Skip to comments.Victor Davis Hanson: Questions from Oceania
Posted on 05/04/2009 6:42:07 AM PDT by Tolik
Who will Lend?
1) Weve going to spend over $3.5 trillion next year, run up an annual debt of $1.7 trillion, and are on schedule to add another $9 trillion to reach an aggregate debt of $20 trillion in eight years. The Obama administration and the Congress spend days on end fighting over how to spread and spend the borrowed money. But still, no one ties the additional expenditures to additional revenues. Can the President say, We will borrow $.6 trillion from the Chinese, $.4 from the Japanese, $.2 trillion from the Europeans, and $.5 from American bond holders in order finance this years budget? Will someone simply give us a blueprint of where and how the $1.7 trillion is to be raised x amount of loans for each new y federal agency?
Waterboarding or No Brains?
2) Ive raised this example twice now. But, really, how is waterboarding a known detained terrorist like Khalid Sheik Mohammed (who confessed to cutting off Daniel Pearls head [with two knives after the first went dull], and to planning the 9/11 mass murder) at Guantanamo considered a war crime, while blowing up with a Predator drone suspected terrorists (and all those, including women and children, in their general vicinity) not?
The latter victims were not given habeas corpus, and Miranda rights, and there is a greater doubt about their guilt from 10,000 feet than is the case with the much studied psychopath KSM in Guantanamo. Most suspects would prefer to be water-boarded than vaporized? Ditto the Somali pirates, whose heads were blown off during their apparent attempts at negotiating extortion, again a bit more drastic than waterboarding. Would a future President Sanford or Giuliani be right to bring charges against those in the Obama administration who green lighted assassinations of suspected terroristssomething akin to the Phoenix program in Vietnam?
All About Abortion and Affirmative Action
3) Given the fact that Barack Obama voted against both Justices Alito and Roberts, (and wanted to filibuster Alito) would he object should Republicans en masse simply say no to his new liberal Supreme Court judicial nominee? As I recall Obamas comments, he simply confessed two things: one, the two nominees were qualified; two, their politics made them too unsympathetic to his own political agenda, so they should be rejected.
Remember Obamas assessment of Alito that had nothing to do with the law and everything to do with politics (Hes a smart guy, theres no indication that he is not a man of good character. But, when you look at his record, what is clear is that when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless.), and Roberts (In those 5 percent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions or whether the commerce clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judges heart.)
War, No War, Sorta War?
4) What exactly is the current status of the war on terror?
(1) Obama has so demonized the Bush administration (despite 8 years of successful homeland security and freedom from 9/11-like attack), and so rejected its very protocols, that he even has changed the very nomenclature of the fight: terrorism is now man-caused disasters, enemy combatants at Guantanamo are detainees, Overseas Contingency Operations mean the war on terror; OR
(2) Nothing has changed: renditions, wiretaps, email intercepts, Predator attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue and Guantanamo is still open; hes simply Bush III, pacifying his leftwing base with apologies abroad and euphemism at home; OR
(3) He has no idea of what hes doing, and sort of makes it up as he goes, screaming Bush did it now, and then ordering Follow what Bush did. He simply assumes that whatever he does and whoever dies in the ongoing conflict, the media most certainly is not going to scream, as it did the last eight years, murder and shredding the Constitution. The days of movies, plays, and novels slurring the President are over.
Brave New World of Federal Recipients, Federal Workers, and Non-taxpayers
5) Given that the 1964 LBJ landslide quickly led to Nixon, the 1976 New Carterism led to Reagan, and the 1992 Clintonism was followed by GWB, Obama must know that his gargantuan spending and borrowing and regulation will lead to mega-taxes which will lead eventually, as is always the case, to stagflagation: low growth, high unemployment, high inflation, and high interest. He must know that near-trillion dollar experiments like cap-and-trade and socialized health care will not create new productive potential, only tens of thousands of new regulators that will hamper economic growth, and he must know that on social issues his base will drive him on for gay marriage, an end to dont ask, dont tell, abortion on demand, more, not less, affirmative action, veritable open borders, and abroad UN/EU transnationalismand that eventually all that will provoke a furious backlash?
He knows that, and that is why in the first 100 Days, he hoped to so scare us into Bush did it and Great Depression that the panic allowed him to rush through $1.7 trillion deficits, federal take-overs of finance and manufacturing, national health care programs, cap-and-trade, and new federal bureaucraciesand the result will be a vast new constituency of those who work for the ever larger government, of those who receive vast new entitlements, and those who are excused from income taxes (for a while)coupled with the popular rhetoric that they who made out like bandits, who did not pay their fair share, who go to Vegas and party at the Super Bowl, who are unpatriotic in avoiding taxes must make long overdue atonement for their past greed.
