• The Political Animal

    Discrediting Arguments on the Iran Deal

    Argument and persuasion are not the same thing. An argument is a series of statements, or premises, arranged and propounded to entail a conclusion – to support a claim. Persuasion is the attempt to influence and change minds. Ideally, the former plays the major role in the latter, but in politics and policy, as in life, this is not always so. Armed robbery is an act of persuasion. The barrel of a gun makes a weak argument that its holder is entitled to your wallet, but it makes strong case that you should hand it over. At the point of a gun, one is persuaded to give up the goods.…

  • The Political Animal

    Arguments in Defense of the Iran Deal and Their Implications

    There are many areas on which to focus one’s attention in the Iran deal. My own has been consistently drawn to the administration’s arguments in defense of the deal. Attended to, they are remarkably revealing in their implications about administration thinking, while not, in fact, actually being much remarked upon. It is a tediously if necessarily repeated truism that negotiation requires compromise in positions about which the parties were previously uncompromising. Thus there will always be opportunity for absolutists not at the table to carp and condemn. Negotiators are charged with perfidy by those they represent only a little less often than battlefield turncoats. However, when the very subject of negotiation…

  • The Political Animal

    The Revolution with No Name

    When it seemed to some at the end of the Cold War that we had also reached the end of history, more than ever, every act of rebellion and revolution seemed cause to celebrate an elevated human spirit. After a long winter of merely staving off an enemy’s further success, now freedom was rising with people uprising, and cheer was in the air. We got, relatively peaceful and colored (orange and rose), revolutions and “springs” that sprang of the hope – so richly did the sap of it rise in great municipal squares around the world – that all that is necessary to topple tyranny is for good people to…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    A Second Look: Thinking Through the Iranian Dilemma

    I posted the following on March 19 of last year. Nothing that has transpired since, not even the recently achieved, yet still not implemented short-term deal – which I think a basis for justified future military action just as it is, more hopefully, a foundation for peaceful resolution – has changed the balance of views contained within. Thinking Through the Iranian Dilemma Attempting to think through a dilemma like the threat of a nuclear Iran is like trying to make one’s way through a windstorm. For most people, who have none of the inside information of those in various official roles, or the view from the doorway of the analysts…

  • Indian Country

    The Trope Dope: “Check Your Privilege”

    In the final analysis, Madame Bovary is just another trope. Unknown academic wag. dope: an illicit, habit-forming, or narcotic drug; a stupid person; [slang] the inside scoop, the poop, the skinny, the lowdown Cant kills ideas. Leaves them dead in the field, their tongues swollen and hanging. Flies buzzing. (They fell in love too easily. He took her for granted, abused her. Then he beat her. She shot him.) You know what they say, it’s chickens coming home to roost, because both sides do it when a conservative is a liberal who got mugged for the American Exceptionalism of the Founding Fathers, whose shining city on a hill where that…

  • The Political Animal

    Syria, the Limits of Interventionism, and the International Order

    Noted in the comments to the previous post, “A Plague: Contesting Syria, in Context,” is the posting of a reply to it at his blog from my ever wry blogging compadre, Snoopy the Goon. Please do  read it here. Below is my response to, ahem, the Goon. Dear Snoopy, How do we go on after that John Lennon crack? I believe forgiveness is all. (Well, something, anyway.) And then there is your introduction. Okay. I think there is not that much disagreement between us, some points needing just some clarification and refinement. I note your eloquent and just paean to the “warriors of the cold war,” and what their sacrifice…

  • The Political Animal

    A Plague: Contesting Syria, in Context

    Context They are always there, sitting on both shoulders, sounding into your ears. On either side, they buzz insistently their ceaseless drone. Now, they speak of Syria, whisper and wheedle action or inaction as they wish. They have been singing their songs of superpower or imperial America since the end of World War II. In the mid 1950s it was the “bomber gap.” Misconstrued numbers of Soviet M-4 Bison bombers, estimated at near a thousand and amplified by the device of policy by press release, set the United States on a frantic construction binge of almost 2,750 B-47 and B-52 bombers in response. President Eisenhower was doubtful, but even he…

