Class War - Divided we stand
October 28, 2001 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Class War - Divided we stand "Yet at least a tenth of the country — a very influential tenth in the media, the university, politics, foundations, churches, and the arts — is adamantly and vocally at odds with most Americans."
posted by Oxydude (56 comments total)
Talk to people who question the war and you'll find they question most media and government messages. In other words, they evaluate messages and consider their credibility. Not surprisingly, the people who question are usually better educated. Why the need to question? Because some messages are false or slanted and the discerning citizen wants to know the difference.
posted by fleener at 5:04 PM on October 28, 2001

I totted up the people whom I know who are against the war, and not a one of them is in the "cultural elite". Davis is simply trying to marginalize liberals by setting them against "real" Americans, and wrapping pro-war sentiment in a flag cut in the uniform of firemen and policemen, who are justifiably the popular heroes of the day. In a transparent attempt to flatter war-supporting students, he even pits them against "leisure class" professors! (As if anyone ever made any money in academia.)
posted by dhartung at 5:17 PM on October 28, 2001

Yeah, they had a name for these creeps back in the 1850's, Oxydude: Abolitionist!
posted by y2karl at 5:26 PM on October 28, 2001

y2karl: Sure, and many of those same abolitionists went on to work for the abolition of alcohol. They weren't consistently right.
posted by raysmj at 5:33 PM on October 28, 2001

"New smug aristocrats", my ass. Most of the people that I know that do not approve of "an eye for an eye" are not "the well-heeled upper echelon on television chastising our government", but the average soccer mom that does not approve of starving an entire country to catch one man.
posted by MaddCutty at 5:49 PM on October 28, 2001

so many anecdotes, no real evidence (polls, studies, etc.).
posted by epersonae at 6:00 PM on October 28, 2001

If someone is against the war, should they not be judged on why they are against, not just on the fact that they are against it.

Some people that are anti this war really annoy me, other I almost agree with.
posted by RobertLoch at 6:11 PM on October 28, 2001

"The tile-setter calibrates the purchase of his kid's books by how many tiles he sets on his arthritic knees, the roofer by how many shingles his ruined back can withstand, the carpenter by how many hours of nailing a week he can scrounge up, the realtor by how well he hustles to sell houses. Men and women such as these — the ancestors of the mesoi who founded the Greek city-state — tell the uncouth at movie theaters to "shut up," and square off against bullies at Little League parks, so the rest of us can enjoy the movie or game in peace." [my emphasis]

OK, I've heard it said that conservatives want to turn back time, but this is ridiculous. ;)
posted by rodii at 6:37 PM on October 28, 2001

How a man who writes books can say that the thinkers and academics of our nation are somehow untrustworthy because they don't work with their hands is beyond me. He criticizes universities and academics—but yet wrote two books about the need for a return to Classical education, the kind taught at some of the very schools he targets. Hypocrisy.

This article is the usual faulty logic: "Support our troops" is not equivalent to "support the war," no more than it was when we were fighting in Kosovo, when Republicans and conservatives both decried our involvement there (and blamed Clinton for everything), but said they supported the troops. Hypocrisy.

Even though my political views are slightly left of center, I've got more in common with the people this man lauds than any member of his imaginary aristocratic leisure class. I have three jobs. I was unemployed for most of the summer: real "I don't know if I can pay the rent" unemployment. I was raised in a lower middle class family. I'm taking out my own loans to go to college. That so-called aristocratic leisure class, from where I sit, is made of people who sweat for their paychecks with the recent memory of factories and coal mines and working with hands still in their minds, and if they are now able to work with their intellects, it's the result of generations that came before. It's a positive result of the American dream. That mental work, the thinking, is honest, real American labor. I'd expect less anti-intellectualism from a man who apparently shares the same historical advantage.

I'm a student at one of the most liberal universities in the country, at which I have the pleasure of scorning the socialists, the Marxists, the Jesus freaks, the remainder of the red-baiting righties and anyone else I please. One zealot is good a target as another. But the commonality between me and those zealots is what's American, Hanson: dissent. Red-blooded, American dissent. Fisticuffs at Little League are the acts of individuals, but dissent is communities of like-minded people acting in concert, one of the prime behaviors of a democracy.

When someone can muster thousands of years of Western and Eastern thought, and, through sheer force of words, convince men and women to change their minds, ways and goals, to change period, that's an American community in action, whether that person represents 90 percent or 10 percent of the population. But when 90 percent of Americans—who Hanson defines, impossibly and inaccurately, by exclusion as less educated—agree on an issue, they are not right by their majority. Their numbers, even at 100 percent, are insufficient to prove them right, good, just, or moral.

