what Film Crit Hulk is to film criticism. He's actually quite savvy, once you accept the schtick.

I thought this was one of his best articles in a while. Obama has all the victories that any conservative could want on paper, but he clearly does not take any joy in them, nor does he want the American public to take much joy in them.

Is this the wise attitude of a rational person who dislikes war? Is Obama the Carpenter to Bush's Walrus: no better morally, but just making a better show of it?

Hell, isn't it true that much of the American public actually quite likes war? After all, wasn't a big concern of the pre-9/11 neocons that our domestic prosperity would make us lazy and decadent?

All of this also reminds me of a bit from The Submerged State. In 2009, Obama cut taxes for 95% of Americans, but most Americans are unaware of this. Why? Because they downplayed it, on purpose. The Obama administration relied on teachings from behavioral economics, which said that tax cuts would better invigorate the economy if they gradually snuck up on people. Compare this with how Bush's tax cuts came as a lump sum, which many people promptly dumped into their student loans, or whatever.

This worked splendidly from an economic point of view, but it's a problem from a political point of view - almost nobody thinks that Obama lowered their taxes, even though it's true for 95% of working Americans. That's quite a pickle when it comes to Obama's populist cache.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:41 AM on September 13, 2012 [26 favorites]


The War Nerd is to war what Film Crit Hulk is to film criticism. He's actually quite savvy, once you accept the schtick.

Exactly. If you can't read past the surface persona, then you really aren't getting the War Nerd. Don't think that that persona is there for the author to make fun of though.
posted by pharm at 5:45 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gary Brecher is the ultimate Keyboard Kommando

Gary Brecher is not a real person, Ironmouth. He is a literary construct.
posted by jaduncan at 5:45 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


War is shit, it sucks. It needs zero "cheerleaders." That was the last lot and look what that got us.

The War Nerd is a character. He's speaking for the id of amateur war obsessives. Neither you nor I want war cheerleaders and confetti parades, but many other people do.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:46 AM on September 13, 2012


But I think that Dolan has a point

I didn't know that. This is a real life "actually is Dolan" moment.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:47 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


seanmpuckett:
"That's the kind of C-in-C I want -- one who is uneasy with the use of force, and does so reluctantly yet competently, and is more than anything else relieved -- not exultative -- when it's over."
Kevtaro:
"Speak for yourself. That's the last thing I want in a leader."
Ironmouth:
"War is shit, it sucks. It needs zero "cheerleaders." That was the last lot and look what that got us."
From TFA: Obama’s liberal fans couldn’t cheer because they have some taboo about parading around with your enemy’s head on a stick.

In other words, he's not talking about you.
posted by charred husk at 5:48 AM on September 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


he’s worse than nothing as a cheerleader

But isn't this, like, really, really accurate? To the extent that he's done good work in foreign policy, he really doesn't like to brag about it. And his signature domestic accomplishment, the health care law? The passage of which probably led to the 2010 GOP wave? Still unpopular, going on three years later. Today, a majority of Americans seem to want to move on, but a majority still don't like it.

Simply put, Obama has proved singularly incapable of getting Americans to like the stuff he's doing. And yelling about how that's because Americans are just racist rednecks doesn't change that fact.
posted by valkyryn at 6:02 AM on September 13, 2012


Simply put, Obama has proved singularly incapable of getting Americans to like the stuff he's doing.

Even when Americans are in favor of what's been done.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:07 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


War is shit, it sucks. It needs zero "cheerleaders." That was the last lot and look what that got us.

Umm. That's the entire point of the column. War Nerd is very Hobbesian - he writes from a bitter, cynical and uncharitable perspective. This is OK, as Gary Brechter is a fictional character; he gets to say the horrible things we sometimes feel but won't speak aloud, but he also doesn't pretend they're anything but horrible.

War shouldn't be candycoated with flags and parades and noble posturing - and the War Nerd does a very, very, very good job of stripping away the pretenses and phony fronts.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:14 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


While the Gulf War ran from 2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991, Operation Desert Storm lasted 1 month, 11 days. Do you remember how much Ho-rah USA there was? The return of the Yellow Ribbon, with Support Our Troops printed on the mass-produced bits and bobs? Then again, it's a lot easier to get excited about a one-sided war that showed off our technical prowess at destroying enemy targets at a distance, in the dark, without US causalities. My wife still has Desert Storm stickers somewhere, the kind of thing you could get from a quarter machine back in the early 1990s.

Then again, the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been clouded by the questionable means of entry into battle, mysterious WMDs, and the pompous "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and the idiotic Mission Accomplished speech on an aircraft carrier. Following Bush II, Obama's tactic of not making a spectacle of war was the decent thing to do, but I'll agree with the OP, not something that helps him win re-election from the chickenhawks who love blood and a showy victory.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:17 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama is running ahead of Romney on foreign policy. Romney's main line of attack is an obvious fantasy -- "Obama is always apologizing for America, I will never apologize" -- and it has not been particularly effective outside of the disturbingly large segment of population that would be happy to vote for Sarah Palin or Herman Cain or Donald Trump over Obama. The people who don't give Obama credit for military successes would never give him credit for anything, no matter how popular. He could even kill Osama bin Laden and it wouldn't matter!

This is not about Obama.
posted by leopard at 6:25 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I mean the real 99% of us living our rotten lives out there, mean and dumb and miserable, just waiting for some gore we can really get behind.

That's where I stopped reading.
posted by blendor at 6:27 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"He has to look convincing when he holds our enemy’s head up on a stick and shows it to the crowd, all drippy and drawing flies."

Well, no. He should delegate that task to a rabid staff member, and hold his leash during the display.
posted by klarck at 6:28 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Simply put, Obama has proved singularly incapable of getting Americans to like the stuff he's doing.

If no one likes what he's doing, and unemployment is high and the economy is growing at a miserable pace, then he must really be dreading the upcoming election... that at this point he's clearly favored to win.
posted by leopard at 6:30 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Quite a lot of smart and accurate stuff in this column.

A war chief doesn’t have to win; only a wonk’s view of the world would see things that way. A war chief has to look like a war chief and talk like one.

Yup. Tribal blood lust is a deep and abiding part of the human character, and the tiny minority of college-educated smarties who insist that it's an anachronism are fooling themselves. Their bullshit is all the clearer when you see the unmistakable gleam of killing fury in their eyes while tearing into racist relatives.

Everybody says it’s race, but that’s not exactly right. Suppose Samuel L. Jackson was president when the SEALs got Osama; I guarantee you, even the nastiest racists you can find — like, say, a tow-truck driver in SE Missouri — would be man-crushing Samuel L. when he went on tv to do a death gloat over Osama, hugging the widescreen at the vision of a big angry black dude, OUR angry black dude, spitting on Osama’s bloody corpse.

Obama’s from a way smaller and less popular minority: the sane, self-controlled type.


