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Owning National Security

bringiton's picture

Handing national security softballs to the Republicans so they can hit them out of the park, like MoveOn’s mocking of General David Petreus or the Berkeley City Council’s assertion that their town is too good for a Marine recruiting office, needs to stop. The Republican Party has destroyed the armed forces, killed hundreds of thousands of people and squandered hundreds of billions of dollars in fruitless foreign adventurism, all the while doing nothing to improve the security of Americans from another terrorist attack.

Americans are coming to understand that Republican policies are dangerous and recent polls show that the Democratic Party is more trusted than Republicans when it comes to the nation’s security.


Converting that plurality to a firm majority will happen by making serious arguments and not trivial publicity stunts attacking those in uniform. Spencer Ackerman* has a really good idea on how to do that. He suggests that Democrats should have Jim Webb speak at the Denver convention, to talk about how the Republican Party has abandoned America, just like Jeane Kirkpatric did when she painted Democrats as light-in-their-loafers, lily-livered cowards:

On Aug. 20, 1984, Kirkpatrick, the arch anti-communist who served as Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations, took the microphone at the GOP convention in Dallas and inaugurated a tradition. Kirkpatrick was, she told her audience, a "lifelong Democrat." The trouble, she had come to realize, was that she was also an American. So in an electrifying speech that was at turns vitriolic and sentimental, she implied very strongly that you couldn't really be both.

When the San Francisco Democrats treat foreign affairs as an afterthought, as they did, they behaved less like a dove or a hawk than like an ostrich -- convinced it would shut out the world by hiding its head in the sand. … They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do -- they didn't blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians -- they blamed the United States instead. But then, somehow, they always blame America first.

And on and on in that vein. In one brief speech, Kirkpatrick introduced the world to the phrases "Blame America First" and "San Francisco Democrat"—well understood to mean "Faggot." Subtly, "San Francisco Democrat" had another purpose: it differentiated the alleged radicals in San Francisco from the salt-of-the-earth, America-loving Democrats that could now safely vote for Ronald Reagan.

It was demagogic, incendiary, and ugly. And it was also a masterstroke. The conversion narrative has been a staple in the rise of the New Right since it was new: After all, Reagan himself famously said he never left the Democratic Party, the party left him. But by connecting that sentiment to national security, Kirkpatrick gave her grievance myth a sense of world-historical importance, all before the television cameras. It was a template repeated, among other places, at the 2004 GOP convention by a rabid Zell Miller. Expect Kirkpatrick's bile to be recycled by Joe Lieberman this summer in Minneapolis.

Webb is a former Marine, was Secretary of the Navy under Saint Reagan, and can claim full authority when he describes how the Republicans have since abandoned Americans. That’s how you own an issue. You rip it out of your opponent’s hands, push them down and beat them over the head with it. Liberals, progressives, Democrats, the Left; however we describe ourselves, we have legitimate arguments and good people to make them. Instead of trashing each other and groups like the police and the military, we need to bring them into partnership with us to defeat the Evil that has seized our government and endangers us all.

Here’s another idea. Obama’s call for Unity is correct; he’s just going about it in the wrong direction. We don’t need to reach anywhere, we just need to tell the nation the truth; that George Bush and Dick Cheney are criminals and John McCain is no better. The more time we spend fussing over who is the most pure is valuable time wasted, and the best thing that Obama and Clinton could do right now is find a way to join forces for the good of the country.

Stop the campaign. No more voting, no more spending money to fight each other. Between them the Democratic candidates already have enough delegates to take the nomination. Flip a coin, or Obama can do the right thing and cede the top spot to Clinton and wait his turn, whatever, just wrap it up now and start attacking the Republican Criminal Cabal. Attack them and don't stop until they are crushed.

* h/t Ezra Klein via Eric Alterman

No votes yet


"America's military is the strongest in the world, confident, proud and willing to carry out every mission we give them. But we've got a serious problem in our military today. And that problem is not with our men and women in uniform; it is a problem of leadership at the very top of the chain of command. The... administration has used our military too much and supported it too little. ...rarely has our military been used so freely -- more commitments, less resources. It is a short-sighted policy with long- term consequences.