It's occurred to me lately that as a man slightly left of center politically, I more and more frequently find myself in the minority of opinions. I tend to vote against national trends. I tend to disregard popular media. I use a less popular computer operating system. I am, then, in that respect a part of the communities Hanson criticizes. I am out-numbered, out-polled, out-voted, out-shouted. But I'm not necessarily wrong.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:58 PM on October 28, 2001

Even just wars have fools for critics. At the outset of conflict intellectual narcissists always whine for appeasement.
posted by Real9 at 7:23 PM on October 28, 2001

What RobertLoch said,and I was wrong when I thought it wasn't front-page material.
posted by Mack Twain at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2001

A view from the right
posted by RobertLoch at 7:54 PM on October 28, 2001

"just wars"
Wow, a new oxymoron!
posted by thirteen at 8:19 PM on October 28, 2001

That's an astonishingly presumptuous premise in that article. And as someone in the "academic left", who grew up in a tough area as part of a family of manual workers, I also find it somewhat insulting in its achingly earnest stereotyping of the "noble working classes" as if Hanson were Theocritus gushing over "gentle shepherds".

But then again, as Mo suggests, aren't writers like him equally "tenured, well educated, and relatively affluent", part of the "well-heeled upper echelon" who deal with "an angry news producer, a supercilious dean, or perhaps a high school vice-principal"? He may yearn for the days of the meloi -- and even that reading of Greek history is suspect -- but he certainly doesn't have a clue what it's like to be a tile-cutter or a carpenter or a cop in 2001. And that, Real9, is intellectual narcissism of the worst kind.
posted by holgate at 8:21 PM on October 28, 2001

Even just wars have fools for critics. At the outset of conflict intellectual narcissists always whine for appeasement.

Even unjust wars have fools as supporters. This time, the fools have more company.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:23 PM on October 28, 2001

a nice counterpoint to victor davis hanson's article might be disunited we stand - america's diversity is its strength by richard rodriguez

"I cannot imagine a more patriotic insult America could offer bin Laden than to become as divided in wartime as we are divided in peace."

i guess the last point doesn't really make any sense except from an absurdist viewpoint, like the end of the name of the rose or something.
posted by kliuless at 8:24 PM on October 28, 2001

wanted: lawyers
posted by clavdivs at 8:28 PM on October 28, 2001

rock 'n roll!
posted by kliuless at 8:33 PM on October 28, 2001

Another hallmark of the Professoriate is they tend to like to sh*t where they work:

A Google Search returns:
"Dr. Victor Hanson is a professor of classical studies in the School of Arts and Humanities and has been teaching at California State University, Fresno since 1984. He began teaching a single course in Latin to a small class of seven students. "

(It caught my eye that he singled out Cal State Schools, an unusual choice, and not where most would presume the elite academics hang out.)

Anyhoo, I teach at big universities and I have to say that at least in the science-y disciplines, I'm not seeing any polar positions. But those are historically more often taken up by the Artsies anyway. People may have them but they certainly don't discuss them with students. The barriers are lower with the Artsies, and I would hardly claim them representative of 10% of academia much less 10% of the nation.
posted by dness2 at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2001

the ancestors of the mesoi who founded the Greek city-state

surely he means the descendants of the mesoi? otherwise time is going backwards for him.

did I miss something?
posted by rebeccablood at 8:47 PM on October 28, 2001

BTW, it's not that I'm down on Cal State Schools, but that's not the first system to pop into my mind when I think of mocking the snobbery of higher education. I surmise from this article that there are snobs in CSU's. However, I think the Ivy League, especially Brown and Yale, are probably much more ripe for the picking. I think taking contrary, radical positions are required for tenure there.
posted by dness2 at 8:52 PM on October 28, 2001

dness2 - Yeah, but at those schools the students are more likely to be of this elite he's trying to set up, and the students are much more likely to be anti-war, so he wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

Regardless, this article was one of the worst pieces of shit I've ever read. I hope the guy was kidding.
posted by jeb at 9:20 PM on October 28, 2001

so many anecdotes, no real evidence (polls, studies, etc.).

Are you referring to the article or the subsequent discussion?
posted by ljromanoff at 9:21 PM on October 28, 2001

How a man who writes books can say that the thinkers and academics of our nation are somehow untrustworthy...?

