'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jonathan Schwarz Battling the Zombie Army of "The Foreign Policy Community" 

Last week Atrios picked a fight with some DLC-type Democratic foreign policy wonks by calling the bigtime foreign policy wonks idiots. So then one of them, Michael Cohen -- who was a speechwriter for Bill Richardson when he was an ambassador to the UN -- wrote a typical this-is-what's-wrong-with-the-liberal-blogosphere post: these bloggers have an "unwillingness to even consider the arguments of their opponents", don't have any manners, and just call people names. (In Atrios's defense, although he often does just call people names, in this case what he said -- that Lieberman Democrat and PNAC signatore, Will Marshall, has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on his hands -- isn't so much a childish insult as a statement of fact)

Cohen's big claim is that there existed a "defensible argument" for the war whether one supported it or not. He sketches out this defensible case by offering the Bush administration's narrative of the events leading up to the invasion, the familiar story cobbled together from spin and lies that has become history as told by pundits. Okay, so bear with me if you're getting bored because here comes the good part: Jonathan Schwarz of Tiny Revolution jumps in at this point and just rips apart the Bush administration storyline offered by Cohen -- it turns out Saddam Hussein didn't kick out the weapons inspectors; the US did have spies planted in UNSCOM, etc. -- concluding:

So that's it as far as the basic facts go. I'll send this to Michael Cohen and ask him to respond.

But there's one last important point: if I can speak for Atrios and most progressive bloggers, their perspective is not that they're refusing to "advance the debate." Rather, their point is that as far as US foreign policy goes, there is no debate. We can screw around on blogs for the rest of our lives, we could be proven correct about 100 more wars, and no one with our perspective would ever be allowed on TV. Likewise, Kenneth Pollack could be catastrophically wrong about 100 more wars, and he would still be on Nightline every week. That's because being right has absolutely nothing to do with "the debate." That's the way it is, and unless it changes, all the time I spent writing this was absolutely pointless. I hope Cohen can appreciate that it's a bit frustrating to be asked to "advance the debate" under these circumstances, and to be told we have "seemingly forgotten" things that never happened.

But maybe the system's more open than I think. If Michael wants to give this post to his former bosses now running for president—Richardson and Dodd—and they start talking about everything I examined here, then I'll admit there's a real debate and one the anti-war left should join, with no namecalling. It would be particularly fruitful if Richardson could talk about the US infiltration of UNSCOM, given that he had a front row seat when he was US Ambassador to the UN.

Cohen then responds; the discussion spills over on to The Poor Man; back to Tiny Revolution; and so forth, but I'm mainly flagging this thread because the original Jonathan Schwarz rebuttal was a thing of beauty on many levels. It illustrates plainly the pointlessness or hopelessness of "the debate" that guys like Cohen say they want and Cohen is oblivious to the extent to which this pointlessness is illustrated.

In the Billmon-less blogosphere, I think Jonathan Schwarz is now my favorite liberal blogger. Actually I think he is left of liberal but then I always convince myself that people I like are left of liberal...

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