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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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48 Responses

  1. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Overlooking half of Ron Paul’s agenda in favor of the other half is no different than supporting your party’s nominee.  I’m a Republican because I agree with their positions 60-80% of the time, probably a better batting average than Ron Paul has with his libertarian boosters.

    So as far as the anti-partisanship argument goes, feh. Some “non-partisans” are far more ideological than I am or Lib60 [a Dem Party activist] is, esp those who would vote for Ron Paul despite his clear unfitness for the presidency.

    As near as I can glean from Greenwald’s painfully prolix tapdance, he wants his core audience, the very left and a few stragglers like Jason to put the heat on Obama on drones & drugs and the rest of that ideological menu, and not worry that it’ll weaken Obama vs. the GOP nominee.

    But I question whether they’ve been all that shy.  ;-P

     

     Report

    • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Some “non-partisans” are far more ideological than I am or Lib60 [a Dem Party activist] is, esp those who would vote for Ron Paul despite his clear unfitness for the presidency.

      While I wouldn’t vote for Ron Paul (since I don’t vote beyond local issues regardless), of the people that still do vote who care deeply about preventing war I can understand why they would. This ideological allegiance doesn’t strike me as bad beyond the unlikeliness of being served by mainstream political process at all; there’s a reason why even the votes of ACLU type capital-L Liberals end up empowering people like Obama, who celebrate the new year by legalizing indefinite detention without trial. The frustration is palpable.

      As near as I can glean from Greenwald’s painfully prolix tapdance, he wants his core audience, the very left and a few stragglers like Jason to put the heat on Obama on drones & drugs and the rest of that ideological menu, and not worry that it’ll weaken Obama vs. the GOP nominee.

      But I question whether they’ve been all that shy. ;-P

      I’m not sure what you mean by this. Are you saying the heat has actually been applied, or that they don’t give a fish as much as they portray at the end of the day? If the latter, I would agree, considering the routine backlash Greenwald gets whenever he points out how blatantly Obama violates stated liberal principle on such issues — basically, they have judged resistance to reforms of entitlements as more important than resistance to the overall imperial/police state; If the former, simple question: where? Even the OWS crew that mic-checked an Obama event said they’d vote for him anyway!

      BTW: If each party sincerely believed the ideological schpeil they regularly deliver to their base, we’d be discussing Ron Paul’s challenge to President Kucinich.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho says:

        I’d like to think that Paul or Kucinich would lose at least 49 states each to Obama or Romney respectively.  But I could be projecting.

        And no, I don’t think Obama’s critics from his left have been all that quiet.Report

  2. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Well I suppose in a purity based system where only vast intellects like Mr. Greenwald’s are allowed to make policy choices would be an ideal of sorts. I mean we do see a lot of policy-oriented discussions when debating the merits of China’s five year plans with regard to their economy and not much discussion of political outcomes or factionalism.

    The level of political discourse, particularly in large-scale national level issues is often dismal, but I think that’s partly because debates about the powers available to a president are often broad to the level of abstraction. This issue gets even worse when it’s expanded to a scale beyond national boundaries and we start seeing…well not necessarily a disconnect, but an inability to adequately frame policy issues on a level beyond simply party adherence because, frankly, the gradation is more subtle and the number of issue areas substantially greater than we like to admit. There is a consequence with systems that are single member plurality districts like the US and it’s simply that issues MUST become consolidated under a broad party-banner. You can’t vote for individual parties that work on one level but not on another, because well, that’s not how apportionment works.

    I’m also going to posit that there’s a disconnect between the policy-analysis community and the general understanding of political decision making in general, as well. The thing I found most striking reading policy literature (specifically NASPAA related public affairs schools and journals) is just how politically agnostic the debate tends to become. Historians focus on specific administrations and personalities, but only touch lightly on national party trends or voter trends. Budgeting focuses on personalities or the microeconomic impacts of choices.

    On some level this sort of detachment is desirable. Do we really want professional bureaucracies becoming politically entrenched? The risk of this is strongly visible in the outcomes shown by the US military-industrial complex, which has become an active participant in lobbying efforts. On the other hand, it does obscure the necessity of policy-makers to be able to tailor and fit their policy preferences in a way that can communicate to national issues and connect them to individual candidates on a regional or congressional district level.

