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On Benghazi
October 16, 2012 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Our leaders -- of both parties -- have systematically infantilized Americans to believe that perfect security is attainable. This is one reason the White House reacts so defensively to any intimation that its conduct of the war on al-Qaeda is less than perfect. It’s one reason Republicans cynically argue that the administration is incompetent in its prosecution of the war, and in its mission to keep U.S. personnel alive. So long as both parties react so small-mindedly and opportunistically to the terrorist threat, we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war. - Jeffrey Goldberg, Benghazi Attack Brings Infantilizing Response
posted by beisny (39 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes, a thousand times yes. And with the infantilizing, and the Big Lie that we can be fully secure, comes a complete loss of basic liberties.

It still makes me want to check to see if I've been transported into an anti-utopian alternate future reality when I see lines of U.S. citizens, exercising their constitutional right to travel, tramping one by one into an airport screening machine for a virtual strip search.
posted by bearwife at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


The two parties don't want a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war. They want to keep us scared, and they want to keep lining their pockets via the defense contractors that are benefiting from the never ending war on terror.
posted by COD at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2012 [22 favorites]


Yes. I think though, a lot of the infantilization of the American public has started with earlier and earlier Big Lies. The Big Lie that you can be completely safe from terrorism, from economic upheaval, from changing circumstances in a changing world. The Big Lie that no matter who you are, you'll be taken care of, forever, with money that will never run out. That your old age will be golden and it won't cost the nation to do so. Panem et circenses.
posted by corb at 10:08 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah. This is a part of the general narrative in this country that bothers me tremendously.

If we want a free society, people are gonna get hurt. It sucks, and it's tragic, but that's the way it is. We will not have a free society OR a safe society if we panic every time something bad happens to Americans overseas, or if our police stop and harass every person of color, or if we have to x-ray every baby that gets brought onto a plane.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:09 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Don't worry notsnot, I read it as Jeffrey Goldblum and thought of his character from Jurassic Park teaching me about why both the parties don't know where to begin debating war.
posted by nushustu at 10:15 AM on October 16, 2012


"So long as both parties react so small-mindedly and opportunistically to (just about everything), we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to (solve the country's problems)."

It's not just the war.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:17 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is just one of the many examples of the parties putting their own political interests ahead of the good of the country. The GOP is just completely overboard on that front but Dems do it too, if only to compete. It's not good government.
posted by caddis at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


All this coverage on Benghazi, and yet, so little media coverage of the massive pro-American popular uprisings against al-Qaeda there in the immediate aftermath?

Selective attention much, media?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I mean, if we'd had more and harsher security there the way the Republicans are claiming we should have, more of the local population would have grown to despise our diplomatic core for the hassles in their everyday lives, and we might not have seen the overwhelming popular backlash we've seen there against al-Qaeda for the attacks!
posted by saulgoodman at 10:21 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


(more crude, obvious security apparatus =/= more real stable security, is the point relevant here.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:22 AM on October 16, 2012


Next on CNN: What do the polls say about the candidates' reactions to the latest poll results?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:54 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


> That's Jonah Goldberg, not Jeffrey Goldberg.

Nope.
posted by jfuller at 10:56 AM on October 16, 2012


saulgoodman: All this coverage on Benghazi, and yet, so little media coverage of the massive pro-American popular uprisings against al-Qaeda there in the immediate aftermath?

Selective attention much, media?
The best example of this was NPR. Last night and this morning I heard their story about how "the shooting of an Afghan girl has stirred up anti-American sentiments!!!"

The piece was actually about (1) how her shooting helped congeal public opinion against the Taliban, with a smaller portion about (2) how a former footballer-turned-politician visited her, and immediately after made a pro-Taliban statement - for which he was criticized.

So, only one individual's anti-American views were reportedly stirred... and didn't get much traction.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Big Lie that no matter who you are, you'll be taken care of, forever, with money that will never run out. That your old age will be golden and it won't cost the nation to do so. Panem et circenses.

People who think taxation is theft don't get to call anyone else infantile.
posted by fleacircus at 11:28 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not a war. Wars end.
posted by Malor at 11:29 AM on October 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


The whole fallacy of being 100% safe if we just have more security (theatre) has to stop. I grew up in the UK at the height of the IRA mainland bombing campaign, had the PIRA shoot 3 soldiers at my local train station. The general and official response to this was that while we had to take normal precautions, we could not let them change the way we lived everyday life otherwise this was tantamount to the terrorists winning.

This got lost in translation in the US (and now in the UK to an extent), and we live in a climate of fear that only serves to benefit those that wish to exploit it.
posted by arcticseal at 11:30 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin
posted by kirkaracha at 11:37 AM on October 16, 2012


Even better than Ben Franklin is DFW:

In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:39 AM on October 16, 2012


This op-ed completely misses the point. By placing all of the agency on the politicians, it ignores who really infantilized the American public: The American Public. We, as a collective whole demand this kind of response from our leadership and any politician that fails to do so puts his career in danger. We don't want nuanced and complex rhetoric or policy in regards to terrorists or war. We want a clean narrative and catharsis.

Politicians have a lot of power but ultimately they respond to what the public wants. The absolute vast majority of voters will not or cannot spend a lot of mental effort in researching and rationally devising appropriate policies to this. They respond emotionally and want someone to do something NOW. The military industrial complex is terrible but it fulfills a need the people want satisfied.

If you want to change things, you have to start at the ground level. The Benghazi response is a symptom not a cause.
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:57 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not a war. Wars end.

Maybe we won?
posted by Copronymus at 12:04 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of weaknesses and specious assumptions in this article. Here are a few:

First up, Cutter, who said on CNN that “the entire reason that this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It’s a big part of their stump speech and it’s reckless and irresponsible.”

