Let me make a disclaimer right now, and one I have made before, but it seems to be necessary, bad faith is a bipartisan exercise, no let me say it is a multipartisan exercise. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are famous examples on the right, today I am discussing libertarians for the most part, but for those keeping score, I don’t care if I am lopsided.
So what do I mean by bad faith? It can take many forms, often it is just unconscious and deserves no special mention, other times it is willful misrepresentation, the erection of straw men or a lack of any real basis for criticism other than they are the other side. Any argument will do, no matter that it has no basis or belief behind it, all that matters is destroying the other side or whoever you have decided to disagree with.
Radley Balko takes on Greg Sargent’s attempt to turn John Tierney into a right wing partisan shill for a relatively mild example. The King of bad faith however, is Rick Ellensberg, uh, Glenn Greenwald or as he is readily conceded to be, the King of Sock Puppets. I have discussed Greenwald and Ann Coulter’s particular brand of bad faith before, and if you want a thorough dissection of their rhetorical tricks you should certainly start there, but some things deserve regular attention. So we should begin with a few links to some of the petty, but nevertheless telling ways the man works, whether it is misrepresenting a sequence of events and calling someone a stalker or intimating that someone you don’t respect is a pedophile. The high minded, morally above the herd, King of Sock Puppets can do these things and still beat the drum of his moral superiority because, well, I guess it is because he hates Bush. That seems enough for some people.
I think we should start the discussion today with a silly, but corrupt, attempt to paint a person as a know-nothing warmonger. Who is this know-nothing warmonger? Why one of The King of Sock Puppets favorite targets, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. How surprising. What is Glenn’s offense? Why he responded to this quote from Mark Rubin:
Let’s be fair: To condemn the Axis of Evil speech is to condemn Bush for prescience. He didn’t create the Axis of Evil; rather, he voiced the problem. And if that shocked European diplomats, well too bad. If it’s a choice between national security and enabling European diplomats to remain secure in their illusions, I’d hope both Republicans and Democrats would favor the former.
Clinton administration attempts to engage the Taliban and the North Korean regime were folly. Any attempt to do likewise with Iran would be equally inane. Certain regimes cannot be appeased. Dialogue is no panacea.
Part of Reynolds’ response was:
diplomats tend to overvalue dialogue
and of course that is all that was quoted from that portion of his response. Here is the full response:
Yes, though diplomats tend to overvalue dialogue. I listened to former (Bush I) Ambassador Gregg’s Diane Sawyer interview on XM yesterday, and it made me very grateful that he no longer has a hand in formulating U.S. policy. Some excerpts from that interview can be found here.
It isn’t long so why wouldn’t he quote the whole thing? Because The King of Sock Puppets wishes this statement to be pregnant with all kinds of meaning way beyond what Mark Rubin claims or Reynolds endorses. The statement merely acknowledges the truth in what Mark says and notes what is certainly true, which is that diplomats are all too often (which for those looking to exaggerate does not mean always or even most of the time, it means too often) more focused on talking and getting an agreement than focusing on whether that agreement or the talking actually accomplishes anything. The words Reynolds used of course were “tend” and “overvalue” not always or that talking has no value. This would be a rather unremarkable statement in most hands, and the subtle shift in tone is seemingly irrelevant, but it sets up the strawman that the King of Sock Puppets wishes to erect. That is that Reynolds doesn’t believe it is ever justified to talk to certain types of regimes. Let us see what the clever sock puppet does next:
In response, Reynolds says that the Gregg interview “made me very grateful that he no longer has a hand in formulating U.S. policy.” Thank God that someone who thinks we should negotiate is out of government. After all, refusing to negotiate with North Korea has worked so very well.
It is this “reasoning,” as much as anything else, that has placed us in the weak and vulnerable position we are now in. Where a country like North Korea is engaged in conduct that we would like to stop, we have three options:
(1) wage war against them;
(2) engage in diplomacy and attempt to reach a negotiated solution; or
(3) do nothing.