    I don’t know if this ramble really gets to a point. Yes, the merits of policy positions vanish, but partly because we, the policy-analysis community also like to disappear. We hide in think-tanks, lobbying groups, op-eds and congressional staffs, trying to forge consensus behind the scenes without bringing out our perspectives in public. We like to indulge in the idea that policy professionals can influence outcomes independent of who is actually in control, or at least sway political appointees.

    Is that ideal? I don’t know. What’s the solution? Is there a technocratic form of democratic governance that can work?Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      We hide in think-tanks, lobbying groups, op-eds and congressional staffs, trying to forge consensus behind the scenes without bringing out our perspectives in public. We like to indulge in the idea that policy professionals can influence outcomes independent of who is actually in control, or at least sway political appointees.

      Another Straussian.  Wait ’til you meet our Mr. Murali, Nob.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    It’s telling that when Greenwald goes into his “the very same people who” mode of hypocrisy-shaming the political culture, his signature style of link-heavy prose that is seen when he is on his home turf of policy completely disintegrates into citation-free harangue.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      (…to me.)Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I do love how he continually descends into polemical strawman arguments by creating hypothetical liberal Obama supporters who, by virtue of not-existing are able to be manipulated into a great many positions that are, on the face of it, absurd.

      That said.

      More than anything else, I’m so fucking tired of people like Greenwald characterizing use of force as if it’s a deliberate targeting of civilians for the sake of killing them, as if they’re there simply for the sake of causing casualties.

      I mean COME ON!

      Look at this line of reasoning:
      Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

      …strawman much, really?

      I mean, really, Glenn? What the fuck is wrong with you?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Nonsense. The people he describes exist and are plentiful. I encounters some version of them on a regular basis.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          Erik, I imagine you’re still sore about the raft of criticisms you received for your Ron Paul endorsement, but this is really a bit beneath you. Are you seriously telling me that there’s a lot of people who will LITERALLY cop to saying they’re fine with slaughtering Muslim children and randomly incarcerating people in exchange for these and will characterize it as such?

          Moreover, the conceptual problem with Greenwald’s line of argument is that he doesn’t take an equally polemical stance on what supporting a hypothetical Paul presidency would mean.

          Do I need to create an equally stupid “in exchange for” reasoning, or is this sufficiently clear without degenerating into “my strawman is a worse person than yours” argument?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        “More than anything else, I’m so fucking tired of people like Greenwald characterizing use of force as if it’s a deliberate targeting of civilians for the sake of killing them, as if they’re there simply for the sake of causing casualties.”

        Wait, do intentions suddenly matter?Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          Am I on record having said that they don’t?Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            My point is that it seems like you are defending collateral damage by saying that the military didn’t intend to kill civilians as if that matters. Greenwald isn’t saying that the military is intending to kill civilians; he’s saying that whether or not they intend to kill civilians, civilians are being killed, and that’s what’s important.

            As an aside, Why are we sending drones out there knowing full well that the chances of civilians dying goes up? Because one American soldier’s life is worth far more than the lives of whatever number of brown civilians are killed by our drones. And that’s the gist of the (very tight) argument.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I get the impression that Greenwald is at least trying to imply (if not directly state) that the goal of the policy is to utilize American force to “slaughter Muslim children”. The phrasing of the argument is explicitly rooted in the death of civilians and specifically “Muslim children” rather than the fact that it’s a cost related to a policy that has an explicit and different end result in mind.

              We can enter into a policy argument about the use of drone strikes to target Al Qaeda leadership and whether or not this is a desirable policy from the stand-point of US national security. Or we can engage in polemics that don’t even acknowledge the fact that there’s a reason the drone strikes are an issue to begin with. There’s an explicit thesis in Greenwald’s argument, and in many of the anti-intervention arguments here at the League that the reasoning for strikes is simply for the whim of Obama wanting to use drone strikes to kill Muslims.

              Intention and target selection protocol is important from a policy range perspective because it tells us under what sort of circumstances a strike is considered worthwhile. Moreover, it’s important to examine drone strikes as part of the overall range of options in advancing what has been the national security obsession of the United States for the last decade.

              Now, there is an argument to be made that Al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States, and that we can safely stop using lethal force to kill their leadership. That is a valid argument, and one that I think we should be having in relation to the entire War on Terror.