Yup. Remember Al Gore? Same set of problems (and similarly would've won by a narrow margin without the court overturning his election). The funny thing about this election is that Romney is more like Obama than he isn't---Romney is a sane, self-controlled, technocratic guy, who's visibly embarrassed by pandering to blood-lusters. But unlike Obama, Romney has never backed away from dong things that make him feel and look ridiculous, which is why he looks ridiculous so much of the time.

You wouldn’t find Rove waste time pandering to a tiny, weak minority like the sane people. There’s no future in it. The dumbest kid in school knows that much.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:40 AM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


klarck: "Well, no. He should delegate that task to a rabid staff member, and hold his leash during the display."

Is that not what Biden did just last week?
posted by mkb at 6:43 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Simply put, Obama has proved singularly incapable of getting Americans to like the stuff he's doing.

Only if you're defining "Americans" as "people who agree with me"--which, I guess, is pretty much what the Republicans have consistently done for a long time now.

FiveThirtyEight--the best source available for polling data analysis--currently has Obama's chances of winning the election at over 80%.
posted by yoink at 6:44 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have seen war nerd before but not the nfswcorp. When I clicked on the homepage to figure out if it was eXile repackaged there was a login screen. I doubt I will be looking at nfswcorp again any time soon.
posted by bukvich at 6:46 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


But unlike Obama, Romney has never backed away from dong things

Whoa! What, pray tell, are "dong things"?
posted by grubi at 6:47 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jesus, America. If this moppet is any indication, you are well and truly fucked. Good luck!
posted by clvrmnky at 6:47 AM on September 13, 2012


Man. You guys are like... professional Dolan trolling victims.
posted by zvs at 6:55 AM on September 13, 2012 [18 favorites]


The language that the commentator uses is colorful but the idea that there is some power in appealing to primitive tribal instinct is probably true to some degree. We like to other people and associate ourselves with the winning tribe whether it's a football team or a nation state. Jingoistic nationalism is quite strong in the US and more than few people do tend to view these conflicts as US against Them, with Them being the mysterious Other. That's why crap like "you are either with us or against us" resonated so well with a certain percentage of the population and why both parties tend to make some efforts to compete for the "America Fuck Yeah!" population.

Obama isn't the bloodthirsty despot holding up the head of our enemies, or the rah-rah team Mission Accomplished sort of cheerleader. He and his team want to go with the quiet respectful, introspective approach that acknowledges our successes but also acknowledges the loss of life in achieving those successes. To some people that sort of graceful magnanimity is seen as weakness.

I don't think that percentage of the population is as large as the commentator suggests but it's incredibly vocal at times and like the boorish guy at a party, the rest of the US kinda just rolls it's eyes and shakes it's head and doesn't say anything because they secretly wish the guy would just shut up already.
posted by vuron at 6:59 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come on people, read the comments and do a quick google search. The War Nerd is a fictional perspective, not a sign that we are well and truly fucked . This is my first time bumping into the character but my first thought was that it struck me as the type of column I could picture Joker from Full Metal Jacket writing. It's written in a way that suggests that the character is both invested, emotionally and otherwise, in war while remaining detached enough to see it as ridiculous. The resulting horror of that cognitive dissonance (attempting to reconcile both the perceived necessity and the definite absurdity) is a fascinating lens through which to view the conflicts of today. In other words: this.
posted by sendai sleep master at 7:01 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised at the negative reactions to this column. Sure, the stuff he says is distasteful, but it's not untrue. America is one of the more vocally, publicly patriotic countries in the world. Not to say other countries aren't patriotic, but Country, Flag, Freedom aren't religious totems. Americans want a leader who is going to toot America's horn. They want a guy who yells "AMERICAAAAA FUCK YEAH" seriously and unapologetically. They want parades, spectacle, and all of those things that play into the idea that America is The Greatest Country Ever and we are the Greatest, Most Freedom-Loving People Ever.

So when a guy is objectively militarily successful, when he is filling the America Fuck Yeah fever dreams of taking out the terrarists and horrible dictators and giving freedom to the barbarians and he DOESN'T whip out the Mission Accomplished banner and fly in on a fighter jet first everyone is weirded out and confused. Then they start thinking that maybe it's because there's something wrong (Osama isn't dead! the Libyans actually hate us! Obama is weak!) and start finding things to criticize. Because if it was going well then there'd be confetti and fireworks, right?

Same goes for all of his other accomplishments. We're taught that sure, you don't want to be crass about winning--but in between all of the faux-humility where you thank everybody who got you there and your mom and Jesus you pass on the secret wink that says "Aren't I awesome? Aren't I fantastic? Aren't I everything you want to be, and aren't you amazing for helping my amazing self--nay, just for witnessing me win?"

Obama is not terribly good at making Americans feel good about themselves. And that's why it's so easy for Americans to dismiss everything he does. Because if he was doing something good for the country we'd all be feeling really good about it, right?
posted by schroedinger at 7:10 AM on September 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Well, no. He should delegate that task to a rabid staff member, and hold his leash during the display.

No. To continue the War Ner'd metaphor, that's Crust Talk that comes from Crust thoughts (as is this entire thread) and it's stupid and blinkered. Let's be crusties together and unpack this iconography: By giving such a task to a subordinate, Obama would imply it is beneath his responsibilities; by putting him on a leash he literally distances himself from the display of bloodlust and dominance, and also by leashing what is "rabid" he demonstrates he has control over this otherwise dangerous beast, that it will not be allowed to run free. The avatar of the Superego. The totality of the message is one of disdain and disgust for bloodlust, holding yourself apart from it; yet cynical enough to use it when it serves your purpose. What it says, to the crowd, is "I know you desire this. But I am not one of you."

Nobody runs screaming into battle after a guy who makes clear he considers himself not a part of them, above them, disdains them and their low passions. A leader cannot create a bond with the people if he holds himself apart from them; to tap into that you've got to show you're part of it, embrace it.

We crusties can't wish that away. It's a real thing, and it's powerful, and it's part of us. You can't kill the monkey. And Obama is bad at it. This may make other countries like him a lot better than some of his predecessors. But it's always going to give him trouble internally. Hell, you even see it here on the rarified iceberg of pumice that is metafilter --- how often have people complained of his lack of fire, how they wanted him to yell at the Republicans or indite Cheney as a war criminal or throw bankers in jail, begging for, pleading for a little chest-thumping, "we won so we get to do what we want and fuck you".

Obama may turn out to be one of our better presidents. But he won't do it as a populist. He's pathologically cool.
posted by Diablevert at 7:15 AM on September 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


So what's the hierarchy of unelectability in the U.S.?

atheist < pacifist < communist ?

Weren't people just commenting on the embarassment that was Kerry's militaristic displays? Did the "read meat" voters turn out for him? Why should Obama trade away whatever support he's already got that the two party system hasn't nailed to his door for a little grudging "respect" from his opponents?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:17 AM on September 13, 2012


Obama is not terribly good at making Americans feel good about themselves.

This makes no sense at all, unless by "Americans" you mean "Republicans." But why would you confuse these two terms?