If we remove option (2) from the list — as Bush followers want to do in almost every case and as the administration repeatedly does — it means that only options (1) and (3) remain. And where option (1) is not viable — as is the case with the U.S. vis-a-vis North Korea (mostly because we already chose option (1) with two other countries and are threatening to do so with a third) — then the only option left is (3) — do nothing. That is exactly what we have done while North Korea became a nuclear-armed power, and we did nothing because we operated from Rubin’s premise that diplomacy and negotiations are essentially worthless, which left us with no other options.
I am sure Mr. Reynolds is bewildered at the idea that he was endorsing “This toxic notion that hostile countries can’t be negotiated with-” Tendencies have now become never or more precisely can’t. All notions of the particular circumstances Reynolds might consider relevant about when negotiations should be held (such as the notion of whether bilateral versus multilateral negotiations are best) are swept aside, it is talk or don’t talk, that is the question. Glenn Reynolds has now been stuffed with straw. Of course, the implication is since we will not talk and Reynolds does not want to do nothing, then Reynolds wants war. This is the syllogism the King of Sock Puppets wants to establish. The other side are warmongers and simplistic in their beliefs to boot!
What is silly or pathetic is the reduction of this question by the sock puppet himself to only three options. The idea that we have been refusing to talk or have been doing nothing is just plain factually wrong, but I would never dare to construct so silly a straw man as this three option choice which the sock puppet has constructed for himself! If this is the “reality based community’s” foremost polemicist they have some work to do. I suggest the rest of that community sit him down and explain the complexities of this kind of thing. They might point out the desire, due to the failure of bilateral negotiations to work in the nineties, for finding a forum where we might have more leverage.
But wait, while Mr. Reynolds was being fitted for his straw hat, someone else entered the fray. Yes, that ever reliable regurgitator of all things from the mouth of sock puppets, Mona:
Given the abysmal record of the Bush Administration when it comes to diplomacy — indeed, it’s contempt for the very notion (emphasis mine, Lance)– one cannot be hopeful it will meet the challenge of the only possible means of bringing some stability out of the chaos it has unleashed in Iraq and the Middle East. Not when die-hard Bush loyalists like Glenn Reynolds contemplate the North Korea situation, and glibly toss off:
…diplomats tend to overvalue dialogue. I listened to former (Bush I) Ambassador Gregg’s Diane Sawyer interview on XM yesterday, and it made me very grateful that he no longer has a hand in formulating U.S. policy.
The same straw man is now enclosing the Bush administration. Reynolds and the administration don’t see diplomats as merely “tending to overvalue diplomacy,” they have contempt for the very notion! The word tend is rendered an absolute once again. The word overvalue now means they feel it has no value. I will not even address at length the ridiculous notion that Reynolds is a “die hard Bush loyalist.” Given the huge list of criticisms and disagreements Reynolds has with Bush his mere supporters obviously voted for Kerry.
Mona, formerly an ultra hawk who wanted to bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age and supported the Iraq invasion is at this point claiming to be a “realist.” Those she despises are the dreaded neo-cons and her work is an attempt to claim that the Bush administration and its neo-con supporters (her term) wants nothing but war and mass death, genocide even, out of little more than bloodlust. Now for those of you not familiar with The King of Puppets’ (who in a barely more subtle fashion is claiming the same thing) good friend you might think that I am claiming something a bit over the top in attributing a belief so cartoonish to her, but I assure you she uses each of those terms and is quite serious. Even in this rather tame piece notice she says that they prefer war. Not that they are too willing or quick to go to war, she believes they prefer war. They literally want blood and to kill Muslims in her world.
So Mona’s argument here is really about finding any way she can to criticize, and the realists versus the neo-cons is her Manichean battleground. The problem of course is that the war in Iraq was supported on realist grounds in its most public form, and all that neo-con idealism was sneered at as a mere fig leaf by many. Many people supported it on realist grounds as well. Many supported it on humanitarian and for democratic reasons. The realist school definitely does not have its hands clean in the Iraq war. Similarly many opposed the war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds; many neo-cons opposed it and many realists as well. In fact, one of the sillier notions is that Rumsfeld and Cheney are neo-cons. But I digress.
What is being attempted here is to claim the administration refuses to negotiate with North Korea. That is false, as noted above, but many realists have in fact been behind the multi-lateral approach of the administration, both as policy makers and intellectuals. This whole realist neo-con argument is in bad faith on this issue. The policy if it has any intellectual roots is a realist revolt against the policies of the Clinton administration.