  • Indian Country

    A Second Look: The Honor of the Mascot, or A Team by Any Other Name

    The latest publicity over the very name of the Washington Redskins is only the most recent eruption in a longtime simmer. As recently as 2009, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case dating back to 1992. This should not surprise given that the Supreme Court has never overturned Johnson v. McIntosh, its 1823 decision in which it justified the European conquest of Native American lands by right of the Doctrine of Discovery and asserted the United States’s assumption by inheritance of this right. The decision remains the law of the land. It is as if Dred Scott v. Sandford‎  were still accepted law. Fittingly, too, the 2009 decision was over the matter…

  • The Political Animal

    Masters of War

     “Masters of War,” compellingly titled, fortuitously timed in its creation, ranks among Bob Dylan’s most jejune songs. The apparent good fortune of its historic timing emerged out of a natural uprising from circumstance. Given that circumstance, and the song’s generalized complaint, how, it almost seems, could the United States not have become fully drawn into a Vietnam War? The song’s lyrics are commonplace at best, its ideas simplistic, its attitude simple minded – much of what is spoken about war is. But the song did not arise out of nowhere, was not merely the febrile complaint of a barely post-adolescent artist. There are, however much more complexly than the song…

  • Creative,  The Political Animal

    A Second Look: The Brotha & the Otha

    President Obama’s summer vacation just concluded, there was a fair amount of attention to the frequency of his golfing: courses traversed, rounds played, partners played with. ABC News even gave us “Obama’s Vacation by the Numbers.” He made FIVE outings to local restaurants, including TWO dinners with friends, ONE intimate night out with the first lady, ONE family dinner and ONE run for fried-food pick up. For that someone attended journalism school. (Somehow we won World War II without knowing Roosevelt couldn’t walk.) This put me in mind of a classic sad red earth posting from deep in the archives about one of the President’s vacations early in his first term. Yes,…

  • The Political Animal

    The Obama Doctrine

    . There is one. It is not simple and direct like the Monroe, Truman, or Carter doctrines. For this reason, those who are Obama’s foes and those who have always underestimated him, or who fail to see the world as he does, can easily caricature the manifestations of it. The Obama doctrine is more complex, at a more complex – which is not to say more challenging – stage of international history. It is more like a practical philosophy than a doctrine, but because it is practical it does, like a doctrine, dictate forms of behavior by the United States, in response, at this stage in its development and in…

  • Culture Clash,  The Political Animal

    Obama’s Male Gaze

    . We forget it about Barack Obama. Amid his first-black-American-presidentness. His Africanness and his historical otherness. His – by American standards – worldliness. The youth in Indonesia and the exposure to Islam. The exotica, to mainlanders, of the upbringing in Hawaii. The life with a single mother. The academic achievement, the sometimes aloof scholarly mien. We forget it. What a guy he is. With his love of hoops, the links, the yearly tourneys and hangin’ with the homies. Yet with his eye for the ladies (Michelle Obama – that’s some lady), and despite all the rightwing nuttiness, just how much of an American guy he is. It turned out, too,…

  • The Political Animal

    The Voting Rights Act and the Consequences of Our Actions

    . A little over a year ago, to counter a vein of left criticism of President Obama during the election year, I wrote, of the 1968 presidential election, Significantly, while Nixon won 86% of the registered Republican vote, Humphrey won only 74% of registered Democrats. Democratic division before and after the ’68 convention [primarily over the Vietnam War] caused many McCarthy, Kennedy, and McGovern supporters to withhold their votes from Humphrey. Because of that 12 percentage point difference in support from registered party members, Nixon won the presidency, by 512,000 votes. Ironically, or not, Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election by just under 544,000 votes.…

  • The Political Animal

    Finessing Foreign Policy

    . In his testimony at yesterday’s hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry said, It is also imperative that in implementing President Obama’s vision for the world as he ends more than a decade of war, we join together to augment our message to the world. President Obama and every one of us here knows that American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone. We cannot allow the extraordinary good we do to save and change lives to be eclipsed entirely by the role we have had to play since September 11th, a role that was thrust upon us. American foreign policy is also defined…

