News Brief, Speak to Me/Breathe Edition

Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.

Defense & the War

  • Noah Shachtman wonders if any other federal agency has ever publicly rebuked its employees like the State Department has. I can’t think of any, not even in scandals, but that doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t remove the fact that many of those objecting (especially to poor mission clarity, and Condolizzle Rice’s haughty leadership style) aren’t invalid.
  • Bob Bateman on Victor Davis Hanson. I say catfight!

Around the World

  • The International Crisis Group is pissed.
  • I’m glad the Center for American Progress has woken up to the horrible reality now facing us in Afghanistan: a humiliating defeat (the bombing I mentioned the other day now can claim 41 innocent victims, whose crime, apparently, was not being crazy and touring a sugar factory). I just wish others had come to the same conclusion in, oh, I’ll go with 2004, when we first noticed the problem of years of broken promises, funding shortfalls, and personnel shortages thanks to the Iraq War. Alas. We find ourselves here today.
  • Over at Registan.net, Nathan emerges from his undisclosed location to post on the mess in Georgia and those damned freaky riot police, and I take a peek inside some oil industry strategery. I didn’t mention in that post that I ran into the Bonnie Boyd and sat next to her, and snarked at all the posturing, and then made her promise to grab brunch with me soon, but I so did that.
  • Speaking of Ms. Boyd, she has a great post on the politics of bread in Uzbekistan. It is actually more interesting than it sounds, as the world-beloved wheatloaf might actually have a significant role to play in the country’s future.
  • Actually, Iran inspiring more nuclear proliferation in the Middle East doesn’t concern me very much at all. In fact, I think it will be an objectively good thing: nuclear weapons are fantastic conflict deterrents. Meanwhile, the moment Washington took a conciliatory tone toward Tehran, they seem ready to respond. Fancy that (Iran is still worth keeping an eye on, just not all the hyperventilating, ya know?).
  • Is Turkey’s speech policies keeping it out of the EU? Ehh, I’d say rather it’s their illegal occupation of the sovereign territory of a current EU and NATO member (Cyprus), their systematic persecution of the Kurds, and the fact that they have brown skin, and Europe just doesn’t do that.

Back at Home

  • Sweet, I got name-dropped on Jezebel! Also, they offer some sage advice on not crossing Martha Stewart. Umm, that is correct.
  • That’s strange—we used to consider waterboarding torture, like a hundred years ago. It would make us react in horror then. Except the Bush administration doesn’t. Telling, no?
  • I don’t know why I found this unbearably hilarious.
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6 Responses to “News Brief, Speak to Me/Breathe Edition”

  1. on 08 Nov 2007 at 5:55 am Lance

    Bob Bateman on Victor Davis Hanson. I say catfight!

    Bateman’s a sharp guy, and has done some good work in Iraq. However, Hanson beats him on this. Not because he is right on everything, he wouldn’t claim as much, nor claim his way of looking at things is the only valid approach. Rather, I think Bateman comes off as not understanding the book, or having read it throughly. You get the impression that he dislikes Hanson’s politics and and so read the book and analyzed it to find it saying what he wanted. The whole thing 9and the main thrust of Bateman’s critique) about Hanson arguing that the western way (really it is just claimed to be a preference) of fighting through large, decisive, set piece battles is far superior is just plain wrong. In fact just the opposite, one of Hanson’s points is we overemphasize that to our peril. He even specifically thinks this has been an issue in Iraq.

  2. on 08 Nov 2007 at 6:23 am Joshua Foust

    “Some good work?” Wasn’t he one of Petraeus’ strategists in the OMG Surge?

    Anyway, that’s not how I read Bates’ critique, and it’s not how Hanson’s book (I have not read it) is described on Amazon. From what I could tell, VDH is being accused of a selective reading of facts—and Bates is being zinged for not properly reading what appears to be sloppily-written text. Kind of like with Barnett, it seems Hanson overgeneralizes and ignores exceptions; but I also think Bateman’s tone is worthy of rolling eyes.

