• Creative,  On The Road

    from FOOTNOTE 1 — “Route 66: The American Road”

    (News came two days ago that Martin Millner, along with George Maharis, one of the two stars of the legendary television series Route 66, has died, at 83. As a young boy, my own introduction to the adventure of road travel and the romance of the route came from the series and the experience of new places and people each week of Milner’s Tod and Maharis’s Buz. It seems the right time, then, to offer this excerpt of my “Route 66: The American Road,” originally published, along with the photography of Julia Dean, in the final issue of the also legendary, documentary journalism magazine DoubleTake, and republished now in the inaugural…

  • 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

    Ukraine and Legitimacy

    It is fascinating to witness with events in Ukraine an enduring controversy of history in the making. Controversies arise all the time, of course, but some are drawn in more dramatic relief than others, and one of those is Ukraine, 2013-14. Most Western exponents of liberal democracy, of both right and left – by no means all – are adamant that Ukraine represents one more natural social outburst of the desire for freedom and democracy, and a rejection of the democratically-styled authoritarianism that is just one form of corrupt oligarchism. One needn’t dissent from this view to find many of the forces for good in these events, as they zealously…

  • 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…

  • The Political Animal

    A Second Look: the End (of History, War, the Enlightenment, and Western Civilization) Or Not

    My recent posts on Syria were argued against a more global backdrop: considerations of war and how it is entered into, with what achievable (or other) ends in mind, and, more specifically again, how the United States engages in it. In focus were questions of American empire and the nature of victory and whether it can be achieved. Syria, like all the Middle East, offering up so much tyranny, appealing to so much humanitarian feeling, calling on so many instincts toward real politique – and with the ever present wild card Joker of Israel in the deck – seems to roil all settled understanding of right and left in politics.…

  • 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

    Edward Snowden and the Question of Authority (a Surveillance of Terms)

    Edward Snowden received the Integrity Award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence this week, and WikiLeaks has posted several videos of the rarely-seen whistleblower during the event. The Huffington Post As opinions about Edward Snowden have flown wildly back and forth, the vocabulary of public debate has suffered woefully. The sorry truth is that well beyond striving politicians, those who pretend to a journalist’s precision of detail or an analyst’s wise counsel in policy have no less the tendency than the politicians to throw words around like jalopies in a demolition derby. Last one still moving its lips wins. Much of the debate over Snowden, supporting the leanings of…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • The Political Animal

    Drones and the Human Agency of War

    . This commentary previously appeared in the Algemeiner on May 17, 2013. Joshua Foust has written at Foreign Policy a misleadingly essay titled  “A Liberal Case for Drones.” I think there is such a case, but this it not it and a case for drones is not even truly the subject of the piece. The actual subject is raised very early by Foust’s question, “Could autonomous drones actually better safeguard human rights?” Not drones, but autonomous drones and their relation to human rights protections in war is the the actual subject of Foust’s considerations.  Why the title misleads you will have to ask Foust and Foreign Policy. That is not…

  • 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…

  • Indian Country

    Forty-Five Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty Six Days (or Thereabouts)

    . Many top stories are receiving their usual high levels of attention, from the structural taxation reforms bandied about in the face of the “fiscal cliff” that is really a graded driveway to Israel and Gaza. What receives no attention? The usual, including from among the far left advocates of “peace and justice” who pretend to be concerned with matters of indigeneity in Israel-Palestine. Indigenous America is at the heart neither of au currant left ideological interests nor the challenge to Western liberal democracy, so other than lending a terminological veneer to attacks on Israel, you will find no Code Pink or BDS for it, no section of The Daily Beast specially edited by…

  • 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…

  • Indian Country,  Israel,  The Political Animal

    Writing Paradise

    . I learned at an early adult age, with only minor but memorable pain, not to hero-worship. When we lionize people, we tend to forget the natural inclination of the lion to consume the person. I prefer admiration. Admiration works from the muck up. While hero worship sets up the faithful for a fall, admiration begins in the recognition of human failings and appreciates a person’s achievement in rising above them. Fewer disappointments that way, more genuine appreciation of the distinction in the ascent. I was asked the other day, after tweeting of his death, about my thoughts on Russell Means. Not that I have any special standing to speak…