So let's get something straight right now. To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that's no criticism of the military. That is criticism of a president and vice president and their record of neglect.

...whenever America uses forces in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear and the victory must be overwhelming."

~~thus spake Dubya in 2000

It doesn't matter what Democrats or liberals say or do. They could walk on eggshells, trying diligently to avoid uttering any words or committing any actions that could be misquoted or inaccurately characterized by the right wing. It won't matter; for lack of malleable propaganda material, the Right Wing Noise Machine will just make shit up.

So I say go ahead, MoveOn: holding Petraeus in derision is not out of bounds, considering that the man's selling of his soul to the Bush administration is going to kill more soldiers (not to mention Iraqis) than any scathing remark by an antiwar critic ever could. Given a choice between obnoxious criticism and silence toward the prick who defiled his uniform by helping the Bushies prolong the slaughter, I'll take the o.c. every time. I also say go ahead, Berkeley. If the Marine recruiters can demonstrate that a good faith attempt was made by the Pentagon to keep every promise ever made to a recruit, then let them open their office. Otherwise, tell them "no, thank you, but you might want to try your luck with the fundies out in the desert who keep voting for illegal and unnecessary wars."

Instead of tiptoeing around these right-wing assholes, why not start shoving it right in their faces? "Yeah, I said (or did) it, and I can back it up with facts. That's more than you can say, you lying, self-serving sack of shit."


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Can't disagree with you more. Republicans dogwhistling "faggot" about Democrats is a "masterstroke", but a group using the troops' nickname for a Republican political tool with a uniform, a chestful of ribbons, and a shit-eating grin is a "trivial publicity stunt" that's a softball for Republicans to hit? This is more of the "Gee, if we're just nice and sober, everybody will realize that the Republicans are wrong." Like, if we point out that San Francisco is a great, diverse American city, then "San Francisco Democrat" won't be a "masterstroke"? I haven't noticed that working too well.

Do you honestly think that caving, caving, caving to the authoritarians' military glorification is the way to stop it? Congress should not be passing resolutions of approval or disapproval on political statements (resolutions may be a gateway drug for redefining the First Amendment so that only corporate speech is protected), but if the Democrats decide to do so they should have voted to approve MoveOn's concern for the troops.

Will war heroes save us from war? The cowardly punks are Bush, Cheney and crew. The war heroes are Kerry and Cleland. How has that worked out politically? So why think that Jim Webb, our next war hero, will ride effectively to the rescue?

Unity -- the way to solve all our political problems by agreeing not to engage in politics; otherwise, the terrorists win.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Years back, during some previous round of the "let's be nicer to Republicans so they'll be nicer to us" conversation, there was a discussion about peeling rank-and-file Repubs away from the party, and somebody made a comment that really stuck with me.

The thread was basically about identity politics and tribalism, and how Dems' needed better messaging, because some people will totally block you out if you're not tribally compatible. Someone pointed out that there are two ways to tackle that problem.

What the Dems tend to do is to say "You should accept us. We are like you in many ways and we are compatible with your tribe." This works, sort of, but it has ratchety side effects we're all familiar with -- such as protesters being presumed unserious just because they don't want a recruiting station in their neighborhood.

But you can also break the ice with "We accept you. You are like us in many ways and you are compatible with our tribe." Instead of insinuating yourself into their tribe, you insinuate them into your tribe. It's more work, and has side effects of its own, but it makes it easier to change people's minds later on.

Obama's message is interesting because it's basically a flat-out ballsy assertion that whatever his tribe is includes everybody, dammit, whether they like it or not. I think that's what accounts for the weird hyper-personalization of his campaign. And you can see him out on thin ice now and then, appealing to nationalism when he needs an actual tribe to point to.