              The problem with Greenwald et. al is that they don’t bother to make this case. They jump over the question of legitimacy of even prosecuting an enemy like Al Qaeda (which again, is open to question) and simply jump to the conclusion that anyone who rightly or wrongly believes that Al Qaeda is a legitimate national security concern MUST be a blood-thirsty sociopath who is intent on slaughtering Muslim children because they’re a categorical Other not worthy of spending American lives to save.

              This is absurd. Now maybe there are commentators who are willing to concede that Al Qaeda’s not worth fighting, but the other stuff is worth keeping up this pretense anyway. But on the whole, I think the majority of people who are ambivalent about drone strikes or intervention in general are of the opinion that drone strikes, among an array of bad options, is the least bad option. (As Jane Mayer commented once)

              Compared to the prospect of long-term US troop commitments in the Af-Pak border, or using conventional air strikes or god forbid private contractors out for a $40,000,000,000 bounty on someone’s head, all of these will have some sort of eventual cost in blood and treasure. Now one could argue that the threat of Al Qaeda is so miniscule that it’s not worthwhile to expend blood and treasure for this objective. Fine. Let’s have that discussion. But we can have it without the effort needed to call me a baby-killer in so many words who cares more about reproductive rights than the “slaughter of Muslim children.”

              Moreover, this is a sloppy argument that goes around begging questions about intervention writ large on the other side. For example, I hate to be a broken record in bringing it up again, but the Rwandan Genocide. A commitment of US troops could have dramatically altered the outcome and reduced the number of civilians killed. More, if the international community (and the general peacenik crowd) had not simply allowed the perpetrators to run across the border and set up “refugee camps” (which were little more than protection zones from retaliation and raiding posts back into Rwanda) humanitarian intervention could have done more. The fact that the US Administration actively tried to prevent intervention in any form (and strenuously objected to US intervention in Rwanda) suggests a serious skewing of priorities. Why doesn’t the US intervene in the form of peacekeeping forms in Subsaharan African conflicts? Because the life of one American soldier is worth more than a half a million Rwandans?

              The reality of the matter is anti-war/anti-interventionism and non-armed humanitarian intervention are both becoming tools used by dictatorial regimes to disarm opposition to their slaughter of their own and in some cases even facilitating these same ends. Even imperfectly the liberal world order established and supported by the US in the post-1945 world still remains the only thing that’s trying to keep such things from returning to the age of realpolitik.

              Obama’s intervention in Libya was imperfect. Syria appears to be headed in a similar direction, with more leading from the rear and trying to forge an international consensus against letting Asad’s regime get away with its crimes. Would an alternative world in which all of this was kosher be a better one? Would a world with President Paul who basically told people to go fuck themselves in the face of slaughter, or starvation be a better one? A more peaceful one? A more just one?

              Do we really want states like China or Russia to be setting the dialogue on what acceptable behavior against dissidents is?Report

              • Although you make a number of good points, I have to noodle you a bit for this one where you go a tad bit off the deep end:

                The reality of the matter is anti-war/anti-interventionism and non-armed humanitarian intervention are both becoming tools used by dictatorial regimes to disarm opposition to their slaughter of their own and in some cases even facilitating these same ends.

                Dictatorial regimes are planting anti-war moles?  Snark aside:

                Are you saying that the intentions of the anti-war crowd don’t matter, just the practical outcome of their policy preferences?

                Isn’t this the same argument that you’re criticizing so strenuously on the other side when you say the intentions of the interventionists *do* matter, not just the practical side effects of their methods?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t think dictatorial regimes use anti-war moles. But they are increasingly becoming better at managing their PR in a way that allows them to skirt responsibility, at least in cases where the international community is not interested in intervening. There’s a good number of anti-war blogs/sites that do buy into the “anti-colonialist” narrative a lot, and the aftermath of Rwanda also goes to show that humanitarian aid in a non-force manner can be misused to either shelter guilty parties, or say in the Balkan case, to even round up populations for slaughter.

                As for my broader argument, I was mostly trying to apply the logic of “intentions don’t matter, just the policy outcomes” to non-intervention and specifically quasi-isolationist non-intervention.

                For intentions vs. policy outcomes, I’m a bit more torn than I imply here. I honestly don’t know where I stand on the issue. On one hand, good intentions are no excuse for negligent execution of policy. On the other, intent IS important when evaluating the morality of second-order effects, especially compared to the alternatives.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Back on the subject of humanitarianism…

                I’m reminded of this quote by Philip Gourevitch in the late 90s…(Courtesy of This American Life)
                Ira Glass: Well, this is the thing I was just going to say, is one of the things that comes through in the book is that the Hutu militia in the camps were very canny about exploiting Western attitudes towards them.

