Thursday, September 04, 2008
  Both sides no

I'm a great fan of what might be called two-way negations. The classic example is the line, supposedly said by some grand Imam, defining the attitude of Mohammedans toward art and literature: "If it disagrees with the Koran, it's heresy. Burn it. If it agrees with the Koran, it's superfluous. Burn it."

Here is a three-minute segment of a CBS news program in 1951. Ed Murrow took bits and pieces from Robert Taft and Harry Truman, the probable candidates in '52, and created a "debate" on our role in the world. Taft was the last major candidate who believed in supporting America's direct interests. Of course he didn't get the nomination in '52, and we haven't had a real nationalist since then.

Today the parties have more or less reversed, though both sides have become blurry and squishy. In general the Bush-McCain side wants us to intervene everywhere all the time, while the Obama side wants us to intervene almost everywhere for a slightly different, and perhaps slightly smaller, set of reasons.

Taft and Truman were more crisply opposed, and at the end of this 3-minute segment, Taft gets off a great two-way negation. It's a type of argument we don't hear from any modern politician, because it makes sense.

Roughly transcribed for non-listeners:

"Either we have to assume that the Russians are not going to attack Western Europe, or we have to assume that they are. If they are not going to attack, then our buildup is unnecessary. If they are planning an attack, why should they bother to wait three years while we build up a great army to oppose them? They would attack now."

Thinking in terms of modern Russia or Persia, we have to remember that these countries know how to play chess. If we are doing something that makes emotional sense but doesn't make strict military sense, perhaps we should ask whether the opponent has led us into this move. If we are spending our military into bankruptcy for a purpose that looks good but is strictly unachievable (eg a Young Democracy In The Broader Middle East) perhaps this is exactly what Russia wants us to do.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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