I happen to think nationalism is a pretty risky message in a whole lot of ways, but given a choice between progressive nationalism and conservative nationalist one I guess I'll take progressive. Yeah, it's annoying, and yeah maybe Obama will turn out to be a fascist too, but it could easily be somebody worse making the same argument.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

you say "stunts" need to stop, and imply that they have some impact on public opinion re: dems and security. where is the support of that claim?

"stunts" by radicals who often aren't even members of the dem party are an essential and time honored tradition of free expression in this country. it's not really unexpected, to read this from you, but it's sort of tired. oh, clutch some pearls, a group that the House and Senate already voted to condemn did something "naughty" in the eyes of some Villagers. big deal.

meanwhile, actual marines are actually dying in iraq, and the dem and rethug party leaders are too busy arguing over who lurvs them more to be bothered to send them body armor or competent leadership that devises strategy that keeps them alive. yes, our leaderz love our troops so much, they send most of the iraq war funding to private contractors, who are mostly staffed by wannabes and dropouts from the actual military. now that's "support!"

don't worry about the poor old marines, bio. they can take care of themselves just fine, in berkeley or not.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...that the "problem" here is with the crass careerist Democrats who repudiate these "stunts" instead of vociferously and enthusiastically supporting their intent. These are the same Democrats who repeatedly capitulate to a 30%-popularity (to be generous) president.

We as a nation carry responsibility for the mass murder of more than a million human beings. Does anyone seriously not believe that some day, somehow, we'll be called to accounting for allowing the continuation of this heinous slaughter? There should be no hesitation about STOPPING THIS "WAR" NOW. Where oh where are Democrats with balls?

We've borne witness to cynical Republican & cowardly Democratic behavior long enough. IMO we should welcome and uphold anyone who is able to break through into SCLM recognition with a message of truth, no matter what the means.

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"... In and around the halls of Congress, the notion that the Democrats made a sincere effort to end the war meets with, at best, derisive laughter. Though few congressional aides would think of saying so on the record, in private many dismiss their party's lame anti-war effort as an absurd dog-and-pony show, a calculated attempt to score political points without ever being serious about bringing the troops home. ..."

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

like MoveOn’s mocking of General David Petreus

Hear, hear. We should speak of The Man Called Petraeus in only the respectful tone used by his commanding officer.

Fallon told Petraeus [in March] that he considered him to be “an ass-kissing little chickensh*t” and added, “I hate people like that”, the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

How dare we liberals stoop so low as to mock a good, honest man?

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

A lot of accusations here about things I never said and don’t agree with.

SSS: Nowhere did I defend Petraeus, or say anything positive about him at all. What I criticized was the action of MoveOn in publically denigrating him as opposed to attacking the civilian authority that controls and directs him. Attacking the BushCo, fair, reasonable, defensible, quite a good idea; attacking someone in uniform following orders from that authority, not so fair and tactically really not smart. If you want to debate either of those points by all means come back again, but please don’t accuse me of saying things I never said.

CD: Yes, tiresome predictable old me. I didn’t say all stunts, in fact I’m a big fan of stunts of they’re smart and effective, or even half-smart and marginally effective, or just neutral. Here’s one I praised elsewhere as an excellent action:


Your exposition about how screwed up the civilian authorities helps make my case. I didn’t defend them above and I won’t here. What I do say is that they are a fair target for protest and to do so wouldn’t leave the Left open – again – to charges of failing to support the military. Attack the civilian authorities, fine; attack the military and you immediately lose the high ground.

You say I’m illogical, and ask for support of my claim that the MoveOn/Petraeus debacle had a negative impact on public opinion of Dems and security. It’s my perception, my claim, my assertion, on my own authority. You’re free to disagree, and certainly free to round up evidence to the contrary. I see it as hurtful, not helpful, and I’m sticking to that position.

Either of you, or anyone at all: Identify one good thing that came out of the Petraeus/Betray Us stunt. Just one thing. Can’t be done, because nothing good came out of it. A lot of bad happened, everyone knows how ugly it got, people may not like that, may not like what the Right did and that a lot of Democrats went along, but reality is that it happened anyway. My point is that it ended up driving a wedge into the Democratic caucus and between congressional Democrats and progressives, stepped all over the ridiculous report by Petraeus and made it more difficult than it would have been to criticize the report and Petraeus on the merits and, IMNSHO, it cost the Left some credibility points. For what? For no benefit whatsoever. So yes, I say it was a bad idea to do it.

