Required Reading

Brent Scrowcroft says important things in the New Yorker. Go read.

Done?

OK. First, the color commentary. If you saw the last Bond flick, Die Another Day, you’ll remember the climactic father-son confrontation on board a burning cargo plane. That’s what I think is going on here, minus the part where the son electrocutes the father with an armored satellite laser vest.

This article also matters because it provides important backstory behind why people in this administration do what they do.

For example, Condoleeza Rice:

The disintegrating relationship between Scowcroft and Condoleezza Rice has not escaped the notice of their colleagues from the first Bush Administration. She was a political-science professor at Stanford when, in 1989, Scowcroft hired her to serve as a Soviet expert on the National Security Council. Scowcroft found her bright—“brighter than I was”—and personable, and he brought her all the way inside, to the Bush family circle. When Scowcroft published his Wall Street Journal article, Rice telephoned him, according to several people with knowledge of the call. “She said, ‘How could you do this to us?’ ” a Scowcroft friend recalled. “What bothered Brent more than Condi yelling at him was the fact that here she is, the national-security adviser, and she’s not interested in hearing what a former national-security adviser had to say.”

The two worked closely in the first Bush Administration, although Rice tended to take a tougher line than Scowcroft on Soviet issues. Robert Gates, then Scowcroft’s deputy and Rice’s boss, recalled how he and Rice would argue with Scowcroft in 1990 and 1991, during the period when Boris Yeltsin, as the elected leader of the Russian republic, became a rival to the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. “Condi and I felt very strongly about reaching beyond Gorbachev,” he said. “Brent and Baker believed you could only deal with one President of the Soviet Union at a time.”

Rice’s conversion to the world view of George W. Bush is still a mystery, however. Privately, many of her ex-colleagues from the first President Bush’s National Security Council say that it is rooted in her Christian faith, which leads her to see the world in moralistic terms, much as the President does. Although she was tutored by a national-security adviser, Scowcroft, who thought it intemperate of Ronald Reagan to call the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” she now works comfortably for a President who speaks in terms of “evildoers” and the “axis of evil.”

Seriously, go read. It’s worth it.

When it comes to online debate I usually dismiss somebody who frames their opponent as ‘evil.’ Yes, this applies as much to liberals as to conservatives. It’s intellectually lazy and it gets in the way of understanding the real and often rational reasons why people do things. Further, in a fight not understanding your opponent usually goes along with losing. There’s no reason why that same rule shouldn’t apply equally well to politics.

Call it Cole’s LawTim F’s Law, after the proprietor hereabouts. For a crucial precedent see Godwin v. Usenet.

***Update***

Christopher Hitchens counterpoints the specific criticisms leveled by Scrowcroft. On goes the increasingly open war between the camps of Bush pere et fils.

Keep in mind when criticizing Scrowcroft that the man traditionally served and continues to serve as a cutout for George H.W. Bush himself.

***Update 2***

Balloon Juice scholars have informed me that there already exists a Cole’s Law. In order to forestall a constitutional crisis, I propose the following as Tim F’s Law:

In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’

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189 replies
  1. 1
    Harry Atkinson says:

    Yeah yeah. I’m beginning to think the issue here is not so much what the idiots within the Bush administration are going to do about whatever, but if they are even relevant anymore. Does anything coming out of the White House even really matter all that much now? Hasn’t Congress pretty much taken over running this country?

    New CBS News Poll puts Bush’s approval at 35%. He’s getting down into “crazy uncle” territory.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories.....5252.shtml

  2. 2
    rilkefan says:

    Too much like cole slaw. Good posting by the way from the proprieters – let me know when it’s safe to read the comments…

    Well:

    “Hasn’t Congress pretty much taken over running this country?”

    Alito will help put them back in their box.

  3. 3
    The Cavalry says:

    Sour grapes from a once great man. He got cut out of the loop, his brand of reticent multilateralsim outmoded by recent events. And now he’s taking the case he lost with the administration into the court of public opinion.

    He did a great job in Gulf War I. Let’s not forget this. But let’s not give him too much credence here, either.

  4. 4
    Ancient Purple says:

    ” a Scowcroft friend recalled. “What bothered Brent more than Condi yelling at him was the fact that here she is, the national-security adviser, and she’s not interested in hearing what a former national-security adviser had to say.”

    *heavy breathing* You were the teacher, Obi-Wan. Now, I am the master. The cycle is complete. *heavy breathing*

  5. 5
    TallDave says:

    I usually dismiss somebody who frames their opponent as ‘evil.’
    I agree, I think “oppressive fascism” fits both ideologies better. “Evil” is too general.

    Scowcroft’s comments have already been annihilated, here among other places.

    Scowcroft’s Mideast ‘peace’ punctuated with the dead

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/op.....9f6ba.html

    Scowcroft recounts a discussion he had with Rice in which she argued against five decades of U.S. policy that supported autocratic regimes in the Middle East. “But we’ve had 50 years of peace,” Scowcroft gloatingly and erroneously noted.

    There were civil wars in Lebanon that took more than 150,000 lives, in Sudan that took 2 million lives, in Somalia that took 400,000 lives and in Yemen that took 10,000 lives. There was Saddam’s campaign that killed 100,000 Kurds and the massacre of 100,000 or more Shiites in 1991.

    It was he who forcefully argued, after a U.S.-led coalition repelled the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, that the United States should not take even modest measures to protect the Shiites in southern Iraq.

    There were wars in this paradise between Iraq and Iran; India and Pakistan; Libya and Chad; Egypt and Yemen; Egypt and Libya; and Jordan and Syria. The combined toll was well in excess of 1 million lives.
    This is the 50 years of peace Scowcroft helped preside over, a peace he’d like to perpetuate.

  6. 6
    Tim F. says:

    I think that ultimately we have a perfect frame for the battle between idealism and pragmatism, in that the combatants are both Republican presidents of the United States who share blood, staff and a first and last name. In my opinion idealism can be just as dangerous as pragmatism, if not more, and I think that is Scrowcroft’s point as well.

  7. 7
    The Cavalry says:

    Thanks for the Hitchens link. That was the best piece I’ve read in some time. I’m emailing it to all my “idealistic” liberal friends who oppose the war.

  8. 8
    Harry Atkinson says:

    “Scowcroft recounts a discussion he had with Rice in which she argued against 5 decades of U.S. policy that supported autocratic regimes in the Middle East…”

    Of course. And now we have a U.S. policy that supports autocratic regiumes in the Middle East except for one place.
    And that one place is in, shall we say, a difficult period in its history?

  9. 9
    TallDave says:

    In my opinion idealism can be just as dangerous as pragmatism, if not more

    I think pragmatic idealism is generally the safest and most honorable course.

    It probably made pragmatic sense to support those fascist, oppressive regimes when we needed allies against a greater fascist, oppressive threat during the Cold War. But now there’s really not much reason for it, and it’s counter to our ideals.

    Scowcroft has forgotten that stability was a means to an end, not an end in itself.

  10. 10
    Mike S says:

    Like nearly everyone else in Washington, Scowcroft believed that Saddam maintained stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, but he wrote that a strong inspections program would have kept him at bay. “There may have come a time when we would have needed to take Saddam out,” he told me. “But he wasn’t really a threat. His Army was weak, and the country hadn’t recovered from sanctions.”

    Scowcroft’s colleagues told me that he would have preferred to deliver his analysis privately to the White House. But Scowcroft, the apotheosis of a Washington insider, was by then definitively on the outside, and there was no one in the White House who would listen to him. On the face of it, this is remarkable: Scowcroft’s best friend’s son is the President; his friend Dick Cheney is the Vice-President; Condoleezza Rice, who was the national-security adviser, and is now the Secretary of State, was once a Scowcroft protégée; and the current national-security adviser, Stephen Hadley, is another protégé and a former principal at the Scowcroft Group.

    He disagreed with the idea of going to war so was not listened to even though he had so many people who knew him. That is the state of our White House. No dissent allowed.

  11. 11
    TallDave says:

    Not true Harry, we are pushing them all toward democratic reform.

    Also, on your earlier point, Clinton polled as low as 36%.

  12. 12
    The Cavalry says:

    Not true Harry, we are pushing them all toward democratic reform.

    We’ve seen democracy flower in Lebanon, for example, and we’re seeing a new push for democracy in Egypt and Syria as well. Make no mistake: we’ve got a long, long ways to go. But at least now we’re moving in the right direction.

  13. 13
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    TallDave: I’m not sure that what we’re discussing here is “pragmatic idealism” on the part of Ms. Rice or anyone else from within the enchanted confines of the Bush White House.

    Rank incompetence coupled with a willful indifference to what is popularly known as reality would be a closer approximation.

  14. 14
    Tim F. says:

    Rank incompetence coupled with a willful indifference to what is popularly known as reality would be a closer approximation.

    I agree with that, but there is a philosohpical underpinning to what they do that deserves to be addressed. Otherwise we could easily have the next guy take office with the same philosophy, but more competence. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

  15. 15
    Slide says:

    Thirty five fuckin percent. Enjoy.

  16. 16
    Darrell says:

    Hitchens:

    Like all of his co-thinkers, Scowcroft appears to imagine that the Saddam regime would just have continued, in its cynical way, providing some version of predictability and stability.

    …Realism of the Scowcroft sort presided over the Iran-Iraq war with its horrific casualties and watched indifferently as genocide was enacted in northern Iraq. It allowed despots free rein from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, and then goggled when this gave birth to the Taliban and al-Qaida. If this was “fifty years of peace,” then it really was time to give war a chance.

    Hitchens nails it. After 9/11 (and before, for those paying attention at the time) it became very clear that the status quo in the middle east couldn’t be allowed to continue. Snowcroft is the architect of the old-school approach which indirectly helped spawn islamic terrorism and resentment. In the past, Islamic terrorists saw how the US was supporting, or at least not opposing, tyrannical leaders in Saudi Arabia, Iraq (pre-Kuwait), Egypt and other countries because it was US policy to seek ‘stability’. It was a great recruiting tool for the terrorists to point to the US and say that we are supporting the Middle eastern despots and Israel. Remember, OBL wants to kill not only us infidels in the US, but he also wants to whack the Saudi royal family

  17. 17
    The Cavalry says:

    Clinton went just as low. And I’ll bet his favorable numbers were lower at that time than Bush’s are now.

    Obviously, there aren’t the best of times for the Bush Admin. Enjoy it while you can, Bush bashers. It won’t last long.

  18. 18
    scs says:

    If the insurgents hadn’t been so successful with their I.E.Ds, this war would have been a great success so far. I’m looking forward to the day when we invent some type of reinforced vehicle that can withstand them. In the meantime, I’m wondering if there is not some way to cut down on the U.S. patrols, vary routes, and increase reconnaissance to cut down on this daily tragedy. Otherwise, troops are just goldfish in a bowl.

  19. 19
    Mike S says:

    I agree with that, but there is a philosohpical underpinning to what they do that deserves to be addressed. Otherwise we could easily have the next guy take office with the same philosophy, but more competence. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

    I agree with this and what you said earlier. There is a great graf from the article that addresses it.

    Sharansky argues that the United States would best serve its own interests by choosing as allies only countries that grant their citizens broad freedoms, because only democracies are capable of living peacefully in the world. In Kiev, “America had missed a golden opportunity,” Sharansky wrote in a chapter criticizing the President’s father. George H. W. Bush’s Administration, he said, “was not the first nor will it be the last to try to stifle democracy for the sake of ‘stability.’ Stability is perhaps the most important word in the diplomat’s dictionary. In its name, autocrats are embraced, dictators are coddled and tyrants are courted.”

    A while back I commented here about the need to change our “enemy of my enemy…” approach to things. It’s a difficult proposition because there will always be times that that philosophy will be neccessary. But it always seems to come back to bite us in the ass.