    Then there is Hanson’s overarching thesis: that the western, amoral way of war is somehow philosophically superior. That sounds wrong on its face: we fight war primarily for many moral reasons (like self-defense), and are predisposed to find war immoral for most others (conquest). Rather than an amoral, technical view of war, we are at least as moralistic in our wars—throughout history—as anyone else. And perhaps even less so, if we were to compare the wars of ancient greece with the warring states of ancient China (insight into the East is one of Hanson’s weakest points, and when comparing the two regions—or, hell, even South Asia—his arguments of exceptionalism fall kind of flat).

    Plus, I’m not a fan of Hanson’s big assumption, which undergirds all of his post-9/11 writing: that the West is in a fight to the death with Islam. To argue as much is to be willfully ignorant not just of Islam, but of modern Muslims.

    In either case, Bates would benefit from being less angry in his writing, as the emotion obscures more often than it clarifies.

  3. on 08 Nov 2007 at 1:39 pm Keith_Indy

    We can let Victor Davis Hansons own words counter Bateman…

    I don’t think there is any need for Bateman to chest-thump further or to editorialize. Sadly his level of critique, the accuracy of its content, the manner in which it is written, and the use of pejoratives like “feces,” “pervert” and “devil”, simply do not reflect well on the conduct of an active military officer. Media Matters has not served him well, or he them.

    I will write more briefly on future misrepresentations, since the point has been made now that the first two critiques were politically-driven, contracted-out journalism, and not intended to be serious historical examinations.

    Reading VDH’s counter critique’s, it seems Bateman just gets things wrong, in between his vague and abusive language.

    Also, considering that the book has been out for several years, why the interest now in what is basically a smear job, promoted by Media Matters? Couldn’t be a continuation of their campaign to marginalize pundits on the right before the 2008 elections, eh?

    I also think you are wrong in this characterization:

    Plus, I’m not a fan of Hanson’s big assumption, which undergirds all of his post-9/11 writing: that the West is in a fight to the death with Islam.

    I think he specifically warns about radical Islam. But you are free to search his archive…

  4. on 08 Nov 2007 at 2:38 pm Lance

    “Some good work?” Wasn’t he one of Petraeus’ strategists in the OMG Surge?

    Uh, yeah, hence the observation of his good work. On a side note, I guess this means being part of that effort doesn’t make one a partisan shill. I wonder if Bateman thinks Petraeus is some kind of Right Wing spin meister? Anyway…

    I just read Hansons’ critique, and it is pretty devastating. Like I said, Bateman gets the book fundamentally wrong, including the themes and thesis (and not having read it I don’t think you should take at face value what you believe those are. Hanson wouldn’t agree that that is his thesis) overarching or otherwise. I can’t explain why, Bateman knows his stuff. The tone may be bad and is very unprofessional, but the real problem is the critique doesn’t work.

  5. on 08 Nov 2007 at 2:48 pm Lance

    Of course, I never wrote that the West was “always successful in war.” How silly! That’s a laughable distortion, and again Mr. Bateman should use quotation marks when he writes what I did not write.

    Instead, Carnage and Culture took great effort to explain that Western armies often stumbled and cited disasters from the La Noche Triste to Isandlwana. The theme instead was that over space and time, the present dominance of the West was impossible without a military tradition that gave it innate advantages.

    This is his theme in his own words. People can quibble with it, but it is hardly something which should be shocking or controversial given western military dominance. Nor does the book ignore exceptions. He is talking about general tendencies anyway, by definition they are not uniform. So exceptions to such a thesis prove little to nothing.

  6. on 08 Nov 2007 at 2:58 pm Lance

    His technique worked — until now. Carnage and Culture was a national best-seller, and Hanson is himself now regularly invited into the highest levels of the executive branch of government to speak and advise.

    An aside to our discussion is this kind of thing. I hear this claimed about people all the time. Ledeen comes to mind. GG and Mona are big on the technique. They just assert people have some direct line to policy, usually secret where they are running things behind the scenes. The idea that Hanson has any power in this administration is absurd. I find Bateman here just mystifying.

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