Pookapooka: Lots of problems, most of them perfectly obvious. Equally obvious is that attacking the character of uniformed military has never been, will never be, beneficial to progressive goals. It was a losing strategy 40 years ago and it still is today.

Nihil obstet: From the top; I said nothing in praise of Republican anti-gay strategies; yes, it was a softball and the Republicans bashed it; I said nothing about being “nice and sober” nor do I endorse “nice” as a useful strategy; I said nothing about “caving” in any way at all nor do I endorse that as a strategy; shoulda could woulda but the votes didn’t work out that way, did they? Right or wrong, MoveOn got thumped by congress and gained what?; “Will war heroes save us from war?” beats me. What was that fellahs name? Oh yeah, Jack Kennedy, he was a war hero and good for our side, IIRC. Can Webb do us some good? Yeah, I think so. You got a better plan? Please share. Unity? Not my thing.

Church Secretary: In a rational transaction your tradeoffs make sense. This is not a rational transaction. Deal with it. I don’t make the rules, I just observe what they are and try to fight the best I can within them. Denigrating the uniformed military does not work to the benefit of progressive interests. Fair or not fair, doesn’t matter, just is and failing to observe that rule will only bring grief to what we want to advance. Republicans understand the rule, so they praise the military all the time. All lies, of course, but that doesn’t matter much, they still get credit for “supporting” the troops. How hard is this to figure out?

Darryl Pearce: Do not get your point, please restate – in your own words.

Radish: I’m not advocating “progressive nationalism” whatever that is exactly. What I’m arguing is that bashing the uniformed military is a losing strategy. Like it or not, a big portion of our citizens are irrationally afraid of terrorists and look to the federal government to help them feel safe. To the extent that Democrats can fill that role, progressive goals have a better chance of being advanced. Like it or not, it’s the reality of our world today and we ignore it at our peril.

Amberglow: The Republicans are nothing if not consistent. They will swing at the Democrats, at the Left, again and again with the soft on defense blow because it has worked for them again and again. All I’m asking is that we stop stepping into the punch.


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Most Americans believed that Petraeus's report to Congress was not credible. The MoveOn ad said what most Americans believed. The resolution was one of the Congressional actions that has made Congress less respected than Bush. But the screw-up was Congress's, not MoveOn's. Congress played Village Kabuki here. Our response should be to call bullshit, not to tie ourselves in knots trying to be nice.

The one good thing that came out of the episode? Well, no one thing has led to the collapse of the expectation of longterm Republican rule, but the ad is one of the drops of water eroding the manly codpiece strutting in the eyes of the American people.

And I didn't mean to imply that you praise Republican anti-gay strategies -- when you quote extensively about effective strategies, I assume that you agree that the strategy was effective. I'll go back and try to figure out why you quoted it.

And lastly -- criticizing a military man playing politics is not the same as criticizing the military. Concede that it is, and you agree with the slogan "Support our troops. Vote for Bush."

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

nihil: Acknowledging a strategy as effective is not the same as approving either its goals or its implementation. The homophobia employed by the Republicans is wholly and completely repugnant – and it has also been spectacularly effective in supporting their political hegemony. I cite it as an example of political framing that, however repulsive, worked to the benefit of those who promoted it.

While I have no interest in exploiting people’s worst behaviors, I do argue that progressives can find ways of demonstrating through both activism and leadership that there is common benefit to be had from stepping away from prejudice and hatred and towards fellowship and communion. Choosing the means of making our argument is as important as the content of the argument itself.

Attacking the character of men and women in uniform, however much one may feel it is justified in some particular, is an argument that is doomed to failure; therefore, and solely for that reason, it should not be employed. There is no sense in doing that which has the opposite effect of what is desired.