                Philip Gourevitch: Absolutely. If I were right now trying to run a good insurrection somewhere in the world, the first thing I would do is I would appoint a commander or a minister or a general in charge of humanitarian manipulation. Look at how it was used in the Yugoslav conflict during the Bosnia War. You repeatedly saw safe havens being created, generals using them to corral people, and then going in and slaughtering them knowing that the UN wouldn’t defend them.

                 Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Consequentialism doesn’t hold up very well upon close examination.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                On the contrary Mr. Van Dyke, when it comes to foreign affairs, consequentialism is the only thing that matters.  When one looks at the moral opprobrium heaped upon Operation Iraqi Freedom, compared to the complete lack of the same heaped upon his father’s Operation Just Cause, one cannot say consequentialism doesn’t hold up well.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Kolohe says:

                Can you expand on that?Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              “As an aside, Why are we sending drones out there knowing full well that the chances of civilians dying goes up? Because one American soldier’s life is worth far more than the lives of whatever number of brown civilians are killed by our drones. And that’s the gist of the (very tight) argument.”

              If we were to have sent just drones (and/or just cruise missiles) into Iraq into 2003, would the total number of Iraqi civilians killed gone up, gone down, or stayed about the same?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                I’m not sure you’re phrasing the question correctly.   Look, at the simplest and most incontrovertible level, technology can’t control the ground.   Only infantry can control the ground, secure the population and set the stage for the rule of law.   That’s been true forever, by the way.   War is by definition an absence of legitimate authority:  even in the safest and securest neighborhoods, some officer of the law is conducting patrols.

                This is also why camera-based law enforcement hasn’t worked out as well as we might have supposed when those initiatives began.   There can only be one viable perspective of security and it’s at ground level.   Rudy Giuliani changed police strategy by installing a huge real time monitor of the Five Boroughs upon which he could superimpose crime data points:  types of crimes, time of day in which they occurred, seasonal information, obviously you’re going to have more purse-snatchings in Central Park in summer than winter… and let his police officers use that data to pre-position resources where crimes could be predicted with some degree of certainty.   This strategy had a significant impact on crime in NY City.   I’m not here to praise Rudy, just noting how technology and power projection can be combined effectively.

                But, you’re sure to say, what does the military have to do with law enforcement?   All wars are different:  once Saddam had been removed from power  Iraq degenerated into a civil war.   We could have foreseen this, and did, when Shinseki said we’d need many more troops initially than Rumsfeld thought necessary, not to fight Saddam but to secure the ground.   Iraq’s a big country.   Every country requires a certain fraction of law enforcement officers in a given population:  the denser that population, the more officers are required.

                To make matters worse, Bremer relieved Gen Garner, who went around in Ramadi and Fallujah (names which now grace many American tombstones thanks to Bremer’s idiocy) without his helmet, asking people how long they wanted his troops to stay, promising to leave when the people wanted them to leave.   The Sunnis were initially insistent on the Americans staying, fearful of Shiite reprisals, entirely justified fears as it turns out.   Bremer would go on to disband the Iraqi Army, an exceedingly bad move.

                America entered the Iraq War with only a handful of drones.   Arguably, Iraq could have been pacified much sooner if better intel was available.   Had the Americans left working milspec radios in the hands of local authority figures, we could have responded more effectively when those figures would call for help on a specific issue at hand, say, a mob with torches.

                You conflate the cruise missile with drones.  I understand why you’re doing so but there’s a crucial difference:  one is purpose built to destroy a target based on available information where the other can only destroy targets of opportunity.   The drone wasn’t armed with the Hellfire missile for a long time.   Sending meat sacks to destroy a target of opportunity is no longer necessary, that’s best done by drones.   But we do so, knowing we can’t control the ground upon which that target takes a leak.   We look for him by the infrared signature left by his urine puddle in the morning, when he has to get out of his camouflaged redoubt to do his business.