You hit the nail on the head. I have followed Victor Hanson's career from back when his hypocritical anti-intellectualism was only annoying to people who read books about the ancient Greeks.

This is a perverse man who would not be swayed by your industrial origins, holgate; you see, he himself has a huge superiority complex built around the fact that he still owns the family farm while teaching at Cal State Fresno. Just take a look at his nostalgic longings for the "democracy" of the aforementioned Athenian mesoi (quotation marks because H. is particularly in love with the putative decency of a hyper-homogenous, all-male class of farmers - closest parallel in U.S. history is the Jacksonian citizen - with whom he overidentifies).

But Hanson's great pride in life is to have written a simplistic polemic, Who Killed Homer?. In this book, the author, whose contributions to humanistic learning are not that great, lets us know that he despises the efforts of virtually everyone in the community of scholars, which is killing the Classics by trying to use modern social science methods to understand the ancient societies that produced our cherished canonical works. I can't do justice to how coarse the book is, but, even if you can't hack deconstruction or even Greenblattesque New Historicism, you find yourself amazed at the sweep of his desire to consign so much of the rest of modern intellectual labor to the dustbin (it's ideological crap if it's not self-obsessed hero worship à la Hanson, he thinks).

I say all this being neither a pacifist nor a postmodern. I just say, if this is the opinion you want to read, it would be more credible if you could find someone saying it who isn't a hypocritical crank. Come to think of it, you'll have a hard time finding anything that meets the description. I believe that thinking citizens, even if they disagree with the opinions that so disgust Hanson, can see well enough into the nature of war and global political forces to appreciate that none of us today has a secure pedestal from which to denounce those who disagree with us about such a terribly complex and fateful moment in history.

What's the best retort to this? Hanson points to the supposed integrity and wisdom of his students, and he and Matt Drudge imply that a crowd of bereaved firemen in New York ought to be our tutors in the subject of appropriate moral sentiments to have about war and global politics. You know what? Interview one of those gung-ho Fresno undergrads or pissed-off N.Y. firemen on tape, and see what you get. In the best case, opinions definitively shaped by the absence of basic factual information. In the worst case, one part bigotry for every part of analysis.

You want to call that elitism? Okay by me, it's a kind I think I can be proud of, not least because I believe in every possible effort to make thoughtfulness universal and ignorance less common. (I am not assuming that freedom from ignorance means agreement with my political opinions - but I do think that freedom from ignorance would mean respect for all serious people who try to get some facts and try to do good with them and keep an open mind - yes, even Hillary Clinton!)
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:58 PM on October 28, 2001

I am not a part of the "affluent group", my partner and I own part of a small deli, in which we both work hard everyday.

I do question our involvement in this war because we all need to question an action that could take our lives.

I feel strongly that this war has been planned and provoked into action. Our government has been planning an action in Afghanistan for some time. Their main problem was that our current president didn't have the kind of mandate that it takes to start a war. They did know, however, that bin Laden was capable of something like what happened in New York. My (research) educated guess is that if they 1.started to mass troops in the mid-east (in the guise of DOD contracts given to Kellogg Brown and Root and 2. leaked information to Indian and Turkish governments that military action was planned that 3. bin Laden would attempt an attack.

Whether they knew it would be of the magnitude of what happened on Sept. 11th; I don't know. We do know that the NSA said they had received threats so you decide.

Wars are never for a cause. They are always about land and resources.

Before you completely discount this theory, keep in mind that in may the history channel did a documentary that finally exposed the fact that the US knew that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor and let it happen in order to bring us into WWII.
posted by bas67 at 10:02 PM on October 28, 2001

My friend teaches two remedial English courses at a community college and two basic comp classes at a state college, and she says the students are 60/40, against the bombing. Neither she nor the students she teaches are the "elite" he's talking about.

I heard a bunch of this kind of crap at my Mom's the other day when she was listening to Dr. Laura - about how the professors are teaching *gasp* Marxism to the students! Imagine learning about Marxist theory at a university! Feh. I think that Horowitz fellow was a guest.