So we are in a racea race to get the dependent constituents permanently in place and institutionalized before the proverbial (fill in the blanks) hits the fans. If he succeeds, we will end up like a Greece, France, or Belgium weekly strikes by government workers and unions, rampant cynicism as everyone seeks to land the federal job for base salary and taxes and benefits, and then moonlights to get untaxed cash and barter for necessary goods and services, all coupled with a culture of blame at various foreign and domestic thems who make us so unhappy.
Final thought: without the Old US who will be blamed? Who will keep the global sea-lanes open?Who will buy the worlds exports? Who will deal with Milosevic, Saddam, the Taliban, and the other global nuts and psychopaths? Who will attract the worlds more daring and desperate?
So we end with a whimper, after all?
Your post sounds like something I could have written myself. Great minds think alike!
I’m with you 100%.
Maybe you should take a page from C-Span and "revise and extend" your remarks.
What an odd take.
... I opposed waterboarding, but the Obama administration, in its showboating denunciations of past practices, will soon encounter further dilemmas as it broadcasts that the largely unchanged war on terror is now a more enlightened criminal-justice matter. Euphemism and creating new names for existing policies alone wont cut it.
At some point, Obama must answer why waterboarding mass-murderers and beheaders like Khalid Sheik Mohammed is wrong, while executing by missile attack (no writs, habeas corpus, Miranda rights, etc.) suspected terrorists and anyone caught in their general vicinity in Waziristan or pirates negotiating extortion is legitimate. (Remember, there is no longer a "war on terrorism," so in these "overseas contingency operations" we are now judge, jury, and executioner or are we resurrecting the Phoenix program for the Hindu Kush?) ...
So, Hanson is off the hook with you, but I am not, regretfully so, because as I told you on some occasions I follow your posts on money matters for my education and I hope I learned something from you.
About torture. The argument you use (and please correct me if I am wrong, I don't want to put words into your mouth) that torture is morally reprehensible and makes us to be no better than them, is very much similar to the argument that opponents of capital punishment use: that killing a man (defenseless at this point) is simply wrong.
As the saying goes: extreme cases make bad law. I am for both killing a *defenseless man* as a capital punishment for his crimes and for *torturing a defenseless man* in some extreme situations. It cannot be a *matter of fact casual procedure*. But there are some situations when there is no other choice. In expression often used by Hanson it's a *tragic choice*.
It can not be divorced from the circumstances of the case. Similar to deliberations on the murder case when circumstances can show it to be a manslaughter, or negligence or a cold blooded premeditated murder - and the perpetrator will be punished accordingly. In the case of torture, the context is the key as well. An enormous popularity of Jack Bauer and 24 is that people emphasize with him and his moral struggles (agony is a better word) when circumstances leave him with no other choice than torture a man in the race against time to save lives. Its a ticking bomb situation: an attack is imminent unless we gain some information to stop it. I don't agree that civilization sells its soul if it agonizingly allows torture in some extreme cases in order to save lives.
The same as capital punishment triggers special scrutiny, torture should as well. BTW, when the society executes a murderer, he is often weak and remorseful, but its done anyway.
Don't remember whose quote it is, but it goes this way: an American or British top leader was asked in what case he can see a nuclear weapon to be used. The answer was: "If I tell you, it removes the deterrence factor, doesn't it?"
Same as using nukes against Japan. Lots of civilians died so the war ended sooner saving countless Japanese and American lives. Many people to this day say it was not justified. I think it was. There is no doubt in my mind that it saved at least one magnitude more than it killed.
But I would not want to be the one to make that decision. As Hanson says: it's a Tragic choice.
If your honor can and will be used against you to kill you and yours - it means that barbarians will survive at expense of your civilization.
You are pounding straw men not arguing with the man in front of you for much of the rest. I have never said a single word against capital punishment, it is a red herring. In fact I support it as necessary in some circumstances and therefore oppose all attempts to undermine it, especially with unsound and unoriginalist constitutional arguments. The state must be able to defend itself. It is a matter of indifference or practicality for routine murderers, compared to life imprisonment. It is not a matter of indifference when it is Hitler and Ludendorf storming city hall in Munich, or dealing with Saddam Hussein. There you have and use it or the state is destroyed. The state must be able to defend itself.
But for your statement that you are in favor of torturing in extreme circumstances, it renders you morally unfit for any position of trust and objectively damnable. It also shows you have no idea what honor is. The statement that there is no other choice is utter hogwash on its face. No great mysterious force is grabbing your hands and forcing you to apply electrodes to another man's genitals. Claiming you are forced to it is a pathetic and transparent lie.