  • Culture Clash

    Inaugurations and Occasional Poetry

    . How shall we receive Richard Blanco’s poem for the occasion of President Obama’s second inauguration? Occasional poems – poems written in honor of an occasion – may be as old as poetry itself. They have a great tradition, but quite arguably that tradition has significantly diminished. Why? One easily distinguished difference in the origination of occasional poems is whether the writing sprang from the poet’s own desire to dedicate some verse or, instead, the poet was commissioned to write the poem. The latter instance is burdened with expectation, with the occasion’s history and perhaps solemn or majestic moment, and with the simple public knowledge of the commission. There have…

  • Uncategorized

    Why Obama Hearts Hagel

    . This commentary first appeared in the Algemeiner on January 11.  The last time I wrote about President Obama’s then only rumored selection of Chuck Hagel I said two things I knew I would wish to revise. The first, rhetorically, was the question: “What was he thinking?” The second was a quotation from Gil Troy’s generally very good writing on this subject, which I qualified then as “[p]erhaps overstating the case.” In attempting to answer the rhetorical question, I need to begin by deepening my critique of the passage I quoted from Troy. Troy wrote, The question of where Obama stands regarding Israel has often pivoted on this deeper question of which Obama shows up…

  • The Political Animal

    The Gun Party Crazies

    . Talking Points Memo has a piece today about how “The White House Just Set Gun Rights Activists Ablaze.” Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported the gun violence task force led by Vice President Biden is considering gun legislation “far broader and more comprehensive…than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition.” …. “[The article] was a Molotov cocktail right into the middle of this thing,” Dave Workman, a former board member at the National Rifle Association, told TPM Monday. “That lit the fuse, it really did.” It should not be hard to appreciate the nature of hardcore gun regulation opponents when after a wave of mass shootings…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    The Hagelian Dialectic

    . This commentary first appeared in the Algemeiner on January 4. Today, President Obama announced his nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. The Chuck Hagel trial balloon has been aloft for weeks now, not to burst or land – since its lofting was never officially acknowledged – until either he or someone else is officially nominated for Secretary of Defense. What conclusions may be drawn without tendentiousness? Above all, we see a pattern, oft repeated, of charge and counter charge between supporters of Israel and critics of Israel and American policy toward Israel, using the same language each time, making similar tenuous accusations and identical…

  • The Political Animal

    The Hastert Rule

    . It is such a given so little reflected upon by its participants and observers, that political life leads to cynicism, that even when reflection periodically takes place, much is lost in the glare. Consider in this regard the already commonplace observation that in clambering back atop the “fiscal cliff” on Tuesday, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives – specifically its leadership – violated the “Hastert Rule,” that rule by which the GOP has vowed over the past two decades not to bring to a vote on the floor – never mind permit to pass – any legislation that does not have the support of a majority of a GOP majority.…

  • Indian Country

    Conquest Leaves a Sour Taste

    . Who’d a thunk it? Five hundred and twenty years of military assault, ethnic cleansing, physical and cultural genocide, theft, lies, deception, dishonor, broken treaties – oh, you can’t even count the number of broken treaties – broken trusts and misappropriation of funds, and nothing seems to work quite right. Things are – how do you say? – broken. I wrote last week about the impending conclusion, final resolution, the end at last, of Cobell v. Salazar, the Individual Indian Money Trust Fund suit – 125 years in the making – after seventeen years of litigation. The expectation is that payment of proceeds to 350 thousand American Indians from the…

  • Israel,  The Political Animal

    Glenn Greenwald criticizes Bibi AND Obama’s “policies” of intentionally killing innocent Muslims

    . Cross posted from Cif Watch by its managing editor, Adam Levick. “Every person has their own definition of terrorism.” –Glenn Greenwald. Glenn Greenwald makes characteristically hysterical claims about Israel and the US in his latest ‘Comment is Free’ piece titled Obama’s kill list policy compels US support for Israeli attacks on Gaza‘: Here are the most egregious examples: 1. He claims that “overwhelming Israeli force slaughters innocent Palestinians, including children”. There’s nothing new here in Greenwald’s use of the most unserious hyperbole to impute the most violent and malevolent motives to Israel. Greenwald ignores the fact that Israel uses unprecedented restraint in targeting only Hamas leaders and terror targets, which would explain that…