Which comes down to a little remarked on aspect of many of the war critics of the left, right or libertarian variety, the bad faith in who they use to critique the administrations handling of foreign policy. Certainly there is much to critique, but this whole stealing by the center-left of the realist moniker and grabbing every General and commenter, especially to use as a hammer to attack the administration and nodding sagely at how much better we would be if we listened to them begs a question, which one? That is the irony for me. If I was to take all the public statements of the many sundry figures quoted attacking the policies of this administration I could never put together a coherent policy. I read all kinds of these critics and they all disagree about fundamental aspects of what should have been done. I have no problem with that as long as one is quoting those debates as a way to further discussion, but when you are spending vast amounts of ink in high dudgeon because of all the people not listened to, when those people disagree as much with each other as they do the administration I can only conclude you do not care about the actual policies. You are merely looking for ammunition. That is the very definition of bad faith.
I’ll take two very prominent examples in regards to Mona, but can be applied to a great number of people on the matter of the war. Greg Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch whose views, if not rhetoric at times, have tracked relatively closely with mine over the course of time is cited occasionally by Mona and others for his dead on assessment of this administration. Greg supported the war on a number of grounds, including realist, humanitarian and democracy promotion rationales. Which in the grand scheme of things makes him somewhat of a neo-con. However, he is now used by many as evidence of the realist strain and its virtues because he approvingly quotes people such as Powell, Armitage, Scowcroft and Holbrooke. So far so good, but where I get into the bad faith side of this is that Greg has been arguing for a long time for increased troop deployments, more emphasis on security, etc. That is hardly an advocate of withdrawal. To be fair, maybe Mona and others are picking and choosing what they like to quote; one need not endorse everything someone believes to find their thoughts worthwhile.
My issue is why that is not characterized as a call for more war, bloodlust and a desire to kill more Muslims to use characterizations hurled at people with similar views? Because in the end, at least according to the logic put forth, that is what is meant. When Ralph Peters, argues for such things he is a bloodthirsty warmonger who wants to kill more Muslims, with Greg the policy denotes him as a hard headed realist. I can only see one difference (not that they are two peas in a pod, there are notable differences, but that their policy prescriptions when it comes to this facet are similar, both advocate more force) from the point of view of someone who criticizes Mr. Peters so forcefully. Ralph Peters might criticize the President and this administration, but not with nearly the vitriol of Greg. If applying more force, increasing troops and combating militias to improve security does not mean Greg deserves the label warmonger, but others arguing for some variation of that who are not as vehement in denouncing this administration do deserve such criticism, then we are talking bad faith. It is not the policy that is the issue it is the political outcome. That is fine and pretty common, just don’t expect me to view such arguments with anything but contempt.
The second example is almost funny. Okay, to me it was down right hilarious. Nothing illustrates my point that for many, including the King of Puppets and his adoring admirer (an admiration he returns,) that they have no real policy issues, because on the matter of Iraq or pretty much any other foreign policy where the way forward is murky they are all criticism, no actual alternative is proposed to guide someone. That of course mean that no matter what one can continue the broadside because you haven’t been proven wrong. Sometime back The King of Puppets adoring friend took a rather hefty swipe at Pejman Yousefzadeh:
Kern’s TCS co-blogger Pejman Yousefzadeh, takes a different path , cavalierly advocating, as if it would be the easiest-wrought solution imaginable, that partitioning Iraq is the thing to consider, and would not — he is clear about this — have to constitute failure. Well golly gee, it is a page from those old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movies where we all decide “let’s put on a show!” Head for the barn kids, and break a leg, we’ve got a partition to do!