Lastly, whatever Petraeus has in his heart and mind, he serves at the direction of civilian authority. He testified not at his own initiative but because he was ordered to do so. Precisely by attacking him, progressives themselves blurred the distinction and accepted Bush’s politicalization. The correct approach would have been to politely thank Petraeus for his service and send him on his way with the admonition that Democratic policy is that theater commanders belong in the field and should not be taken away from their military duties for political purposes. All criticism should have been focused on the civilian authority, the Bush administration.

My desire is to win this struggle. When I see behavior that is counter to that goal, I will speak out against it. Not because I condone or defend the status quo but because I seek to destroy it, and I will not passively accept the presence of anything that stands in my way.

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

The correct approach would have been to politely thank Petraeus for his service and send him on his way with the admonition that Democratic policy is that theater commanders belong in the field and should not be taken away from their military duties for political purposes. All criticism should have been focused on the civilian authority, the Bush administration.

I could get really foily and suggest that the whole reason Bush had Petraeus reporting to Congress - instead of, say, Condi Rice - was precisely that, to inoculate against any criticism by shouting "He's a general!" Yeah, a general who lies to the public ("The Glorious Surge is a Glorious Success!") because he's "just following orders". That doesn't sound like betrayal at all... wait, yes it does.

It was a classic Rove move. Marry a toxic message with an untouchable messenger, and act indignant when anyone calls you on it. And the best response is to "passively accept" that they win. I guess it's like when Shaq's in the lane; you just get the fuck out of the way.


But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

I don’t make the rules, I just observe what they are and try to fight the best I can within them. Denigrating the uniformed military does not work to the benefit of progressive interests.


My desire is to win this struggle. When I see behavior that is counter to that goal, I will speak out against it. Not because I condone or defend the status quo but because I seek to destroy it, and I will not passively accept the presence of anything that stands in my way.

So your policy is "walk loudly and carry a wet noodle"? You say you want to destroy the status quo, but you insist on playing by the rules that maintain the status quo? Interesting strategy; how's that working out for you? Reminds me of that scene in "Adventures of Baron Munchausen" where the heroic soldier is brought before his superior officer and 'accused' of doing heroic deeds in service of the enemy's destruction; the officer orders the soldier executed for insubordination.

I think most people can tell the difference between a high-ranking general and a grunt in the field, much as they can tell the difference between a Mickey D's CEO in Oakbrook, IL and a Mickey D's burger flipper in Riverside, CA. Sure, Petraeus wears the uniform, and he had the choice between kissing up to further his career at the expense of soldiers under his command and doing the honorable and honest thing and refusing to play along (even if it cost him a posh post-retirement gig in the mass death industry). Petraeus chose the former, and in doing so helped to continue the needless slaughter. That isn't hard to explain to any honest person with a working brain, and any such person, again, can make the easy distinction between an self-serving asshole like Petraeus and some working-class kid from Idaho who's dodging IEDs because that's what he was told to do. Both can walk away from doing the wrong thing, but for the grunt the consequences are far more grave and the positive impact on the big picture relatively infinitesimal.

Again, none of this is particularly difficult to grasp, and protestations to the contrary will likely be due to profound willful ignorance or supreme assholery. So why tilt at such windmills? Just speak the plain, harsh truth, and damn the torpedoes. If enough people start doing it, it might be enough to change that pesky status quo. Or we can keep sitting around and smugly fighting windmills.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

SSS: Not what I said. By engaging Petreaus on the merits, by accepting the Bush maneuver and confronting him you lose. It was indeed a setup, and the Left bought it hook line and sinker. Ignore Petreaus, say thanks for coming by now go back to your job. Keep the focus on Bush and DOD where it belongs. Every time BushCo swings a shiny diversion, the Left jumps all over it and looks foolish, while the diversion lets the real target get a pass. Attacking Petreaus the Left gave Bush the opportunity to be the offended party, to turn the tables and attack the Left as unpatriotic and traitorous; how exactly did that benefit our cause? I asked that question before and have had no answer. Reason why, because it didn't. Here's a helpful hint on winning disagreements: Don't advance a losing argument. How hard is that to understand?