    I never heard any more about what happened after Uzbeckistan(sp?) kicked us out but I thought we had a great opportunity with that. We could have made a lot of noise about how the government there was mistreating it’s people.

    Does anyone know what happened and is happening there?

  20. 20
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Upon reading The Cavalry’s recent comment I can only say that it confirms my belief that in order to support the current administration you are required to possess the credulity of a small child.

  21. 21
    Slide says:

    TallDave:

    Also, on your earlier point, Clinton polled as low as 36%.

    Care to back that up?

    For those that are interested in Reality Based polling results of Presidents during scandals, here are some numbers to chew on:

    BUSH VS. OTHER PRESIDENTS: APPROVAL RATINGS DURING SCANDALS

    Bush,
    Now
    Approve 35%
    Disapprove 57%

    Clinton
    1/1998
    Approve 58%
    Disapprove 29%

    2/1998
    Approve 72%
    Disapprove 22%

    7/1998
    Approve 64%
    Disapprove 29%

    10/1998
    Approve 65%
    Disapprove 30%

    12/1998
    Approve 66%
    Disapprove 30%

    Reagan
    11/1986
    Approve 46%
    Disapprove 45%

    1/1987
    Approve 52%
    Disapprove 38%

    5/1987
    Approve 46%
    Disapprove 43%

    9/1987
    Approve 50%
    Disapprove 40%

    1/1988
    Approve 58%
    Disapprove 35%

    Nixon (Gallup)
    1/1973
    Approve 51%
    Disapprove 37%

    6/1973
    Approve 44%
    Disapprove 45%

    1/1974
    Approve 27%
    Disapprove 63%

    8/1974
    Approve 24%
    Disapprove 66%

    .

  22. 22
    The Cavalry says:

    Clinton’s weren’t low during the Lewinsky thing. They were low after Hillary-care failed. I think they actually hit 37% not 35% but that was Gallup where Bush has never been below 39%. My numbers could be off by a little bit.

  23. 23
    jaime says:

    We’ve seen democracy flower in Lebanon, for example, and we’re seeing a new push for democracy in Egypt and Syria as well

    Syria and Egypt’s “democracy” is superficial at best and there have been elections in Lebanon for quite some time. Hell, they even hold elections in Iran. This current administration might leave a legacy of elected virulent anti-Israeli leadership in Israel, hard line Shi’ite leadership in Iraq and legitimized Hamas leadership in Lebanon and Syria in it’s wake.

    The effect of Bush’s idealism is akin to performing spinal cord surgery with garden shears. He might give the 36% hard core supporters warm fuzzies because “at least he had a plan” and it gave them a reason to dust off their Lee Greenwood CD’s but he’s also leaving the next administration with a mess that only pragmatism may be able to fix.

  24. 24
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Slide: Ooohh. Now that was low. Reality can be a nasty toxin to those living in the neocon greenhouse.

    Ironic isn’t it? When Clinton was going through his difficulties his poll numbers actually soared. But then again, unlike Mr. Bush, his dishonesty didn’t kill anybody.

    I doubt even the inmates here would make that claim for Team Torture.

  25. 25
    Darrell says:

    When it comes to online debate I usually dismiss somebody who frames their opponent as ‘evil.’Yes, this applies as much to liberals as to conservatives. It’s intellectually lazy and it gets in the way of understanding the real and often rational reasons why people do things.

    But do we really need to “understand” why a group sharing a warped ideological bent would chop the heads off little girls or intentionally blow to pieces women and children in a market? Seriously. Ok, instead of the word evil, how about “murderous and tyrannical”

  26. 26
    scs says:

    Come on SLide, those stats strain credulity. Everyone knows that an approval rating in the 60’s is a great thing, and you can’t mean to imply those were Clinton’s lowest ratings. A quick search I did just turned up this:

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/n.....E_ID=46832

    The low points for recent commanders in chief are as follows :

    Bill Clinton: 37 percent
    George H. W. Bush: 29 percent
    Ronald Reagan: 35 percent
    Jimmy Carter: 28 percent
    Gerald Ford: 37 percent
    Richard Nixon: 24 percent
    Lyndon Johnson: 35 percent

  27. 27
    The Cavalry says:

    and it gave them a reason to dust off their Lee Greenwood CD’s

    That’s funny. I’ll give you that much.

  28. 28
    Slide says:

    Sorry off topic but I just hate when the right lies through their teeth.

    The Cavalary:

    Clinton went just as low. And I’ll bet his favorable numbers were lower at that time than Bush’s are now.

    TallDave:

    Also, on your earlier point, Clinton polled as low as 36%.

    But the facts are:

    It’s an old story — The Tale of Two Clintons. Most people doubt the man personally, but most like his work professionally — precisely the separation that sustained Clinton through the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his subsequent impeachment.

    Indeed, his job approval rating hit its all-time peak, 69 percent, just after the Lewinsky scandal erupted, and then reached almost as high, 68 percent, immediately after the Senate acquitted him of impeachment charges.

    His low point, in fact, came years earlier: A 43 percent job approval rating in June 1993, as his new administration floundered and the economy remained weak.

    So Clinton’s lowest approval was eight points higher than Bush is at right now and it occurred right after he got into office and was dealing with Bush Sr.’s recession. When the republicans tried to destroy him with impeachment his approval reached 68%. Ouch thats gotta hurt the bushies.

  29. 29
    Mike S says:

    While Clinton’s job approval rating varied over the course of his first term, ranging from a low of 36% in 1993 to a high of 64% in 1993 and 1994[20], his job approval rating consistently ranged from the high 50s to the high 60s in his second term[21], with a high of 73% approval in 1998 and 1999[22]. A CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup poll,[23] conducted as he was leaving office, revealed deeply contradictory attitudes regarding Clinton. Although his approval rating at 65 percent was higher than any departing president since polling began more than seven decades earlier, only 45 percent said they would miss him. While 55 percent thought he “would have something worthwhile to contribute and should remain active in public life”, and 47 percent rated him as either outstanding or above average as a president, 68 percent thought he would be remembered for his “involvement in personal scandal” rather than his accomplishments as president, and 58 percent answered “No” to the question “Do you generally think Bill Clinton is honest and trustworthy?” 47% of the respondents identified themselves as being Clinton supporters.

    link

  30. 30
    Darrell says:

    but he’s also leaving the next administration with a mess that only pragmatism may be able to fix.

    I agree that the Lee Greenwood CD’s quip was pretty damn funny.. but Snowcroft’s kind of can’t-rock-the-Middle-east boat ‘pragmatism’ is what brought us 9/11

  31. 31
    ppGaz says:

    This thread is hard to take. Scowcroft’s thinking is essentially the same as mine, with one huge exception: I was against the original Gulf War. Old man Bush had it right in his gut in the first place.

    I was right then, and Scowcroft and Old Bush wrong then, for this reason: Look at what Old Bush had to do to sell that war. He had to make up palpably stupid bullshit — Saddam as “Hitler.” That goofy-assed thinking started us down the road to the current war and the current circumstances.

    Saddam was never “Hitler.” He was much more like The Godfather, a mean, murdering shithead who was out to steal very large amounts of money. Period. No insane ideas about domination or racial superiority. Just a hard on for cash, and the easy willingness to kill for it. That isn’t Hitler, it isn’t anything like Hitler.

    Not only was Saddam not Hitler, but the whole idea of “liberating” Kuwait was incongruent with our policies in the region. We were never the champions of liberty there, we were the champions of tractability and cheap oil, period. Liberty could go fuck itself. Can you say “Shah of Iran?” I rest my case.

    Well, obviously Scowcroft’s position prevailed 15 years ago. But I think that the seeds of his dimished influence with the descendants of that administration were sown in the facile adoption of a dishonest policy paradigm that was required in order to justify that first Gulf War. When you live by bullshit, sooner or later, you will die by bullshit.

  32. 32
    Mike S says:

    Can we please get back on topic. We can all pull up polls for hours and the numbers would vary wildly because we’re pulling up different polling firms. Polls don’t work that way and the only real use for polls is so that the news companies don’t have to do any real reporting.

  33. 33
    Darrell says:

    In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’

    Is it lazy to call the Nazi regime evil? How about Pol Pot? How about the men who sawed the head off Daniel Pearl? In some cases it can lazy to characterize another’s motivations as ‘evil’, but in other cases, it’s a precise description

  34. 34
    AaronWA says:

    Off topic but humerous. College Republicans at my university set up a booth attacking the minimum wage. Of course on all the handouts and posters they have they don’t mention being Republicans, but it’s silly shit. Like Minimum wage interferes with our right to free contract. And minimum wage is bad for the economy etc etc.

  35. 35
    scs says:

    In my opinion idealism can be just as dangerous as pragmatism

    I think idealism is in the end, pragmatism. To me,’Good’ is basically a shorthand for a working balance between the interests of the most number of people and ‘Evil’ is the impractical imposition of selfishness to the detriment of the most number of people. So if your ideals are for good, it’s hard to go too wrong, as what’s good is usually what’s the most practical in the end anyway. But that’s just me. Sorry to get all philosophical on you all.

  36. 36
    ppGaz says:

    Is it lazy to call the Nazi regime evil? How about Pol Pot? How about the men who sawed the head off Daniel Pearl?

    Wow, pretty deep, Darrell. Who knew that you had such layers of complexity?

  37. 37
    srv says:

    Although she was tutored by a national-security adviser, Scowcroft, who thought it intemperate of Ronald Reagan to call the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” she now works comfortably for a President who speaks in terms of “evildoers” and the “axis of evil.”

    In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’

    I think it applies to more than online debates. Any Arab who isn’t ‘with us’ is evil. They have no valid complaints or valid opinions on our foreign policies. They are all just plain evil.

    So Hitchens himself wins kudos from the ‘pragmatic idealists’ for exposing all those realists like Scowcroft and the littany of foreign policy decisions that adversely impacted the world. It seems ironic so many of these same Hitchens fans find it so easy to rant about the ‘blame America first crowd’ and how we’re just hated because we’re free…

    I guess they are ‘revisionist America-haters’ if they ex-post facto found realism so noxious.

  38. 38
    Darrell says:

    Any Arab who isn’t ‘with us’ is evil. They have no valid complaints or valid opinions on our foreign policies. They are all just plain evil.

    How about islamic terrorists who chop the heads off little girls? Do they have ‘valid’ complaints?

  39. 39
    Mike S says:

    How about islamic terrorists who chop the heads off little girls? Do they have ‘valid’ complaints?
    November 2nd, 2005 at 9:37 pm

    They may actually have “valid complaints.” Unfortunately they have lost their humanity and receive no sympathy from me.

  40. 40
    a guy called larry says:

    Hitchens says
    At the very minimum, the starting point of such a retrospective should be the decision, in 1991…

    I would say the minimum starting point would be December of 1983, when Reagan sent Rumsfeld to Baghdad to open a dialog with the enemy of our enemy. That always works.

  41. 41

    They have valid complaints in their mind–how else could they jusitify their actions?–Oh wait–that’s right they are “evil”. Well that explains it!

    You see, evil is such a lazy characterization. It might work if you don’t mind having a delusional world view but that doesn’t mean people who don’t mind trying to understand other’s motivations should have to suffer because of your laziness.

    Now, their complaints are certainly not valid enough to jusitify their actions, but they probably do have valid reasons for their anger/rage.

    The world is far too complex to see things in black and white, good vs evil, us vs them. It only creates more problems than it solves.

  42. 42
    srv says:

    How about islamic terrorists who chop the heads off little girls? Do they have ‘valid’ complaints?

    I could couch every other word with caveats about extremes, but somehow I don’t think it would matter with you.

    But if I said no, would you admit a plurality of Muslims hate us for what we’ve done and not what we are?

  43. 43
    a guy called larry says:

    Oh, yeah, Saddam first started exploring the joy of gassing people a couple of weeks before that.