This was in a piece extolling all the prescient realists and libertarians who are empiricists and devoted to facts, who were not actually so prescient as I said at the time. Anyway, here was my response:
Well, she sure studies the Greenwald handbook. Pejman gives a reasoned argument for why partition may make sense and she reduces it to a joke. I guess she hopes we don’t click the link as it seems Greenwald assumes, a suspicion given more weight by the fact that the link doesn’t go anywhere. So far nobody seems to have noticed who has praised the piece, they obviously didn’t click through(Note: I have checked back, none of her readers ever commented about the fact that the link went no where and the link was never fixed) I suggest you follow my link and consider it yourself. I have always considered it an option; I certainly think it should be on the table. Even if the Iraq War is some kind of a failure, so what? If it is the best option available we should look at it. This objection is just childish. Failure happens all the time. The key isn’t to avoid failure but to adapt to achieve success. If this idea makes sense then we should pursue it. It is especially odd given that a great many of those prescient realists advocate it as well. I guess their empiricism and devotion to facts is escaping them this time. Of course, I guess in the Mona world it is better to have an abject failure than a partial success, say a stable independent Kurdistan, which, by the way, may be the most exciting place in the Middle East.
So why is this funny? Take a gander at this recent, not even two months later, quote from the same post where she has taken Reynolds to task:
For, to quote Col. Lang on diplomacy’s centrality in the Iraq mess, my emphasis (h/t Jim Henley):
What will the partitioned Iraq look like?
-A Kurdish region either completely or nearly independent with massive oil assets and the city of Kirkuk. Will Turkey accept that? Ah. That should be the subject of creative diplomacy on all sides.
-A “rump” state of Iraq extending from (but not necessarily including) Baghdad to the Kuwait border. Wealthy in oil, dominated by the Shia Arabs and friendly to Iran, it may be impossible for this state to maintain its capital in Baghdad. So far, its security forces show no sign of being able to control the situation there.
-An insurgent “redoubt area” dominated by Sunni Arabs and international jihadis will cover all of what is now called the “Sunni Triangle” and perhaps much of Baghdad as well. This “land of insolence” will be poverty stricken but supported by many states and individuals in the Sunni Islamic world as a bulwark against further expansion of the area of Shia triumphalism. The idea has been “floated” of an economic compact between these three successor entities which would provide the Sunni Arabs with considerable oil revenue. This idea underestimates the actual hatred among these groups, but, nevertheless, such an accord should also be the subject of creative diplomacy.
A recognition that this partition of Iraq has now become inevitable and beyond the ability of the United States to prevent is a pre-condition for the adoption of a “reality based” policy which can deal with the vital issue of American relations with the pieces of Iraq. Equally important are the issues of relations among the states which surround, and influence the tri-partite Mesopotamia of the future.
James Webb, now a candidate for the US Senate, has indicated that an international conference is needed for the purpose of “launching” diplomatic efforts to stabilize the region. That is true, but a pre-requisite for that conference would have to be an American acknowledgment that its present policy has failed and that a policy of reconciliation with and among the disputants, including Iran, must take place before anything fruitful can occur.
A sensible American military strategy would emerge from the adoption of such a policy.
Wow. Two months ago such an approach was used to show what delusional characters Bush supporters were. I am sure she meant to write:
Well golly gee, it is a page from those old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movies where we all decide “let’s put on a show!” Head for the barn kids, and break a leg, we’ve got a partition to do!
However, if you can use a very similar substantive policy to bash Bush and Reynolds or anyone else who is supposedly in the Bush camp (Do these people actually read Instapundit, I mean for comprehension) then we must assume the attack on Pejman was without substance. My guess is that after slamming â€˜ol Pej the details escaped her mind. She never actually thought out the merits or demerits of the idea because she has no real opinion. Take what is offered and bash away. That is bad faith. It gets no clearer than that though there have been plenty of others just as clear as my previous post shows. This one however has a wisp of hilarity to go with it.
Now, let me be clear, I have no problem with changing ones mind, but at the bare minimum it might mean that when we critique somebody we have a little less certainty we were right in the first place. That when we critique people calling them delusional or motivated by faith or Bush worshipers or mass murderers or whatever hyperbolic rhetoric you want to throw out that you make damn sure you know exactly what it is you are objecting to and know exactly what the arguments for or against something are, and make damn sure that you actually will not hold a different view down the road. The King of Sock Puppets and his minion are about bad faith. People confuse stridency and heated rhetoric with conviction. In these two no such confusion should exist. In the end there is no conviction other than moral and intellectual preening, and like most preening the knowledge and principles are skin deep. The only convictions are at the service of their own moral and intellectual vanity.
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