Blogs > Cliopatria > Noted Here and There ...

Aug 8, 2004 5:38 pm


Noted Here and There ...



Adam Kotsko of The Weblog is the subject of Normblog's profile of the week.

A Gauche is a discerning man. Cliopatria gratefully accepts his nomination of us with Scott McLemee. Alas, it is unclear whether he has nominated us for having the best or the worst blog design. We fear the worst; even so, we accept.
Update: So does McLemee. As Invisible Adjunct used to say,"We thank the academy ..."

One of the reasons that Jacob Levy is one of my favorite bloggers at The Volokh Conspiracy is his sense of history. Noting the likelihood that Illinois Republicans will nominate Alan Keyes to run against Barak Obama for the Senate, Levy writes:

Keyes ... comes with two major assets: his mind and his voice. When he doesn't go off the deep end (which he does with some frequency, and has done more as time goes on-- his 2000 run for the presidency sounded loonier more often than his 1996 run), Keyes is ... very smart, a great speaker, and one of the best debaters around. Of course, all of that's true of Obama too. There's a chance that Keyes-Obama debates could make for the political television of the year, with Lincoln-Douglas parallels getting drawn by the media: the two best debaters in the country are running for Illinois Senate, and this time, instead of debating slavery, they're both black! You get the idea. Hype notwithstanding, they could be really marvelous debates-- again, assuming Keyes doesn't go off the deep end and start screaming at Obama for being a baby-killer or moshing or something.

Update: Josh Marshall is even more skeptical of Keyes presenting a rational alternative to Obama in the Illinois senatorial debates.

Tom Bruscino at Big Tent recommends Robert Newman's article at HNN on the Smithsonian's Atomic Bomb Exhibit. In doing so, he commends Ben Severance's suggestion that Hiroshima/Nagasaki effectively inoculated the United States against subsequent use of nuclear weapons. By that logic, does 9/11 effectively inoculate al Qaedi against subsequently crashing airplanes into large buildings?

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Jonathan Dresner - 8/9/2004

The problem with atomic weapons is targetting. To be used effectively, you need a very dense target, or you need to use a lot of them.

So, for example, in Korea there were no industrial targets (North Koreans being supplied by Chinese and Russian industry), limited command/control targets (we were already bombing them with conventional munitions as much as possible) and rarely masses of troops large enough and dense enough to justify atomic weapons (particularly troops far enough from our troops to not seriously endanger our forces and thus mitigate any advantage) (plus, once the Chinese got involved, sheer mass murder became less plausibly decisive).

I'm not sure we've been in a conflict since WWII in which even the proponents of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs would have considered their use militarily appropriate.


Oscar Chamberlain - 8/9/2004

If the Bomb had not been used at the end of WWII, would we have been more or less likely to have used it in the Korean conflict.

(For the purpose of the question, please ignore any impact that not using the bomb would have had on the history of postwar Korea)


Oscar Chamberlain - 8/9/2004

I think the use of the bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki did act to restrain future use of the weapons (so far, at least).

1. The public in the US and elsewhere understood immediately that these were qualitatively different weapons that should not be used casually.

2. That sense of difference increased the perceived diplomatic consequences of using the bomb. It may also have made American leaders less reluctant to use it on moral grounds.


mark safranski - 8/9/2004

I don't know if Americans were " innoculated " by the atomic bombings but I do believe that the fact that United States *did* use them enters in to the equations of foreign leaders on the brink of war with the United States.

Khrushchev erred on the side of believing that Kennedy would use nukes if pushed into war over Cuba. Saddam was allegedly warned in 1991 about the consequences of biological or chemical WMDs.


Jonathan Dresner - 8/8/2004

There are indeed Americans who think we should have used the bomb in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq a few times, in Iran (remember the song?), Afghanistan, as Ralph points out. I've seen people suggest in HNN discussions obliterating the entire Muslim crescent as a solution to the Islamicist challenge.

More to the point, nuclear weapons are still part of our active military options, deployed in massive numbers here and around the world, and development on new nuclear weapons systems continues. We have shared the technology (deliberately sometimes, more often not) with others, and done very little to prevent or resist the spread of this technology until very recently (and we're still at the 'more heat than light' stage).

The 'inoculation' theory is a weak post hoc ergo propter hoc argument: it's true that we haven't used nuclear or atomic weapons since Nagasaki, but it is very tenuous to claim that we've avoided them in a systematic fashion.


Ralph E. Luker - 8/8/2004

Oh, I don't know about that. You could go back and check on the Freepers after 9/11.


Richard Henry Morgan - 8/8/2004

Any inoculation effect depends more on the host than the agent. Somewhere, perhaps, there are Americans who dance in the streets at the prospect of dropping another bomb, but I suspect they are rare examples.


Ralph E. Luker - 8/8/2004

If you mean in a two/party, two/person general election, I think the answer is "yes". But Georgia Republicans earlier this Summer has a primary for the Senate nomination in which there were two reasonably strong African American candidates and two white candidates. A white candidate won the nomination, but one of the African American candidates won over 25% of the vote. In a congressional district here, an African American candidate forced a white candidate into a run-off for the Republican nomination. That one won't be settled until Tuesday.


Jonathan Dresner - 8/8/2004

Keyes is entirely capable of going ballistic on a number of issues, actually: aside from abortion, he's also a nut on the pledge of allegience and other church-state issues, and I would love to hear him speak on Iraq, just out of sheer curiousity. I don't think I've ever seen him debate, though I have seen him speak, and looked over his websites. He's a fine speaker, but his thinking is two-dimensional at best and they don't have time to coach him out of his natural reactions to issues.

Obama is definitely going to both benefit and suffer from being the designated 'fresh face' at the convention. When you think about it, the vast majority of the other speakers were very, very familiar.....

I wonder: is this the first time two African Americans have faced each other in a Senate race?


mark safranski - 8/8/2004

Hi Ralph,

The Tribune editorial page was apoplectic at the prospect of Keyes running against Obama, even though Keyes has virtually no chance to win, because he might show up the vaunted Saint Obama in a debate. They pulled out all the rhetorical stops attacking Keyes while running another puff piece on Barack Obama in their Tempo section the same day.

Obama is a decidedly bright man with a modest record of accomplishment in the state legislature - though probably on par for recent Illinois senate candidates. However the media expectations for him have been pushed so stratospherically high than he can hardly afford to be seen making any kind of mistake. Ronald Reagan and FDR combined would have a hard time meeting that bar.

And you are right, Keyes could very well go ballistic on live TV over abortion. This race has basically showcased all three aspects of the Illinois GOP - incompetent moderate party leaders, a liberal paper obsessed with gun control and abolishing capital punishment pretending to be Republican and Right to Life militants who scare moderate voters.

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