  44. 44
    TallDave says:

    Slide,

    It’s in the wiki for Clinton.

    Also, the CBS poll is laughably weighted.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.c....._poll.html

    Total Respondents (Unweighted) = 936
    Republicans = 259 (27.67%)
    Democrats = 326 (34.83%)
    Independents = 351 (37.5%)

    Now look at the weighted sample:

    Republicans: 223 (23.80%)
    Democrats: 326 (34.79%)
    Independents: 388 (41.4%)

    The result is a 35% job approval for the president, which is roughly 4-8 points lower than the other polls out right now.

    So, the poll assumes, in a country that has a Republican President, a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and majority Republican Governors, that Dems are 35% and Republicans are 23%. Oooooooooooookay.

    Looks like Rather was the tip of the iceberg over there.

  45. 45
    TallDave says:

    Wait, sorry, I’ve just been informed the poll has a 1971 Excel spreadsheet proving it is in fact accurate. I withdraw my complaint.

  46. 46
    nyrev says:

    So, were all Nazis evil? Because for a while, pretty much everyone who lived outside the barbed wire in Germany was a Nazi. Or were only the Nazis who thought they were right evil? And what about the Germans who thought that the Nazis had the right ideas about reviving German patriotism and limiting immigration, but didn’t like what the party said they had to do to get there? Were they only a little evil? Is a German who fought in the war more or less evil than your average former Nazi on the street? What about the Hitler Youth who were “raised evil?” Still evil, or do you grow out of it? And what about Volkswagons? Evil by association?

    Slapping an abstract label of Evil on a group of people is lazy. It’s like saying Christians are evil because some of them burn crosses on black people’s lawns. It keeps you from having to think too hard about something unpleasant, but it also keeps you from finding effective solutions.

  47. 47
    ppGaz says:

    Also, the CBS poll is laughably weighted.

    Could you possibly elevate the question of angels on the heads of pins to a higher level of profundity?

    No wonder people flock to your blog.

  48. 48
    Stormy70 says:

    Who cares what terrorists think? I don’t. I don’t want to understand Muslim terrorists’ grievences either. Muslim grievences tend to get people blown up all over the world. They spelled out what they want to do to everyone who is not a Muslim, so I take them at their word. The terrorists want to rule by terror, and they want the rest of the Muslim population under their bootheel. I call them evil, I don’t need to understand them. I want them to die by the bushelful. Terrorists suck. Sometimes it is just that easy. The more the killing goes on, the more I could care less about them being tortured. I used to care, but it is eroding a little bit each more with each atrocity committed.

  49. 49
    TallDave says:

    LOL ppGaz agains proves the adage about leftists being parodies of themselves by making a nonsensical point, followed by the infantile belittling of someone’s blog.

    ppGaz, you’re seriously obsessed with other people’s blogs. You mention them in every single thread. Why not just admit you’re jealous and start your own?

  50. 50
    ThirdGorchBro says:

    nyrev raises an interesting point. In the case of Nazi Germany, I think it is fair to say that “all Nazis” were evil, or at least complicit in evil. A judgment of collective guilt should only be applied in the most egregious cases, but it is appropriate sometimes.

    But I think what Tim F. was saying was that in debates between liberals and conservatives over political matters, calling each other “evil” is both incorrect and not conducive to real discussion.

  51. 51
    ppGaz says:

    ppGaz, you’re seriously obsessed with other people’s blogs

    .

    I think yours sucks, and that’s why you hang around here. Simple as that.

    Nobody need take my word, or yours, in this situation. All they need to do is visit your blog and judge for themselves. So, I drive eyeballs to your crummy blog. And you complain?

    So, what’s your theme today? Clinton was worse?

    How original of you.

  52. 52
    a guy called larry says:

    What about the Hitler Youth who were “raised evil?

    See Pope Benedict XVI, membership legally required, unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings.

  53. 53
    TallDave says:

    Rank incompetence coupled with a willful indifference to what is popularly known as reality

    See, several righty posters give example of concrete progress that’s been made, and then a lefty spouts some some insults. That’s “debate” these days.

  54. 54
    TallDave says:

    ppGaz,

    Yes, thank you for illustarting my point once again. I really hope John never cleans up these comments, because you discredit lefties better than anyone I know.

  55. 55
    The Cavalry says:

    Wait, sorry, I’ve just been informed the poll has a 1971 Excel spreadsheet proving it is in fact accurate.

    LOL. Why would they have weighted it like that, though, in all seriousness?

  56. 56
    Mike S says:

    Who cares what terrorists think? I don’t. I don’t want to understand Muslim terrorists’ grievences either.

    By understanding what they think we can work with the more moderate muslims. This is over all a war of ideas and we are going to need moderate muslim voices in our corner.

  57. 57
    ppGaz says:

    calling each other “evil” is both incorrect and not conducive to real discussion.

    That may be technically true, but that doesn’t make it useful. I’d wager that most on the left would agree with me that we think that those on the right will shift/morph/slide from facts to emotional argument to browbeating to calling for “real discussion” to calling their opponents traitors to complaining of unfair treatment if personally attacked … all in the space of abou 5 minutes, if necessary to carry out their verbal strategies. Everything is rhetorical, all truth is political, all politics is truth, to these people.

    If you want a classic example, you can go right back to the Scowcroft/OldBush scam of 15 years ago, at the core of this thread: Calling Saddam Hussein “Hitler.” He wasn’t Hitler, or anything close. But it’s okay to resort to that kind of rhetorical overkill, because ends justify means.

    Now you tell me: Manipulating this country into wars, using ends-justify-means rationalizations. If that isn’t evil, then please explain to me what is?

  58. 58
    TallDave says:

    Upon reading The Cavalry’s recent comment I can only say that it confirms my belief that in order to support the current administration you are required to possess the credulity of a small child.

    I would miss Paddy too. Please John, don’t ban these guys! Their behavior is the best indictment of the Left anyone could ask for.

  59. 59
    ppGaz says:

    you discredit lefties better than anyone

    Uh huh. Well, maybe you aren’t the final authority on that, Dave. I’ll hold out that slender hope.

  60. 60
    TallDave says:

    The best part is, they will never figure it out. Not in a million years.

  61. 61
    The Cavalry says:

    I’m new here: what’s with all the talk of “banning” posters and cleaning up? The two threads I’ve seen are very clean by internet standards.

  62. 62
    TallDave says:

    Exactly, I’m with Cavalry. Nothing here but a bunch of very typical posters.

  63. 63
    ppGaz says:

    The best part is, they will never figure it out. Not in a million years.

    This, from the guy who thinks that Americans are too stupid to vote the right way, and that the justice system can’t be counted on to provide justice (juries who’ll “indict a ham sandwich” and acquit OJ, you know).

    I ask you again, Dave — if you hate America so much, why do you stay here?

  64. 64
    TallDave says:

    I bet you don’t even realize that post further proved my point.

    See what I mean? Not in a million years.

  65. 65
    ppGaz says:

    About half a dozen posts in half an hour, all saying the same thing, Dave:

    “Those lefties are a bunch of onionheads!”

    How do you do it? Do you have a staff of writers?

  66. 66
    Mike S says:

    Nothing here but a bunch of very typical posters.
    November 2nd, 2005 at 10:43 pm

    There was some honest discussion here but the flame wars seem to be more of what people want these days.

  67. 67
    TallDave says:

    Hmmm, maybe not even in a billion. Still don’t get it.

    Well, I’m out. It was sort of odd to see a serious discussion for the first few posts.

  68. 68
    Steve S says:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/.....011324.asp

    You know. I always liked William F. Buckley. He had a sense of honor, unlike the modern day moonbat Republicans like Jonah Goldberg.

  69. 69
    Mike S says:

    Well, I’m out. It was sort of odd to see a serious discussion for the first few posts.

    Too bad you didn’t try to keep it serious.

  70. 70
    Tim F. says:

    Is it lazy to call the Nazi regime evil? How about Pol Pot? How about the men who sawed the head off Daniel Pearl? In some cases it can lazy to characterize another’s motivations as ‘evil’, but in other cases, it’s a precise description

    Yes, it is. Dismissing the Nazi rise to power as evil, without bothering to understand it, is both lazy and extremely stupid.

    But I think what Tim F. was saying was that in debates between liberals and conservatives over political matters, calling each other “evil” is both incorrect and not conducive to real discussion.

    I meant it in the larger sense. The post had two levels of meaning in mind: on the first level, it would make me immensely happy if we stopped hearing debators refer to each other with simplistic pejoratives. Why don’t we just post pictures of poop? The second level was an explicit criticism of the messianic worldview that Rice has adopted in response to the crusaders around her.

    If the administration truly believes in a moralistic crusade against evildoers, as this article and many others imply, then every criticism of mine applies to them.

  71. 71
    Stormy70 says:

    Our enemies believe in a moralistic crusade against us, we are the evildoers in their eyes. Sorry Tim, terrorists are evil. Killing innocents is evil. Beheading teenage Christian schoolgirls is evil. Beheading Buddist monks is evil. Blowing up nail bombs in Markets is evil. The Nazis gassed jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and the disabled. EVIL.

  72. 72
    ppGaz says:

    Storm, I didn’t get the original “evil” reference to be in regard to enemies and terrorists, but to adversaries in a debate.

    How does a discussion of whether the E card should be played in a debate devolve into stating that people who saw off heads are evil, or that terrorists are evil?

    Seems to me that constantly pointing at the most obviously evil icon we can find just trivializes the “E” rule. Are you, and maybe Darrell, arguing that since you are opposed to terror and sawed-off heads, you aren’t under the jurisdiction of the rule? Or …? No offense, I am not (honestly) trying to tie you to Darrell here (even though I have done so in the past), but you and he made essentially the same statement.

    Seriously, the subthread isn’t making sense to me at this point.

  73. 73
    The Cavalry says:

    Beheading teenage Christian schoolgirls is evil. Beheading Buddist monks is evil.

    In my book, beheading anyone is evil. It is a particularly barbaric practice that has no place in the civilized world, either as an act of terrorism or as a form of execution.

  74. 74
    Stormy70 says:

    PP- I took Tim’s current post to task. He said he meant it in the more general sense, not the personal sense. Maybe I read it wrong since I am 5 min from sacking out.

  75. 75
    Mike S says:

    Our enemies believe in a moralistic crusade against us, we are the evildoers in their eyes.

    That is something they believe about us as well. Until we get a rational debate going this will just be one big circle jerk where many more people will die.

    And the rational debate is obviously not with the terrorists but with the moderates. But they’ll need cover to be able to gain power. So even just acting as if we want to know the underlying reasons works in our favor.

  76. 76
    ppGaz says:

    If rational debate is the goal, then we have to figure out how to deal with the last 60 years of US policy that is behind this whole situation.

    The US sucks up to despots and thieves and murderers in the Arab region, for the sake of “stability” and cheap oil. In the course of this, after Iran goes sour (our relationship with the despotic Shah having an unhappy ending), we cozy up to the shithead Hussein in Iraq, only to have him turn ugly on us a few years later. To gin up a war of choice against him, we declare him to be “Hitler” because it’s an easy way to manipulate the American public into quick support for a war that otherwise doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

    We have our war, “liberate” the despotic oligarchy of Kuwait, and create a boxed-in Iraq that becomes yet another source of thievery and manipulation for the shithead Hussein.

    All this scheming and screwing around with policy creates a situation in 2002 that lends itself to the neocons’ zeal to “transform” the region by way of force, and the next thing you know, we have another war over there, only this time it’s one without an end game in sight. This latter war is ginned up, like the first one against Iraq, using manipulative rhetoric and scare tactics that go way beyond the actual gravity of the situation, in yet another ends-justify-means ploy by yet another scheming White House full of bunglers.

    Now here we are 3 years later discussing all this and asking whether calling the people who got us into this damnable situation and now call some of us “traitors” for being pretty pissed off about it, “evil.”