Obama, the first black President of the United States, the Harvard-educated Constitutional Law professor, the inspiring orator who went from the Illinois State Senate to the Presidency in four years, has been extraordinarily good at making many Americans feel good about themselves.
posted by leopard at 7:19 AM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Once again, the War Nerd gets it right.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:28 AM on September 13, 2012


I feel fine. You guys?
posted by grubi at 7:29 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


leopard:
"This makes no sense at all, unless by "Americans" you mean "Republicans." But why would you confuse these two terms?"
Exaggeration is part of the War Nerd's schtick. Obviously 99% of Americans aren't upset about Obama's lack of bloodlust.
posted by charred husk at 7:30 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jon Steward Mocks Democrats DNC Bin Laden Bragging

The Democratic National Convention was basically a dry seminar about public policy. It certainly featured no crass emotional appeals. Not to "Americans" anyway.
posted by leopard at 7:31 AM on September 13, 2012


. . . You guys do realize that the decidedly liberal, educated, let's-hold-hands-and-think-about-this demographic that represents Metafilter is not the norm for America, and not who this column is about, right?

I am not saying it's a bad thing that Obama isn't bloodthirsty and flying around in fighter jets. I am saying the contrast between him and Bush in that respect illustrates their different approach to public relations, and Obama comes out looking worse to the public when he doesn't adopt more ostentatious displays of American glory. We are talking from a practical standpoint.
posted by schroedinger at 7:35 AM on September 13, 2012


Hunter S. anyone?
posted by norm111 at 7:39 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


August NBC/WSJ Poll (PDF link)

Q6a Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing in handling foreign policy?

Approve 54%
Disapprove 40%
Not sure 6%

As a benchmark:

Q4 In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president?

Approve 48%
Disapprove 49%
Not sure 3%

So this raises the question, how many "real Americans" are there in America? Because Barack Obama seems likely to pull off the amazing feat of being a two-term President in tough economic times despite having zero ability to connect to "real Americans."
posted by leopard at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2012


The column is obviously right. You gotta pander to the monkey in us, and the sane 1% doesn't matter that much.

But I'd like to point out that the even more sane 0.01% has to be, not relieved that Obama didn't wave Laden's head around on a stick, but annoyed that Obama wasted resources going after the guy.

It didn't make sense from a tactical perspective. OBL didn't have enough personal ability to hurt the US to make him worth the emphasis.

It didn't make sense from a game-theoretic perspective, even considering a large ongoing game. Signaling that messing with you is dangerous is all fine and good, but it only works on reasonably rational actors. And it works even less well when it takes you 10 years to manage to get the guy (even if his life sucked in the meantime).

It didn't make sense from a moral perspective. Retribution is a morally bankrupt reason to go kill somebody. That kind of "justice" is the monkey brain talking again.

And, beyond that waste of resources, perhaps the sane 0.01% is even more annoyed that, in the process of getting OBL, Obama killed some unknown but probably large number of children. Because that's what it does when you make people think it's a bad idea to let the vaccination doctor visit.

Yeah, maybe the ice cold perspective doesn't win votes. But, as long as we're not winning votes, maybe we should go ahead and use the real ice cold perspective. Which also might have some other bad things to say about some of the other wars Obama's prolonged.
posted by Hizonner at 7:42 AM on September 13, 2012


Then again, it's a lot easier to get excited about a one-sided war that showed off our technical prowess at destroying enemy targets at a distance, in the dark, without US causalities.

My recollections are that the US public didn't go into that war expecting the crushing results that we actually saw -- I remember lots of people seriously worrying about it being Vietnam II* and about the effects of seeing tens of thousands of Americans mailed home dead.

*And as it turned out ten years later, they weren't crazy worries; I also don't think anyone really expected the US/Coalition to just leave Iraq after they were done cracking heads.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:46 AM on September 13, 2012


Democrats have pulled even with Republicans for the first time on which party "will do a better job of protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats." For most of the last decade, Republicans have held a substantial lead on this question with the exception of 2006/2007.

That poll was conducted before the Libya embassy attack.

However, as noted above, Obama has high approval ratings on foreign policy and terrorism. While it makes a small minority of liberals uncomfortable, killing bin Laden gave Democrats control of foreign policy for the first cycle in memory more than any other foreign policy achievement.

That's the point of this article: that cheerleading about your achievements is just as important as actually achieving them. We live in a Republic, and accurately and convincingly conveying your achievements to voters is part of the job. It's not fluff that comes second to policy, it is part of policy.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:48 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


killing bin Laden gave Democrats control of foreign policy for the first cycle in memory more than any other foreign policy achievement... That's the point of this article

No, that is not the point of the article. These are the second through fourth paragraphs of the article:

When you look back at Obama’s wars, you get a pretty clear idea what went wrong over the last four years. It wasn’t the way Obama’s team handled the wars. Truth is, they did damn well at that, better than I ever thought they would.

The real problem is that they don’t know what world they’re living in. These are people who’ve spent their lives getting straight A’s, collecting gold stars, avoiding mistakes. And they think war is just like all those other little hurdles you face in life.

That’s why they’ll never get credit for any of it. They have this delusion that sanity matters, and they’ve run their wars as sanely and boringly as an exterminator going after termites.


(emphasis added)

But the fact of the matter is, the Democrats *have* gotten credit for this. So the article is fundamentally flawed. You don't get to write "Obama just doesn’t understand his job as war chief of this big crazy tribe" and then feel vindicated when it turns out that Obama *does* understand his job as war chief of this big crazy tribe.
posted by leopard at 7:57 AM on September 13, 2012


That's the kind of C-in-C I want -- one who is uneasy with the use of force.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:04 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


lot of not reading the article and not getting the schtick up in here, people.
posted by spicynuts at 8:16 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


But the fact of the matter is, the Democrats *have* gotten credit for this. So the article is fundamentally flawed. You don't get to write "Obama just doesn’t understand his job as war chief of this big crazy tribe" and then feel vindicated when it turns out that Obama *does* understand his job as war chief of this big crazy tribe.

You noted the switch on foreign policy -- but's still losing overall job approval. I saw a clip the other day where Snoop Dogg made his case for Obama's reelection, the killing of Osama Bin Laden was at the center of it; what's telling about that us that even Snoop felt the need to remind people of that, that he presumed people had forgotten. Even this Libya thing --- the Obama administration helped the Libyan rebels overthrow Quaddafi less than a year ago and nobody fucking remembers. If they did, there'd be an easy and cheap and constantly hammered theme of ingratitude being trumpeted on Fix and in the tabs. But even Fox has concluded that the American public had so little invested in one of Obama's major military engagements that it's not worth going after him on that for cheap political points. So yeah, maybe the generic Democrat leadership question has moved. But, as far as I can tell most people don't really know much about Obama's record and accomplishments foreign policy wise.
posted by Diablevert at 8:17 AM on September 13, 2012


"The 2003 Iraq invasion still ranks as the stupidest expedition since Athens decided to teach the Spartans a lesson by attacking Sicily."