Church Lady: Long list of things you roll out that you say aren't hard to explain. Funny, then that it seems so hard to get them clear to the rest of the country. The Left lost this argument over Vietnam and allowed the Right to hang the "won't support the troops" sign on Democrats and the Left that we still wear today. Whether you like the rules or not, they are what they are and you ignore them at your peril. One of the rules is that Americans won't stand for what they see as abusing the troops. No way around it. Go after someone in uniform and you lose the people. Doesn't need to make sense, just the way it is. Its been hard work for a lot of us for a long time to get back credibility on what most Americans see as caring for the troops, and one stupid stunt like Move On tears it all back down. Pisses me off. We have/had a good argument and one opportunity for the Republicans to blow smoke and poof, all gone, again. Pisses me off.

Simple, simple, simple, no windmills involved. Place blame where blame belongs, on the civilian leadership that directs the miltary. Stay away from blaming the uniforms (blatant crimes excepted). How difficult is that to understand, even for someone who seems to have a hard time grasping simple things?

The Left lost this argument over Vietnam

Bullshit. The history of Vietnam was being rewritten and exploited by the Right Wing Noise Machine even before the ink was dry. The adaptation of the Dolchstoßlegende to yet another monumental conservative failure was not based in fact, but was a propaganda distortion. The corporate media, of course, accepted much of this narrative without question, so we wind up with legends of Hanoi Jane and the soldier-being-spit-on-by-hippies being elevated to 'fact.' What does all this mean? Well, it means that if you're still insisting on debating our foreign engagements by treating "The Uniform" as some sort of sanctified garb that must not be defiled by civilian criticism (a position somewhat dissonant with your acknowledgment of civilian control of our military), then any administration that wants to kick off a self-serving bloodbath need only throw a general (current or former) up to sell it, and you'll buy it.

Again, to simplify: the right wing hides behind The Uniform to avoid criticism for it's impending and ongoing cockups. It doesn't matter if you don't mention The Uniform, it's still going to get dragged into the picture by the Noise Machine. So you're better off not playing from the right wing script, because that's a proven tactic for losing that seems to be prominent in the 'centrist' playbook.

Problem-solving Rule No. 1: if something you're doing isn't working, try doing something else.

Question, bringiton: since The Uniform is sacred to you, what say you to right-wing criticism of those soldiers who refuse to participate in the illegal occupation of Iraq?

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Do you ever win any of these arguments with yourself? Hope so, making up stances to refute rather than directly engaging the positions of your opponent ought to get you something.

Never said the "uniform is sacred." A uniform is just a uniform, and it was Frank Zapa who observed that we all wear uniforms - just different kinds.

“Hanoi Jane” and “soldier-being-spit-on” were indeed winners for the Right, ones that exactly make my point. There never were any soldiers spit on, that was a lie, but the ability to whip up that lie and have it widely believed was greatly facilitated by the Left’s persistence in confrontations with the uniformed military. As for Jane Fonda? Funny thing that. After reflection, she’s actually truly sorry that her visit to North Vietnam was seen as disrespectful to the troops who were bleeding and dying, seen that way not just by civilians but by the troops themselves. She was trying to help, trying to stop the war, and she’s a perfectly earnest person but the tactic was wrong, some of her statements were wrong, she has come to recognize that and she has apologized. Even Jane Fonda understands that she made a mistake; time for you to accept that and let it go as well.

”The corporate media, of course, accepted much of this narrative without question” Yes they did, and they still do, and they always will, and the mass of the people will do so also. Why on Earth would anyone advocate doing something that can so easily be manipulated by the opposition? What sense is there in actions which can so easily backfire and drive the conversational advantage in the opposite direction from what is desired? Why persist in willful, unnecessary actions that the mass of the citizenry find disgusting and objectionable? What part of “counterproductive” is difficult to grasp?