    Did I leave anything out? Because the whipsaw between over-the-top rhetoric, and tut-tutting certain forms of speech, is giving my poor old brain a serious headache.

  77. 77
    Tim F. says:

    ppGaz, Stormy was right to interpret that I meant it on both levels. ‘Evil’ isn’t sufficient to understand your enemies, either in discussion or on the global stage.

  78. 78
    ppGaz says:

    Now here we are 3 years later discussing all this and asking whether calling the people who got us into this damnable situation and now call some of us “traitors” for being pretty pissed off about it, “evil.”

    Did I leave anything out? Yes, the end of the sentence above:

    ….for being pretty pissed off about it, “evil”, is appropriate.

  79. 79
    airmail says:

    But do we really need to “understand” why a group sharing a warped ideological bent would chop the heads off little girls or intentionally blow to pieces women and children in a market?

    An emphatic yes. And yes in the same way that one needs to understand the why’s and how’s of Charles Manson, Jeffery Dahmer, BTK killer, David Koresh, Jim Jones, et al. Trying to understand why will uncover patterns of behavior, methodologies, and the like. The why is what will give one the tools to fight these people. In the case of a serial killer, understanding the motivations may not stop someone from becoming a killer, but at least knowing past murderous profiles will shed light on what you are looking for and will let you know that there are certain traits you should be looking for. Their presence and/or absence can be quite revealing. And knowing the patterns and nuances that are typical of these sorts of people are invaluable to catching them.

  80. 80

    […] Tim F at Balloon Juice today writes on a NYTimes piece on Ms Rice and Mr Scowcraft. He concludes: When it comes to online debate I usually dismiss somebody who frames their opponent as ‘evil.’ Yes, this applies as much to liberals as to conservatives. It’s intellectually lazy and it gets in the way of understanding the real and often rational reasons why people do things. Further, in a fight not understanding your opponent usually goes along with losing. There’s no reason why that same rule shouldn’t apply equally well to politics. This is just plain well wrong. Hitler wasn’t evil, just misunderstood? The Rape of Nanjing, a understandable cultural misunderstanding? Stalin’s purges? Oh, Josef was just just working out a little personal insecurity issue? Wrong. All of these are examples of evil. Evil is not a term which need necessarily be left out of debate, political rhetoric, and discourse. Calling your opponent such, it is true, might be intellectually lazy and a way to dismiss the opponent. It might also be the correct term to use when describing your opponent after you understand him. […]

  81. 81
    cd6 says:

    this was an awesome article

    good read

  82. 82
    ThirdGorchBro says:

    In reference to “the global stage” as Tim F. calls it, I don’t see a problem with both identifying al’Qaeda and its various spin-offs as evil, AND trying to understand their motivations and their appeal to the larger Muslim world so as to counter them.

  83. 83
    raymond says:

    Balloon Juice, left version:

    In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’

    Balloon Juice, right version:

    I think the pimps in the anti-war left who are cynically exploiting this woman’s tragedy are evil. Even if she wants the attention to aid her cause. Atrios and the human debris such as he know what they are doing, and they represent the worst of the Democratic party.

    You guys want to hash this one out?

    PS: Godwin’s law is in effect for the duration.

  84. 84
    MattD says:

    I fail to see how having a core value system that distinguishes right from wrong, good from evil, is somehow “lazy.” If you’re suggesting that understanding the motivation of terrorists is a valuable tool for devising a strategy to defeat them, then I understand that. If you’re suggesting that we need to understand the motivation of people who hijack commerical airliners in an attempt to comit mass murder because their passion must be grounded in a legitimate grievance with the West that can only be redressed by a good heart-to-heart, then absolutely not. What those people did here, what they continue to do in Indonesia, India, Israel, Madrid, London and Iraq is evil, and it’s wrong. Period. They are “terrorists” not “freedom fighters” or “militants.” The only thing that is “lazy” is to sit on the sidelines, try not to upset them, and hope they don’t point their weapons at you.

  85. 85
    MC says:

    FWIW, according to the 2004 NES…

    Self-ID Rep. (Strong-R to Weak-R) : 28.9%
    Self-ID Dem. (Strong-D to Weak-D) : 31.8%
    Self-ID Ind. (Ind-Dem to Ind-Rep + No Pref/Apolitical): 39.4%

    (exceeds 100% due to rounding)

  86. 86
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Tall Dave left? He’s gone for the evening?

    Damn.

    And here I was waiting for him to start making sense.

  87. 87
    ppGaz says:

    If you’re suggesting that we need to understand the motivation of people who hijack

    You need to understand everything about them, their motives, methods, proclivities, politics, everything …. so that you can make the best choices about how to stop them, and/or protect against them. You want to know who they are, where they are, what they want, think, eat, read … the works. For the same reasons that you’d hire a profiler to get information about a mass murderer …. to catch him.

    Not to give them therapy. Fuck them. To protect us. That’s why you want information. Sitting around and trying to outdo each other with chants of “evil!” is not really very helpful. By the same token, I am not too interested in the semantic differences between “freedom fighters” and “terrorists.” Call them what you like, if they are trying to kill me, I am interested in killing them first, and keeping them out of my airports, my food processing plants, and my public places.

    I don’t need any lessons on what evil is. I know what it is. What I need is good, accurate and reliable information about what these people are up to.

    So I agree with you.

  88. 88
    ppGaz says:

    And on a similarly important topic …

    Why does WV play football on Wednesday nights?

  89. 89
    Stephen says:

    So they can be noticed.

  90. 90
    srv says:

    In other non-evil news today, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, who divorced last weeks virgin, will marry a new virgin tonight.

    Paying off a Bedouin for his youngest daughter – $10,000
    You’re own 767 – $200 Million
    Getting another country to fight your war – PRICELESS

  91. 91
    p.lukasiak says:

    Clinton went just as low. And I’ll bet his favorable numbers were lower at that time than Bush’s are now.

    In fact, that is precisely why bush is up a creek without a paddle. If you look at issue polling, you find that Americans have disagreed with Bush’s policy proposals on most issues — what sustained his “job approval” ratings were his “personal approval” ratings. People thought he was a good guy and a strong leader at a time when they thought a good guy who was a strong leader was essential.

    But Bush’s personal approval ratings are tanking as well…the CBS poll has his “favorability” rating at 33% and his “not favorable” is 51%. Only one third of Americans like George W. Bush as a person — and his personal approval rating was the only thing that sustained his job approval rating.

    Personally, if I was a Republican politician, I’d be switching parties right about now…

  92. 92
    Pb says:

    Just a reminder–George H. W. Bush and Scowcroft were right about Iraq–right not to occupy it, that is.

    we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different–and perhaps barren–outcome.

    However, George W. Bush apparently wasn’t reading Time, and Dick Cheney wasn’t listening–then or now. He was probably too busy trumping up bogus intel at the time, and not much has changed since. I bet Scowcroft hates being right…

  93. 93
    SoCalJustice says:

    Brent Scrowcroft says important things

    Maybe he should lay off the sauce before doing so, next time.

    He says

    They also argued about Iraq. “She says we’re going to democratize Iraq, and I said, ‘Condi, you’re not going to democratize Iraq,’ and she said, ‘You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,’ and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth,” he said. Then a barely perceptible note of satisfaction entered his voice, and he said, “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.”

    Is that scotch talking? Or ignorance? He’s probably right about Iraq, but “fifty years of peace” in the Middle East before Gulf War II (emphasis on II)? And because we “tolerated an autocratic Middle East,” no less?

    That’s bordering on insane.

    Just to recap “Pax Scowcroftia:”

    Iraq v. Kuwait (and then U.S.)
    Saddam v. Kurds
    Iran v. Iraq
    Israel v. Everyone in the region/Palestinians
    Lebanon v. Itself
    Algeria v. Itself
    Jordan v. Palestinians (Black September)
    Syria v. Hama

    Of course, there’s also 9/11, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the Khobar towers, the Marine barracks attack in Beirut and the Iranian seizure/hostage taking of the U.S. embassy to Brent’s magical and mysterious >i>fitty years o’ peace in the Middle East.

    I’m sure I’m missing some more peaceful and important things that seem to have slipped the nutty gneeral’s mind.

    Pathetic and scary.

  94. 94
    Slide says:

    In my book, beheading anyone is evil. It is a particularly barbaric practice that has no place in the civilized world, either as an act of terrorism or as a form of execution.

    beheading is inherently evil but strapping someone into an electric chair, shaving their head to get good contact, and shooting electricity through their body convulsing them until they are dead (hopefully, sometimes doesn’t quite kill ’em and has to be done again) thats not evil? Please this is just a cultural differece. Killing someone is killing someone. Beheading, the way the Saudi’s do it or the way the French used to is instantenous. Much quicker than the gas chamber, hanging or the electric chair. Why is it then “evil”? A rather silly distinction.

    I will add before I am attacked, that the sawing off of someone’s head with a steak knife, the way the terrorists have been doing, is very barbarcic. But don’t get caught up in the method. Dropping bombs on a wedding party killing dozens of innocents is barbaric as well.

  95. 95
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    You need to understand everything about them, their motives, methods, proclivities, politics, everything …. so that you can make the best choices about how to stop them, and/or protect against them. You want to know who they are, where they are, what they want, think, eat, read … the works. For the same reasons that you’d hire a profiler to get information about a mass murderer …. to catch him.

    Not to give them therapy. Fuck them. To protect us. That’s why you want information. Sitting around and trying to outdo each other with chants of “evil!” is not really very helpful. By the same token, I am not too interested in the semantic differences between “freedom fighters” and “terrorists.” Call them what you like, if they are trying to kill me, I am interested in killing them first, and keeping them out of my airports, my food processing plants, and my public places.

    I don’t need any lessons on what evil is. I know what it is. What I need is good, accurate and reliable information about what these people are up to.

    So I agree with you.

    Amen.

    I’m probably more morally relativistic then most of the people here. Blame it on my decadent upbringing. However, while my morals may have “equal weight” philosophically with anyone elses, they still inform my decisions on who I declare to be “evil” and who I declare to be “good”, I just don’t lie to myself and say that my morality is the “state of nature” or divine, it is simply mine.

    To defeat the enemy we have to know the enemy. Is it political, ideological, is it for the money? Is it religious? What are the support structures behind the cells? Where are they getting their information from? What failed states do they use to move through? What are their countries of origin? Heck, what motivates the leaders of cells, the followers of the cells, and the leaders of the organization? Are there trends, patterns in their behavior which can be exploited?

    Calling someone/thing evil and then ceasing to care about the “why” of their motivation is simply stupid. Why someone does what they do allows for clarity of action, insight, and some ability to predict what they will do; once you observe how someone operates, and what their motivations are, you can then far more accurately predict what they will do next.

    And stop it. Preferably immediately and finally.

  96. 96
    TallDave says:

    In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’

    Amusingly, lefties on this board still don’t grasp the irony of them saying this while engaging in endless, infantile personal attacks on anyone they don’t agree with.

    And that intellectual laziness is why you guys kep losing elections.

    This board is a great advertisement for Malkin’s new book.

  97. 97
    Sherard says:

    I have to ask. So it appears that Scowcroft is somehow “indispensible” to national security matters. What happens if he gets hit by a bus ? Do we just close up shop on all foreign policy and national security matters ?

    Come on. The article, as long winded as it was contained about 90% speculation as to anyone’s motivations other than Scowcroft, and occasionally Colin Powell. He may be very knowledgeable, but I doubt very seriously that he is the ONLY one. I think his 3 proteges are capable of going on by themselves. The fact that they don’t still take their lead from their mentor is “a mystery”. Not really. People move on and use their own brains sometimes. Give me a break.