A sentence we should all--and especially those aspiring to or in positions of power--should thoroughly understand and commit to memory.
posted by oneironaut at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Despite doing a shit job domestically and running shit wars overseas, Bush got re-elected because his administration was damn good at spin doctoring.

Obama has done a bang-up job overseas and some decent accomplishments underneath his belt, but the race is far closer than it has any right to be. All War Nerd is saying is the Dems need their own Karl Rove.
posted by schroedinger at 8:30 AM on September 13, 2012


Man. You guys are like... professional Dolan trolling victims.

After wading through the failures of reading comprehension that make up half this thread, I am starting to think this may be literally true — that is, that totally not getting Dolan might actually be fundamental, identity-defining, to a certain kind of American political psychology. It's like the way that conservatives don't get that Colbert's persona is the joke, that he's not just a wacky guy saying things that he actually does believe. Seems like this column has "jokingly" put its finger on something that is potentially painful to acknowledge about the way America thinks about war, so it's easier to pretend it's meant in humorless earnest and just go on denying it.
posted by RogerB at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


There's something ironic about people who believe they are sophisticated for thinking that the Democratic Party is just full of idealistic policy wonks who don't understand the ugly reality of what it takes to win elections in America.

By the way, there's a reason Obama's overall approval ratings trail his foreign policy ratings. It is not because people are not aware of his foreign policy accomplishments. (If they have no idea then why would they rate him highly?) It's because the economy is in the shitter. Maybe if Obama would hire some clear-eyed consultants focused on the ugly arts of political campaigning (oh to dream!), they could tell him that it would be unwise to trumpet his achievements in Libya too loudly when unemployment is 8% and the American economy is piddling along. Because that might open him up to attacks that he doesn't care about ordinary Americans who are struggling here at home. Maybe.
posted by leopard at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read war nerd columns in John Hodgman's voice. It works surprisingly well.
posted by fatbird at 8:47 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not good at cheerleading? As much as Bin Laden's skull was tossed around at the DNC the official slogan should've been "WE KILL'T IT"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:47 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obama: He got it right and nobody cared is actually a pretty good summation of the past three years of American politics. I almost wish it were his campaign slogan.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:48 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, if you're Rush Limbaugh (and aren't you glad you're not?), the OBL success was Al Qaeda giving him up to keep Obama in power.
posted by ndfine at 8:59 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, if you're Rush Limbaugh (and aren't you glad you're not?)

It would sort of awesome to be him for a week. Just imagine the havoc you could wreak.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:05 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The War Nerd claims to be one of the Real 99%: the doughy redneck bloodthirsty flyover country Real Americans...but I wonder.

He mentions "kale chips." Hell, I admit I am a war-hating liberal city dweller (albeit in a flown-over city) and I never even heard about kale chips until last month. I think there is more than a little posturing going on in this partisan rant.
posted by kozad at 9:08 AM on September 13, 2012


The War Nerd is a fictional construct.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:11 AM on September 13, 2012


i have received and read the memo that this is ironic.

i still say it's the racism and the hypocrisy and the ignorance. a black man cheerleading his own accomplishments? uppity and not believable, i mean when has a black man done something a white man could'n't've done better. they tried to cheerlead killing OBL and the republicans came back with "he didn't thank the troops" (he did), "it was an easy decision, anybody would've made it" (bush didn't, and none of the republican nominees were emphasizing it as a goal because they *knew* bush didn't).

this isn't to say republicans *won't* cheer for a black person, but it has to be the right black person. most racists have some black friend somewhere, but they think of it as "well he's not like the *real* black people, he's different." this is why condi rice, powell (before he supported obama of course), rubio, athletes and celebrities-- they can cheer for some people of color, they just have to be told which ones are ok to support.

look at the republican presidential primary-- who *weren't* they willing to back at some point? these aren't rational actors, which has been stated, but trying to pinpoint all aspects of their non-rationality is difficult. here's an incomplete list of lies they're willing to believe about obama: kenyan, muslim, socialist, unintelligent, racist. and you think there's any magical combination of words or actions will convince them *that* guy is a successful president?

obama doing everything right just takes those issues off the table for republicans (though they'll still lie bald-faced to the base and to the media), he'll never get credit in the eyes of true believers. now, if the economy hadn't been flushed down the toilet (by republican policies, natch), things would be different. but we don't live in that alternate universe. we live in the universe where they get together, blame the other for everything, and circle jerk about how tough they are and how tough they have it and that's exactly as it should be.

and maybe i'm naive, but i see the bloodthirstiness as a reaction to being poor and not in control of their own circumstances (and being the target of a very successful decades-long marketing campaign on the part of the republicans). yes, i understand that there will always be an element of us vs them in the human psyche, but people who are legitimately fat and happy don't need an enemy the way the chronically dissatisfied need one.
posted by twist my arm at 9:17 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is like a category 5 hurricane of WHOOSH.
posted by Tikirific at 9:23 AM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


the Obama administration helped the Libyan rebels overthrow Quaddafi less than a year ago and nobody fucking remembers.

Oh, I think they're going to be reminded of it, now that the embassy attack has happened. Only it won't be the success narrative that the Administration wants.

The front page of USA Today this morning -- which is one of the more milquetoast papers in existence -- was "We Hate America" printed above a shot of Libyan protesters, with the subtitle "As Arab Spring spread and democracy flourished, the U.S. was an ally. Now America is the enemy again."

It's going to be very hard for Obama to take much positive credit for 'liberating' what looks suspiciously like a bunch of frothing Islamist ingrates, which is exactly how they're going to be painted by the Administration's enemies. The far Right will see it as confirmation of Obama's crypto-muslim tendencies, but even the less-crazy might see it as yet another way that he's out of touch, his policies incomprehensible and aloof. Those sympathetic to him on the left talk about Obama's "multi-dimensional chess" attitude, but this is not an asset to those not already converted; it smacks of a surfeit of cleverness, not traditionally an American virtue.

Incidentally, this is an even greater risk in Syria. Quaddafi was at least certifiably crazy and had a history of supporting actual dead-Americans terrorism (many voters are old enough to remember Lockerbie, so that resonates), so even if Libya's new government trends towards Islamist, it's possible to still make the argument that it's better than what was there before, and that Quaddafi, like Bin Laden, had to die: fiat justitia ruat caelum.

But in Syria, if Obama "succeeds" in achieving the downfall of the regime, diplomatically or otherwise, and the resulting government isn't drippingly friendly to the US -- and let's face it, that's pretty unlikely, given their proximity and ongoing issues with Israel -- it will be easy to paint him as having tossed the region out of the secular-dictatorship frying pan and into the crazed-Islamist fire. The Russians, at the very least, will be screaming it (which might make it slightly more awkward for the Republicans to parrot, but I doubt it will stop them). And honestly, there is a certain realpolitik merit in the claim which makes it difficult to casually dismiss if you're a political realist, as many in the Administration are.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:25 AM on September 13, 2012


me?
posted by twist my arm at 9:25 AM on September 13, 2012


The smug superiority of those who declaim the fact that War Nerd is a rhetorical construct misses the point.