” if you’re still insisting on debating our foreign engagements by treating “The Uniform” as some sort of sanctified garb that must not be defiled by civilian criticism” But no, I’m not insisting any such thing. Quite distinctly, I am arguing that the debate should not be centered on the uniformed military. This is a right-wing trope, not mine, and I say do not engage it. Those who keep the focus on the uniform are the ones who are playing into the Right’s hands.

”(a position somewhat dissonant with your acknowledgment of civilian control of our military)” I don’t acknowledge, I insist upon it, and upon respecting it. We have a legal construct that codifies the role of the military in our government, and the limitations of its power. By engaging the military directly, protestors short-circuit that legal construct and abandon legitimacy. I call for keeping the focus on the civilian authority that directs and controls the military. I am not confused, and my thinking is not dissonant; I am very clear that it is the civilian authority that must be held responsible, and directly so. Look to the clarity of your own logic before denigrating mine.

” then any administration that wants to kick off a self-serving bloodbath need only throw a general (current or former) up to sell it, and you’ll buy it.” Beware of run-on sentences; they are often a warning sign of unclear thinking. Nothing I have said could support such a conclusion. What I did say repeatedly, was that the uniformed military ought not to be put in the position of selling a political agenda, that when they are they should be politely disregarded since they are only legitimately following legitimate orders, and that the focus MUST be kept on civilian authorities.

It is you who have bought into the anarchist claim that any attack on any institution is equally as valid and fruitful as any other, regardless of the target, the means or the outcome. Most of the intelligent Left moved away from such morally and tactically flawed thinking a long time ago; it is a philosophical approach that is ultimately self-destructive. The resurgence of anarchist thinking in the late 60’s and 70’s led directly from seemingly minor picket line violence through “Days of Rage” to the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army in this country and the Red Brigades and Bader-Meinhof in Europe.

What began as well-intentioned movements were quickly – and inevitably - corrupted into criminal enterprises that masqueraded as political statements, all of whom caused great pain and suffering for no gain and at huge political cost to progressive causes. I know this, because I was there at the beginning; I participated in the arguments over tactics and targets, I joined in demonstrating directly against the military, I succumbed for a short while to the concept of deliberate provocation of violence, and I was wrong to do so.

I walked away when it became clear that once headed down that road there was to be death and destruction, no way around it, and that many of the dead would be innocents and the destruction would be uncontrollable. I don’t for a minute regret that decision to step back, but I do regret having had even the least hand in getting it started and I will not cease in speaking out against both indiscriminate and violent tactics. Violence is not the answer; indiscriminate protest is not the answer; only controlled, clearly focused and strategically clear protest will be both valid and effective.

Equally, I reject the premise that confronting the uniformed military is morally right – so long as they are following orders, orders they are sworn to follow, orders that are given to them in our name – and I also reject the claim that it is tactically correct since it has failed every single time it has been tried. ”Problem-solving Rule No. 1: if something you’re doing isn’t working, try doing something else.” Indeed, criticizing the military does not work – so stop doing it.

Attacking institutions subject to higher civilian authority, like the military or the police, is not the answer. The only proper path is to attack the higher civilian authority itself. Bring the struggle against the Iraqi occupation directly to the White House, and to the Congress. Occupy the buildings, sit down in the halls, throw yourselves upon the machine itself and bring it to a halt. Anything less will be ineffective, and attacking the military will only diminish the effort, not help.

Finally, I often use “centrist” language to communicate my thinking because it is to centrists that we must look if we are to move productively towards a more progressive agenda. Having a third of the country on our side is not enough. That I speak the language should not be confused with what my goals are; more progressives should learn how to communicate effectively with centrists, the better to persuade them to our way of thinking instead of frightening them. I am a completely unreconstructed, uncompromised, very leftist liberal progressive who has come to realize that we need a majority on our side to succeed, and I am willing to do what it takes to get that majority. I am not a centrist, but I will mind-fuck them for freedom.

Xenophon's picture
Submitted by Xenophon on

Church Secretary.

How the hell are you? How is Cynthia?