  • The Political Animal

    Amnesty’s Arrogance

    . For those whose vision is not obscured by their own committed advocacy, the map of how Amnesty International lost its way over the past decade and more is there to be read. From irreproachable defender of human rights to clearly ideological activist on behalf of one vision of political development, an organization now easily impeached, the loss to human rights advocacy is profound. Once it was obvious that nearly only tyrants challenged an Amnesty International report. When a free nation did, it was an embarrassment for that democracy in the eyes of nearly all, its rationalized misbehavior an otherwise indisputable black mark drawn by an organization with an unassailable…

  • The Political Animal

    The Other God That Failed

    . Of course, nothing so far can match, or is likely to, the epic-historical failure of twentieth century Marxism. The cost of that failure, if not actually beyond measure, surely transcends any measure the mind can really grasp. Other failures, however, cannot be denied just because they do not reach a comparable magnitude. Dionysus was not Zeus, but he held sway enough. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, like Brezhnev after the debacle is done, seek the presidency and its supporting role in the geriatric decrepitude of a conservative idea that over thirty years of sway over American society has proven an abject failure. “You’re as young as you feel,” they cry, with forced smiles…

  • Indian Country

    Thomas Jefferson, Architect of Deception

    . I head in a few days to Columbus, Nebraska for an NEH workshop on the Legacies and Landmarks of the Plains Native Americans. One of the books I’m reading in preparation is “I Am a Man”: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, by Joe Starita. Standing Bear was a Ponca Indian chief whose efforts to return his son for burial to Ponca territory in Nebraska, after the U.S. had forcefully removed the tribe to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, gave rise to the landmark US District Court case Standing Bear v. Crook (1879). In the court’s decision, for the first time,  American Indians were delcared to be “persons within the meaning of the law.” Starita’s prose is fine and…

  • The Political Animal

    United We Fall

    . The question is who we are to each other. It’s at the beginning and end of every political argument, regardless of whether anyone raises it. Are we lone figures passing on a cold tundra, or do we pause to stand, and even stay, in fellowship? And what will break it? Every other consideration is secondary. Derek Thompson at the Atlantic, who often delivers brief economic insights with surprising graphs, the other day offered this one by way of Michael Cembalest of JP Morgan. Cembalest is not an optimist regarding the European Union, and this graphs presents just another reason for it. What Thompson says is this: The euro zone has…

  • The Political Animal

    From the People Who Brought You Richard Nixon & George W. Bush

    Who has a shorter memory than the perpetual loser? Over and over the perpetual loser performs the same self-defeating act. Again and again, the loser fails, and failing, finds cause for failure in the inadequacy of others. Charlie Brown runs, as he has run countless times before, for the football Lucy holds to the ground, and which she withdraws yet again, at the ultimate instant, just before Charlie’s flailing kick. Upending himself, he falls to the ground, and cries out in despair, “How long, O Lord.” Lucy, analyzing Charlie’s unknowing allusion to scripture, offers the final verdict. “All your life, Charlie Brown. All your life.” And you thought Peanuts was…

  • Israel

    Existential Threats and Slanted Arguments

    . UPDATED BELOW There are breeds of argument that always startle me for their smug, tendentious presumption. Here is one, frequently made, this time by Robert Wright, that rests the continued –  literally – existence of a nation on the parsing of translations and the assurances of theocratic tyrannies. (I assure you, said Mr. Hitler, after the Sudetenland – shaking hands, and with smiles all around – I’m done.) Actually, the Iranians aren’t a nation whose leaders have set themselves that “strategic goal [of eliminating Israel].” They are a nation with a crackpot president who (a) isn’t the country’s supreme leader and doesn’t have the power to order an attack…

  • The Political Animal

    The Libertarian Delusion

    . One of the signatures of the fallen human state is how precipitously and flat seemingly reasonable people can land on their cogitative rears. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on ourselves. You watch me, friend. I’ll be checking you. For now, we have Ron Paul. In addition to certain strains of the disaffected young, neo-Nazi white supremacists, homosexual-hating pastors, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Greenwald, we Tuesday got Robert Wright at the Atlantic in a post titled – honestly – “The Greatness of Ron Paul.” Wright likes Paul’s ideas on foreign policy, and it is one of the characteristics of falling in like with a libertarian idea…