One raises these "monsters of the id" issues in this fashion in order to bring them into the light of discourse that we may discuss appropriate responses to them in the real world.

My comment is my response to the belligerent bully who knows no other response to threat than to lash out in fury: put on your big boy pants; if you want a civilization, you must act civilized.

Otherwise you merely pride yourself on an ability at which any barbarian is your equal and a gorilla your immeasurable superior. [With apologies to John Randolph.]
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:31 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem for Obama is he only has real wars he promised to get us out of. He needs some fake wars. I proposed he pick up the red phone and get Putin on the phone. Putin is a man's man who likes to wrestle with tigers, surely he would get a kick out of this. Just restore the cold-war sabre rattling. Obama can go on TV shouting about the Evil Empire and Putin can call us decadent or something. They can both shake their fists on TV. Maybe we drag out that old novelty song, the one to the tune of Eye of The Tiger "The Russians are Liars" remember that one?

We also need some awesome movies, "Red Dawn II" Maybe?

I also think obama needs to adopt a persona, like The Humongous from Mad Max 2. He was the perfect warlord. This big hulking guy, who did pretty much nothing, but led through his sheer hulking presence. Obviously Obama can't deliver the SOTU in a metal mask and bondage collar but really, Obama should start taking HGH right now. Maybe Obama's goto accessory can be black shades, just imagine if he gained 50 pounds of muscle and delivered the SOTU in black shades. Fuck, maybe he doesn't even deliver the SOTU but sits there, rocking his shades, shirtless, and has someone else read it

Another thing they can do is show him eating steaks more often. The bit about the kale chips really hit home, Obama is a kale chip guy. I don't even like kale chip guys.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:45 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's going to be very hard for Obama to take much positive credit for 'liberating' what looks suspiciously like a bunch of frothing Islamist ingrates, which is exactly how they're going to be painted by the Administration's enemies.

No one's buying that (intended) narrative, though. The radical christian conservatives who ginned up the (very possibly fake) offensive film to create a smokescreen of mob outrage to cover up what appears to have actually been a coordinated Al Qaeda style attack, have been outed and it's becoming increasingly plain this was a staged event, and by most accounts I've seen, Libyans remain overwhelmingly in support of the US's role in the region helping to ouster Qaddafi.

No matter how the haters and their terrorist brethren try to confound it, Libya really did work out for the best (given the bad circumstances to start with) under the more constrained, narrowly targeted military approach President Obama took. His foreign policy work really has been impressively precise and clear-headed.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:58 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, it’s almost like even if War Nerd is a construct, people can acknowledge that there are real people, lots of them, like this, and try to talk about that. Or is the lesson from Colbert that we should just sit back and enjoy the lulz?

In other words: go whoosh yourself.

But talking about presidential public disposition, I’ve probably missed any mefi consensus on the “Jonas Bros” joke. Evil or merely unbelievably callous?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:04 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's going to be very hard for Obama to take much positive credit for 'liberating' what looks suspiciously like a bunch of frothing Islamist ingrates, which is exactly how they're going to be painted by the Administration's enemies.

He can just quote this:
Stuff happens and it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.

- Donald Rumsfeld, April 11, 2003
posted by benito.strauss at 10:26 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's because President Obama is black.

Call it straight, you don't have to remember the lies.
posted by spitbull at 10:32 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Simply put, Obama has proved singularly incapable of getting Americans to like the stuff he's doing.

All War Nerd is saying is the Dems need their own Karl Rove.

I think the Democrats might have some Roves, but what they don't have is a massive, institutionalized echo chamber that makes the most insane crap eventually seem reasonable (to many) through repetition. The president can say what he wants, but he doesn't have a Fox News repeating it 1000x.

The whole We Built This fiasco is the perfect example. Fox News basically lied over and over about what the president said, and it became the theme of the Republican convention.
posted by Huck500 at 10:33 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


the Obama administration helped the Libyan rebels overthrow Quaddafi less than a year ago and nobody fucking remembers.

Many remember it as him helping Europeans overthrow Quaddafi. American Exceptionalism doesn't work if the stuff that happens isn't exclusively American.
posted by Quonab at 10:33 AM on September 13, 2012


No one's buying that (intended) narrative, though.

Nobody on MetaFilter, maybe. But the USA Today headline seems to be pushing that angle, and they are not normally a conservative organ in the way that, say, Fox News or the Washington Times are. I think it remains to be seen whether the Administration can shift the blame from the attacks away from "Libya" and onto "militants" or "Al Qaeda" or some more nebulous foe which we didn't just recently liberate.

CNN seems to be running some coverage of the pro-US / pro-Stevens counterprotests, which might be helpful to the Administration, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:38 AM on September 13, 2012


Kadin2048:
"It's going to be very hard for Obama to take much positive credit for 'liberating' what looks suspiciously like a bunch of frothing Islamist ingrates, which is exactly how they're going to be painted by the Administration's enemies."
I know this exchange would never happen in a debate, but I'd love to see the response of, "Do you understand the definition of democracy? Other countries are going to have different opinions and world views and not necessarily make the choices you want. Or would you prefer the region to be dominated by dictators and military leaders? What's a little oppression compared to people not doing what you want, right?"
posted by charred husk at 10:49 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the other tribe, the flyover state white glob I come from, would sooner comp bin Laden a suite in Vegas than give Obama any creds for taking him down. They sulked through it like a confused, hungover Pillsbury doughboy; the way they saw it, Obama got bin Laden on a technicality. There’s always been a lot of Osama/Obama blur in the way they see things, and they might’ve been happier if it’d been Osama zapping that snotty Hawaiian instead of the other way around.
Kenyan. That snotty Kenyan. Get your talking points right, commie.
posted by Flunkie at 11:03 AM on September 13, 2012


I thought Biden did a great "head on a stick" bit in his DNC speech, what with the "if you attack innocent Americans, we will follow you to the ends of the earth." mkb is right!

I honestly can't believe the R's are still going on about the "apology" stuff and "soft on terror" stuff when Obama had Usama Bin Laden cold shot in the face and dumped in the ocean.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:04 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean the real 99% of us living our rotten lives out there, mean and dumb and miserable, just waiting for some gore we can really get behind.

Turn that frown upside down Ward Nerd!
posted by jimmythefish at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2012


I honestly can't believe the R's are still going on about the "apology" stuff and "soft on terror" stuff when Obama had Usama Bin Laden cold shot in the face and dumped in the ocean.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:04 PM on September 13 [+] [!]