An ambassador is killed and Cutter thinks that the “entire reason” his death has become a political issue is Mitt Romney?


Cutter is saying that the process of turning this attack, which is a discrete real event, into a referendum on other things (such as the Obama administration's capabilities and military orientation) is an artifact of electoral politics, and she's correct. This assertion is not a defense of the Obama administration, though Cutter obviously wants to deflect the criticism, it's simply a recognition of the fact.

Mr. Goldberg himself seems confused about the nature of the attack:

The raid -- in which heavily armed men with suspected links to al-Qaeda killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American personnel

"Suspected links" is awfully vague. Does this mean that the attackers know people involved in Al Qaeda? Does it mean that they were acting on its behalf? Or that they merely shared some ideological convictions? It appears that, whether or not somebody, in some agency somewhere, actually knows the answer, it's not public knowledge yet, and presuming to understand the connections is jumping the gun more than a little bit.

The very idea that the US could "wage war" on a loosely-linked network of militias and ideological actors is very absurd, and yet the author seems to have no problem accepting its (unproven) fundamental validity while talking mostly about the responses of the two presidential campaigns to it, implicitly asserting that these are meaningful proxies for policy and military responses to the same.

In short, this author is making a very flawed, misconceived, and fundamentally banal case for "better intelligence," and his assertion that we need to talk in a more "rational, adult" way about a moronically misguided military project is insultingly perverse. As if there can be such a discussion about a global counter-insurgency that doesn't acknowledge the possibility that such a project is essentially childish itself.
posted by clockzero at 12:42 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes. I think though, a lot of the infantilization of the American public has started with earlier and earlier Big Lies. The Big Lie that you can be completely safe from terrorism, from economic upheaval, from changing circumstances in a changing world.

Don't forget The Communist Threat.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:44 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The father of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in the attack in Benghazi last month, said his son’s death shouldn’t be politicized in the presidential campaign.
posted by homunculus at 1:55 PM on October 16, 2012


Apologies if everyone has already seen this but it is new to me: The Amazing Story of What Happened in Libya - much more in the way of detail from the State Department about how things happened on that night. Scary and sad.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:27 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Um, this is the same asshole who thinks we should bomb Iran into the stone age to prevent "terror" against Israel.
posted by bardic at 9:16 PM on October 16, 2012


The Other Sept. 11: Blame Obama for four deaths in Libya. But don’t blame Bush for nearly 3,000 deaths in New York.

The Deafness Before the Storm
posted by homunculus at 9:19 PM on October 16, 2012


Um, this is the same asshole who thinks we should bomb Iran into the stone age to prevent "terror" against Israel.

bardic, no, I don't think that this is an accurate representation of his views. He reported on Israel's willingness to attack and somehow this was conflated as being an advocacy on his part. See this link, the key quote is:

"Though I have no idea what's going to happen in the coming weeks, this seems like an opportune moment to once again list the many reasons why an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is a bad idea. Believe me, I take seriously the arguments made by Netanyahu and Barak in favor of action against Iran (read the Shavit piece, linked above, for a very good summary of all the reasons why a nuclear Iran would be a catastrophe for Israel, and pretty damn bad for the Arabs and the West as well), but the negatives still outweigh the positives in my mind..."
posted by beisny at 12:20 AM on October 17, 2012


the Big Lie that we can be fully secure, comes a complete loss of basic liberties.

The upside to a place like The Blue for some pHD paper will be watching the posts shift back to "GRRR! Civil Liberties" once the person in charge has a non-D label after their name.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:05 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war

There is no rational, adult way to wage wars. Especially contrived, pointless ones conceived only to keep the sweet milk of taxpayer dollars cascading into the coffers of the ravenous defense industry, whilst keeping the population droolingly ignorant and quaking in fear.
posted by Twang at 5:43 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


We've got a clear timeline for getting out of Afghanistan now. And we got out of Iraq exactly on schedule as promised, last time there was a timeline. If you're willing to bet the farm Mitt's your guy for waging more peace in the world--the guy whose current major foreign policy complaint against the sitting president is that he didn't put enough of the American security apparatus in place in Benghazi to prevent the terrorist attacks that killed Christopher Stevens--I'd suggest you might want to think it through a couple more times.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:29 PM on October 17, 2012


Frappe-Sipping Libyan Militant Laughs at U.S. Manhunt for Benghazi Killers
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on October 19, 2012


How Did Gaddafi Die? A Year Later, Unanswered Questions and Bad Blood
posted by homunculus at 1:06 PM on October 19, 2012


Issa’s Benghazi document dump exposes several Libyans working with the U.S.
posted by homunculus at 11:49 AM on October 20, 2012


Slain diplomat’s mom: I didn’t criticize Obama
posted by homunculus at 1:14 PM on October 20, 2012


Fox Baselessly Suggests Obama ‘Traded’ American Lives To Appease Libya
posted by homunculus at 12:48 AM on October 22, 2012


After Benghazi Attack, Talk Lagged Behind Intelligence
posted by homunculus at 1:45 PM on October 22, 2012


rough ashlar: the Big Lie that we can be fully secure, comes a complete loss of basic liberties.

The upside to a place like The Blue for some pHD paper will be watching the posts shift back to "GRRR! Civil Liberties" once the person in charge has a non-D label after their name.
You must be new here, or else willfully ignorant. We've had many, many posts complaining about the loss of civil liberties. Check out threads about TSA, police powers, Guantanamo, and especially Occupy Wall Street, for starters.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:09 AM on October 24, 2012


Newest Benghazi Scapegoat: CIA’s David Petraeus
posted by homunculus at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2012


Sen. McCain skips intelligence briefing on Benghazi attacks to publicly call for special investigation into Benghazi attacks.
posted by clarknova at 5:41 PM on November 15, 2012


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