  98. 98
    Slide says:

    I can see why the likes of TallDave don’t like Polls too much. It seems that the public takes the CIA leak to be quite important. Much more important that Monica or Iran Contra and even approaching Watergate. These can’t be good signs. Oh, and btw, its not going away despite all the right wing pundits that were claiming just that.

    For you TallDave since I know you love reading polls:

    HOW IMPORTANT TO THE NATION IS THE CIA LEAK MATTER?

    CIA Leak
    Great importance – 51%

    Some importance – 35%
    Little/no importance – 12%

    Clinton-Lewinsky (1/98)
    Great importance – 41%

    Some importance – 21%
    Little/no importance – 37%

    Whitewater (3/94)
    Great importance – 20%

    Some importance – 29%
    Little/no importance – 45%

    Iran-Contra (2/87)
    Great importance – 48%

    Some importance – 33%
    Little/no importance – 19%

    Watergate (5/73; Gallup Poll)
    Great importance – 53%

    Some importance – 25%
    Little/no importance – 22%

    oh oh

  99. 99
    John S. says:

    In my book, beheading anyone is evil.

    So Cavalry, if the US had captured Hitler in WWII and then decided to behead him, we would have been evil?

    I think now we see why using the term without providing a rationale for its applique is intellectually lazy – and can lead you onto a very slippery slope.

    Also, I personally think the only entity that constitutes real evil is the concept of Satan. To brand anything else as thus is a serious slap in the face to the dark lord.

  100. 100
    Cyrus says:

    Darrell Says:

    But do we really need to “understand” why a group sharing a warped ideological bent would chop the heads off little girls or intentionally blow to pieces women and children in a market? Seriously. Ok, instead of the word evil, how about “murderous and tyrannical”

    I thought srv and nyrev made some very good points. And I have a question for Darrell and Stormy: why not? I mean, it’s a serious question. You’re acting like suicide bombers are the Reavers from the Firefly ‘verse and if you look at what they do too closely you become one of them. They aren’t. Are you already convinced that trying to understand them is completely impossible? Or that it would be useless to understand why they do what they do? If so, why do you think so? Do you think they don’t deserve the effort and should be exterminated without mercy? If so, would you apply that to their victims as well? And do you think pure military force is the only way to go and there’s no place for alliances or even psychological warfare in there? I mean, seriously, I’m sorry if this offends you, but this is one of the central questions in the pro vs. anti-war debate and I just don’t understand why you’re saying that labelling them “evil” is good enough, no more effort needed.

  101. 101
    John S. says:

    Amusingly, lefties on this board still don’t grasp the irony of them saying this while engaging in endless, infantile personal attacks on anyone they don’t agree with.

    Oh the irony. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to make so many flagrant self-contradictory statements in one sentence, but apparently I underestimated TallDave (and the power of the comma).

    To sum up:

    Amusingly, lefties Tall Dave on this board still don’t doesn’t grasp the irony of them him saying this while engaging in endless, infantile personal attacks on anyone they don’t he doesn’t agree with.

  102. 102
    Slide says:

    The Cavalary:

    Sour grapes from a once great man.

    Is anyone surprised that many in this room are attacking Scowcroft? It is the modis operadi of this administration to attack anyone that disagrees with their “faith based” view of the world. Not attack their arguments mind you, since they usually have no valid grounds for doing that, but attack personally. Attack their character, their motivations or their partisanship. No one is immune from this treatment including Scowcroft who is often described as George H. Bush’s best friend. A few others that have been slimed by the criminal Bush administration; Paul O’Neil, Richard Clarke, General Shenseki, Ambassador Wilson, General Scowcroft, etc. etc. What do all these individuals have in common? Well, most of them, with the exception of Paul O’Neil, have dedicated their entire adult lives to working for the United States. True patriots if you ask me, but they are attacked and smeared nonetheless by the criminal chicken hawks that currently occupy the White House.

  103. 103
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Sherard: You’re taking Scowcroft’s claim a bit out of context. While it is true that nobody can state that they have a God-given license to be regarded seriously and then be taken as such (something a few of the more whiny folks on this thread need to ponder), that hardly excuses the inept blundering of the Bush administration in Iraq. Citing only this one cloying detail out of an expose that quite effectively exposes the atrocious policy errors of Rice and the rest of the small band of arrogant incompetents currently skulking about the White House strikes me as being a bit of a disingenuous dodge. To take offense at that one small detail while shining the rest of what is said here seems a bit agenda driven at best.

    But then again, isn’t that how the president’s supporters usually react to criticism of this increasingly unpopular administration? With the country increasingly turning it’s collective back to President Bush and his policies, isn’t it time to consider if whether this tactic works any more?

    Would things be better had Rice and the rest of the Bush admin knuckleheads had heeded Scowcroft’s advice? What you need to ask yourself is this: Could things be any worse if they had?

  104. 104
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    John S: Yes, Tall Dave does seem to have a bit of “pot-kettle-black” thing going on. I’ve come to the conclusion that much of his whining is due to the fact that he just can’t seem to keep up.

    Here’s a question: If God really does love the right more than the rest of us, why did he make so many of them so damnably stupid?

  105. 105
    The Cavalry says:

    So Cavalry, if the US had captured Hitler in WWII and then decided to behead him, we would have been evil?

    Yes. The death penalty is one thing, but it is important to administer it in the most humane way possible. I’m a bit surprised anyone would disagree with me about this.

  106. 106
    Krista says:

    You need to understand everything about them, their motives, methods, proclivities, politics, everything …. so that you can make the best choices about how to stop them, and/or protect against them. You want to know who they are, where they are, what they want, think, eat, read … the works. For the same reasons that you’d hire a profiler to get information about a mass murderer …. to catch him.

    Not to give them therapy. Fuck them. To protect us. That’s why you want information. Sitting around and trying to outdo each other with chants of “evil!” is not really very helpful. By the same token, I am not too interested in the semantic differences between “freedom fighters” and “terrorists.” Call them what you like, if they are trying to kill me, I am interested in killing them first, and keeping them out of my airports, my food processing plants, and my public places.

    I don’t need any lessons on what evil is. I know what it is. What I need is good, accurate and reliable information about what these people are up to.

    So I agree with you.

    The Cliff’s Notes version — Know your enemy.

    Isn’t that one of the basic rules?

  107. 107
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Cav: Our erstwhile allies in Saudi Arabia behead people on an almost monthly basis. And sometimes for reasons as trivial as banging someone else’s wife.

    Here are some images of Presdient Bush kissing and holding hands with a Saudi beheader. Let your outrage fly.

    http://www.leftflex.com/bushwa....._an101.gif

  108. 108
    nyrev says:

    I think most of us agree with you. It’s just that some of us think that a quick decapitation is more humane than electrocution or asphixiation. Once again, sawing someone’s head off is an atrocity, but that’s not what John S. is talking about.

  109. 109
    The Cavalry says:

    I strongly disapprove of the beheadings that go on in Saudi Arabia. The situation there is exceeding difficult. On the one hand, the ruling family is quite corrupt, on the other the Wahabist elemets in the country are incredibly frightening. Let’s remember that much of what we consider barbaric in Saudi Arabia is a result of this crazed form of Islam (Wahabism) and not the royal family itself. Not that there’s anythinig wonderful about the royal family, either.

  110. 110
    Jill says:

    How can anyone even get through the first sentence of the Hitchens article?

  111. 111
    Darrell says:

    But I think what Tim F. was saying was that in debates between liberals and conservatives over political matters, calling each other “evil” is both incorrect and not conducive to real discussion

    No, he was most definitely NOT limiting the use of the word evil to personal namecalling between those who disagree politically as he spells out here responding to my previous comments:

    Dismissing the Nazi rise to power as evil, without bothering to understand it, is both lazy and extremely stupid.

    Besides the fact that we were not discussing the “Nazi rise to power” but whether the Nazi regime itself was evil, many on the left cannot bring themselves to call evil, evil. A regime which gassed jews, homosexuals and disabled needs to be ‘understood’, and as Tim F tells us, if you disagree with him, you are “lazy and extremely stupid”. Tim F, would you or some of the other lefties who support your position answer Matt’s question here:

    I fail to see how having a core value system that distinguishes right from wrong, good from evil, is somehow “lazy.” If you’re suggesting that understanding the motivation of terrorists is a valuable tool for devising a strategy to defeat them, then I understand that. If you’re suggesting that we need to understand the motivation of people who hijack commerical airliners in an attempt to comit mass murder because their passion must be grounded in a legitimate grievance with the West that can only be redressed by a good heart-to-heart, then absolutely not

    Because what I see on the left, is that many really do not have a core value system. They excuse and minimize the actions of our enemies while calling down the harshest judgement on the US. They mock and ridicule those who do have a core value system as lacking nuance, extremely stupid, etc. with no further explanation. I’d like to understand the rationale behind that type of ‘thinking’

  112. 112
    Darrell says:

    Keep in mind that the left mocked Reagan for using the term ‘evil empire’ to describe the former Soviet regime, just as they mock and ridicule Bush for daring to call murderous tyrannical regimes “evil”

  113. 113
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    Because what I see on the left, is that many really do not have a core value system. They excuse and minimize the actions of our enemies while calling down the harshest judgement on the US. They mock and ridicule those who do have a core value system as lacking nuance, extremely stupid, etc. with no further explanation. I’d like to understand the rationale behind that type of ‘thinking’

    Define a core-value system?

    I’m a flaming social liberal. I’m so far out of the mainstream, I’ve had death threats.

    DFS’s Core Values:
    – Tolerance. As long as it harms no one else, what’s the point of regulating it?
    – Protecting “me and mine” from harm. “Me and mine” has a rather wide and fluid definition.
    – Freedom to explore, think, and grow. Including in way that some might find “uncomfortable”.

    Generally:
    Core Value Systems get mocked for lacking nuance because when I have to deal with shock over my lifestyle, I get “But it is wrong.” “Why?” “Because it is/the Bible say it is.” “But we aren’t harming anyone, and we are happy.” “That doesn’t matter…” I’ve had the conversation any number of times.

    An example is this: Is killing someone wrong? What the nuanced view would hear from the unnuanced view is “Yes it is.” However, what about cases such as self-defense, protecting another, accidental, or war – these are all nuances of the act of ending another’s life, in our legal system we call them different things, manslaughter, murder, and labeled them even further with degrees – 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder for further nuance.

    Specifically:
    I, personally, do not excuse the actions of our enemies. I find them barbarous.

    I just do not believe that we have to become barbarous to defeat them. And yes, I hold the U.S. to a double standard.

    And it gets some liberal’s hackles up when we hear “this is wrong, thus evil, so they must be killed.” And any question as to understanding is labeled as coddling or allying with the enemy. No one, except for those mentally deranged, things of themselves as evil. Everyone has a cause, a reason why what they do is necessary. Inflicting pain on another person is generally considered bad. However, some are willing to torture because the goal outweighs the means necessary to achieve that goal (look more nuance).

    Hopefully, Darrell that gives you insight into at least one self-described liberal’s rationale.

  114. 114
    Sojourner says:

    Keep in mind that the left mocked Reagan for using the term ‘evil empire’ to describe the former Soviet regime, just as they mock and ridicule Bush for daring to call murderous tyrannical regimes “evil”

    Exactly what is gained by using the word “evil”? Other than feeling all warm and sanctimonious, does it really accomplish anything? I mean even you can’t be stupid enough to believe that those of us on the left find anything positive about these people. We don’t. It’s stupid to measure disgust towards an individual or group on the basis of whether a single word is used to describe them.

  115. 115
    Darrell says:

    Everyone has a cause, a reason why what they do is necessary. Inflicting pain on another person is generally considered bad.