It's entirely on purpose: Remember when everyone cheered when draft-dodgin' Dubya did a photo op in a flight suit, and went so far as to make fun of the war medals Kerry won in an actual war?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:26 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, it is part of the R's strategy to attack your opponent's strengths, so when your opponent points out your weaknesses in the same area it sounds to the voters like a weak defence: "Oh yeah, well you suck too!"
posted by fings at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2012


My comment is my response to the belligerent bully who knows no other response to threat than to lash out in fury: put on your big boy pants; if you want a civilization, you must act civilized.

Otherwise you merely pride yourself on an ability at which any barbarian is your equal and a gorilla your immeasurable superior.


This is utterly ridiculous. There are no records of gorillas going to war against other gorillas. Human civilizations do this all the time.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:43 PM on September 13, 2012


Some of you really don't know how to read the War Nerd. Even if he wasn't a construct, if you read him carefully, he sounds a lot less like a brainy redneck than a cynical and defeated liberal who enjoys military stuff. If the War Nerd was real, I would have to guess he was a democrat who stopped bothering to vote about twenty years ago.
posted by Edgewise at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2012


Oh, that's way better.
posted by grubi at 12:50 PM on September 13, 2012


Metafilter: Like having a Unitarian preside when you sacrifice a goat.
posted by jonp72 at 12:53 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is utterly ridiculous. There are no records of gorillas going to war against other gorillas.

*ahem*
posted by KingEdRa at 12:57 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone mentioned yet that the War Nerd is a fictional construct?

Oh wait, there are at least 11 comments on this thread to that effect.

By my count there is exactly 1 comment on this thread that is rebutted by this point -- Ironmouth's comment calling him the ultimate Keyboard Kommando. OK, if someone called Stephen Colbert the ultimate talk show blowhard, it would be quite relevant to point out that his character is a fictional construct.

But the remainder of the thread discussion simply does not depend on taking the author of the article 100% seriously. So it's strange that there's a constant current of comments insisting that this guy is joking around, that this is somewhat satirical, blah blah blah, when that is completely unresponsive to what people are actually discussing.
posted by leopard at 1:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are no records of gorillas going to war against other gorillas. Human civilizations do this all the time.

According to Gwynne Dyer in his book War, chimpanzees do make war on each other, which is to say that band A will encroach on band B's territory, raid them, and aggressively attack them from ambush in order to further encroach, until B's males are all dead and band A can take B's females and territory after killing the babies. It's not just hostility, it's actually organized conquest.
posted by fatbird at 1:32 PM on September 13, 2012


Here's Jane Goodall speaking on chimpanzees and war, and a further article in Discovery.
posted by fatbird at 1:37 PM on September 13, 2012


By my count there is exactly 1 comment on this thread that is rebutted by this point -- Ironmouth's comment calling him the ultimate Keyboard Kommando.

There was also the comment about kale chips.

I would also say that it's a mistake to try to "refute" the id-centric point of view that the War Nerd presents, and that that mistake is easier to make when you don't get that the War Nerd isn't a "real" person against whom you can argue. Even then, you can't refute his point on your terms. You have to examine the underlying precepts behind various ideologies, including but not limited to liberal progressivism and modern mainstream conservatism.

For example, at the heart of modern mainstream conservatism are strands of both nationalism and militarism - the idea that the US is a powerful force of liberty, fending off barbarians at the gate, and that while war is a horrific and solemn process, it is also the responsibility of the most powerful nation on the planet to conduct war when the situation demands it. This is an almost axiomatic proposition - it is not arrived at by argument. Sure, there are anti-war conservatives, but they are not the mainstream.

That's why the remark "well, why would I want a war cheerleader" conveys even less than it seems. It just reaffirms what you already know: you are not a modern mainstream conservative. But both self-identified conservatives and many so-called independents still have that foundational belief, and you need to either work with that or work around that.

And that's why it's so interesting to compare Obama's sangfroid with the sort of red-blooded enthusiasm that America demands. In addition to the usual Dem-hatred and racism and whatever, also consider how Obama's professorial approach to war folds into the criticisms posed against him: that he's a pointy-headed do-nothing, that he's untrustworthy, that he's a sleeper agent, that he's somehow responsible for America's decline. Decline isn't just economic here - it's also the idea that America's influence and military might are in decline, that the very idea of pissing off the US is no longer seen as "waking a sleeping giant."
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


chimpanzees do make war on each other,

Oh, absolutely, chimps do! But not gorillas; they mostly restrict violence to one-on-one scraps.

*ahem*

I stand corrected! HAIL GRODD
posted by Greg Nog at 1:43 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


there's a really good grodd one-off called grodd of war
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


And that's why it's so interesting to compare Obama's sangfroid with the sort of red-blooded enthusiasm that America demands.

Sangfroid--is that German for introverted? Or a loose translation of "knows he would look silly with a biker chick on his lap, and so wisely chooses not to attempt it despite large and vocal pressure to be a 'Fuck, Yeah!' president"?
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:16 PM on September 13, 2012


Quoth the War Nerd, re the reelection of "W":

The sane people couldn’t believe it, but face it, sane people are outnumbered by ferret fanciers in this country.

Is this not objectively true? I would venture to say that the sane outnumber the ferreteers here in the People's Republic of The Blue, but the same cannot be said for the comment boards over at Yahoo.

It is beyond droll for the Nerd to compare sanity and a predilection for foul-smelling, weaselly critters who like to bite their human caretakers. But it sardonically illuminates a painful truth: the inexplicable tendency of modern Americans to vote for policies-- and the proponents thereof--which stink, are mendacious, and which will come back to bite them on the ass when they least expect it.

I dare say that there are millions of morons in this country who would prefer Allen West (R-Psycopathia Floridana) to President Obama for exactly the reasons outlined by the Nerd.
posted by rdone at 2:17 PM on September 13, 2012


"... Or would you prefer the region to be dominated by dictators and military leaders? What's a little oppression compared to people not doing what you want, right?"

You'd be really sad if you knew how many people would see absolutely no sarcasm in that question.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:34 PM on September 13, 2012


Sticherbeast: I would also say that it's a mistake to try to "refute" the id-centric point of view that the War Nerd presents

The War Nerd's oh-so-clever fictional satirical irrefutable id-centric writing is attempting to spread the idea that Obama only knows how to appeal to this small enlightened faction of the country, people who cognitively understand that violence is wrong and counterproductive, but unfortunately "real Americans" are have primal instincts that Republicans are more willing to pander to, and that's why Obama will never win, because he's a smarty-pants professor and not someone who can inspire the mob.

And so we can pat ourselves on the back not only for being part of the civilized 1%, but also for being clear-eyed enough to understand how the unruly mob works. We are awesome! And all these idiot commenters don't get it, the War Nerd is a fictional construct!

And we don't have to pay attention to the fact that Obama is actually a phenomenally successful politician who knows a million times more about connecting to the masses than anyone else here. We can operate under the illusion that the hunt for bin Laden was carried out by bloodless technocrats without any regard for the political consequences. We can ignore how Osama's head was passed around on a pike during the DNC and we can miss the fact that Obama is cleaning Romney's clock on foreign policy.