And as for Latin (which was my language of choice), I'd like Dr. Hanson to convince the business majors at our school that it's important for their careers to learn a dead language. This isn't Europe, after all. ;)
posted by kittyloop at 10:23 PM on October 28, 2001

It's all fine and good as long as *some* of his readers go away believing what he says is true. The friend teaching remedial English? Some people will look at her, and as rhetoric like this piles on, more people will dismiss her/hate her because she's "elitist"(read antiamerican). Wasn't there a time in this century that a particular government's propaganda machine was able to pit one peaceful neighbor against the other with similar blind tripe, eventually resulting in the murder of some 6,000,000 innocents?
posted by crasspastor at 10:31 PM on October 28, 2001

last century as it were. . .
posted by crasspastor at 10:35 PM on October 28, 2001

Opinion was split, however, over the U.S.-led bombing campaign of Afghanistan in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with 46 percent supporting Washington's action and 43 percent opposing it.

-- Taken from Japan's national Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Full article is here.

I'm sure the 43 percent of Japanese citizens (give or take the 3% margin of error) would be gratified to be considered among the educated elite in their country. Ha! Hanson is bunk. Or would he argue that this statistic is irrelevant because ignorant foreigners couldn't possibly understand how "true" 'mericuns feel about this issue? Who cares? He's still bunk.
posted by Bixby23 at 10:38 PM on October 28, 2001

I just find it quite easy to be a pacifist... I mean you can say I am against war and killing, so your hands and conscience remain clean while those who do not take that luxury protect the pacifists as well as the rest of the country.

I'm not saying that one should not be free to object to war. But this one is just. Sad as it may be, I do not want any more Americans dead. We are only after one guy, we asked them to give him to us, well now we are going to have to do it the dirty way, I like to fly, hell I like opening the mail. I hope this war ends as soon as possible... but not until the job is done.

And this does not mean I do not have compassion for the people of Afghanistan, before we went in there, I felt bad for the people of Afghanistan, living under a regime that destroyed all that art, and oppressed its own citizens. This war is also for them, we will hopefully put in a more tolerant government that allows its own people to express themselves.

And unfortunately people will have to die in the process, it is sad, but we can not protest the Taliban out of power. We have to force them out.
posted by dancu at 10:49 PM on October 28, 2001

Can't everyone, practically, see right through this? Does anyone read the National Review besides diehard conservatives and outraged liberals, along with the punditry class? This column is an example of political fusion -- in this case, of classic populist demagoguery to conservative ideas -- gone awry. Huey Long and Big Jim Folsom, meet Edmund Burke and Barry Goldwater. Bizarre. And it doesn't work, ultimately, since instead of a vague "them" the author's fighting, he attempts to pinpoint the "them." Then he fails to be in any way precise about it. What a train wreck.
posted by raysmj at 10:51 PM on October 28, 2001

dancu, what are talking about? Everyone at every level of government has repeatedly stated that we are absolutely not "only after one guy." We are bombing a country, and killing civilians when we haven't even been presented evidence that would convince any court of law of that one guy's guilt, anyway.
We live in a country that screamed about the rule of law when our president got some head from an intern, but decides that rules and laws should go out the window when sex isn't involved.
And speaking from my own personal experience only, having grown up in a pretty poor, lower-middle class town, I'd have to say that the general attitude toward war from that sector of society is the result of ignorance and frustration, rather than any sort of imagined dignity that comes from working with ones hands.
posted by Doug at 11:23 PM on October 28, 2001

We live in a country that screamed about the rule of law when our president got some head from an intern, but decides that rules and laws should go out the window when sex isn't involved.

Oh man. Good point.
posted by crasspastor at 11:27 PM on October 28, 2001

real9: if unsubtle insinuation is all the argument you can muster, you may as well not check in.

As ray notes, this article is so vague in defining its terms as to be laughable. The whole point seems to be defending the boors who jeered Hillary by explaining how she's a member of the intellectual elite, but from what I heard (and I know, it's just a rumor), she spent the last eight years as First Lady (and before that as a lawyer, not an academic). Is Laura Bush now to be feared? Do teachers work with their hands, counting up the mortgage with each paper they grade? It's claptrap.

And in the end it's all to justify a rude claque at a concert who couldn't keep their politics to themselves for one night. These are your new heroes, Hanson? You're kidding, right?
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on October 28, 2001

