April 25, 2007

McCain on the Daily Show

Frankly, he made an ass out of himself. Jon was a picture of logic and clarity, while McCain spent the entire time furiously obfuscating. Watch for yourself below the fold.

Part I:

Part II:

Am I wrong in thinking McCain is one of the smartest high-ranking Republicans in the country today? And not even he can a good faith defence the war in an informal debate with a comedian. I'm not sure which is worse: that this is the best one of our two political parties has to offer, or that, by contemporary standards, McCain really should be considered a fine statesman.

My favourite part:

Jon: [to McCain's `surrender' bullshit] But that assumes we're fighting one enemy. They're fighting each other. It's not, we're there keeping them from killing each other. Surrender is not, we're not surrendering to an enemy that has defeated us. We're saying, how do you quell a civil war when it's not your country?

McCain: [interrupted by audience applause]

Jon, it seems to me, has hit upon one of the most fundamental conceptual problems with this `war': it isn't even a war. At least, it's not a war in which we are on one definite side. Iraq is in the midst of a civil war which cuts across religious, geographical, and economic lines. One can make a case (though I'm not claiming it's a compelling case) that we have an important peacekeeping role to play in this conflict. But that's not what Bush is sending American soldiers off to die for. We are, according to conservative rhetoric, engaged in a life-or-death struggle with ... the Enemy. Al-Qaeda, generic terrorists, Muslims, or something like that. The problem isn't (just) that this Enemy is spectacularly nebulous and ill-defined. The problem is the notion that there are exactly two sides and we are on one of them. You don't keep the peace by taking sides, and that's what we're trying to do.


BlueNight said...

Consider that the "war with Iraq" ended with the overthrow of Saddam's government. Everything since then has been post-war occupation, stabilization, and rebuilding. Syrian and Iranian and other non-Iraqis played major parts in getting Iraqis to fight other Iraqis (not to say Iraq didn't have it's share of blood-thirsty maniacs too).

Surrender, in this context, is surrender of Iraq to power-hungry, blood-thirsty people who would rather have an Islamic superstate than a productive Iraq. Surrender of the innocents of Baghdad to militias and terrorists. Surrender of law and order to the rule of law by gun, knife, and jackboot.

The biggest bombings last few week (during the troop surge) were the work of Iraq's chapter of Al-Quaida, not "the insurgency" or "the civil war". In other words, the surge has calmed the civil tensions (even if temporarily), and drew out the real vipers.

Leaving Iraq now would give it to the exact people who caused 9/11 and who we wanted to fight in the first place.

If I remember, there were two stated reasons to take out Saddam: Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the human rights violations perpetrated upon the Iraqi people. There is evidence that WMDs were shipped out-of-country just before the invasion began, so our not finding them isn't a big surprise. The human rights of Iraq's citizens were the other major reason to occupy until stable.

Occupy until stable. Hm, that would make a good soundbite.

Noumena said...

There are some deep factual errors lurking behind your comment; as I'm a philosopher, I'm going to bracket all those and just examine the argument.

To the extent that we have a legitimate role to play as peacekeepers, your comment is on track. But I did include a qualifier covering that case.

However, you slide between this point and the notion that we are fighting against `militias and terrorists', al-Qaeda, `blood-thirsty maniacs', and so on. And it's precisely this way of conceptualizing the war which I think is the problem.

Consider al-Sadr. He is a man who wants the political-cultural faction over which he yields considerable influence to enjoy a great deal of power within the post-Saddam Iraqi state. Yes, he's willing to use violence, but there's no reason to think he's interested in violence for its own sake, any kind of genocidal campaign, establishing a radically illiberal theocracy or merging Iraq into Iran.

Now consider the Shia who have become his followers. They are, for the most part, the residences of a Baghdad slum, and the members of a religious group which were systematically persecuted under Hussein and still have relatively little power in the current government. In your phrase, they are the `innocents of Baghdad' -- poor men and women who are sick of being given the short end of the stick. But they are also a large part of the insurgency, and actively deny the legitimacy of the Iraqi state.

So whose side are they on?

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