And this is not because we're blinded by our preconceived notions. No, it's just that everyone pointing those things out suffers from reading comprehension problems. The War Nerd is a fictional construct!
posted by leopard at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leopard, you're still not getting it.
posted by anonymisc at 2:54 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can see that, anonymisc. Feel free to help me out here by explaining what it is I'm not getting.

When sticherbeast writes "And that's why it's so interesting to compare Obama's sangfroid with the sort of red-blooded enthusiasm that America demands" and "consider how Obama's professorial approach to war folds into the criticisms posed against him," and I respond by pointing out that Obama is doing fine with Americans on the foreign-policy front, I think I'm being pretty responsive to the points being raised.
posted by leopard at 3:01 PM on September 13, 2012


I used to think that war nerd was an interesting column and that all you had to do was transcend the persona etc. Then I read his book, which is basically just a collection of posts from the site with some additional marginalia. In long form, I realized that what seemed like trenchant and insightful commentary in relatively short bursts was the product of the same sort of bias I struggle with myself, which is that of the autodidact who is entirely in control of their own reading list and is blinkered to the larger world by the limited scope of that list.

This is not entirely relevant to this discussion, but I come back to that thought whenever a new post manages to stir up enough drama to make it to a site like mefi.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2012


Leopard, the viewpoint the War Nerd presents is not "irrefutable." It just cannot be effectively refuted when you approach it only from your own ideological starting point. In the article's context, saying "well, I'm glad he's not a warmongering cheerleader" is as meaningful as a Christian telling a Buddhist that reincarnation is silly, since after all there is nothing about reincarnation in the Bible.

It might be more productive to take a step back and to consider the hows and whys behind the fact that millions upon millions of people still think Obama is a disaster, despite the fact that, on paper, he should be their hero. A big part of that has to do with his "grace under fire" attitude and relative distaste for jingoism and outward displays of bellicosity.

Yes, those millions and millions of people who think Obama is a disaster are not the majority, but that is completely beside the point. These people are not a small minority, especially in state governments, in the House, etc.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:12 PM on September 13, 2012


Sticherbeast, you seem confused. I fail to see where I've argued "I'm glad he's not a warmongering cheerleader." I have made a number of quite different points:

(a) he *is* a warmongering cheerleader, in his own way
(b) he's an effective politician no matter what
(c) the people who think he is a disaster would think he is a disaster no matter what -- these people are defined by their Republican partisan allegiance, not by their real red-blooded American-ness.

In my opinion these points are actually quite effective at refuting the War Nerd's viewpoint. The only thing in my way is that people seem to have very strong preconceived notions that I am moralizing and saying that "I'm glad he's not a warmongering cheerleader." Because of these extraordinarily strong preconceived notions, what I am actually saying does not appear to be getting through.
posted by leopard at 3:31 PM on September 13, 2012


Sarah Palin Wishes Barack Obama Had A Bigger Penis
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on September 13, 2012


Feel free to help me out here by explaining what it is I'm not getting.

You're treating the post as prescriptive, rather than descriptive. "[War Nerd] is trying to spread the idea...." you say; that is, the post is constructed as an argument against Obama rather than a description of Obama. It seems to me that your baseline presumption is that in this election season, any discussion of Obama is ipso facto an argument for or against him. That's why people keep bringing up the fact that War Nerd is a pose; it's to suggest that despite his rhetoric matching that of the 251st Keyboard Battallion, he is not in fact an ideological opponent of Obama (nor necessarily a proponent).

From what little I've read of him I'd say he's more of a nihlist with a fetish, and somewhat orthogonal to the American political spectrum.
posted by Diablevert at 3:44 PM on September 13, 2012


What is making people think that *my* comments are prescriptive rather than descriptive? Where am I arguing that people should vote for Obama? The power of preconceived notions is amazingly powerful.

It seems to me that your baseline presumption is that in this election season, any discussion of Obama is ipso facto an argument for or against him.

Why does it seem that way to you? I am not saying that you should vote for Obama; I am saying that Obama is a politically savvy warmonger who has strong foreign policy approval ratings and his opponents wouldn't like him even if he killed Osama bin Laden.
posted by leopard at 4:21 PM on September 13, 2012


I fail to see where I've argued "I'm glad he's not a warmongering cheerleader."

So? Other people have, in spades.

(a) he *is* a warmongering cheerleader, in his own way

Nowhere near the extent of a Bush 43 or a Reagan, not even close, unless we redefine the term to encompass anything that Obama does.

(b) he's an effective politician no matter what

Irrelevant and non-responsive to the article's point. Millions upon millions of people emphatically disagree - almost half the entire country.

(c) the people who think he is a disaster would think he is a disaster no matter what -- these people are defined by their Republican partisan allegiance, not by their real red-blooded American-ness.

Your use of "real" and "red-blooded" is either a misfired joke or a sign that you're still not sure what we're arguing about.

It is worth examining what makes a conservative a conservative, from an ideological point of view. Don't just stop your line of inquiry with, "hell, they're Republicans, of course they hate him." The War Nerd accurately presents a view of how presidents ought to look and act, according to the ideology of a large portion of the US: that a president ought to seem commanding in a certain way, ought to treat threats a certain way, and so forth. These requirements dovetail very neatly with the values that conservatives almost universally hold.

Meanwhile, irrespective of his party allegiance, Obama does not present those qualities. Why? In large part, because his values are very different in many ways. If he had other values, he'd behave differently, and he would appeal to (and associate with) different people as a result.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:17 PM on September 13, 2012


I always love defenders of the War Nerd: "Oh pish posh, he's not real you doofuses. But he makes totally real points and the articles totally represent a large segment of the population!"

Well, which is it? Either he's not real and it's wan satire. Or he's not real, yet somehow representative?

Personally, I would rather go to the source, and there's plenty of right wing nutbags who actually believe in what they're saying and actually represent a constituency without some kind of anemic postmodernism. As every, irony is very over-rated.
posted by smoke at 5:52 PM on September 13, 2012


I think America is not fucked because of our war policies but, rather we are fucked because almost all satire is completely misread by our culture.

It is as if we are stuck in one giant "you're either for us or against us" feedback loop of stupidity.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 6:07 PM on September 13, 2012


The War Nerd accurately presents a view of how presidents ought to look and act, according to the ideology of a large portion of the US: that a president ought to seem commanding in a certain way, ought to treat threats a certain way, and so forth. These requirements dovetail very neatly with the values that conservatives almost universally hold.

This is simply an inaccurate description of political reality.

Look, Obama ordered the assassination of America's #1 enemy, he is more popular as a result, and the Republicans still hate him. This shows that (a) he understands the political benefits of bloodthirstiness and (b) his opponents are not actually motivated by how he looks and acts.

If Mitt Romney wanted to expand Medicare to cover all Americans, almost every Republican would consider him an effete coward with no foreign policy experience. If Barack Obama opposed universal healthcare and wanted to lower taxes on the rich, the Republicans would admire the steely resolve with which he killed Osama bin Laden.