I had to read Hanson's article three times to try to see the point he is trying to make. All I can think of is a group of old Southern women decrying the lost of the Southern way of life. A life of which they have no first hand knowledge. They sit around in a nice air conditioned restaurant and complain about the the lost of manners and the rude behavior of every one not of their group, make a big deal over an over cooked piece of fish then leave no tip for the poor girl who waited on them. I guess I am clueless, I left the poor girl an extra tip because I felt she had deserved for putting with the 7 or 8 of them and still smiling.
posted by bjgeiger at 2:12 AM on October 29, 2001

yes, this article is a load of horseshit (to me, the phrase 'most people' in any sort of opinion piece, whether it's a dunderheaded polemic or a plea to mom to be allowed to stay out later)—but the problem is, it's exactly the type of polarizing rhetoric that gets published (you do all remember ann coulter, yes?) and passed along until it's picked up enough sediment of credibility to turn into a small, hard rock of 'fact.' the question is, now, how do people who don't fit the laughable profile here make their voices heard on the same level, or at least with a sort of credibility afforded by publication? the national review might seem like bullshit to you and me, but it runs ads, and has editors, so it has more credibility on a large scale than, say, metafilter.

so the question, then, is one of reconciling alternative viewpoints with 'credibility' - and please don't tell me that bulletin boards etc have credibility, because, well, they don't.

i've been reading progressive publications (the nation, the progressive, in these times) post-9/11 and one of the things that frustrated me the most was seeing the same bylines over and over and over again. in a time when 'diversity' and 'variety' are constantly namechecked, how can people ensure that those concepts aren't wholly bankrupted for the sake of marketing ploys? i've been trying to think of ways to get around this problem -- i think the reaction of people in the twenty-thirtysomething generation has been wholly ignored -- and coming up blank. (and no, i don't have enough money to start my own magazine.)
posted by maura at 5:14 AM on October 29, 2001

[Small off-topic parenthetical comment:

keep in mind that in may the history channel did a documentary that finally exposed the fact that the US knew that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor and let it happen in order to bring us into WWII.

This "fact" has been exposed and exposed and exposed, and has been the object of debate for nearly fifty years.]
posted by rodii at 6:04 AM on October 29, 2001

i've been reading progressive publications (the nation, the progressive, in these times) post-9/11 and one of the things that frustrated me the most was seeing the same bylines over and over and over again.

It's classic lazy journalism, regardless of affiliation. I've been loathe to comment on the various Chomsky threads here, because I think part of the problem is that Chomsky is expected to have an opinion on everything, even when others -- many with very similar perspectives -- are better qualified to comment. But because Chomsky's on every journalist's Rolodex, rather like Henry Kissinger, James Rubin, or dozens of other self-proclaimed experts and pundits, you get this depressing polarisation of bylines.
posted by holgate at 6:49 AM on October 29, 2001

Just a little aside....
Threads like this are exactly why I love MeFi.
Thanks all!
posted by nofundy at 6:58 AM on October 29, 2001

"But because Chomsky's on every journalist's Rolodex, rather like Henry Kissinger" I think these two had more to do with cambodian genocide then people like to admit. which means i dont trust either side. Im still at George Will speed.
posted by clavdivs at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2001

This Harold Bloom -esque commentary lacks any real substance, and is ironically a missive from the decried ivory tower itself. Additionally, for an educated man, Hanson has committed the logical fallacy of ad-hominem: note that his entire piece is about the non-pro-war people's background and ideals, and doesn't address the substance of their concerns at all.

Look at the claims made in this piece:

criticism, debate, and dissent = anti-American
pacifism = arrogant disregard of victims of terrorism
academics = smug aristocrats
reactionary anger and desire for vengance = red-blooded, manual labor American

Hanson erroneously says that the academic elite "have neither the ability nor desire to ram a hot stake into the eye of the savage Cyclops to save their comrades." Idiotic statement, since it is the "academic elites" throughout American history that have provided us with our military capacity (i.e., high-tech weaponry).

The response here on MF has been well-reasoned, and it is comforting to know that so many of us can see through the thin veneer of rhetoric in this piece. But it is unfortunate that this will be taken up as another banner by the "patriotic" march to unreasoned support of war.

I would rather have the supporters or critics of our "new war" to be reasoned in their opinions, regardless of what that opinion is, than have them emoting, name-calling, and constructing ad-hominem pseudo-arguments against their dissenters. I

t is not surprising that Hanson devalues logic and reason in a writing that displays neither.
posted by yesster at 7:06 AM on October 29, 2001

My heavens, this piece is vile.

9.11 was "prompted" by the politics of Bill Clinton, which "projected national weakness and timidity"?

You want to talk about 10-percenterism? How about the 10 percent (or less) of U.S. corporate executives and shareholders who will enjoy a fat war dividend if the Republicans are allowed to retroactively forgive parts of 15 years of corporate income taxes?

The Senate will hopefully stop or at least limit the rank war profiteering that has passed the House of Reps.