    Thanks for the sincere response DFS. But to clarify, let’s take some admittedly extreme examples to illustrate my point. According to your explanation, a serial child killer or a Nazi doctor performing ‘experiments’ on jews “has a cause, a reason”. Yes, and those reasons, those causes, were evil. Yet to characterize them as such, according to Tim F, is “extremely stupid”. And yes, many on the left are in fact uncomfortable in making any moral judgements. The left excused and minimized atrocities committed by Mao and the Soviets during the Cold War while railing against the US ‘imperialist war monger’. They ridiculed Reagan and now Bush for daring to call evil, evil

    I, personally, do not excuse the actions of our enemies. I find them barbarous.

    Well, that’s something we agree on

  116. 116
    Darrell says:

    Exactly what is gained by using the word “evil”?

    The same which is gained by using the words “right” and “wrong”. It’s wrong to physically abuse the elderly. It’s right to stop those who physically abuse the elderly. And so on.. Is this really so difficult for you lefties to understand?

  117. 117
    John S. says:

    Keep in mind that the left mocked Reagan for using the term ‘evil empire’ to describe the former Soviet regime, just as they mock and ridicule Bush for daring to call murderous tyrannical regimes “evil”

    Because as Tim’s Law sets forth:

    In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’

    Or do you still not understand the premise of this entire thread?

  118. 118
    Tim F. says:

    It is not clear to me how criticizing the term ‘evil’ conflates with excusing enemies.

    In fact, I would argue just the reverse. ‘Evil’ is a condition, it’s a state of being, it’s something that a person simlpy is. If an evil person does evil things, it’s just because they’re evil.

    When an ordinary person does evil things, I would propose that it makes them much more culpable because they don’t have the excuse of being, fundamentally, evil. It’s also quite a bit more disturbing because you and I are also ordinary people. In that way ‘evil’ serves as a convenient security blanket, drawing an arbitrary distinction between ourselves and the bad men we’re not. Nazis were ‘evil’ and the things they did were ‘evil,’ yes. So what? Did Germany suddenly have a massive outbreak of evilness? Or are Germans fundamentally more evil than Americans? I doubt that you could say for sure whether you would participate or resist, Darrell, and neither can I. We weren’t there. For the most part they were ordinary people doing those things, and for the most part so are we. Something happened that made unimaginable things imaginable, and it’s a lot smarter to understand that something than to simply attribute it to some malevolent suprtnatural power.

    You can also kindly pull this blame-America-first stick out of your ass, Darrell, at least for the purposes of this thread. I took both the left and the right to task for simplistic pejoratives and I’d be grateful if you acknowledged that.

  119. 119
    John S. says:

    It’s wrong to physically abuse the elderly. It’s right to stop those who physically abuse the elderly.

    Ok, what if an elderly person is physically abusing another elderly person?

    By your postulate above, it would be right to stop that elderly person from abusing the elderly, but if you used physical force to stop them you would be wrong in doing so (because they themselves are lederly). And therein lies a very basic paradox of your simplistic way of thinking.

    The world is not a construct in black and white despite your desperate attempts to make it so. Is this really so difficult for you righties Darrell to understand?

  120. 120
    Darrell says:

    In the context of a debate, calling another’s motivations ‘evil’ should be considered synonymous with, ‘I don’t understand and am too lazy to find out.’

    John, just so we understand where you’re coming from, can you please address Matt’s points below?

    If you’re suggesting that understanding the motivation of terrorists is a valuable tool for devising a strategy to defeat them, then I understand that. If you’re suggesting that we need to understand the motivation of people who hijack commerical airliners in an attempt to comit mass murder because their passion must be grounded in a legitimate grievance with the West that can only be redressed by a good heart-to-heart, then absolutely not

  121. 121
    John S. says:

    ‘Evil’ is a condition, it’s a state of being, it’s something that a person simlpy is.

    And therein lies the danger of absolute terms that define a state of being, whether it is “good”, “evil”, “right” or “wrong”. Human beings are not equipped to accurately judge another’s state of being. That gift is only endowed to beings that are omniscient – which certainly we are not.

  122. 122
    Tim F. says:

    In response to Matt’s post, the people who blew up the WTC didn’t do it because they were evil. They did it because they wanted to provoke the US into a war of occupation in the middle east.

    They thought that they could do to us in Afghanistan what they did to the Soviets. About that they were proved fatally wrong.

    They were misguided jihadis serving a larger geopolitical goal. ‘Evil’ is certainly correct, but it’s also irrelevant to understanding what happened and why.

  123. 123
    Darrell says:

    Nazis were ‘evil’ and the things they did were ‘evil,’ yes.

    Thanks for the clarification. Are you now “extremely stupid” for using such a non-nuanced characterization? sorry to be smart-ass, but I am using your own rules

    Or are Germans fundamentally more evil than Americans?

    The Nazi regime, a regime which gassed millions of jews and others, was evil. You should have no hesitation in saying that. Again, sorry to keep bringing up Matt’s remarks, but I think he really nails the heart of the issue. If you want to understand the motivation of Nazis, terrorists, or serial killers for that matter, in order to devise a strategy to stop/defeat them, then we are in total agreement. However, if you are suggesting that we need to ‘understand’ the motivations of terrorists who intentionally target and murder innocent women and children because the terrorists have, at some level in your judgement, a legit grievance, I think that type of thinking is ridiculous and harmful. The left has a history of moral relativism.. “who are we to say that America’s way is better than the (murderous and oppressive) Soviet regime”. The left really is guilty of that type of thinking

  124. 124
    Darrell says:

    Human beings are not equipped to accurately judge another’s state of being

    Since we humans are not equipped to judge others, do you advocate the abolishment of criminal laws? Who are we to judge why that man sodomizized and murdered those children, right?

  125. 125
    Tim F. says:

    However, if you are suggesting that we need to ‘understand’ the motivations of terrorists who intentionally target and murder innocent women and children because the terrorists have, at some level in your judgement, a legit grievance, I think that type of thinking is ridiculous and harmful.

    I think you misunderstand me. Individual terrorists have their own list of grievances that I won’t presume to know. ‘Evil’ by itself seems like an unwise bet, but what to put in its place I’ll leave to the experts. However, on the larger scale what they do serves a strategy that may well be ‘evil,’ but is also coherent and very important to understand if we want to prevail against it. That is my point in a nutshell.

  126. 126
    Darrell says:

    In response to Matt’s post, the people who blew up the WTC didn’t do it because they were evil. They did it because they wanted to provoke the US into a war of occupation in the middle east.

    The 9/11 terrorists who knowingly targeted and killed thousands of innocents, were evil. Their rationale(trying to provoke a US overreaction which would spark a worldwide islam vs US war) was evil. Why is it so difficult for you lefties to say the obvious?

  127. 127
    John S. says:

    Since we humans are not equipped to judge others, do you advocate the abolishment of criminal laws? Who are we to judge why that man sodomizized and murdered those children, right?

    A little obtuse today, aren’t we Darrell? I hope you can appreciate the vast difference between the type of “judgment” that is passed down in a court of law versus a “judgment” of a person’s state of being/character/motives.

    A judge sitting on a bench (or the jury) can gauge whether or not a man committed the act of sodomy and/or murder in accordance with the legal statutes in that particular jurisdiction. What neither the judge or jurors can do is determine whether or not that man committed those acts because he is “evil”.

    If you still cannot grasp the difference, then I cannot help you to understand.

  128. 128
    Darrell says:

    However, on the larger scale what they do serves a strategy that may well be ‘evil,’ but is also coherent and very important to understand if we want to prevail against it.

    Ok, we are in agreement. But calling evil, evil, does not in any way prevent us from understanding the motivations behind those who do evil to stop/defeat them, so I don’t understand your “really stupid and lazy” rule. For example, criminologists study the patterns and mentality of serial killers in an attempt to identify and stop serial killers early on. That doesn’t mean that it’s stupid or lazy to call a serial killer evil

  129. 129
    slide says:

    The 9/11 terrorists who knowingly targeted and killed thousands of innocents, were evil

    Why is it so difficult for you lefties to say the obvious?

    Why? Because it is utterly simplistic. They blew up the WTC because they believed that America was the enemy (rightly or wrongly not my point here). That the influence of America was destroying Islam. They took action against their enemy. Horrible? yes. Immoral? yes. But to call it evil is again simplistic and not very useful in understanding what is going on.

    And about killing innocents, how many ‘innocents’ were killed when we dropped nuclear bombs on Japanese cities or we destroyed Dresden in a fire storm. Was that evil? No, of couse not, we were fighting a war that our enemies had started. Those actions could be argued saved countless lives of many American soldiers. right? But if I were Japanese, had nothing to do with the war effort, and my entire family was destroyed while sitting inside of their house, I might think America evil.

  130. 130
    Skip says:

    There are two corollaries to Tim F’s law:

    1) Calling peoples’ views treasonous is as pernicious as calling peoples’ views evil. Though both evil and treason do exist, if you really believe that nearly half your countrymen are evil or treasonous, you might want to consider emigrating to Patagonia.

    2) Via Jon Stewart: “Those who deplore the ‘blame game’ are usually to blame.

  131. 131
    les says:

    But, geeze, Tim F., figuring out why people do bad things to us is so haaard. Labels are easy. Finding and addressing causes is haaard. “Let’s kill ’em all” is easy. Principled, collaborative diplomacy is so haaard. Unilateral ass-kicking is easy. Well, except fro the competent execution part. And if we just kill all the evil people, the world will be perfect. Won’t it?

  132. 132
    slide says:

    and if they are “evil” its rather easy to justify torture isn’t it? How convenient.

  133. 133
    MC says:

    You guys keep talking past each other and it’s painful.

    Evil is a normative descriptor that explains nothing. You can classify something as good or evil but the value of the classification is useless for practical purposes.

    Understanding motivation is empirical. It explains factors that compel action and if done properly, predicts future behavior. In an empirical exercise, your value judgment means nothing. It doesn’t matter what goes on in your head, it only matters what goes on in the observed and how they perceive reality.

    This has nothing to do with a moral foundation, when you’re trying to develop a model of behavior, you have to detach yourself from value and only observe and hypothesize.

    There’s nothing wrong with classifying things as “evil” or “insane”, but there is something wrong with stopping at that that classification. It brings no new knowledge into the world, it doesn’t advance anything.

  134. 134
    les says:

    Amen, MC. And demonizing those who would try to understand as “un-American” just further obstructs actually advancing.

  135. 135
    Darrell says:

    You can classify something as good or evil but the value of the classification is useless for practical purposes

    I disagree. It serves to clarify the situation. Were the Nazis who gassed millions merely ‘mischievous’ or ‘naughty’?

    There’s nothing wrong with classifying things as “evil” or “insane”, but there is something wrong with stopping at that that classification

    Speaking of ‘talking past’ one another, I guess you overlooked this point which has been brought up repeatedly:

    If you’re suggesting that understanding the motivation of terrorists is a valuable tool for devising a strategy to defeat them, then I understand that.

  136. 136
    John S. says:

    There’s nothing wrong with classifying things as “evil” or “insane”, but there is something wrong with stopping at that that classification.

    I completely disagree. Unless you can look into a person’s mind and read their thoughts, you can never accurately quantify them as either “evil” or “insane”.

    Legal classifications and glib use of the terminology aside, there is just no real way for human beings to gauge such matters.

  137. 137
    Matt D says:

    I think the issue here is one of motivation versus characterization. Nobody doubts that people who commit premeditated acts of violence do it for a reason. And yes, understanding these reasons gives us insight into the methodolgy of the actors and intelligence for devising a way to defeat them. Understanding the motivation of your enemies and making a value judgment about good and evil are not mutually exclusive. I acknowlege that it is difficult for educated people to wrap their minds around a concept rooted in such simplicity as “good vs. evil.” However, (and I leave it for you to decide who is educated) I can reconcile this because I believe in the value system with which I was raised. And that value system tells me that murder is evil and the perpetrators of murder in the name of anything, however noble they may believe their respective causes to be, are evil. Evil can be studied and strategized against, but evil should not be tolerated, appeased or enabled in the name of stability. I would be remiss if I didn’t add that this is not an invitation for a flame war about past US policy of enabling dictators; I’m just trying to clarify what I believe is the worldview being attributed to Secreatry Rice by the article and the posters here.