Citing 24 is laughable - it was written by leftist hacks intent on smearing the Bush administration. The actual context is the Algerian war, not a television show. Read Paul Johnson and Alstair Horne on the subject. The party of torture is the party of Jacques Massu and Le Pen. Did they win the battle of Algiers? Yes, and they promptly lost the battle of France and with it the war. The people of France would rather let the colons die and be damned, than maintain them as racist overlords in Algeria through systematic Gestapo torture. And they were right - the same paras willing to torture in Algiers were willing to stage coups in Paris; they lost all allegiance to anything that would count as civilization.
At bottom, the error of the torture party is to think the group they are a member of and seek to protect through torture, is an objective transpolitical category, and will remain operative whatever they choose to do. But this is emphatically not the case. No one who tortures does so for me or to defend me or as my representative or in my service. He can't decide to, I decide that he doesn't. If he electrocutes privates all day, he still isn't doing it on my behalf, but against me. I'd rather have him fry my balls than stand with him on anything.
Free political allegiance given on moral principle is the underlying true division, not national identity or (as the colons thought) race, nor (as the terrorists think) religion. The torturer represents only the torture party, and he can only defend and advance the torture party. He can't defend innocents; there are no innocents in a torture party. The moral circumstances he tries to cite to justify his outrages therefore fall to the ground. He is torturing for himself, for his own interests as he sees them. He is, at bottom, torturing out of his own craven fear and his own lust for power and domination.
And no, my honor can't be used to kill me. I am not a weakling. As a fact, the torturers and all their would be empires of necessity and expediency are dust and ashes, or cesspools of poverty and despair and weakness. As a fact, only chivalry and honor have ever built anything; even the edifices of unworthy rulers were built for them only by better men.
"But maybe frying this guy's balls will prevent an attack someplace". So? Are you such a coward you can't run the risks our men run every day on the streets of Iraq, even in the safety of Los Angeles? Why are you so scared of a few pipsqueak terrorists? I sure as hell am not. They can't touch us. And we can murder them all day as long as they care to try, without breaking a sweat.
No one can make themselves immortal by torturing anyone, in any circumstances. All your ruthlessness and imaginary "practicality" will not reduce by one second the length of time you will be dead. But you can burn in hellfire. Or not. That bit is up to you.
JasonC - your “outrage” is ridiculous.
You try to claim a moral high ground by claiming that certain techniques are “torture” - but when you read what was authorized - “enhanced interrogation techniques” - it is absolutely absurd to consider them “torture”.
If the enhanced interrogation techniques ARE considered torture - then the word torture is totally without meaning!
You - and the left wing radicals would have us give the terrorists tea and crumpets - speaking loudly to them would be torture.
Absurd!! In WWII - the Brits had captured German spies - and the spies were told to submit to special deception techniques - or be summarily executed as spies. (A few spies refused - and they were executed, with other spies being able to see what was in store for them if they failed to assist.) Such tactics would be against the Geneva Convention FOR captured soldiers - but spies and terrorists operate outside the law, and therefore do not get any legal protections.
Yes - the left hyperventilate againt the abuse of putting a captured terrorist in a small box with a ...gasp gasp - catepillar in the box also ....but most rational people recognize that with an illegal/immoral enemy, additional actions must be taken.
Again - WE DID NOT TORTURE. We used ENHANCED INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES. But if you disagree with me - then your dissent is antognizing me and that is torture to me, and you therefore must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the crime of torture. </sarcasm> If torture can be redefined by others, surely I can re-define torture to include everything that the liberals are doing to create a socialist/statist country.
The liberals who would attack those who protected our country are just like the Animal Liberation Front people who would attack and kill those who don’t embrace their vegan lifestyles. They have elevated the importance of animals and therefore have lowered the value of man. The liberals have elevated the rights of terrorists - and have therefore de-valued the rights of citizens to live in a country and be protected from attacks. That means Honor is a meaningless concept to JasonC and his friends.
Second, of course waterboarding is torture. It was invented by Chinese torturers and practiced on our men in Korea and Vietnam, and we prosecuted people for war crimes for doing it, when we could. It was added to sear training as a mild taste of the torture captives routinely experienced at the hands of barbarians. The men who implemented it did so *as* torture. It is of course much milder when brief and the subject knows friends not remorseless enemies are doing it and will soon stop. But it is torture and everyone who wants to use it, knows it is and claims it is "effective" precisely as torture. If it were poking with soft cushions, no one would defend it as effective, would they?