Trying to portray the class divisions in the U.S. as pro-war and anti-war would make Goebbels proud.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:20 AM on October 29, 2001

He criticizes universities and academics—but yet wrote two books about the need for a return to Classical education, the kind taught at some of the very schools he targets. Hypocrisy.

As hinted at by others, Hanson really hates the universities. He attacks them because they have abandoned the ideals of a "classical education." Instead of reading the Canon of Western Civilization, college students read books by blacks, women, and (saints preserve us!) lesbians.

I'm amazed at Hanson's tenacity to weave this thread into nearly any topic on which he writes. I also find it curious that several times he lumps churches into his imagined elite 10%.

I think this may be the first time I've seen realtors thrown in with the "muscular classes": tile setters, roofers and carpenters. Maybe I just haven't met the right realtors.
posted by ahughey at 9:44 AM on October 29, 2001

Dancu - Besides those men and women who are actually out fighting the war right now, the group that has had the most difficult job in this war, and the most dangerous, has been the active protestors. You think it's easy to be an outspoken member of an unpopular minority? I'd say it's much easier to fall in and toe the line with everybody else, knowing you're probably never going to have to actually fight in the conflict, than to open yourself up to ridicule, slander and possible loss of employment for stating what you believe. Am I missing your point?
posted by Hildago at 9:46 AM on October 29, 2001

What a bunch of crap. I am completely against the way this conflict is being handled and I have never been to college, never earned more than US$30k/yr, never written a book, made a movie, got cozy with the Palestinians or any of the rest of the garbage chucked about in this article.

The reason people are against this war is pretty simple. Its because the more military action the US takes, the more AMerican civilians will die. Period. It is not about being elite or overeducated or overinformed. Its about maintaining the ability to think rationally during a crisis.

There are gazillions of other, BETTER, solutions to the problem. It is the lack of even considering these, or even putting htem on the table, or acknowledging their existence, that makes me personally so angry. I fail to see how this makes me somehow "elite."
posted by zodiac at 12:55 PM on October 29, 2001

There are gazillions of other, BETTER, solutions to the problem.

I'd personally love to hear one or two, since most of the anti-war posts to date have been painfully shy about viable alternatives. I mean, really, I'm as big a hawk as seems to lurk around here, but no one really likes that we are at war with these peckers - it's about like a combination of stomping on cockroaches (in that you never get them all) and smacking down the neighborhood 8th grade bully (in that it's totally overkill, and the rest of the neighborhood doesn't really respect you for it). The real problem is - what the hell else do we do? We can't just simply ignore them, because they killed 5000 people, attacked our largest city, murdered civilians with abandon, hijacked our airlines, and trashed our economy. We have to do something. But what? I'm all for thinking rationally, but I don't see that we've got much choice. Military action was, and so far as I can tell remains, our only viable response.

I am for the military effort until I hear a rational non-violent solution that has stands a chance of working and is realistic in light of current geopolitics.
posted by UncleFes at 2:23 PM on October 29, 2001

'We can't just simply ignore them, because they killed 5000 people, attacked our largest city, murdered civilians with abandon, hijacked our airlines, and trashed our economy. '
As you no doubt are aware, this kind of wanton destruction is not unusual in todays world.
In international politics, resorting to violence should be the last option tried, rather than the first. Threatening people is not as helpful as conversing with them, and sends out a clear message to any observer: 'violence gets results'.
Non-violent solutions can be seen as 'rational' by default. To avoid the accusation that the military action is an act of revenge, or attempt to gain access to oil fields, a few simple steps could have been taken:
1. negotiate
2. provide evidence for claims about who is responsible
3. allow countries joining TWAT to define what terrorism is by concensus.
Now, seeing as the path taken has veered from this kind of rational (logical) approach onto a fast lane to destruction, what can be done to rectify the situation?
The same things, that's what, plus stopping the attacks immediately.
posted by asok at 3:16 AM on October 30, 2001

As you no doubt are aware, this kind of wanton destruction is not unusual in todays world.

Indeed - but not in America. And the world has a long history of picking and choosing which episodes of wanton destruction it chooses to recognize. When Europeans butcher each other, it's everyone's problem. When Africans butcher each other, it's apparently business as usual. More people died in 3 months during the massacres in Rwanda than have died in 10 years of Bosnian civil war.

In international politics, resorting to violence should be the last option tried, rather than the first. Threatening people is not as helpful as conversing with them, and sends out a clear message to any observer: 'violence gets results'.