  138. 138
    ppGaz says:

    The same which is gained by using the words “right” and “wrong”.

    But what you have to keep in mind is that when Darrell says things like “right” and “wrong”, what he really wants is for HIM to be able to tell YOU what is right and wrong. Never, under any circumstances, the other way around. It’s all about being in charge. It’s never about finding agreement. That’s too bad, because without agreement, you just get the endless “culture war” that the Darrells of the world want. That war gives them power.

    With agreement, with cooperation, the Darrells of the world lose power. If you find yourself doubting this, then just ask yourself why you have never seen Darrell approach any subject with an eye toward seeking agreement and cooperation. Every single topic, every post, is about “you lefties” and about how some class of “other people” is wrong, is stupid, is deficient in one or more ways …. because they don’t see it his way.

  139. 139
    Darrell says:

    Thanks for that ‘contribution’ ppgaz

  140. 140
    slide says:

    And that value system tells me that murder is evil and the perpetrators of murder in the name of anything, however noble they may believe their respective causes to be, are evil.

    Then this country is a very very evil country since a good part of our history includes the systematic “murdering” of the indigenous peoples of North America.

  141. 141
    ppGaz says:

    Thanks for that ‘contribution’ ppgaz

    You are more than welcome, sir!

  142. 142
    Tim F. says:

    Let me present two presidential addresses. One real, one imaginary.

    Real:

    We’ve been warned there are evil people in this world. We’ve been warned so vividly, And we’ll be alert. Your government is alert. The governors and mayors are alert that evil folks still lurk out there. As I said yesterday, people have declared war on America and they have made a terrible mistake.

    “My administration has a job to do and we’re going to do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers

    Imaginary:

    Five days ago an organized group of terrorists attacked America. These destructive men want to impose their medieval, tyranniacal mindset on the entire middle east, and in their view the only thing that stands between them and their goal is the continued presence of the United States.

    These men attacked because they know that such a horrible act will not stand. They think that America will be afraid to meet the Societs’ fate in Afghanistan and show weakness before the world, or that America will invade and they will do to us what they did to the Soviet army. They think that an American invasion will inflame muslims worldwide against America.

    These people will find out how wrong they are. It is their barbarous act that has isolated them from a peaceful religion. Islam does not support attacking others unprovoked, and the peaceful religion of Islam abhors killing innocent men, women and children. If Afghanistan will not cooperate in handing over each and every man responsible for this desperate act, then we will meet these terrorists in Afghanistan, and we will prevail.

    I like the imaginary president better. Not just because I can think of a long list of pejoratives to describe George Bush personally but because he makes it clear who attacked us and why. How do you eradicate ‘evil?’ You don’t. A war against ‘evil’ is a synonym for endless war. But a war defined in the second (fake) quote, we can win and win swiftly.

  143. 143
    ppGaz says:

    glib use of the terminology

    Glib use? In the blogosphere?

    All truth is political. All politics is truth.

    For glib, you just can’t beat: “Saddam is the reincarnation of Hitler!”

    Honestly, I think that is one of the great gems in the history of glibbitude.

    So far, it’s gotten us 15 years of shit, and we’re far from done with it yet.

  144. 144
    Darrell says:

    For glib, you just can’t beat: “Saddam is the reincarnation of Hitler!”

    Sure you can. “Bush = Hitler”

  145. 145
    ppGaz says:

    Sure you can. “Bush = Hitler”

    Wrong. That (purely political gamesmanship) speech has not gotten us into TWO FUCKING WARS … so far.

    I don’t think you can put it in the same category. I don’t think you can claim that two decades of foreign policy are going to be run off the rail by that silly speech, either.

    No, it doesn’t compare. Not even close.

  146. 146
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    Thanks for the sincere response DFS. But to clarify, let’s take some admittedly extreme examples to illustrate my point. According to your explanation, a serial child killer or a Nazi doctor performing ‘experiments’ on jews “has a cause, a reason”. Yes, and those reasons, those causes, were evil. Yet to characterize them as such, according to Tim F, is “extremely stupid”. And yes, many on the left are in fact uncomfortable in making any moral judgements. The left excused and minimized atrocities committed by Mao and the Soviets during the Cold War while railing against the US ‘imperialist war monger’. They ridiculed Reagan and now Bush for daring to call evil, evil

    Because the reasoning stopped there. It stopped with they are evil, so they must be destroyed. Here’s the problem with that line of thought, there’s no way to permanently defeat evil by simply killing it. Unless, of course, you destroy everyone. Which is an option. Not a viable, tasteful, or moral one in my opinion, but it is an option.

    Otherwise you have to get at the motivations of all of the people in a movement. Some will be true believers, and will need to be eliminated. Some will require hardwork to convert, but are convertable to our cause. Some are simply going with the flow, and will fade away and not be an issue.

    But to assume that they are all true believers is the same fallacy as believing they can all be converted to our cause through good works and diplomacy.

    The problem with using evil is that it is simple, and removes the need to think, to ponder, to understand. “They are ‘evil’ and must be eliminated.” And that is how genocide begins, the other side is evil, demonized and must be destroyed to the utter last person.

    Read Tim F.’s second speech.

    Personal Note:
    Another thought, you want to know why I dislike the use of “evil” in a political discourse?

    I have been declared evil, immoral, and several other items along those lines. And as soon as that word comes out, as soon as I get called evil, I get angry, and I stop thinking, I stop debating, I stop being rational. I stop caring, and I wish to destroy. It is word loaded with meaning, and I would wish that if I am going to use it, then I am very, very sure that it will cause the effect that I mean.

  147. 147
    Bob Davis says:

    What with all this talk about evil, I went back to the original source of evil in the post:

    If you saw the last Bond flick, Die Another Day, you’ll remember the climactic father-son confrontation on board a burning cargo plane.

    Man, I loved that scene! Now, that was evil, when evil was evil.

  148. 148
    Matt D says:

    Tim–In my opinion, your speech is clearly the better one. However, even you can’t avoid using adjectives derived from value-based judgments you’ve made about the attackers (“medieval,” “tyrannical” and even “Islam abhors…” which to me sounds a lot like a characterization akin to “evil”). Look, all I’m saying is that I am comfortable with the charactrization of terrorists, political groups with “military wings” and rogue nations that support said terrorists and “political” groups as “Evil.” (lots of scare quotes there) This in no way should equate to not believing in a coherent strategy to defeat our enemies based on understanding their motives and methodology (and yes, I am aware that whether our current administration is implementing a coherent strategy is open to a debate).

  149. 149
    Darrell says:

    Tim F, I like the imaginary speech much better too. Pres Bush is sometimes painfully inarticulate. However, I think you take it too far with your assertion that ANY use of the word ‘evil’ is stupid and lazy.

    Would it be wrong for Truman or Churchill to describe the Nazi regime as a monstrous evil? of course not

  150. 150
    Krista says:

    Tim F. for president! Seriously…that was an excellent speech.

  151. 151
    Darrell says:

    Some will be true believers, and will need to be eliminated. Some will require hardwork to convert, but are convertable to our cause. Some are simply going with the flow, and will fade away and not be an issue.

    As if the Bush administration has not bent over backwards already making such distinctions.. ‘religion of peace’ and all

  152. 152
    Tim F. says:

    even you can’t avoid using adjectives

    I’m not against value judgments when they accurately describe the situation in a useful manner. The Caliphate movement really does plan a tyrranical and, by definition medieval rule on the middle east, and Islam really does abhor killing innocents.

    Maybe I’m being inconsistent, but it seems to me that there are adjectives which obscure what’s really going on, like ‘evil,’ and adjectives which convey useful information. Also, this is DC. I can’t even create an imaginary president who doesn’t demagogue at least a little bit. I was channeling a reasonable guy who was really, really pissed off.

  153. 153
    John S. says:

    And that value system tells me that murder is evil and the perpetrators of murder in the name of anything, however noble they may believe their respective causes to be, are evil.

    If your value system is rooted in Judeo-Christian teachings, then perhaps you can ponder the significance of this passage:

    Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    The rest of that chapter talks at length about such matters, including the classic “plank in one’s eye”.

  154. 154
    ppGaz says:

    Would it be wrong for Truman or Churchill to describe the Nazi regime as a monstrous evil? of course not

    Ppg’s Law: No point is so obvious that it cannot be missed by Darrell.

    Darrell, the world did not need the official use of the E word to conclude that Hitler was ….. Hitler.

    But GHW Bush is not Churchill, and Saddam Hussein is not Hitler. See, making that kind of grotesque miscalculation can get your country into wars that turn to shit and become unpopular. And then you have a guy like Scowcroft doing this self-justification thing and trying to distance himself from the Frankenstein that HE CREATED (well, helped to create, certainly), and then this thread, and ….

  155. 155
    Matt D says:

    Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    I’m cool with that.

  156. 156
    Krista says:

    We’re all kind of agreeing while we argue. (What else is new?) Calling one’s opponents “evil”, is lazy and simplistic IF no other attempt is made to understand your opponent or their motives. Actions can most certainly be described as “evil”. However, can you really sum up another human being using one word? A description of someone can certainly include the word “evil”, but then it leads to more questions…why are they evil? Are they evil in all circumstances, or just in certain ones? Call someone evil if you like, but if someone asks why they’re evil, and your response is, “because they just ARE,” then you’re not doing yourself any favours when trying to defeat them.

  157. 157
    John S. says:

    Thank you, Krista, for the punctillious summation.

  158. 158
    DougJ says:

    I think it is fine to call people “evildoers” as long as you bring attempt them bring them to justice. Calling people “evildoers” and letting them hide in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border for three years, however, is unacceptable.

  159. 159
    ppGaz says:

    I think it is fine to call people “evildoers” as long as you bring attempt them bring them to justice. Calling people “evildoers” and letting them hide in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border for three years, however, is unacceptable.

    A fine piece of snark.

    “I am really not that concerned with (Osama Bin Laden)”
    GW Bush Spring 2003

  160. 160
    John S. says:

    Calling people “evildoers” and letting them hide in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border for three years, however, is unacceptable.

    Well, George really doesn’t think about OBL much anymore. He’s too busy thinking hard – every day – about Iraq.

    But if you really understood the bigger picture in GSAVE, you wouldn’t question the actions of the administration.

  161. 161
    Krista says:

    John S. – Punctilious and pulchritudinous…that’s me. :)

    Seriously, though…sometimes people go back and forth on a thread, dancing around the point. It’s good to sum things up occasionally so that we can all move on.

  162. 162
    DougJ says:

    Actually, John S, the GSAVE thing was a good idea. I think that rhetoric does matter and the “War on Terror” slogan does a lot of harm. It would have been a step in the right direction to call it GSAVE.

    At least we’re not calling it the “Crusade against terror” anymore…

  163. 163
    Pelikan says:

    Well, I’ve been convinced by some on this thread. Pointing at some things and shouting “EVIL!” is useful and fun. So I have this totally original idea..

    How about we put up pictures of those things that are evil, like Bin Laden, or Hussein on the TV every night, perhaps to Holst’s “Mars” and we all just stare at them for about five minutes. It could be called the “five minute hate.” What do you think?

    Seriously, if you want to sit around and point out that evil things are, in fact, evil, then go nuts. There’s a larger point here.

    This is what drives me nuts about the whole thing. Scowcroft even mentions it in the article repeatedly, bringing democracy to another country with violence and evangelizing may work, but it’s a lot more expensive and painful then reconciliation and marketing.
    Or in metaphor. I believe in slowly poisoning the roots of Radical Fundamentalist Islam, Bush’s crew seems to be working their way down from the branches with an axe, it may look cooler for you Fox News Viewers out there, but well, how many axes are we going to go through?