You simply may not seek victory in war by making your captives as uncomfortable as possible. The means and details are quite immaterial, you can't seek the end. You can offer leniency or preferable treatment or release in return for cooperation if you find it useful. But captives are free moral agents and not sacks of meat for you to tenderize. The war will not be won in a torture chamber. It may well be lost there (France's in Algeria was, for one), but it can't be won there. It will be won only out where there is honor, on actual battlefields.
And no, torturers are not protecting the country. They are attacking it and covering it with their moral slime. They belong in jail, but I'll settle for simply running them out of any office or position of trust or responsibility.
And this has nothing to do with any terrorist's rights, it has everything to do with mine. You are not authorised to torture human beings in my name or claim to be doing so on my behalf. You are my enemy and not my countryman, if you defend barbarism. If you torture anyone, it is as a self appointed tyrant and illegitimate; you have no commission to do so from the American people. Your crimes are yours and not theirs, and nothing you say or do will make us support you in those crimes.
Long-term, if we lose the moral high ground we lose everything. America must stand for something or she loses her meaning.
The moral is to the physical as three to one. - Napoleon Bonaparte
You simply may not seek victory in war by making your captives as uncomfortable as possible. The means and details are quite immaterial, you can't seek the end. You can offer leniency or preferable treatment or release in return for cooperation if you find it useful. But captives are free moral agents and not sacks of meat for you to tenderize.
I have never read such juvenile drivel on this forum since I came on board in 1998.
This whole issue is starting to become laughable.
Prof. Paul Fussell, a cultural and literary historian, and professor emeritus of English literature at the University of Pennsylvania wrote a book some time ago about his experiences as a US Army private in WWII. No conservative Fussell, but he describes an incident in the Battle of the Bulge when a small unit of GI's captured a few Germans. Being cut off from their unit and in desperate shape they needed to know exactly where the German tanks were to avoid being killed. The Germans prisoners refused to talk. Their Sergent lined them up and said that if they didn't talk he would begin killing them one by one. They still refused to talk. He immediately shot the first one in line in the head. The rest of them talked. The Americans were able to save themselves.
We didn't win the war against the Germans and Japanese by playing fair. We played to win.
I don't even know what to say to a man who wouldn't do what is necessary to get information to save himself or his countrymen in a war. I just know I wouldn't want him next to me if the going got rough.
Exactly, the media has a lot to answer for. This isn't liberal bias anymore; the media is now the official Pravda of the administration. And this administration is doing to America what King George, what Adolf Hitler, and what the Soviets tried to do but could not. Thanks to so-called journalists. It would take a writer of Dante's caliber to imagine and describe the Hell that awaits them for their treachery.
All these tea parties are great, but how about some sort of demonstration / movement to express the disgust with the propaganda media? The issue isn't taxation without representation, it is the prospect of selecting representation without correct information. “No information means no representation” (anyone have a better slogan)?
Maybe everyone could show up with newspapers and toss them into the river, etc. Two outcomes: expose the bias and help kill the old media through declining circulation, or maybe make the old media run a few stories critical of their savior. Either way it is a win.
Congress debated the very issue of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, and never passed a resolution prohibiting the enhanced interrogation techniques. The fact that the issue is so debatable, very hotly contested, and still unresolved means that your insistance on declaring in no uncertain terms is based not on fact, but emotion.
You keep insisting that persons outside of the Geneva Convention be accorded Geneva Convention treatments - when it clearly is not a requirement. To insist that it is the law now, when it is not - is wrong. It also violates an even more basic fundamental right against ex post facto laws. You may not criminalize what was debatably not criminal - and the fact that Congress has not yet passed laws clearly establishing different standards is proof that the criminality you suggest is not there.
As some Supreme Court Justice stated (during the Civil War) that the Constitution is not a suicide pact, we should also assume that the standards of treatment that constitute civilized behavior is not a suicide pact that must be adhered to when dealing with illegal combatants and terrorists. Geneva Convention accords were established to ensure fair treatment of captured legal combatants on both sides of an engagement. The Japanese were prosecuted after the war because they mistreated Prisoners of War who should have been treated IAW Geneva Convention (even though Japan was not a signatory to the convention.)
Ultimately, a civilized society may and should do what it must to secure victory and protect its society. If society enacts laws prohibiting enhanced interrogation techniques (something that they still have not yet done!) - then yes, by the rule of law, THEN it would be a criminal act to waterboard a terrorist to stop a suitcase nuke. But the society also has the ability to turn on a dime, and throw out the politicians who failed in their primary duty to protect society, and the people can reverse their stupidity and permit what needs to be done so that we don’t enter into suicide pacts that assure our destruction!
Oh, really? I'd say that the American public is most to blame. We (as an aggregate) let politicians and governments to get away with a lot of stuff. We're too busy to pay attention, and not interested except when it's too late.
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