In general, I agree. However, history has also shown that negotiating with terrorists typically produces more terrorism. We are not really fighting a state, and the state that were are nominally fighting is rather reluctant to behave as typical states do on the world stage. I don't feel that conversing was a viable option - who do we converse with? If it is the Taliban, then we have been conversing with them for since their existence, and Afghanistan for well over two decades. It may be, asok, that the current military campaign is the last option tried. The timeline leading to our current events did not start on 9/11, it simply crystallized then, and due to the actions of others, not our own. Prior to being attacked, we exercised a great deal of restraint with regard to Afghanistan, including a lot of humanitarian aid, and indulging them when they did things that weren't popular on the world stage (I'm thinking of the big Buddha blowup).

Non-violent solutions can be seen as 'rational' by default.

Good point; they can also be seen as 'ineffective' by default as well, since they invariably take more time, effort and nearly always result in solutions that rely on compromise rather than absolutes.

1. negotiate

I think that the US government put a great deal of effort into negotiating with the Taliban, and even more effort into garner the approval of the Muslim countries prior to conducting military operations - a month long process, and one that both failed (with the Taliban) and succeeded (with the rest of pan-Islam).

2. provide evidence for claims about who is responsible

Purportedly, that evidence has been provided to NATO and the Muslim states with whom we sought alliance with. There is a good deal of truth to the idea that the evidence presented might be of a nature that reveals the collection technique. But I see you point - more evidence could and should be delivered to the public.

At the same time, however, I think it should be noted that, for bin Laden's supporters, no amount of evidence, however damning, is likely to persuade them of his guilt. Realistically, his supporters know his guilt, and are pleased with it. Evidence, in this case, renders the question of support moot.

3. allow countries joining TWAT to define what terrorism is by consensus.

Is the definition of terrorism in question? I was under the impression that the Geneva Conventions answered that question succinctly.

stopping the attacks immediately.

I think that might be far more counterproductive than you recognize. It indicates de facto victory for the terrorists and Taliban, which will win them thousands of converts; it represents weakness not only among the US military but in NATO in general, which emboldens the activities of so-called "rogue" states; it negates the agreements with have with allies who also were attacked; it indicates fickleness on the part of US government, which leads to distrust on the part of both allies and potential allies; and lastly, it doesn't solve the problem of eliminating terrorists and ensuring American security.
posted by UncleFes at 7:04 AM on October 30, 2001

Your last paragraph, UncleFes, could be used as an argument for stopping high-altitude bombardments. If, as Tony Blair said this afternoon, the aim is to weaken the Taliban sufficiently that they fall to internal opposition, the current military strategy continues to appear at least questionable, and potentially counterproductive. It becomes increasingly difficult to draw upon the moral imperative that stems from the attacks in the US; it extends the opportunities for destabilising insurgency in neighbouring states, most notably Pakistan; and there appears to be no sign that the destruction of strategic Taliban targets demoralises the radicalised militia chiefs, many of which aren't themselves Afghans. It also doesn't help when the head of the Royal Marines says that his men are neither ready for orders, nor aware of any specific role to play. Right now, there's reason to wonder whether the bombing continues simply because neither the US nor the UK have come up with a more effective plan of military action.
posted by holgate at 7:17 AM on October 30, 2001

That could certainly be. I too feel that (like the Gulf War), this particular battle is relying too much on air power and is limited by it. However, we must also take into account that (a) the Taliban is not likely to issue pronouncements on the level of "We're getting our asses kicked! Holy crap!"; (b) the independant media is being very effectively kept out of the engagement, and the quality of public information on the extent and success of the campaign may very well be quite low. It could be that the bombing does exactly what my last paragraph suggests, but we are being badly informed of its success (or failure for that matter). The media deserves a lot of criticism - for its jingoism, which can be expected, but more for its hystericism and total disregard for their responsibilities as the fourth estate - to wit, to provide the latest factual information to the public in as objective and timely a fashion as possible, so that the public may act rationally in its own best interest.

But I feel that most of the justification for miltiary action stems less from moral authority (morality being rather fluid these days) than from a need and responsibility for the US government to defend its citizens as best as it is able. But regardless, I personally believe that the public impression of the campaign is hamstrung by lack of information and, hence, curtails our ability to accurately assess its effectiveness. Assuming that my government is (a) not completely made up of murderous psychos, and (b) assuming there is as large a population of doves amongst the ledaership as hawks, and (c) similarly assuming that the US military is not incompetent, I can only surmise that there are things going on in Afghanistan that I don't know about.