    -Pelikan

  164. 164
    DougJ says:

    How about we put up pictures of those things that are evil, like Bin Laden, or Hussein on the TV every night, perhaps to Holst’s “Mars” and we all just stare at them for about five minutes. It could be called the “five minute hate.”

    I hate to break it to you, but that’s how Bill O’Reilly opens his show.

  165. 165
    Darrell says:

    Scowcroft even mentions it in the article repeatedly, bringing democracy to another country with violence and evangelizing may work, but it’s a lot more expensive and painful then reconciliation and marketing.

    Snowcroft was content with the status quo, business as usual with oppressive middle eastern despots all in the pursuit of ‘stability’. This approach, of course, resulted in 9/11. It’s difficult to ‘reconcile and market’ when you’re dealing with sociopathic dictators, wouldn’t you say?

  166. 166
    Darrell says:

    However, can you really sum up another human being using one word? A description of someone can certainly include the word “evil”, but then it leads to more questions…why are they evil?

    Same is true of ANY value judgement adjective. Take ‘tyrannical’ from Tim F’s imaginary speech which you praised. Are they tyrannical in all aspects, or only some? Why are they tyrannical?

    Calling one’s opponents “evil”, is lazy and simplistic IF no other attempt is made to understand your opponent or their motives.

    Agreed. I don’t believe anyone has suggested anything different

  167. 167
    DougJ says:

    It’s difficult to ‘reconcile and market’ when you’re dealing with sociopathic dictators, wouldn’t you say?

    Actually, no, I think it works then, too. I am a very, very pro-capitalist person, and not for the weepy-eyed freedom is on the march type reasons. The reasons people will trend towards democratic capitalism are (1) it works better than other systems and (2) we have the capacity to mount the most fearsome marketing campaigns the world has ever seen. Believe me, given enough time, the geniuses who came up with the Geico ads could have convinced everyone in the middle east to embrace western capitalism. “I just saved a lot on my car insurance” translates into Arabic and Farsi, just fine, believe me.

  168. 168
    John S. says:

    The reasons people will trend towards democratic capitalism are (1) it works better than other systems and (2) we have the capacity to mount the most fearsome marketing campaigns the world has ever seen.

    One question Doug:

    1) If democratic capitalism works the best, how come it seems to fuction inversely in relation to a country’s population? (e.g. India, United States)

    As an American in the advertising industry, I agree with your second point wholeheartedly.

  169. 169
    DougJ says:

    I don’t think our system works poorly here. It’s going through a rough patch, but so does any system. It works poorly in India because India is a poor country that is still crippled by remnants of a caste system.

  170. 170
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    1) If democratic capitalism works the best, how come it seems to fuction inversely in relation to a country’s population? (e.g. India, United States)

    Also, India’s democracy is only 60 years old. The U.S. in that time, had thrown out and redone it’s guiding document, the war of 1812, still buying land, and had yet to have the civil war.

    Considering the rampant poverty, I think they are doing pretty well.

  171. 171
    John S. says:

    So do either of you purport that there is no correlation between the size of a democracy and the efficiency with which it runs?

    It just seems to me that the larger a democracy gets, the more the deficiencies of its government become apparent.

  172. 172
    DougJ says:

    I’m not a historian of democracies. I only claim to be able to argue that democracies work better than other forms of government that mankind has devised.

  173. 173
    Darrell says:

    It’s only been within the past 15 years or so that India cut back govt. price controls, high tariffs, restrictions on foreign investment, and a top tier 95% tax rate. Prior to that India was more socialist, than capitalist. With the reduction of taxes, their economy has been on fire the last decade. But only recently has India moved toward capitalism

  174. 174
    DougJ says:

    And they did so without being invaded. That seems like the big point to me.

  175. 175
    John S. says:

    With the reduction of taxes, their economy has been on fire the last decade.

    And with the steady infusion of jobs from America being outsourced to them, particularly in the IT sector.

    I think is worth noting the distinction between government and economic system. We are specifically discussing the combination of democracy/capitalism. There are certainly many other blends that exist including democracy/socialism.

  176. 176
    Tim F. says:

    The Phillippines and Indonesia seem like particularly important examples for this conversation. In both cases autocratic dictators allowed economic reforms to gradually increase the economic and social freedom of the middle class, until democracy just sort of appeared on its own. Neither has a perfect system as it stands right now, but their progress towards democracy seems genuinely robust.

    Does the PTA save the world from tyrrany? I don’t know but it makes a compelling argument.

  177. 177
    Darrell says:

    And with the steady infusion of jobs from America being outsourced to them, particularly in the IT sector

    Indeed

  178. 178
    Pelikan says:

    -DougJ, Truly, this is a hard time for satire when reality manages to outpace it. You’re right, Orwell would be quite bemused by the No-Spin zone. My hat is off to Colbert and Stewart for being able to stay in front of that Tsunami of Stupid.

    -Tim F. thank you for pointing that out. It’s worth noting that Coca Cola had at least as much to do with the collapse of the CCCP as Ronald Reagan’s steely-eyed tough talk.
    Plus, Coca Cola never funded the training of Al-Quaida. Another point in its favor.

    Darrell, it’s true that some sociopathic dictators don’t respond well to the temptations of the world market, Kim (that bastard!)and N. Korea are an excellent example. Frankly, though, even the South Koreans find Kim to be on about par with Bush in terms of desirability, and least Kim is Korean, and able to string together a coherent sentence.
    The best thing we as a nation can do is let North Korea rattle it’s saber while we contain them. After all, a dictatorship’s biggest weakness is that it depends on its leader being the most cunning man around. Notably unlike ours.

    I apologize for guiding this thread away from it’s original pupose.

    -Pelikan

  179. 179
    John S. says:

    Penalty on the field: Excessive use of strikethroughs.

    100-word penalty. Repeat 1st post.

  180. 180
    Skip says:

    Democracy works well most of the time, as does capitalism, but I don’t want to live in a gated community and drive to work in an armored BMW.
    Thereto appertaining, I note that CEO salaries went up another 30% in two years,* while the Bush administration plans to cut food stamps soon.
    I make a very good living, but I am getting uncomfortable. Witness who Bush picked for his Intel board. Only Michael Milken was missing.

    Skip

    * CEO rates were already 10 times higher than any other GAT 9 nation.

  181. 181
    Tim F. says:

    Pelikan,

    I didn’t say Coca-Cola, I said the PTA. Merchandise helps bring you to capitalism, but it’s the middle class that brings you democracy.

  182. 182
    ppGaz says:

    researcher who surveyed one British town in the 1970s found that 30% of babies born to married women were conceived adulterously.

    So I followed somebody’s link and found that.

    All due respect, that is not reliable information.

  183. 183
    Pelikan says:

    True Tim,I read it too hastily as I’m posting at work, which is also why all those damned strikethroughs happened… I guess.

  184. 184
    ATS says:

    “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.”

    Well, WE had indeed had something close to 50 years of peace, if you take peace to mean an absence of people attacking the homeland.

    Arguing that we were attacked in “Lebanon vs, itself” is particularly inventive. I seem to recall a third party being involved.

  185. 185
    Barry says:

    Darrell Says:

    “Snowcroft was content with the status quo, business as usual with oppressive middle eastern despots all in the pursuit of ‘stability’. This approach, of course, resulted in 9/11. It’s difficult to ‘reconcile and market’ when you’re dealing with sociopathic dictators, wouldn’t you say?”

    The difference that the Bush II administration has added has been a willingness to smash badly selected pieces of the status quo, with no thought about the consquences. And considering that the ‘smashing’ is really, bloody smashing, not tearing up papers, that is a bad thing. As far as willingness to work with, cooperate with, and lavish with praise, Bush II is at least as willing to do so as his father, and probably more so.

  186. 186

    How about we put up pictures of those things that are evil, like Bin Laden, or Hussein on the TV every night, perhaps to Holst’s “Mars” and we all just stare at them for about five minutes. It could be called the “five minute hate.” What do you think?

    HAHAHAH. Am I the only one to notice this reference to 1984? I surely hope not, as that book should be required reading for anyone who even remotely cares about politics.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that most Bush supporters see the world in black and white (mythical Good vs Evil battles), while most people who oppose Bush see it in greys. Oh course it is easy to see who’s perspective is the more logical one in most situations…

  187. 187

    […] As I write this, rioting in France has spread beyond Paris and may yet . I’ve seen the projects around Nancy, France’s third largest city, and I can tell you that they have the same hopeless, dehumanizing character, which I will (perhaps unfairly) describe as a a social landfill, as the Parisian projects where this began. In pundit circles these are fat times for people selling an eternal struggle between the enlightened West and Islamic darkness, a la LGF. That line seems to have some takers among the French themselves, or at least the not-very-popular French president Villepin, but I’d argue that taking that attitude is not just wrong but dangerously wrong. Let’s go back to Tim F’s First Law: […]

  188. 188

    […] From a helpful comment in the previous thread and recent news accounts, here is a summary of the basic motivations driving this conflict. In picking and choosing what to listen to and what to ignore the most important feature for me is the basic assumption that all of the major players are fundamentally rational people acting for understandable reasons. Any appeal to one side or the other being some shade of evil (e.g. demented, blinded by religious hysteria, etc; See Tim F’s Law) strikes me as unserious and not worth listening to. […]

  189. 189

    […] The idea of evil has just as toxic an effect on the thinker himself. As Greenwald often often points out, people who think that they are fighting evil can justify almost unlimited degrees cruelty and misbehavior in the service of what they perceive as metaphysical good. I concur so strongly that a year and a half ago I coined my first Internet Law to emphasize the point: […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The idea of evil has just as toxic an effect on the thinker himself. As Greenwald often often points out, people who think that they are fighting evil can justify almost unlimited degrees cruelty and misbehavior in the service of what they perceive as metaphysical good. I concur so strongly that a year and a half ago I coined my first Internet Law to emphasize the point: […]

  2. […] From a helpful comment in the previous thread and recent news accounts, here is a summary of the basic motivations driving this conflict. In picking and choosing what to listen to and what to ignore the most important feature for me is the basic assumption that all of the major players are fundamentally rational people acting for understandable reasons. Any appeal to one side or the other being some shade of evil (e.g. demented, blinded by religious hysteria, etc; See Tim F’s Law) strikes me as unserious and not worth listening to. […]

  3. […] As I write this, rioting in France has spread beyond Paris and may yet . I’ve seen the projects around Nancy, France’s third largest city, and I can tell you that they have the same hopeless, dehumanizing character, which I will (perhaps unfairly) describe as a a social landfill, as the Parisian projects where this began. In pundit circles these are fat times for people selling an eternal struggle between the enlightened West and Islamic darkness, a la LGF. That line seems to have some takers among the French themselves, or at least the not-very-popular French president Villepin, but I’d argue that taking that attitude is not just wrong but dangerously wrong. Let’s go back to Tim F’s First Law: […]

  4. […] Tim F at Balloon Juice today writes on a NYTimes piece on Ms Rice and Mr Scowcraft. He concludes: When it comes to online debate I usually dismiss somebody who frames their opponent as ‘evil.’ Yes, this applies as much to liberals as to conservatives. It’s intellectually lazy and it gets in the way of understanding the real and often rational reasons why people do things. Further, in a fight not understanding your opponent usually goes along with losing. There’s no reason why that same rule shouldn’t apply equally well to politics. This is just plain well wrong. Hitler wasn’t evil, just misunderstood? The Rape of Nanjing, a understandable cultural misunderstanding? Stalin’s purges? Oh, Josef was just just working out a little personal insecurity issue? Wrong. All of these are examples of evil. Evil is not a term which need necessarily be left out of debate, political rhetoric, and discourse. Calling your opponent such, it is true, might be intellectually lazy and a way to dismiss the opponent. It might also be the correct term to use when describing your opponent after you understand him. […]

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