Buried lede of the week

A mostly political Weblog.
July 18 2006 3:52 AM

Buried Lede of the Week

Did Clinton hint we went to war for Israel?

Mystery Pollster vs. Kos: On bogus charges of Lieberman "push polls."12:50 A.M.

"Progressive Realism": My colleague Robert Wright's bigthink foreign policy op-ed is currently #4 on the NYT's most e-mailed list, and gaining on Shamu! Here are some questions I hope to take up with Wright on bloggingheads.tv tomorrow:

1. Isn't it crude and unfair to accuse President Bush of failing to understand "the perspective of the other," including "why some people hate America, and why terorists kill"? As E.J. Dionne notes, one premise of the neocon "Big Bang" theory on which Bush acted in Iraq was precisely that "authoritarian regimes bred opposition movements rebelling against the conditions under which too many people lived." Sounds like empathy to me!

2. Wright discounts the short-term costs --in terms of frustrated aspirations and resentment--of delaying the introduction of democracy while we wait for its inevitable natural triumph in the wake of free markets and free trade. But Wright gives great weight to the short-term costs of military action, in terms of potential terrorists angered by the Iraq invasion. Some sort of double accounting standard is being applied here, no? Maybe the anger produced by the Iraq war can realistically be discounted because (like authoritarianism) it will disappear by the time the "bioweapons most plausibly available to terrorists" become "effective weapons of truly mass destruction."

3. A global regime based on "highly intrusive inspections" for WMDs may be necessary, but it sounds almost as "wearying" as a regime based on invasion and regime-change--a constant backdrop of cheating and retreating, accompanied by the threat (or the attempt to prod the Security Council into making the threat) of international sanction or military punishment. Think the winter of 2002 made permanent. Is that an appealing future? ...

4. Wright claims that if we wait for "authoritarianism's demise" rather than trying to force the pace thgrough "invasion or American-backed coups d'etat" the result will be "more indigenous, more culturally authentic paths to democracy." Sounds right. But is the messy attempt at democracy now being undertaken by the Iraqis not "culturally authentic"? If anything it seems too authentic--authentically Shiite vs. authentically Sunni. ...

5. If advances in "information technology" and "munitions technology" establish an "alarming principle" under which "grass-roots hatred and resentment of American may be converted into the death of Americans with growing efficiency," how can we possibly reduce hatred enough to save our skins? If, eventually, any 12 reasonably well-educated angry men can cook up a devastating attack, isn't it hopeless? We'll never lower the number of angry anti-Americans to single digits.

Update: Bob responds to these questions on video here. ...  Instapundit says I "[make] the case for war." I thought I was making a case against a case against war. Not the same thing at all! But I do think it's too early to declare the war a failure the way Dionne does (and George Will doesn't quite). ... 1:54 P.M. link

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Escape from Plano! Virginia Postrel, who lives in Dallas, says I'm wrong about Plano not being socially conservative as well as pro-Bush:

Plano is, in fact, a good representative of Red America. Its residents are educated and affluent, and they are also solidly conservative. They vote Republican the way Westside Angelenos vote Democratic--because it's the normal thing to do. Many of them also go to big megachurches that preach very conservative doctrines in a contemporary style because that, too, is normal.  ... I don't have poll numbers, but I doubt that a lot of those soccer moms driving SUVs while talking on their cell phones accept Darwinian evolution either--not that it comes up very often. ...

Plano is conservative in all the ways that matter to contemporary politics.

Was my charge--that Plano's not a "conservative bastion"--influenced by the crude belief that someone with (in Postrel's words) "a lot of money, a professional education, and a fancy car" wouldn't tend to be a "quasi-fundamentalist Christian with socially conservative views." Yes! And I cling to that prejudice, especially if you add "and works in a high-tech industry where you wind up hiring a lot of gay college grads."  I don't think, in those circumstances, you can afford to get as wildly exercised about sodomy and sin (and if you do, you'll get beaten by Silicon Valley firms that don't). Ideology is determined by the mode of production, comrades! But I defer to Postrel's expertise on the culture of actual, existing Plano.

I still don't think that if a liberal film does well in Plano's Angelika art house cinema it means the movie's "reaching the red states"  in the sense that matters--i.e. the preaching-to-the-unconverted sense. Is that because the Angelika art house draws liberals from throughout the Dallas metro area? Postrel rejects that theory as well--Plano's too far away. (And, as various emailers and bloggers have noted, there are art house theaters, including an Angelika, in Dallas proper.) Instead she argues that

Plano ... is a big enough place that even a small minority represents a lot of buying power. If every left-of-center Planoite bought a ticket to An Inconvenient Truth, the Gore film would sell out at the art houses.

Twenty-eight percent of Collin County voted for Kerry, remember.