What the heck is that about the Royal Marines? I thought it was mostly SAS in Afghanistan...?

Please forgive my (a)(b) stuff, it helps me clarify as I write.
posted by UncleFes at 7:46 AM on October 30, 2001

asok, and holgate to a lesser degree, seem to see this as a revenge and punishment measure.

We are concerned with ultimately punishing the al-Qaeda terrorists, should they somehow be captured or delivered to us. Regardless of the outcome of that process, it should be emphasized that part of the purpose of turning so quickly to a military solution after 9/11 was the prevention of future attacks. Eliminating their bases is a critical component. It means they have to use money, time, human resources, and even goodwill that would otherwise have been directed against us in self-defense, in mobility and logistics, in the location and construction of new facilities. It weakens them in obvious and straightforward ways. Ideally, the military campaign will also lead to the end of Afghanistan as a safe haven for further attacks. Given the level of ruthlessness they have demonstrated thus far, there can be little doubt that should they acquire weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. This cannot be permitted. In a very real way, the Taliban are supporting al-Qaeda murders, and even "innocent" Afghan civilians who are not taking up arms against the Taliban are effectively supporting their continued power. It's a difficult argument to accept, but these civilian casualties are just and must be counted against the risk of further terrorist acts against yet-unknown targets in the West.

I am willing to allow the man who has murdered my friend to stand trial, but I can't do that while he's holding a gun to my head and laughing at the police. In that situation, shooting him is legal self-defense.
posted by dhartung at 4:48 PM on October 30, 2001

It's a difficult argument to accept, but these civilian casualties are just and must be counted against the risk of further terrorist acts against yet-unknown targets in the West.

The question then becomes whether the military value of the bombing and whatever propaganda America and our allies get from it counteracts the huge propaganda value the Taliban gets from the footage of errant bombs. I'm becoming less and less convinced that it does, as all the high-value targets have already been bombed. At some point we will cross a line (if we haven't already) after which the radicalization of people who see the civilian casualties on t.v. is more of a blow to future American safety and interests than whatever immediate gain there is from dropping the bomb. When we accidentally bombed near an old folks home, the intended target was apparently a single helicopter.

(This is not an attempt to address the moral virtue of an air war, the inevitability of civilian casualties in war, or the larger question of the justness of the war; like Fes, I'm in favor of sending in the troops, although the winter is awfully close.)
posted by snarkout at 7:16 PM on October 30, 2001

No, dhartung, I don't see it as revenge and punishment. I see it as strategically cack-handed, potentially counterproductive in diplomatic terms, and to some extent dislocated from the moral imperative that vindicates preventative action. In spite of myself, I would cheer on some kind of neo-colonialism to purge Afghanistan. In the meantime, I don't see any bombardment of flying schools in Florida, or of universities in Germany, or of hawala dealers in Pakistan, even though all of these have and will continue to be the primary means by which brainwashed conscripts become potential mass murderers. In short, I see it precisely as an attempt to prevent future attacks, and consider it all the more half-arsed because of that. Talk about bait and switch.
posted by holgate at 9:19 PM on October 30, 2001

And I'll add something said today by Sir Michael Howard, probably the most eminent military historian in Britain: trying to defeat terrorism with high-altitude bombing is like trying to treat cancer with a blowtorch. Most critically, an extended period of bombardment alienates precisely those communities that might be useful in providing intelligence to prevent future atrocities.
posted by holgate at 5:24 AM on October 31, 2001

"In the meantime, I don't see any bombardment of flying schools in Florida, or of universities in Germany, or of hawala dealers in Pakistan" glad to see your in contact with felix Lieter, getting all the latest intel. Bin ladens M.O. was to wait awhile between attacks. I think he might stick to that M.O. the obvious nature of Howards statement is laughable. An academic who says the obvious. Thanks nick, lj is right, you fail to understand certain things like i fail to communicate them. bombardment is just to rid the heavy equipment and get the mullahs hopping. quit making sound like that this tactic is archaic, used by giants to combat flies.
posted by clavdivs at 6:13 AM on October 31, 2001

Heavy equipment, clav? You mean the WWII guns stacked up in Kandahar? I see no hopping mullahs. I do see a tapdancing general in Pakistan with a disgruntled public on his hands. Tell me how we get there from here, and I'll stop laughing and start understanding. And sarcasm doesn't become you; stick with incomprehensibility.
posted by holgate at 7:48 AM on October 31, 2001

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