                 Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

                ” I understand why you’re doing so but there’s a crucial difference:  one is purpose built to destroy a target based on available information where the other can only destroy targets of opportunity”

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomahawk_(missile)#Tactical_TomahawkReport

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                We’ve been guiding Tomahawk and other such missiles with external feeds almost since the beginning of the program.   Decades before, we were also been rigging up regular fighter jets to the same end.

                Trouble is, those vehicles flew too fast and guzzled too much fuel for any viable recon mission.   One thing we learned from the Vietnam War, there’s always going to be a need for a Low N Slow aerial vehicle over the battlefield to do close air support.   The Marines were especially good at this mission.

                Hence the evolution of the drone.   Low N Slow took priority over the bomb carrying mission.   That’s changed somewhat, but really, the Tomahawk is just a bigger and more-expensive Hellfire missile.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                Allow me to hastily add in postscript, the Iraq War was an act of monumental idiocy.  Saddam Hussein was a monster but he was not supporting Al Qaeda.   In point of fact, Saddam’s intelligence operations would ferret out and murder Salafi missionaries who infiltrated his country,  In our idiotic occupation, those Salafis invaded Iraq like so many fleas and proved damned near impossible to root out once they’d taken up residence.   The same was true of Shiite agents who came in from Lebanon and some from Iran.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                Here’s another little infochunk about drones.   Israel has been in the drone business longer than the USA.   They’ve been flying them over Lebanon and Gaza and West Bank for many years.   The Israelis have come to terms with the limitations of their drones, which come in all sizes.   We bought our first drones from the Israelis.

                Obviously, the drone hasn’t pacified the Gaza or Lebanon.   Hizb’allah and Hamas have learned to adapt to the drone.   But the Israeli drone put an absolute end to the Syrian missile batteries.   Israel would simply fly a few UAV decoys, detect the missiles and destroy them in place.

                Israel has learned many lessons in cruelty from its experience with drones.   Knowing that Hamas would capitalize on the bad PR of collateral damage, Israel evolved the powder munition,  The resulting injuries are ghastly, people are literally sandblasted into oblivion.   And there’s the toxic residue to consider.   America’s really no better with its use of depleted uranium rounds, but the power munition is a hellish device and it’s almost exclusively used by drones.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                I stopped crying about this sort of thing four decades ago.  Truth is, I have an emotional triage operation going constantly:   if I can’t do anything about it, I won’t burden myself with it.

                When I was a young man, I had what some might call an enlightenment experience.   In this moment, I became aware of the suffering of the world, as the Buddha had done.   It was a truly horrifying event which I did not seek our nor do I wish to ever repeat.  Ever.

                Wars are mankind’s natural state.   Peace is the illusion.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          Less pithily.

          I believe I’ve stated repeatedly on this general thread of discussion that I admire the intentions of people who hold up Ron Paul’s anti-interventionism as a means of ending suffering.

          At the same time, I’ve also questioned whether or not sufficient thought is placed on the second-order effects of US withdrawal from multilateral institutions and general lack of US involvement in international system affairs.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          Sorry, last addition on this reply.

          In exchange, I’ve seen nothing but arguments that people who support some degree of intervention are nothing but horrible mass-murdering psychopaths who gleefully and indiscriminately are out to kill people using robots.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            I don’t think you’ve seen that argument. Certainly not from me.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              “There is no more pro-minority policy than opposing the indiscriminate random bombings that pass for U.S. foreign policy and have convinced a majority of the world’s citizens that the United States is the greatest force of evil in existence.”Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              Sorry, incomplete reply.

              I guess I’m being a bit oversensitive on this point.

              But statements like the above do sort of sound like there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to the use of armed intervention by the United States and that anyone who could possibly support it are somehow monstrous.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                I’ll meet you halfway: I think you are being oversensitive, but perhaps I am being over-rhetorical. There are times and places for flourish and emotional argument, but here and now at the League is not one of them.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Wait… did Jason write this post, or did I?Report

  5. Avatar Hume says:

    Another effect of “our” two party plurality district voting electoral system.  Yet another reason why I am dismayed by the lack of vocal libertarian calls for proportional representation.Report

  6. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Actually more covert operations, not fewer should beeincouraged, had either the strike at Tarnak Farms in 1998, right before the Embassy bombings or that other attack, in ’99, it’s very likely the Twin Towers would still be standing. Conversely, if  the underwear bomber had gone off over Detroit, and/or the Times Square bomber succeeded, imagine what the consequences would have been,Report

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