I am not saying that anyone should vote for Barack Obama, I am just saying that if your worldview is contradicted by very salient facts, you may want to consider changing your worldview. Or I guess one could continue insisting that people just don't get satire, man.
posted by leopard at 6:32 PM on September 13, 2012


Obama ordered the assassination of America's #1 enemy, he is more popular as a result

Is he? I think that the author here would argue that he is not. I don't think he is either. At the time of OBL's death I expected the likes of Clint Eastwood, and other similarly macho figures on the center-right, to come around behind Obama. They did not. They probably would have for Bill Clinton or JFK.
posted by zvs at 6:47 PM on September 13, 2012


What is making people think that *my* comments are prescriptive rather than descriptive? Where am I arguing that people should vote for Obama? Why does it seem that way to you?

Okay, here are the bits of your comment that gave me that impression.

The War Nerd's...writing is attempting to spread the idea that Obama only knows how to appeal to this small enlightened faction of the country, but unfortunately "real Americans" are have primal instincts that Republicans are more willing to pander to, and that's why Obama will never win...Obama is actually a phenomenally successful politician who knows a million times more about connecting to the masses than anyone else here...Obama is cleaning Romney's clock on foreign policy.

I don't read the article as saying anything about whether Obama will win the election. I think it's talking about whether Obama's foreign policy gets people fired up. His whole theme is that despite a number of tactical and strategic successes in foreign policy, Obama hasn't "gotten credit" for them. We can certainly argue about what credit means, of course, but I think it's a big leap from "the average American has little understanding of Obama's policies and how well they've worked" to "Obama will never win" and I think his post is a lot closer to the former, not the latter.

Speaking for myself, I take your point entirely on the broad polling. You're absolutely correct: on the whole people prefer Obama's foreign policy approach to Romney's, and by a significant margin. However, and here's where we differ --- I don't think Obama's caution has been able to inspire passionate enthusiasm among the broad public, despite his successes, and thus no rally round the flag, Mr. Gorbechev-tear-down-this-wall effect that insulates him from critiques on other issues. "All things considered, I'd prefer that we not get involved in a war with Iran" is a bit different from "America! Fuck yeah!" The guy killed the fucking bogeyman. The fact that Romney even thinks that he might be vulnerable on this is weird.
posted by Diablevert at 7:06 PM on September 13, 2012


Look, Obama ordered the assassination of America's #1 enemy, he is more popular as a result, and the Republicans still hate him. This shows that (a) he understands the political benefits of bloodthirstiness and (b) his opponents are not actually motivated by how he looks and acts.

Killing OBL is not, in and of itself, the sort of conduct that the article is at all talking about. The public strategy and public attitude taken towards this and other, yes, lethal missions is what we are talking about. For example, when the Obama administration killed OBL, President Obama gave a grave, measured, solemn press conference. The attitude he took towards the act was not publicly jubilant, bellicose, folksy, or quippy.

The real argument is about ideologies, across their differences. You are talking from within one, even if it's one we ourselves happen to more or less personally share.

For more about comparing modern American political ideologies, you should look into The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin, A Citizen's Guide to American Ideology by Morgan Marietta, and Why Conservatives Tell Stories and Liberals Don't, by David M. Ricci.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:18 PM on September 13, 2012


Diablevert: OK, I can see where I left that impression now. "Attempting to spread the idea" -- I didn't mean to imply that I saw an ulterior motive, I should have just said "his point is..." The "Obama will never win" statement meant that the writer thought he had identified a problem for Obama... and I was trying to say that I don't think Obama really suffers very much from this problem.

Sticherbeast: Are you implying that if Obama had done a folksy jig on TV after killing OBL, this would have had a big positive impact on Republican voters? They wouldn't have said "the President is politicizing the assassination in an undignified way"? Guess what, they said it anyway!

I am quite familiar with the idea that Republicans and Democrats have different ideologies. My point is that you are mischaracterizing the nature of those differences. By the way, Bush said OBL didn't matter, and during the 2008 election Obama was criticized by McCain for saying that he would go into Pakistan to kill OBL. How exactly does this fit in with your theory? How many Republicans have switched parties because of Obama's more macho approach on this high-visibility issue?
posted by leopard at 7:39 PM on September 13, 2012


his opponents are not actually motivated by how he looks and acts

Can we all agree on this? And by opponents, we're not just talking political opponents, but the die-hard Republican base that would demonize Obama for the same acts and stances they would see as virtuous in their chosen party?

Cause otherwise there's a lot of wasted energy and opportunity trying to figure out how to win the unwinnable.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sticherbeast: Are you implying that if Obama had done a folksy jig on TV after killing OBL, this would have had a big positive impact on Republican voters? They wouldn't have said "the President is politicizing the assassination in an undignified way"? Guess what, they said it anyway!

You are talking about something else: the idea that Obama is improperly taking credit. Indeed, the conservatives traditionally put all the credit on the macho, militarized SEALs, and not on the technocratic Obama whom they feel merely said "yes" to an easy call.

How exactly does this fit in with your theory?

I clearly remember Republicans claiming that Obama was either already dead or hiding like a rat. Regardless, the mere existence of cognitive dissonance doesn't disprove the fact that there are different underlying values behind both so-called conservatives and liberals.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:49 PM on September 13, 2012


The article's just playing on the secret fear of liberals; that smart doesn't actually matter. That dumb and ugly always wins - and y'know what? it just doesn't.

Romney is a second-rate candidate because the first-rate candidates had no interest in going up against a campaigning phenomenon while beholden to exactly the groups and people that the War Nerd implies are the key to success. In the meantime, Romney it is, and he's just had a sucky convention and the debates are coming up, and it's just going to get worse for him from here: the campaign is in a state of cascading collapse.

So, sure, there's always the reptile brain, and Obama doesn't call to it the way Bush did, but that can't be a fatal flaw since it does not appear to be leading to Obama's downfall.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 12:18 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


smoke: Well, which is it? Either he's not real and it's wan satire. Or he's not real, yet somehow representative?

this is kind of an interesting line of discussion -- really more interesting to me than the ostensive main subject.

satire is a strange thing. when it's done well, it's basically 'half in jest, all in earnest,' as an old GF used to say. it's true and not-true, literal and figurative simultaneously. so the war nerd is joking, but he's also serious. He's adopting a persona because it allows him to sneak under our radar. If he made these arguments straight-up, it would a) not be funny*, b) just get dismissed by almost everyone who disagreed with it, c) require him to use language that's much more restrained, less colorful (and which frankly has less impact), in order to be Taken. Seriously.

--
* of course maybe you think it's not funny now. that's fair. is war nerd good at it? matter of taste, i suppose.
posted by lodurr at 6:05 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


... or hiding like a rat.

Which he kind of was, really. It sounded a bit like Treet Williams' Howard Hughes, without the hygiene issues.
posted by lodurr at 6:07 AM on September 14, 2012


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